College courses in Ethics tend to focus on theories of the moral rightness or wrongness of actions. This emphasis sometimes obscures the fact that morality is a social
project: part of what makes a decent and stable society possible is that we uphold standards of conduct. We call out
bad behavior, blame
wrongdoers, and praise
those who do the right things. We apologize
in public ways. In short, we hold one another responsible.
Again, this is all necessary. However, we are all familiar with the ways in which the acts associated with upholding morality
can go wrong. For instance, blame can be excessive, apologies can be patronizing, and so on. Another way in which things can go wrong is when people wield morality opportunistically
– for self-aggrandizement, or to elevate themselves in the eyes of others.
In Grandstanding: The Use and Abuse of Moral Talk
(Oxford University Press, 2020), Brandon Warmke
and Justin Tosi
call this broad type of moral breakdown grandstanding
. Their book examines the different kinds of grandstanding, demonstrates why grandstanding is morally bad, and proposes some tips for avoiding it.