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The proposition that the tort of defamation protects reputation has long been axiomatic in the law. The axiom's endurance is surprising: it has long been observed that the law is riddled with inconsistencies and, moreover, the courts and the scholarly literature have rarely discussed exactly what reputation is and how judgments about reputation are made....
The proposition that the tort of defamation protects reputation has long been axiomatic in the law. The axiom's endurance is surprising: it has long been observed that the law is riddled with inconsistencies and, moreover, the courts and the scholarly literature have rarely discussed exactly what reputation is and how judgments about reputation are made. Reputation and Defamation develops a theory of reputation and uses it to analyze, evaluate and propose a revision of the law. It is the first book to present a comprehensive study of what reputation is, how it functions, and how it is and should be protected under the law.Reputation, it argues, is best understood in terms of the moral judgments a community makes about its members. Viewed in this way it becomes apparent, contrary to the legal orthodoxy, that defamation law did not really aim and function to protect reputation until the early nineteenth century. A revised legal framework is proposed. It re-thinks how and why different criteria for moral judgment should - or should not - be recognized when courts determine whether an attack on reputation will be actionable as defamation. It is argued that 'the right-thinking person' should be associated with an inclusive liberal premise of equal moral worth and a shared commitment to moral diversity. The proposed framework demands that when courts recognize values at odds with that premise then such recognition must be justified on sound and expressly stated ethical grounds. That demand serves to protect reputation appropriately and effectively in an age of moral diversity.
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