How much should we care about our reputation? One can easily imagine a Stoic telling us not to care at all: it’s not something that is under our control, and so our job is simply to learn not to worry about it. But it’s not clear that reputation is something that is entirely out of our control.
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.
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.