Synthese 191 (17):4037-4067 (2014)

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Abstract
Gossip has been the object of a number of different studies in the past 50 years, rehabilitating it not only as something worth being studied, but also as a pivotal informational and social structure of human cognition: Dunbar (Rev Gen Psychol 8(2):100–110, 2004) interestingly linked the emergence of language to nothing less than its ability to afford gossip. Different facets of gossip were analyzed by anthropologists, linguists, psychologists and philosophers, but few attempts were made to frame gossip within an epistemological framework (for instance Ayim in (Good gossip, pp. 85–99, 1994)). Our intention in this paper is to provide a consistent epistemological (applied and social) account of gossip, understood as broadly evaluative talk between two or more people, comfortably acquainted between each other, about an absent third party they are both at least acquainted with. Hence, relying on the most recent multidisciplinary literature about the topic, the first part of this paper will concern the epistemic dynamics of gossip: whereas the sociobiological tradition individuates in gossip the clue for the (theoretically cumbersome) group mind and group-level adaptations Wilson et al. (The evolution of cognition, pp. 347–365, 2002), we will suggest the more parsimonious modeling of gossip as a soft-assembled epistemic synergy, understood as a function-dominant interaction able to project a higher organizational level—in our case, the group as group-of-gossips. We will argue that the aim of this synergy is indeed to update a Knowledge Base of social information between the group (as a projected whole) and its members. The second and third part will instead focus on the epistemological labeling of the inferences characterizing gossip: our contention is that the ever-present moral/evaluative dimension in gossip—be it tacit or explicit, concerning the objects or the partners of gossip—is best analyzed through the epistemological framework of abduction. Consequently, we will suggest that a significant role of gossip is to function as a group-based abductive appraisal of social matter, enacted at various levels
Keywords Gossip  Abduction  Applied epistemology  Social epistemology  Social cognition
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DOI 10.1007/s11229-014-0514-2
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Citations of this work BETA

Gossip as a Burdened Virtue.Mark Alfano & Brian Robinson - 2017 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 20 (3):473-82.
Naturalizing Logic.Lorenzo Magnani - 2015 - Journal of Applied Logic 13 (1):13-36.
Character, Caricature, and Gossip.Brian Robinson - 2016 - The Monist 99 (2):198-211.
The Eco-Cognitive Model of Abduction II.Lorenzo Magnani - 2016 - Journal of Applied Logic 15:94-129.

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