Let me tell you a story

Stories are incredibly powerful. They are the means by which we humans give structure and meaning to the sequences of events we experience. Accordingly, everyone is continually telling stories to themselves, and to everyone around them. (For instance, a little bug just flew past my desk lamp. That was a story.) I think that the ability to tell stories is perhaps the most important human faculty; without it, I think we would be forced to conclude that life is essentially arbitrary and meaningless, and this is not a world I’d like to live in.

Here’s an interesting question: Are stories true? This question is tricker than it appears, and there are several answers depending on what your philosophy looks like. Here are three possible answers:

If I put on my objectivist hat, I’d say that because there is an objective external reality, every story is either demonstrably true (when it agrees with reality) or demonstrably false (when it disagrees).

Alternatively, if I put on my constructivist hat, I’d scoff at the notion of an objective external reality. Instead, I’d tell you that the answer is always “yes,” because the story I tell myself is my reality; it is constitutive of reality as I experience it.

Finally, if I donned my phenomenologist hat, I’d tell you that in the strictest sense of the word “true,” we can’t answer the question. All we can do is tell the story – hopefully with as much detail as we can muster.

To this end, I’m beginning a new series of posts here, where in each post I tell you a story. Right now, I have two stories in particular I’d like to tell. I’ll do my best to tell you the truth, even though I believe this is impossible (I’m no objectivist). All I can really know is that the stories are true for me-here-and-now – and that’s enough to make them meaningful.

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