In this characteristically graceful and provocative book, Jerome Bruner, one of the principal architects of the cognitive revolution, sets forth nothing less than a new agenda for the study of mind. According to Professor Bruner, cognitive science has set its sights too narrowly on the logical, systematic aspects of mental life—those thought processes we use to solve puzzles, test hypotheses, and advance explanations. There is obviously another side to the mind—a side devoted to the irrepressibly human acts of imagination that allow us to make experience meaningful. This is the side of the mind that leads to good stories, gripping drama, primitive myths and rituals, and plausible historical accounts. Bruner calls it the “narrative mode,” and his book makes important advances in the effort to unravel its nature.
Drawing on recent work in literary theory, linguistics, and symbolic anthropology, as well as cognitive and developmental psychology, Professor Bruner examines the mental acts that enter into the imaginative creation of possible worlds, and he shows how the activity of imaginary world making undergirds human science, literature, and philosophy, as well as everyday thinking, and even our sense of self.
Over twenty years ago, Jerome Bruner first sketched his ideas about the mind’s other side in his justly admired book, On Knowing: Essays for the Left Hand. Actual Minds, Possible Worlds can be read as a sequel to this earlier work, but it is a sequel that goes well beyond its predecessor by providing rich examples of just how the mind’s narrative mode can be successfully studied. The collective force of these examples points the way toward a more humane and subtle approach to the investigation of how the mind works.
A brilliant synthesis of contemporary anthropology, sociology, literary theory, and philosophy as well as psychology.
The human mind is everywhere at work, in daily life, in myth, in art, in science, in politics, showing a diversity and depth that cannot be reproduced in laboratory experiments. In order to get a comprehensive picture, the rigorous but narrow experimental approach must be supplemented by the breadth of the humanistic disciplines. This is what Bruner argues and what he exemplifies in Actual Minds, Possible Worlds.
Bruner has combined his own academic gregariousness with a drive to fit his work into the canon of current Western thought… The mysteries of structuralism, deconstruction and pragmatism are unraveled here in the light of Bruner’s lifelong efforts to make sense of the way we make sense of things… He makes culture here like a master.
Remarkably ambitious… [Bruner] necessarily takes cognitive psychology into the realms of philosophy, narrative, and literary theory, and to the largest questions about knowledge and mind… Admirable and moving.
It is perhaps possible to describe Bruner as being an intellectual by inclination, a cognitive psychologist eminent in his trade and an ardent academic who has spent his life questing for problems to solve and questions to pose. Actual Minds, Possible Worlds reflects all these interests and approaches as he debates how we create reality, possible worlds from actual minds. It is a book that raises many important problems and pertinent questions…[and] these essays will provide the reader with a stimulating journey…Bruner, as well as being an eclectic intellectual, is an indefatigable psychologist with many facets to his lifetime involvement in exploring the mind…[He] has a prose style that is elegant, professional and delightful…For those interested in liberal approaches to the development of mind and the mind's creative capacity for constructing imaginative acts it provides a provocative and stimulating discussion.
This delightful volume invites the reader into dialogue with one of the most imaginative, articulate, and broadly sophisticated scholars of the present era. Bruner…draws on his wealth of knowledge in psychology, linguistics, literary theory, and other domains to weave a rich tapestry of interrelated themes. The essays treat such topics as narrative thought, transactional theory of child development, constructivism, education, and literary criticism. What will surely be the most controversial proposal of the volume is that the human mind is equipped with two modes of cognitive processing, the one paradigmatic (designed to develop propositions subject to empirical test) and the other narrative (designed to comprehend and develop stories). The essays themselves are finely honed narratives, engaging and personal.
A splendid book, one which should contribute to the important reorientation that is taking place between psychology and the literary arts.
Bruner is not only a psychologist of high distinction, but a destroyer of disciplinary fences; his philosophical inquiries are as persuasive as they are humane, arid he carries his great learning with a charming lack of pretentiousness.
- 222 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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