Philosophers Brandon Warmke and Justin Tosi have recently published some important new research on the social phenomenon known as grandstanding. You grandstand when you contribute to public discourse in order to convince others that you are morally respectable. So grandstanding attempts to convince others to make judgments about you that are positive. Perhaps you want others to think that you’re worthy of respect or admiration because you love social justice or that you’re remarkably capable of empathy. You grandstand when you turn your contribution to public discourse into a vanity project. I’d say grandstanding looks pretty bad, don’t you?
It’s easy to underestimate the amount of grandstanding that we encounter on the internet, especially on Facebook. I’d estimate that a very large fraction of political posts are attempts to grandstand. They’re not attempts to convince or offer an argument. In fact, thanks to Brandon and Justin’s work, I’ve found that I do a lot of grandstanding on Facebook and I’ve tried to make an effort to stop. (Is my last sentence an example of grandstanding?).
Understanding grandstanding is important if we are to figure out both who is worth listening to. The idea of grandstanding also helps determine whether we deserve to be listened to on political or other topics. I encourage you to read their paper in Philosophy and Public Affairs (one of the finest journals in all of value theory). You can access an ungated copy here. There’s a nice Huffpo discussion of the article here. And there’s a great interview with Brandon and Justin by Very Bad Wizards here.