Volume 93, Issue 1, January 2016
Gossip and Social Punishment
Is gossip ever appropriate as a response to other people’s misdeeds or character flaws? Gossip is arguably the most common means through which communities hold people responsible for their vices and transgressions. Yet, gossiping itself is traditionally considered wrong. This essay develops an account of social punishment in order to ask whether gossip can serve as a legitimate means of enforcing moral norms. In the end, however, I argue that gossip is most likely to be permissible where it resembles punishment as little as possible.