Why Ghosts Aren't So Spooky:The Ethics of Indirect “Relationship” Dissolution

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date


Publication Title

Friday Lunchtime Talks - University of Colorado


There are both direct and indirect ways people can communicate romantic disinterest to their actual or potential romantic partners. It’s commonly assumed that “initiators” who use indirect communication, i.e., “ghosting,” behave wrongly. Against this view, I use a theory of moral rights to explain why most initiators who use indirect communication to express romantic disinterest are morally justified. I argue that if non-initiators have a right against initiators to direct communication, it’s because non-initiators have a “right to know” or a “right to access.” Yet, as I will argue, the “ghosted” have neither. The ghosted don’t have a “right to know,” because either (1) the initiator can’t provide them with understanding, (2) understanding would be harmful and unproductive, and/or (3) using direct communication requires initiators to disclose their personal mental states, to which the ghosted don’t have a right. Moreover, the ghosted don’t have a “right to access” because having access to initiators usually results in disrespectful treatment of initiators and/or non-initiators. Consequently, most people who use ghosting behavior to communicate romantic disinterest to non-initiators act well within their moral rights, promoting the personhood of everyone involved.

Controlled Subject

Ghosts; Communication


Applied Ethics | Communication

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