How should we talk about our ethical and spiritual views?

May 13, 2021

This is not an answer to the question posed, but a set of issues worth considering in attempting to answer it.

This piece on "moral grandstanding" has me thinking.  As they understand it, "moral grandstanding" is a matter of professing moral views in order to situate yourself on a hierarchy of morally worthy people, and probably near the top.

They don't deny the value and even the necessity, at times, of stating our beliefs.  But they think this kind of expressive performance is really more of a simulacra of communication, not an exemplary model of it.  It’s a kind of “virtue-signaling” that looks like it’s actually simply an informational act.  In a way it is an informational act, but not in the way that it purports to be.

I’m not sure about all this, but I’d like to remember Hume here:

“The greater part of mankind are naturally apt to be affirmative and dogmatical in their opinions; and while they see objects only on one side, and have no idea of any counter-poising argument, they throw themselves precipitately into the principles, to which they are inclined; nor have they any indulgence for those who entertain opposite sentiments. To hesitate or balance perplexes their understanding, checks their passion, and suspends their action. They are, therefore, impatient till they escape from a state, which to them is so uneasy: and they think, that they can never remove themselves far enough from it, by the violence of their affirmations and obstinacy of their belief”

David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning the Human Understanding, Section 12, part iii 


Is there some way to mitigate "the violence of our affirmations and the obstinacy of our belief" apart from pyrrhonic skepticism?  Apart from holding them, as it were, at arm's length?


Maybe I'm not asking the question rightly.  But I hope you understand there's a real question in this area.  And it's one we could benefit from answering.