Det narrative opgør med sandheden: En analyse af narrativ teori og en begrundelse for saglighed som forudsætning for narrativ organisationsudvikling

Thomas Klem Andersen

Student thesis: Master thesis


In this thesis I inquire into in which sense truth can be maintained as a relevant question for narrative theory and practice as formulated by Michael White and Jerome Bruner. I also inquire into what preconditions for narrative organizational development can be projected in light of such a maintenance of the truth question. The inquiry falls into three parts. The first part consists in an analysis of the theoretical foundation for narrative theory, which is shown to be largely based on a rejection of truth in a scientistic sense because the ideal of truth is said to obstruct the realization that ‘the self’ and ‘human nature’ etc. are constructs of history and culture. This is followed by a discussion of what I call the problem of arbitrariness, which I argue that this foundation entails, and which risks posing epistemological, ethical and social problems for narrative practice. In the second part I argue (drawing on McDowell and Heidegger) that the rejection of truth as such does not follow from the rejection of a scientistic concept of truth. I further argue that it is possible, even necessary and indeed relevant for narrative theory itself, to maintain the question of truth to address the problem of arbitrariness while at the same time rejecting truth in a scientistic sense. In the third part I suggest (drawing on Gadamer) that truth can be maintained if conceived as a question of ‘responsiveness to the subject matter’ (Sachlichkeit). I argue that in narratives some subject matter becomes mutually accessible for two or more persons; that narratives can be conceived as mediating truth; and that this truth only can be realized if we grant what is due to the subject matter. The condition of possibility for this truth realization is, as I suggest, the willingness to lend oneself to the emergence of the subject matter that is mediated in the narrative (Sachlichkeit). The subject matter that can be mediated through a narrative, if conceived in this way, is never just an opinion, a mere point of view, because we seriously consider whether there is some truth in that way of looking at a subject matter for us too. Such a (hermeneutic) vocabulary of truth, I suggest in conclusion, can complement the playful and respectful way of approaching serious problems that characterizes narrative practice. In relation to a narrative approach to organizational development this vocabulary implies that organizational narratives are not capable of just anything. They are capable only of what the specific organizational context – institutional history, strategic considerations and collegiate belonging – can meaningfully allow and this calls for the consultant to be responsive to the subject matter at hand.

EducationsMSc in Philosophy, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2012
Number of pages136