Patrick Lee Plaisance, Elizabeth Tropman

Moral realism and ethical naturalism in media ethics theorising

In the quest to articulate a globalised ethic for media practice, theorists have recently drawn, in varying degrees, on the notions of moral realism and ethical naturalism as part of an effort to identify key elements of responsible transnational conduct. This project provides a critique of the coherence of application of these terms, including whether the proposed notion of 'anthropological realism' does any new work or contributes to the current formulations of realism. This project also seeks to counter claims that the ethical naturalism of neo-Aristotelian virtue ethics is inherently relativistic and thus provides an inadequate basis for media ethics theory-building.

Keywords: realism, naturalism, virtue ethics, global media ethics


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Note on the contributor

Patrick Lee Plaisance is Professor at Colorado State University. He is author of Media ethics: Key principles for responsible practice (Sage, 2014, second edition) and Virtue in media: The moral psychology of excellence in news and public relations (Routledge, 2015). He also is editor of the Journal of Media Ethics. Contact details: Department of Journalism & Media Communication, Colorado State University, 1785 Campus Delivery, Fort Collins, Colorado 80523, USA. Telephone: (970) 491-6484; fax: (970) 491-2908; email:
Elizabeth Tropman is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Colorado State University. Her research is in ethics and metaethics, with specific attention to moral realism, moral objectivity, and the nature of moral knowledge. She has published several articles defending moral intuitionism, the view that we can know some moral truths directly, without inferring them from prior premises or evidence.