May 12, 2009
I have a philosopher friend who has his own theory of gossip. He considers gossip a form of philosophizing.
To gossip about others is to engage in a type of necessary rational analysis. This is conducive to social order as it enables people to act with reason and forethought.
It’s an interesting argument, but I disagree, holding the traditional view that gossip is evil. The problem with gossip is that it’s addictive. The faults of others cast a mystical spell over our minds and lead us to stumble around in the dark, making grandiose generalizations and false presumptions. I admit that it is fun and stimulating. As a psychologist friend of mine said about her clients who commit adultery, “It makes them feel more alive.”
There is an exception to this rule. And, that involves gossip about famous people, either living or dead. Not only are famous people immune to libel, they are immune to the normal principles of everyday discourse. In other words, we can say whatever we want about them. Gossip about famous people, provided that it stays within the realm of empirical reality, is healthy. It sublimates our desire to gossip about the people we know and helps us to deepen our ethical awareness. Or, something like that.
All this is by way of introducing you to a regular feature of this website: occasional portraits of famous couples, both living and dead, real and imaginary. There is only one criterion I will use in choosing these famous couples and that is that I personally find them interesting. I’m going to do my best to include edifying moral insights without disguising what is essentially a highbrow form of gossip.