L.N. wrote: ↑
Sat Nov 25, 2017 3:33 am
When one accuses another of "virtue signaling," it is in essence calling the other person a liar. The assertion is that the "virtue signaler" has not spoken a sincere position or been truthful about his or her opinion, but rather is deceptively parroting some perceived admirable position for the ulterior purpose of appearing to be virtuous.
Virtue signalling might be a form of lying, but is not so in essence. The virtue-signaller, to the extent that they have thought about the topic, might not be misrepresenting either the state of the world to which they refer, or their own beliefs about it. When I accuse someone of virtue signalling, I am in essence calling them not a liar but a bullshitter.
The difference is made clear in Princeton philosopher Harry Frankfurt's paper On Bullshit
http://web.archive.org/web/200402120548 ... es/bs.html
What bullshit essentially misrepresents is neither the state of affairs to which it refers nor the beliefs of the speaker concerning that state of affairs. Those are what lies misrepresent, by virtue of being false. Since bullshit need not be false, it differs from lies in its misrepresentational intent. The bullshitter may not deceive us, or even intend to do so, either about the facts or about what he takes the facts to be. What he does necessarily attempt to deceive us about is his enterprise. His only indispensably distinctive characteristic is that in a certain way he misrepresents what he is up to....It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth. Producing bullshit requires no such conviction. A person who lies is thereby responding to the truth, and he is to that extent respectful of it. When an honest man speaks, he says only what he believes to be true; and for the liar, it is correspondingly indispensable that he considers his statements to be false. For the bullshitter, however, all these bets are off: he is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false. His eye is not on the facts at all, as the eyes of the honest man and of the liar are, except insofar as they may be pertinent to his interest in getting away with what he says. He does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purpose.
In truth, one probably cannot know for certain that the accused "virtue signaler" is not speaking his or her genuine thoughts. One probably cannot know for sure that the accused "virtue signaler" is merely posturing for the purpose of his or hear self-aggrandizement. More likely, when we accuse another of "virtue signaling," we are speaking an untruth about another.
Even setting aside the above, there are two things wrong with this. The first is that it is invalid reasoning, based on the substitution of pronouns. "One" is less determinate than "we". If "one" could not know for certain, then indeed "one" should not accuse another of virtue signalling. It would be just like accusing another of theft, if "one" did not know for certain that they had stolen something that did not belong to them. If "one" - let's call him Fred - does not know things for certain, he should be careful with his accusations. But the converse may also be true. If another "one" - let's call her Freda - does
know for certain that another engaged in theft or virtue signalling, then presumably (i.e. based on the logic of your argument alone) she could make that accusation. "One's" lack of knowledge does not mean that it is more likely that we are speaking an untruth. It just means that those with a lack of knowledge are speaking an untruth. In terms of virtue signalling, it merely means that if you can't spot when a person is bullshitting, then it's probably best not to accuse them of it. If you do have that ability, though, there is no such constraint. Another's incapacity does not make my error "more likely". That's a false inductive argument.
The second thing wrong is that certainty in knowledge sets the bar at an impossibly high level. We don't speak an "untruth" about something just because we don't know for certain. That would make much of scientific discourse "untruth". Apart from logical truths, there's not much that we do know for certain, but that doesn't mean that whatever else we speak of involves an untruth. The injunction
when one knows overt sharp speech to be untrue, incorrect, and unbeneficial, one should on no account utter it.
is not breached when one calls someone a virtue-signaller or a bullshitter, providing we do not know it to be untrue.
People are starting to catch on about these types of accusations and the role they play in damaging the potential for civil discourse.
Well, some people don't like the term, for sure. Here is David Shariatmadari of the Guardian
attempting to discredit the term.
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfr ... ll-by-date
To which I think the best response is MRDA. The Guardian
has the same interest in stifling talk of virtue-signalling as bankers have in stifling talk of excessive profiteering. Just another attempt to protect the interests of bullshitters.