Virtue Signaling: Background information when reading The Kindness of Strangers

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The Kindness of Strangers

How a Selfish Ape Invented a New Moral Code

by Michael E. McCullough

The Kindness of Strangers by Michael E. McCullough X
The Kindness of Strangers by Michael E. McCullough
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    Jul 2020, 368 pages

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Grace Graham-Taylor
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Virtue Signaling

This article relates to The Kindness of Strangers

The Arabian babbler, a bird that displays altruistic behavior "Virtue signaling," that ubiquitous pejorative flung like so much feces across party lines by political pundits, has created a minor crisis in moral discourse. The phrase was allegedly coined by James Bartholomew in an article appearing in the right-leaning British periodical The Spectator, in which he reacted to what he saw as the rise of people who advertise their moral superiority by venting righteous outrage (arguably venting righteous outrage himself in the process). "The implication," wrote Robert Shrimsley in a follow-up article in the Financial Times, "is that the virtue-signaller does not really believe what they are saying but simply wishes to be admired as a good person."

As a political put-down, a claim of virtue signaling can be a remarkably effective way to nullify your opponent. Nobody likes a hypocrite. However, as a principle of evolutionary psychology, "virtue signaling" or some version of it may be the key to understanding our ability to conceive of morality ...

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