The Ethical Value of Narrative Representation

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The purpose of this paper is to defend a deflationary account of the ethical value of narrative representation. In sections 1 and 2 I demonstrate that there is a necessary relation between narrative representation and ethical value, but not between narrative representation and moral value. Ethical is conceived in terms of moral as opposed to amoral and moral in terms of moral as opposed to immoral and the essential value of narrative representation is restricted to the former. Recently, both theorists involved in the ethical turn in criticism and analytic philosophers have erred in conflating these two distinct kinds of value. In sections 3 to 5 I defend my deflationary view against three attempts to elevate the ethical value of narrative representation to moral value: Martha Nussbaum’s theory of realist novels, Noël Carroll’s virtue wheels, and Geoffrey Galt Harpham’s closural moral order.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-74
JournalJournal of Aesthetics and Phenomenology
Issue number1
Early online date8 Jun 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Jun 2017


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