Narrative Knowing and the Human Sciences

By Donald E. Polkinghorne | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII
Practice and Narrative

FROM narrative what do we learn about the practice of the human sciences? There are two interrelated levels of practice in the human sciences. The first level is the study or investigation of a situation through diagnosis and understanding; this is usually followed by the second level, the treatment or restoration of the situation to wholeness through intervention or therapy. On occasion, the first-level investigation leads to the conclusion that the situation does not need correction, that it is sound as it is. Members of the human sciences have divided themselves into first-level workers (scientists or academics) and second-level workers (practitioners), but such a division disregards the obvious fact that those engaged in treatment need to assess and understand a given situation in order to be informed about appropriate methods of intervention.


Human experience as narrative

Figurative language

The practice of the human disciplines is concerned with groups of various sizes. Work is done with individuals, couples, families, organizations, and political units that range in size and complexity from towns to international configurations. The implications of the understanding of narrative are important for work with all of these various human organizations. The case history and the life story of an individual, the story of a marriage, the history of a corporation, and national and world histories are all subjects of the human disciplines. To set the context for the explicit applications of narrative understanding, I will summarize the findings on narrative so far developed in this study.

Human existence is composed of various orders of reality: material reality, organic reality, and the reality that we call meaning. The Enlightenment view of the order of meaning was that it was composed primarily of ideas that were representations of an external reality. Language had no epistemological role; it was a secondary component of the realm of meaning. Ideas and their combinations were understood to exist in the mind, and language functioned to manage the

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Narrative Knowing and the Human Sciences
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Narrative Knowing and the Human Sciences *
  • To My Parents, Elmer and Marge *
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Chapter I - Introduction 1
  • Chapter II - Narrative Expression 13
  • Chapter III - History and Narrative 37
  • Chapter IV - Literature and Narrative 71
  • Chapter V - Psychology and Narrative 101
  • Chapter VI - Human Existence and Narrative 125
  • Chapter VII - Practice and Narrative 157
  • Notes 185
  • References 215
  • Index 229
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