Virtue Formation and Narrative in Ancient Contexts
February 8, 2012 9:57 AM   Subscribe

Virtue ethics filter: I'm looking for some good research that shows a connection in ancient thought between narrative and emulating virtuous models for moral development. That is, what was the understood or pragmatic relationship between story telling and becoming like those who the stories portrayed? Any suggestions?
posted by SpacemanStix to Education (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Are you looking for primary sources or secondary sources?
posted by philosophygeek at 10:07 AM on February 8, 2012

I guess Book III of the Republic is an obvious source. Socrates goes through various things said of gods and heroes by the great poets (primarily Homer), pointing out that they are not good things for children to be told. He therefore wants the passages expunged. The underlying premise is that the stories told to children have an effect on their character and behavior.
posted by Paquda at 10:09 AM on February 8, 2012

Of course, Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics is the foundational formulation of virtue ethics in the West. But it sounds like you are beyond that. I'm not sure if there are any narrative examples mentioned, though. Thought I'd mention it just in case.
posted by reverend cuttle at 10:16 AM on February 8, 2012

Aesop's fables were written specifically for this, weren't they?
posted by Mchelly at 11:37 AM on February 8, 2012

Ooh, you want Martha Nussbaum.

Nussbaum has done an amazing amount of work on the relationship between ethics and storytelling. She's also deeply interested in Ancient philosophy. I'd suggest you look at Love's Knowledge or The Fragility of Goodness.

Those are both very long books, however. You may want to start out by doing a Google Scholar search about Nussbaum, and read what comes up. I'm partial to her paper, "Equity and Mercy," in which she develops a theory of mercy that is developed from Ancient views of justice and the nature of literature. She's done a whole lot more than that, too.
posted by meese at 2:22 PM on February 8, 2012

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