Internal Needs, Endoxa and the Truth: An Aristotelian Approach to the Popular Screenplay

Daniel McInerny


Robert McKee, in his widely-esteemed screenwriting manual, Story, speaks of storytelling in general, and the screenplay in particular, as 'the creative demonstration of truth.' But what could it mean to think of the screenplay as a 'demonstration,' that is, as an argument? In this article I explore this question, taking my cue from McKee's own description of screenplay narrative as 'dramatized dialectical debate.' McKee's reference to dialectic suggests a connection to the dialectical inquiries in Aristotle's major treatises, especially the dialectical inquiry into the nature of human happiness found in the first book of the Nicomachean Ethics. I argue for an analogy between this dialectical inquiry in Aristotle's ethics, and the dialectical trajectory of popular screenplays. Such an analogy helps us understand how films do work as kinds of argument, arguments that aim at the truth of what it means for human beings to achieve their good.


screenwriting, internal needs, endoxa, truth, Aristotle, ethics

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