Wednesday, January 31, 2018

I'm Probably Just Virtue Signaling

Dr. Bryan Cross, on something that's been bothering me a long time:

"Something I wrote in July of 2016 about the rise of the charge of 'virtue-signalling:'

What I see in the acceptance of the use of "virtue signaling" as a criticism is something quite dangerous, something that, without an explicit and principled difference provided, just is public judgment and negative deconstruction of the motives of others from the point of view of cynicism. ... [W]ithout additional contravening evidence the [apparently] righteous statements and actions of our neighbors should be taken at face value as sincere, on the principle of charity. But if additional evidence indicates that these righteous statements and actions are only for show, then that evidence (or the discord between that evidence and their 'righteous' words and actions) should be the means of criticizing these statements and actions. That evidence shows the hypocrisy, and makes the public criticism justified. Otherwise, without such evidence, the use of this term "virtue signaling" would be applicable to "people who display their virtue by acting virtuously," as sauce for the gander. Imagine Blessed Mother Theresa's life chalked up as "virtue signaling." Even by the Golden Rule, we would not want our (actual, authentic, sincere) good deeds or words to be treated as "virtue signaling." So when persons say that they love the environment or hate pollution, ... the principle of charity and the Golden Rule require taking them at their word, unless we have evidence indicating their insincerity. In short, [there is] an important difference between the use of the term 'virtue signaling' as a negative, cynical judgment of others' motives, and criticizing hypocrisy by showing the disagreement between their words and actions, or between their actions and other actions or inactions."

[Me talking] I must confess, whenever anyone throws out the accusation of "virtue-signalling," I want to punch them right in the teeth. [Not a virtuous reaction.--ed.] Stop virtue-signalling, dude.

More seriously, if it is true that all of us are hypocrites in one way or another, a principled way to distinguish virtue-signalling from actual virtue would be most helpful. Undeterred cynicism, aside from being infuriating to receive, dissuades all of us from the pursuit of virtue.

Stay tuned for my next post, where I challenge the deeply uncharitable slur, "Social Justice Warrior." ("SJW") Just kidding. Maybe.