The Crow and The Pitcher

The_Crow_and_the_Pitcher_-_Project_Gutenberg_etext_19994 What is the relationship between narrative and philosophy? Can story-telling prompt us towards new ways of understanding? Or, do myths only serve to muddle an already difficult path?

French philosopher Paul Ricoeur offers one possible entryway into the above problem. The late phenomenologist suggested that separating ‘the story’ from the human experience is nearly impossible. The ideals of our myths inevitably seep into social mores and laws. Narratives help to mark the limits of human action, drawing the line between ‘heroes’ and ‘everymen.’ And, story-telling fundamentally shapes how one’s ‘history’ is remembered and re-told. In this way, Ricoeur presents the relationship between narrative and philosophy as the task of recognizing the impact of a phenomenon already-present.

Recent headlines reveal another candidate similarly influenced by the already-present role of story-telling: modern science. Inspired by one of Aesop’s fables (The Crow and the Pitcher), university scholars Christopher Bird and Nathan Emery experimented to see if the story might be empirically ‘true.’ Sure enough, a group of captive rooks were found to use stones in order to raise the water levels of pitchers baited with floating bugs.

One wonders what allowances ‘narrative inspiration’ might allot scientists, and philosophers, in the future. Or, will lingering doubts instigated by that infamous moon-made-of-cheese incident continue to wield the upper hand. To read more see this article from The New York Times.

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