Welcome to the Nexus of Ethics, Psychology, Morality, Philosophy and Health Care

Welcome to the nexus of ethics, psychology, morality, philosophy and health care

Friday, August 22, 2014

Narrative Ethics

By James Phelan
the living handbook of narratology
Most recent revision on January 26, 2014


Narrative ethics explores the intersections between the domain of stories and storytelling and that of moral values. Narrative ethics regards moral values as an integral part of stories and storytelling because narratives themselves implicitly or explicitly ask the question, “How should one think, judge, and act—as author, narrator, character, or audience—for the greater good?”

Characteristic Questions and Positions

Investigations into narrative ethics have been diverse and wide-ranging, but they can be usefully understood as focused on one or more of four issues: (1) the ethics of the told; (2) the ethics of the telling; (3) the ethics of writing/producing; and (4) the ethics of reading/reception.

Questions about the ethics of the told focus on characters and events. Sample questions: What are the ethical dimensions of characters’ actions, especially the conflicts they face and the choices they make about those conflicts? What are the ethical dimensions of any one character’s interactions with other characters? How does a narrative’s plot signal its stance on the ethical issues faced by its characters?