Esteem, identifiability, and the internet

Geoffrey Brennan, Philip Pettit

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

6 Scopus citations


ESTEEM, REPUTATION, AND THE “COMPOUNDING EFFECT’: Nature, when she formed man for society, endowed him with an original desire to please, and an original aversion to offend his brethren. She taught him to feel pleasure in their favourable, and pain in their unfavourable regard. (Adam Smith 1759/1982, p. 116). We assume in this chapter, in line with what we have argued elsewhere (Brennan and Pettit 2004), that people desire the esteem of others and shrink from their disesteem. In making this assumption, we are deliberately associating ourselves with an intellectual tradition that dominated social theorizing until the nineteenth century, and specifically until the emergence of modern economics. That tradition includes Adam Smith, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, the Baron de Montesquieu, David Hume – indeed, just about everyone who is recognized as a forebear of modern social and political theory, whether specifically in the economistic style or not. There is scarcely a social theorist up to the nineteenth century who does not regard the desire for esteem as among the most ubiquitous and powerful motives of human action (Lovejoy 1961). Smith's elegantly forthright formulation, offered as the epigraph to this section, simply exemplifies the wider tradition. We can think of a minimalist version of the basic esteem relationship as involving just two individuals – actorAand an observer, B. The actor undertakes some action, or exhibits some disposition, that is observed byB. The observation of this action/disposition induces inBan immediate and spontaneous evaluative attitude.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationInformation Technology and Moral Philosophy
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9780511498725
ISBN (Print)9780521855495
StatePublished - Jan 1 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities


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