fbpx

Stoicism, Virtue Signaling, and Vice Signaling

Photo by JJ Jordan on Pexels.com

In this article, I specifically redefine virtue signaling to make a point.  I give virtue signaling a positive meaning since in my experience people who are often accused of virtue signaling are likely intending to say, defend, and do the right thing.

Often we hear people complain about others who virtue signal.  But what is virtue signaling?  Virtue signaling is usually a form of argumentation and rhetoric that defends the dignity or rights of classes of people considered underprivileged, whether they are people of color, women, homosexuals, trans, or non-binary.  When individuals signal their virtue they’re actually intending to educate people about an unjust power imbalance between those who are privileged and those who are underprivileged. After all, virtue isn’t just something that should be important to one person, it should be important to everyone.

I contrast virtue signaling with what I consider to be vice signaling. Vice signaling is a rhetorical strategy that attacks virtue signalers merely on the basis that virtue signalers are virtue signalers.  In fact, vice signalers define virtue signaling as an attempt of a person who virtue signals to score social points, pat themselves on the back, or advance their status in their in-group. In fact, painting someone as a virtue signaler is an ad hominem attack that does not address the issue of justice the virtue signaler is concerned about.

Why call it vice signaling?  It’s vice signaling because by only attacking virtue signalers as individuals, but not the virtue signaler’s arguments; in doing so, vice signalers defy the virtues of wisdom and intellectual honesty.  Since the strategies of the vice signaler are against virtue, then they are participating in vice. The vice signaling strategy doesn’t add to the dialogue, it subtracts from the dialogue.  Vice signalers might have a point that some virtue signalers out there are just pretending to care but whether a virtue signaler pretends to care is besides the point.  The vice signaler still needs to address the virtue signaler’s arguments rather than attack the virtue signaler him/herself.

Vice signaling is not merely a problem because the vice signaler is being vicious but also because of immediate negative consequences. Vice signaling derails discussion, it poisons the dialogue, it even harms the underprivileged because it stifles dialogue meant to address unjust power imbalances in society. |

Musonious Rufus, Epictetus, Cato the Younger, Marcus Aurelius, and Seneca were virtue signalers during their time.  Musonius Rufus believed that everyone regardless of gender were endowed with reason during a time when women were regarded as nothing more than property. Cato put his virtue on full display when he vowed never to live under Julius Caesar as dictator. We don’t indubitably know all the ancient Stoics’ true intentions.  Maybe Epictetus really did virtue signal because he wanted to increase his social approval and increase turnout at his school.  But we’ll never know and it is counterproductive to speculate.  We should be thinking about what we know about Epictetus, his arguments, and his sound conclusions.

One pernicious quality of a vice signaler is their anger and disgust.  Vice signalers attempt to conceal their anger and disgust but it’s easy to spot their hatred spilling over in the form of snide remarks, ad hominems, vitriol, and trolling.   One way to respond to vice signalers is to help them see wisdom by discussing the issues with them objectively and without bias all the while without counter-attacking their character.  If the attempt is fruitless, then there is no choice but to ignore them.

#women #trans #rhetoric #nonbinary #virtues #vicesignaling #vice #LGBT #progressive #hatred #minorities #LGBTissues #virtuesignaling #homosexuality #vicious #liberal #Virtue #Stoicism #Stoicvirtue #virtue #virtueistheonlygood #virtuous #Stoicism #underprivileged #privilege #privileged #humanrights #MusoniusRufus #adhominem #adhominemattack #Epictetus #MarcusAurelius #JuliusCaesar #ancientRome #ancientphilosophy #philosophy #Stoicphilosophy #Stoicethics #justice

By Jess W

JW has a B.A. in Philosophy from Drury University. JW has practiced philosophy for years after graduating Drury U, though he hasn't pursued philosophy as a career of choice. JW eventually learned what Stoicism was really all about and decided to adopt virtually all of its precepts. It's served JW well and has helped him through his journey through a life of ups and downs.

1 comment

  1. I do agree with you on this, as long as the point is made in a normal discussion, in which it would actually be better to reply directly to the arguments made. My own experience with virtue signaling seems to be different from yours though. I encounter those people that are described as virtue signalers mostly on Twitter or in activist groups. Most of the time they tend to be the ones using ad hominem to describe their political enemy. Calling them nazies or conspiracy theorists even if they are far from real nazies or conspiracy theorists. Arguing with terms like mansplaining that certain people can´t understand or shouldn´t even be allowed to speak on specific topics simply based on their manhood or whiteness. The term of virtue signaling also refers to the kind of things these people promote. Rather than putting out real arguments they stick to political mantras or hashtags that hold little meaning for themselves, but if you dare to point out faults in their reasoning then you questioning them itself already makes you a bad person, while they are a good person simply for putting out these moral truths. These people are not interested in discourse. They actually despise it and do their best to poison it and seed discord. Maybe it is necessary to call this behavior out, so that people recognize this problem and the current state of political discourse.

    But again I would totally agree with you as long as we are talking about an actual discussion (at best face to face), that talking about the actual arguments is better than name calling. As long as we are on twitter though… Well we probably shoudn´t waste our time there anyway. But we most definitely should not give people credit for putting out their political mantras their and shutting down every critic.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: