Narrative Judgement

A narrative judgement is a prose version of the structured argument. In the case of the Apollo 13 example, to write a narrative is a bit of an academic exercise, since a narrative inspired the structured argument. But when you begin crafting arguments on your own, the conversion of a structured argument into prose will be an indispensable tool.

Generally, we begin with the best explanation, then describe the relationships between the evidence to explain and the favoured explanation. Within the text, contrast the alternative explanations with the favoured explanation, describing the ways in which their ability to explain the evidence is less than the explanation you’ve chosen. This is also an opportunity to make the lead question clear, and to contrast alternative questions, such as we did while working this example.

It would be inappropriate to insist upon a specific structure for a narrative judgement, as the circumstances under which you deliver a judgement will guide the standards to which the judgement will be held. The results of the Apollo 13 investigation will need to be expressed quite soberly, given the grave nature of the case, and given that it’s an engineering failure at stake. Were you to craft a narrative judgement of why you’ve chosen a particular bicycle for your coastal tour, a more jocular tone might be wholly appropriate, especially if you were writing for a bicycle touring publication or engaged in a marketing role. Again, circumstances and context will do much of the work here.

Example 1.3
Narrative Judgement of the Apollo 13 Case

Damaged insulation on the fan wires caused the explosion on Apollo 13. By collecting and considering evidence, we have eliminated the possibility that there was a bomb aboard or that there was a short circuit in the fan switch.

In our investigation, we discovered that too much voltage had been applied to the fan circuits of an oxygen tank prior to the launch. This fact had been overlooked by engineers. Given that applying too much voltage to a wire can damage its insulation, we believe that an exposed part of the wire ignited when voltage was applied later in Apollo 13’s flight as the fan was switched on.

Without any evidence to suggest otherwise, our best explanation of the cause of the explosion is the damaged insulation in the wires to the cooling fan.

With a clear means of formalising Inferences to the Best Explanation, we are now prepared to look at specific kinds of explanations in more detail.

Last modified: Wednesday, 7 February 2018, 9:43 PM