Does Reputation Matter?

Sunday, June 27, 2021
First Aired: 
Sunday, November 11, 2018

What Is It

We think about about our own reputation all the time, and we constantly reference the reputations of the people we meet and interact with. But why do we care so much about reputation? Is it rational for us to rely on reputation so heavily in our day-to-day lives? Are judgments about reputation just a handy social screening mechanism or something much more nefarious? Josh and Ken manage their reputations with Gloria Origgi from the Institut Jean Nicod, author of Reputation: What It Is and Why It Matters.

Listening Notes

Josh and Ken begin the show by debating whether people should care about their reputations, and what the effects of doing so may be. Ken claims that we have little to no control over our reputations—for example, someone could deliberately tell lies about us, giving us a bad name. Thus, Ken says, getting too hung up on our reputations will incline us toward inauthentic and self-promoting behaviors. Josh, on the other hand, argues that our own actions can and do play a role in determining our reputations. Furthermore, he believes that caring about our reputations can make us more authentic and better individuals.

Guest Gloria Origgi, senior researcher at the Institut Jean Nicod, joins the discussion. She argues that reputation is important because it is everywhere. Our reputation is the social trace that we create and that follows us every time and everywhere we act—regardless of whether we’d like it to. As a result, we have no choice but to care about our reputations and be strategic about this social trace that we produce. Ken raises the question of whether it is possible to care too much about one’s reputation, which they debate. The philosophers then discuss the process by which reputations are formed. Gloria describes an individual’s reputation as the product of a non-linear, dynamic phenomenon in which the person puts out signals and then makes adjustments based on how other people receive them.

In the final segment, the philosophers discuss accuracy and authenticity when it comes to reputation. Josh and Ken raise the question of what to do when there is a difference between what we think of a person and how that person actually is. They ask how we can work to guarantee that people don’t gain reputations that are unwarranted—or are, in other words, inauthentic. Gloria challenges the notion that who we truly are and how people view us can be treated as separate concepts, arguing that we are never without our reputation. We are all partially constituted by how others see us, and they are partially constituted by how we see them. In response, Josh questions whether it is possible for total inauthenticity—for a person to get others to believe something about them that isn’t true.

Roving Philosophical Report (seek to 5:35) → Holly McDede investigates the reputation management strategies of two well-known musical artists. First, she examines Taylor Swift’s public image and how it has been impacted by her noticeable silence regarding political issues; next, she contrasts Swift with the Dixie Chicks, whose reputation took a massive hit after their lead singer voiced her controversial opinion on the then-president George H. W. Bush during a concert.

Sixty-Second Philosopher (seek to 46:43) → Ian Shoales discusses how the role of reputation in maintaining order, providing information, and selling to consumers has shifted over the course of history and has, under capitalism, become an indispensable tool for attracting new customers.




Ken Taylor  
How much should you care about your reputation?

Josh Landy  
Can caring too much turn you into a faker?

Ken Taylor  
Can caring too little make you smug?

Comments (8)

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Sunday, October 28, 2018 -- 12:31 PM

It does, indeed, matter to

It does, indeed, matter to many of us...those who accept responsibility for their words and actions; those who have greater respect for others than they may have for themselves; those who believe it important to persevere in the face of trends, fads and mass/popular culture. I finished reading Stephen Hawking's (I assume final) book: Brief Answers to the Big Questions, and was moved by the humanity of the man. It is a small book. But it captures the essence of a great human being, as well as anything I have read in many years. Not a bad blueprint for anyone wishing to build upon his/her own reputation.

stevegoldfield's picture


Sunday, November 11, 2018 -- 11:53 AM

I have a very different take

I have a very different take on reputation. I have many reputations, as a musician, as a political activist, as a writer, etc. For each reputation, there is a group of people whose opinions matter to me and a much larger group about whose opinions I don't care at all. One way to view the latter is that insults from an idiot are really compliments. That view does not seem to fit much of your discussion.

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Friday, November 16, 2018 -- 12:32 PM

I happened upon a quotation

I happened upon a quotation which I liked for its obscurity. Then I noticed its relevance to this post, so I thought I'd share:

"The totality of circumstances may decide whether a thing is better-viewed in the cool, dim shadow of abstraction, or in the warm, bright light of reality."

(Hope someone likes it, either because of or in spite of its' obliqueness.)

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Saturday, April 24, 2021 -- 7:27 AM

Looked back at remarks made

Looked back at remarks made in 2018. My comment oh totality of circumstances was just in fun. Reputation is only meaningful to those who have---WANT to have, personal integrity. Someone might argue that even criminals have their own brand of integrity. Maybe so. But, for lawabiding citizens, this does not hold any meaning. We are not much interested in doing business with dishonest people. Nor do we condone such character flaws in those with whom we share personal relationships. This is pretty basic stuff. So,I leave it there.

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Sunday, April 25, 2021 -- 11:37 AM

Learned some things from

Learned some things from Davidson. Propositional attitudes were right in front of our eyes. Such attitudes are social constructs. Desire, belief, expectation---the list is long. We want, believe and expect, in concert with what we are taught to want, believe and expect. It is all of a piece with socialization. Because that is needed in order for us to coordinate and cooperate---go along to get along, and so on. Mountain men are virtually extinct. Their self-reliance became obsolete. In some regions of the world, independent people survive. Not many. They are stronger than the rest of us. Diamond has told this tale. Societies have emerged, their morphology changing gradually. Could humans go back if they had to? It seems unlikely, given pandemic realities. We should, however, never say never.. That adaptivity thing, you see. We are still tougher than we remember. This is why we are still here.

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Sunday, May 30, 2021 -- 5:24 AM

Got off on a tangent, last

Got off on a tangent, last comment. Sorry about that. Reputation may mean the difference between success and failure. Most of us will not buy a car from a seller whose reputation is GRAS (generally recognized as shady). Such dealers raise our antennae. This analogy is one of many which apply to the question. Best I could do to keep this short.

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Saturday, July 17, 2021 -- 3:48 AM

End Note: If reputation does

End Note: If reputation does not matter, then words like ethics and morality are meaningless. And, if that is right, our world view is likewise. You can eat cake. But only when you have it. Truth is also called into question. That is a perennial given. The totality of circumstances rules. I have my own interpretations of truth.

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Monday, February 21, 2022 -- 5:47 AM

If anyone truly imagines that

If anyone truly imagines that reputation does not matter, observe the mayhem that transpires today via social media. Should THIS not matter to you, give your libido free-reign ( or is that rein?), and participate to heart's content. People will write books about this stuff. The fact that reputation does not matter to many is a reflection of the erosion of privacy. Seems to me.

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