Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter 12: Slander - The Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy
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Chapter 12: Slander - William Paley, The Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy 
The Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy, Foreword by D.L. Le Mahieu (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2002).
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Speaking is acting, both in philosophical strictness, and as to all moral purposes: for if the mischief and motive of our conduct be the same, the means which we use make no difference.
And this is in effect what our Saviour declares, Matt. xii. 37: “By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned”: by thy words, as well, that is, as by thy actions; the one shall be taken into the account as well as the other, for they both possess the same property of voluntarily producing good or evil.
Slander may be distinguished into two kinds; malicious slander, and inconsiderate slander.
Malicious slander is the relating of either truth or falsehood, for the purpose of creating misery.
I acknowledge that the truth or falsehood of what is related varies the degree of guilt considerably; and that slander, in the ordinary acceptation of the term, signifies the circulation of mischievous falsehoods: but truth may be made instrumental to the success of malicious designs as well as falsehood; and if the end be bad, the means cannot be innocent.
I think the idea of slander ought to be confined to the production of gratuitous mischief. When we have an end or interest of our own to serve, if we attempt to compass it by falsehood, it is fraud; if by a publication of the truth, it is not without some additional circumstance of breach of promise, betraying of confidence, or the like, to be deemed criminal.
Sometimes the pain is intended for the person to whom we are speaking; at other times, an enmity is to be gratified by the prejudice or disquiet of a third person. To infuse suspicions, to kindle or continue disputes, to avert the favour and esteem of benefactors from their dependents, to render some one whom we dislike contemptible or obnoxious in the public opinion, are all offices of slander; of which the guilt must be measured by the intensity and extent of the misery produced.
The disguises under which slander is conveyed, whether in a whisper, with injunctions of secrecy, by way of caution, or with affected reluctance, are all so many aggravations of the offence, as they indicate more deliberation and design.
Inconsiderate slander is a different offence, although the same mischief actually follow, and although the mischief might have been foreseen. The not being conscious of that design which we have hitherto attributed to the slanderer, makes the difference.
The guilt here consists in the want of that regard to the consequences of our conduct, which a just affection for human happiness, and concern for our duty, would not have failed to have produced in us. And it is no answer to this crimination to say, that we entertained no evil design. A servant may be a very bad servant, and yet seldom or never design to act in opposition to his master’s interest or will: and his master may justly punish such servant for a thoughtlessness and neglect nearly as prejudicial as deliberate disobedience. I accuse you not, he may say, of any express intention to hurt me; but had not the fear of my displeasure, the care of my interest, and indeed all the qualities which constitute the merit of a good servant, been wanting in you, they would not only have excluded every direct purpose of giving me uneasiness, but have been so far present to your thoughts, as to have checked that unguarded licentiousness by which I have suffered so much, and inspired you in its place with an habitual solicitude about the effects and tendency of what you did or said. This very much resembles the case of all sins of inconsideration; and, amongst the foremost of these, that of inconsiderate slander.
Information communicated for the real purpose of warning, or cautioning, is not slander.
Indiscriminate praise is the opposite of slander, but it is the opposite extreme; and, however it may affect to be thought to be excess of candour, is commonly the effusion of a frivolous understanding, or proceeds from a settled contempt of all moral distinctions.
OF RELATIVE DUTIES WHICH RESULT FROM THE CONSTITUTION OF THE SEXES
The constitution of the sexes is the foundation of marriage.
Collateral to the subject of marriage, are fornication, seduction, adultery, incest, polygamy, divorce.
Consequential to marriage, is the relation and reciprocal duty of parent and child.
We will treat of these subjects in the following order: first, of the public use of marriage institutions; secondly, of the subjects collateral to marriage, in the order in which we have here proposed them; thirdly, of marriage itself; and, lastly, of the relation and reciprocal duties of parents and children.