Justin Tosi and Brandon Warmke

Jul 1, 2020


The Use and Abuse of Moral Talk

Oxford University Press 2020

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 and forgive 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.

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