Stories and Selves

We need stories. But does the interpretative structure imposed by narrative risk paralysing and limiting us? Elisabeth Camp presents this lecture in our 2022-3 series Words and Worlds.

Elisabeth Camp (Rutgers)

Stories are crucial tools for understanding the world around us, and for constructing our selves as individual persons. We need stories. But the interpretive structure imposed by narratives risks paralyzing and imprisoning our selves by defining the lives we live in terms of our stories’ ultimate ends. I suggest that we can recoup much of the benefit of stories while liberating ourselves from many of their perils by turning to other species of framing devices: tropes, like telling details and metaphors, that illuminate without imposing a univocal overarching interpretive structure.

  • Speaker

    Elisabeth Camp is Professor of Philosophy at Rutgers. She obtained her PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, held a post-doc at the Harvard Society of Fellows, and taught at the University of Pennsylvania before moving to Rutgers in 2013. She is the author of more than thirty articles in the philosophy of language, mind, and aesthetics. Her work especially focuses on thoughts and utterances that don’t fit a standard propositionalist model of minds and languages, including metaphor, maps, and animal cognition. Recent publications include an edited volume, The Poetry of Emily Dickinson: Philosophical Perspectives (Oxford University Press, 2021); “Language: Power Plays At The Edges Of Communication,” in Philosophy for Girls: An Invitation to the Life of Thought (OUP 2020); and “Imaginative Frames for Scientific Inquiry: Metaphors, Telling Facts, and Just-So Stories” (in The Scientific Imagination, OUP 2019).