Paula Olmos, 19 February 2018, 16h

February 19, 2018

ArgLab Research Colloquium

Av. de Berna 26, I&D Building,


Narratives in Scientific Justificatory Practice

Paula Olmos, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain


The idea of exploring and analyzing narrative modes of arguing has been mainly associated to an interest in practical argumentation in the realm of human action; a tradition that can be traced back to Aristotle’s comments on the use of paradeigmata in deliberative discourse and is fairly consistent with most grounded ideas in narrative studies. However, the use of narrative reasons may also be seen in the kind of epistemic, theoretical contexts of academic and scientific debate.

In this paper I explore and criticize some common connections typically established among classification criteria used to talk about different argumentative practices in order to support that –even if they prove to be rather orientating and informative– they should not be understood in a too exclusive (least of all conceptually constitutive) way. I claim, in particular, that the distinctions recognized between a) the public vs. the technical sphere of argument or discourse, b) the use of practical vs. theoretical arguments and c) the presence of narrative vs. discrete reasons, are all mutually independent and that, therefore, all combinations thereof (that amount to eight) are feasible, more common than expected and might be fruitfully explored.

In fact, we can notice a more or less recent philosophical interest in questions like: 1) the presence of practical argument (and rationality) in the technical sphere (particularly in the sciences); 2) the exploration of the limits and contribution of technical and theoretical argument and discourse to public sphere issues, or 3) the presence of narrative reasons (as justificatory means) in the technical (specially scientific) sphere of argument.

Regarding this last issue, philosophers of science have been in the last decades working on some closely related topics, as the use of narrative patterns of explanation in certain disciplines, on the one hand, or on the narrative conception of experimental practice and evidence, on the other. But their insights have not fully benefitted from the exploration of argument as a reason-giving form of communication advocated by argumentation studies.

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