Actual Minds, Possible Worlds

Actual Minds, Possible Worlds



The Pequod Review:

Actual Minds, Possible Worlds is a collection of essays focused on our narrative construction of reality: 

Contrary to common sense there is no unique "real world" that pre-exists and is independent of human mental activity and human symbolic language; that which we call the world is a product of some mind whose symbolic procedures construct the world.


The imaginative application of the narrative mode leads instead to good stories, gripping drama, believable (though not necessarily “true”) historical accounts. It deals in human or human-like intention and action and the vicissitudes and consequences that mark their course. It strives to put its timeless miracles into the particulars of experience, and to locate the experience in time and place.


In contrast to our vast knowledge of how science and logical reasoning proceed, we know precious little in any formal sense about how to make good stories.

Perhaps one of the reasons for this is that story must construct two landscapes simultaneously. One is the landscape of action, where the constituents are the arguments of action: agent, intention or goal, situation, instrument, something corresponding to a “story grammar.” The other landscape is the landscape of consciousness: what those involved in the action know, think, or feel, or do not know, think, or feel.

This is an important lesson with wide applicability; a lot of what passes for human irrationality (e.g., belief in pseudoscience, imperfect consumer choices, and other mental heuristics) can be traced to our innate desire for narratives or stories.