Narrative Knowing and the Human Sciences

By Donald E. Polkinghorne

Subjects: Philosophy Of Science
Series: SUNY series in the Philosophy of the Social Sciences
Paperback : 9780887066238, 246 pages, April 1988
Hardcover : 9780887066221, 246 pages, April 1988

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Table of contents


I. Introduction


The realms of human existence
The study of narrative meaning
The plan of the book


II. Narrative Expression


The term "narrative"
The pervasiveness of narratives
Suppositions about human experience
The narrative scheme
Narrative and language
Narrative as discourse
Narrative expression


III. History and Narrative


History and formal science
Analytic philosophy and history
Narrative and French historiography
History as explanatory discourse
History as narrative discourse
Historical narratives
Ricoeur on narrative and history


IV. Literature and Narrative


Prestructural American criticism
Structuralism and narrative
Written narratives and point of view
Reception theory


V. Psychology and Narrative


The history of narrative study in psychology
Narrative competence
Life-span development
Freudian psychoanalysis and narrative
Organizational Consultation


VI. Human Existence and Narrative


Narrative and temporality
Action and narrative
Narrative and the self


VII. Practice and Narrative


Human experience as narrative
Research with narrative






This book expands the concept of the nature of science and provides a practical research alternative for those who work with people and organizations.

Using literary criticism, philosophy, and history, as well as recent developments in the cognitive and social sciences, Narrative Knowing and the Human Sciences shows how to use research information organized by the narrative form—such information as clinical life histories, organizational case studies, biographic material, corporate cultural designs, and literary products. The relationship between the narrative format and classical and statistical and experimental designs is clarified and made explicit. Suggestions for doing research are given as well as criteria for judging the accuracy and quality of narrative research results.

Donald E. Polkinghorne is Emeritus Professor and Chair of Counseling Psychology at the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California. He is the author of Methodology for the Human Sciences: Systems of Inquiry and Practice and the Human Sciences: The Case for a Judgment-Based Practice of Care, both also published by SUNY Press.


"This book speaks to a raging controversy that has significance for a variety of fields. I know of no other book that is so integrative and clarifying of what the issues are and how they arose. " — Seymour Sarason, Yale University