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10. Virtue Ethics & Media

From the book Communication and Media Ethics

  • Sandra L. Borden


Virtue ethics (VE) theory and scholarship in media and communication have become increasingly vibrant and worthy of serious attention. For all VE has to offer, however, it is not unusual for the theory to be explained and applied inaccurately in the literature and in textbooks. This limits the theory’s potential for addressing enduring issues in media and communication, as well as emerging ones. This chapter argues that a major source of this theoretical distortion is the epistemological hegemony of “thin concepts” in ethics to the neglect of “thick concepts.” Thick concepts, such as “cruel” or “courageous” (i.e., vices and virtues), simultaneously evaluate and describe; they presuppose particular institutional and cultural contexts in a way that thin concepts, such as “right” and “impermissible,” do not. The “thin” bias results in a systematic distortion of VE, which limits the theory’s relevance to media and communication ethics. This essay will focus on the thinning out of four central concepts that are analytically distinct but closely related in VE: virtues, practical reasoning, eudaimonia, and the common good. The conclusion discusses implications for the VE agenda in media and communication ethics.

© 2018 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Munich/Boston
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