prof S. N. Balagangadhara (Ghent) "The Role of Stories in Indian Culture"
balu [ät] ugent.be
In this talk, I look at the roles that stories play in Indian culture. I do this within the framework of the research programme on the Comparative Science of Cultures.
In the first place, stories preserve patterns without saying what these patterns are. They depict partial aspects of an order without specifying what the order consists of. That is, they simply model a set of circumstances. The ‘representational’ aspect of stories makes them continuous with other representa¬tional products known to us, such as philosophy, scientific theory, etc.
In the second place, by describ¬ing a way of going about the world, they are also a way of going about the world. They are models in a practical sense, i.e. they can be emulated. Stories are pedagogical instruments par excellence because of this. Stories are oblique instructions disguised as representations that depict actions. One learns, while being unaware that one is learning.
The proposal that I outline is the following: Stories are learning units and they embody action knowledge. Action Knowledge (or Practical Knowledge) is a species of knowledge. The process of acquiring this knowledge involves mimetic learning, i.e. learning through exemplars. Exemplars are different from examples and, therefore, the process of learning through exemplars is not the same as learning through examples. That is, it is not a kind of inductive learning. Action Knowledge is not knowl¬edge about actions; neither is it identical to acquiring some skill or another.