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This book will be available in March, 2016 in hardback, paperback, and e-book. Published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

A New Theory of Mind:

The Theory of Narrative Thought 

Lee Roy Beach, with Byron Bissell,

and commentaries by James A. Wise  

 

Contents

 

 

            Preface

Part I: Fundamentals

            Chapter 1: Mind

            Chapter 2: Cognitive Abilities

Part II: Narrative Thought

            Chapter 3: Narrative Urge

            Chapter 4: Narrative Thought

            Chapter 5: Narrator

            Chapter 6: Narrative Errors

Part III: Narrative and Action

            Chapter 7: Managing the Future

            Chapter 8: Narrative-based Decisions

            Chapter 9: Public Narratives

            Chapter 10: Narrative Tyranny

Part IV: Mind Revisited

            Chapter 11: A New Theory of Mind 

 

Three propositions underlie the Theory of Narrative Thought. The first is that narrative thinking is the “natural” mode of human thought. The second is that the “urge” to think narratively reflects known reflects known neurological processes that format selected neural events in a narrative form, essentially a story. The third is that although narrative thinking is a product of evolution, it enables humans to transcend evolutionary limits, making possible both reaction to and shaping of the environment.

            The discussion begins with a description of the ebbing fortunes of “mind,” as a scientific concept and how, over the past 50 years, it has come back under a new name. Now called cognition, mind has been subjected to an immense amount of research by workers from various disciplines. Recently, these researchers have come together to form a new discipline, cognitive science, which has facilitated the sharing of techniques and ideas, prompting an even greater flow of imaginative and insightful research. And yet, other than the computer analogy and information processing metaphor, no encompassing theory has yet resulted from all this effort. Even so, it seems to be a widely held belief that when an encompassing theory is achieved, it will be neurological in nature and will explain everything, from the micro world of neural activity to the macro world of subjective experience and action.

            In contrast to this rather imperial belief, which Alva Noë (2015) calls the “brain theory of everything,” is another widely held belief; that neural activity and experience are two qualitatively different things. If so, an encompassing theory couched in terms of only one of them cannot suffice. If, on the, other hand, the theory recognizes both things as legitimate, co-existing, and linked, it must describe how the linkage works. Key to such a theory is an adequate description of how the substance of one of is transformed into the substance of the other. The Theory of Narrative Thought is about how this transformation takes place. 

Narratives are the stuff of ongoing conscious experience, of moment-to-moment thinking, of the richness of mental life, and they are the foundations for informed guesses about the future. They are a mixture of memories, of visual, auditory, and other imagery, and the accompanying emotions. Their elements are symbols that stand for real or imagined events and actors (including oneself), where the actors are animate beings or inanimate forces. The events and actors are linked by causality and implied purpose. That is, a narrative consists of a temporal arrangement of events that are purposefully caused by animate beings (including oneself) or are the result of inanimate forces. The narrative’s storyline is its meaning, which is created by a coherent arrangement of the events and actors; where coherence is provided by causality and an underlying timeline.

            Causality is the structural backbone of narratives, in large part because it implies temporality, which is a defining characteristic of narratives. This temporal aspect of causality works both retrospectively (reasoning from effect to cause, which allows one to account for what is happening now as a result of what has happened in the past) and prospectively (reasoning from cause to effect, which allows one to set expectations for what will happen in the future as a result of what is happening now and what came before). A good narrative is plausible if its actors’ actions contribute to the story line and are not uncharacteristic, i.e., are reasonably consistent across narratives. A good narrative is coherent if the actions of the actors and the effects of those actions conform to the narrator’s causal rules. In short, a good narrative makes sense. 

 

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2015.08.01

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