The accusation of virtue signalling is typically understood as a serious charge. Those accused usually respond (if not by an admission of fault) by attempting to show that they are doing no such thing. In this paper, I argue that we ought to embrace the charge, rather than angrily reject it. I argue that this response can draw support from cognitive science, on the one hand, and from social epistemology on the other. I claim that we may appropriately concede that what we are doing is (inter alia) virtue signalling, because virtue signalling is morally appropriate. It neither expresses vices, nor is hypocritical, nor does it degrade the quality of public moral discourse. Signalling our commitment to norms is a central and justifiable function of moral discourse, and the same signals provide (higher-order) evidence that is appropriately taken into account in forming moral beliefs.
Virtue signalling is not something any of us likes to be accused of. In this paper, I will argue that we ought to worry much less about the accusation. While some of the vices attributed to virtue signalling, and those who engage in it, are genuine, the fact that it gives rise to such problems is not a reason to abandon the practice. All practices, even the most valuable, have their risks and pathologies. Virtue signalling has its virtues, and these virtues typically outweigh its vices.
Levy, N. Virtue signalling is virtuous. Synthese (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-020-02653-9