It is worth keeping in mind the explanatory power of circulation and narration while examining a more recent account of evolution and cognition. Coupling biogenetic anthropology with models of self-organization in far from equilibrium systems, Alex Argyros attempts to construct an "affirmative theory of narrative". Argyros implicitly embeds narrative in verbal language ("Narrative and Chaos" 665). He equates narrative with the discursive representations of chains of causation.
it [narrative] allows for the constitution of a representational structure whose basic unit is the causal frame: actor-action-object. The essential feature of narrative is that it maps the world causally. Given the universality of narratival structures, both in everyday discourse and in the myths, cosmologies and fictions generated by all human cultures, we must assume that the world is sufficiently causal to offer a species able to represent it in narratival forms a selective evolutionary advantage. (662)
As the neologism indicates, narratival structures are
not the same as narrative structures. If Argyros
had not implicitly embedded narrative in a verbal form
of discourse, his paradigm case would not resemble the
subject-verb-object formula of Indo-European sentences
Furthermore, evolutionary advantage is a contested
concept likely to generate competing narratives.
In a bid to rescue narrative from those whom he
perceives as its detractors, Argyros's blocks
cross-modal interaction. The causal frame,
actor-action-object, is built up out of the
transformations of states of being and the observation
of these transformations. However, narrative does
not depend on the question "why?".
Narratives are not always accounts of causation.
Stories are not to be equated with causal frames.
In Alland's terms narrative as a form of art is founded
upon a faculty of transformation-representation or as
Argyros writes "narrative is a remarkably
efficient information processing strategy whose
function is to store, manipulate, and create the
tremendous range of information constitutive of the
world of human beings" (667).
Narrative and narration also explain how objects yield
events and events become reified or, in more technical
terms, how a syntagm can be labelled and function as an
actant. The self is not a sign, it is a story
machine and its acts of abstraction subtend both the
reconstructive and the recall dimensions of information
processing or transformation-representation.
Memory work draws upon powers of abstraction to make
knowledge portable. Problem solving draws on a
capacity for situation anticipation to make knowledge
applicable. With applicable and portable
knowledge, one can begin to think the embodiment of
Pedagogical situations are sensory. They are also
interpersonal. Because they are sensory this
makes even learning by oneself interpersonal.
Egocentric speech is like a dialogue between the
senses. In Vygotsky's and Luria's experiments,
children placed in problem-solving situations that were
slightly too difficult for them displayed egocentric
speech. One could consider these as self-induced
metadiscursive moments. The self in crisis will
disassociate and one's questionning becomes the object
of a question.
Not only is the human self as a metabeing both
fracturable and affiliable in itself, it is also prone
to narrativity. That is, the
human self will project its self-making onto the world
in order to generate stories from sequences and to
break stories into recombinant sequences. Its
operations on signs are material practices with
consequences for world-making.
The fracturable affiliable self calls for reproductive
models suitable to the interactions of multi-sensate
beings, models that render dyads dialectical,
Narrativity understood dialectically
does not merely mean making sequences or strings of
events into stories but also stories into things,
strung together for more stories. From such an
understanding, emerge non-dyadic narratives of
reproduction, narratives where a thing-born transforms
itself into an event, comes to understand itself as a
The historical possibility of such narratives owes much to the metacommentary of one man upon the work of another. Here is a segment of Marx's critique of Hegel's dialectic:
To be objective, natural, sentient and at the same time to have object, nature and sense outside oneself, or to be oneself object, nature and sense for a third person, is the same thing.
To be and to have for oneself are the same thing as to be oneself for a third. It's a good place to start making sense of sense.
© François Lachance, 1996