Facilitation: Narration as a Human Communication Paradigm: The Case of Public Moral Argument

The article Narration as a Human Communication Paradigm: The Case of Public Moral Argument proposes a theory of human communication and the attainable notions of the narrative paradigm, which is demonstrated through the analysis of the current nuclear controversy and The Epic of Gilgamesh. The sole purpose of this piece is to compare and contrast the nuclear warfare, a public moral argument, and the rational world paradigm while suggesting that the narrative paradigm is the resolution to these issues. 

To better understand and comprehend Fisher’s work, a definition of “narration” and “paradigm” are relevant. “Narration” is a series of actions or deeds that are separated into two traditional strands of rhetoric: argumentative, persuasive theme and the literary, aesthetic theme (Fisher, 1984). There are 5 presuppositions that structure the narrative paradigm located on page 7 and 8. In short, these presuppositions are the base of the narrative paradigm where humans find their nature as “reasoning-valuing animals” (Fisher, 1984). Furthermore, “Paradigm” is the entirety of human communication and public or social knowledge. Specifically, “The Rational World Paradigm” contains 5 presuppositions (found on page 4), which insinuates that humans are rational, but the ability to be competent in an argument is learned. In conclusion, Fisher suggests that narratives enable us to engage in personal interactions, because we all are raised amongst narratives that intertwine with our own. In contrast, the rational paradigm is a section of consciousness because we have been educated into it. Nevertheless, a narrative paradigm resolves the problems of the public argument because it is the ground for resolving the dualism of modernism and is a moral construct (Fisher, 1984). 

Now, “The case: public moral argument” is based on the ultimatum of life and death and refers to public controversies or moral debates. The book The Fate of the Earth brings into context the nuclear warfare controversy as an obvious case of a public moral argument (Fisher, 1984). The nuclear warfare controversy depicts the option for life over death as the characters lack a grasp on reality and national sovereignty when bearing witness to nuclear annihilation.  However, the distinct strategy is reaffirmation towards moral concern and a resolution to the group that the government and society may be publicly committed to (Fisher, 1984). Jonathan Schlell’s concluding argument in The Fate of the Earth is an example of a moral argument. Here he states, “Either we will sink into the final coma and end it all or, as I trust and believe, we will awaken to the truth of our peril, a truth as great as life itself…” (Schell, 2000, p.231)This example reminds me of the production Cinderella Man. In Cinderella Man, James J. Braddock was a day laborer barely making ends meet for his famished loved ones during the great depression. After winning a shocking upset in the boxing ring, he is dubbed the “Cinderella Man” for turning his rags into riches and therefore choosing “life over death” in regard to the public moral argument.

Lastly, Fisher explains that the main character in The Epic of Gilgamesh spends his youth in fame as a tragic hero until his soul mate, Enkidu, dies in an epic battle. His journey, filled with torturous challenges, comes to an end when he learns that death is inevitable (Fisher, 1984). Gilgamesh then saw the value of immortality in the monuments that one leaves behind, and that life is the fullest when love is received and reciprocated (Fisher, 1984). The Epic of Gilgamesh suggests similarities to the famous movie, The Wizard of Oz. In this classic, Dorthy learns valuable lessons from the scarecrow, tin man, and cowardly lion, on her way back to kansas after her rigorous voyage. The renowned wizard even states, “A heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others.”

Link to the article: https://acpm14.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/fisher-narration-as-paradigm.pdf


Fisher, W. R. (1984). Narration as a human communication paradigm: The case of public moral

 argument. Communication Monographs, 51(1), 1-22. doi:10.1080/03637758409390180

Felming, V. (Director). (1939). The Wizard of Oz [Motion picture].

Howard, R. (Director). (2005). Cinderella Man [Motion picture].

Sandars, N. (1972). The Epic of Gilgamesh. London, CA: Penguin.

Schell, J. (2000). The Fate of the Earth: And, The Abolition. Redwood City, CA: Stanford

 University Press.

2 thoughts to “Facilitation: Narration as a Human Communication Paradigm: The Case of Public Moral Argument”

  1. The author of this facilitation does a good job connecting the concept of narrative paradigm to different kinds of stories; on the surface, The Epic of Gilgamesh and The Wizard of Oz, have very little in common, but when viewed in a larger cultural context, they can both be seen as life affirming media. Both bear a message about finding fulfillment through loving and being loved, despite their vastly different plots. The idea that the The Wizard of Oz, released in 1939, and The Epic of Gilgamesh, written circa 2100 BC, make similar moral arguments is a testament to the enduring importance of the narrative paradigm; through this comparison, we are able to see the effectiveness of the paradigm throughout time.

  2. As someone who considers themselves a rather logical thinker and problem solver, the narrative paradigm concept is very interesting to me. Specifically what caught my attention was the lines we drew in class between the narrative paradigm and realism. As Fisher states, “rationality is determined by [someone’s] awareness of narrative probability” and their ability to test “narrative fidelity” (1984). I think that this idea holds true in many ways. Take, for example, Dwight Shrute in The Office. When the workers are trying to lose weight in a collective effort, Dwight does the most rational thing he can think of: he takes Phyllis on a “sales call” miles away from the office and drops her off with no phone and no money. She is forced to work her way back to the office on her own. This is a win in Dwight’s mind, because his prior experiences call him to act in extreme manners that are inappropriate to most, but to him are rational. Of course, Dwight’s character was created very intentionally. The writers of the show know that most people have a different sense of ration than Dwight, so his path of action is often humorous. However, because the viewer is so familiar with the character, the decisions that Dwight makes still come off as rational based on his own character and the history of stories that he has told.

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