Magazine August 24, 2020, Issue

The Costs of Virtue-Signaling

Harvey Weinstein, 2012 (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)
Grandstanding: The Use and Abuse of Moral Talk, by Justin Tosi and Brandon Warmke (Oxford University Press, 248 pp., $19.95)

In his first public statement following accusations of sexual abuse, now-disgraced movie producer Harvey Weinstein boasted of his support for supposedly righteous progressive causes. Weinstein was morally grandstanding, i.e., using moral discourse to promote his own status. And since just about everyone recognized what he was up to, Weinstein’s grandstanding was ineffective. Grandstanding isn’t always so easy to detect (if it were, no one would do it), but it’s hard to spend much time on social media and not think that there’s a lot of grandstanding going on.

In their new book, two philosophers treat moral grandstanding as a serious problem.

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Spencer CaseMr. Case is a freelance writer and an international research fellow in the Wuhan University school of philosophy.

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