Screen Stories, Ethics, and Practical Reason

in Projections
Malcolm Turvey Tufts University

Search for other papers by Malcolm Turvey in
Current site
Google Scholar
Restricted access


This article questions the priority that Carl Plantinga accords to the viewer's emotions in his theory of the rhetorical power of screen stories, and makes the case that reason, in the sense of practical reasoning, plays just as important a role as emotion in our ethical response to such fictions. Practical reasoning is the form of reasoning concerned with the actions of agents and what they should do in specific situations. The protagonists of screen stories often engage in practical reasoning, articulating and deliberating about the reasons for their actions, and secondary characters around them regularly question their reasons. In this way, these stories prompt us to understand and question their reasons too and thereby to engage in practical reasoning, a species of which is moral reasoning. Screen stories also often stage a confrontation between divergent ethical perspectives and ask audiences to reflect about which one is more morally compelling.

Contributor Notes

Malcolm Turvey is the Sol Gittleman Professor in the Department of Art History and Director of the Film and Media Studies Program at Tufts University. His most recent book is Play Time: Jacques Tati and Comedic Modernism, which is forthcoming from Columbia University Press in fall 2019. E-mail:

  • Collapse
  • Expand


The Journal for Movies and Mind

  • Berliner, Todd. 2017. Hollywood Aesthetic: Pleasure in American Cinema. New York: Oxford University Press.

  • Bloom, Paul. 2016. Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion. New York: HarperCollins.

  • Greene, Joshua. 2013. Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them. New York: Penguin.

  • Hacker, Peter. 2018. The Passions: A Study of Human Nature. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell.

  • Kahneman, Daniel. 2011. Thinking, Fast and Slow. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

  • Mercier, Hugo, and Dan Sperber. 2017. The Enigma of Reason. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

  • Nagel, Thomas. 1997. The Last Word. New York: Oxford University Press.

  • Obie, Brooke. 2018. “In Defense of Erik Killmonger and the Forgotten Children of Wa kanda.” Shadow and Act. 17 February.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Plantinga, Carl. 2018. Screen Stories: Emotion and the Ethics of Engagement. New York: Oxford University Press.

  • Serwer, Adam. 2018. “The Tragedy of Erik Killmonger.” The Atlantic, 21 February.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation


All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 677 403 3
Full Text Views 66 5 0
PDF Downloads 91 7 0