Virtue signalling and the Condorcet Jury theorem

Synthese 199 (5-6):14821-14841 (2021)


One might think that if the majority of virtue signallers judge that a proposition is true, then there is significant evidence for the truth of that proposition. Given the Condorcet Jury Theorem, individual virtue signallers need not be very reliable for the majority judgment to be very likely to be correct. Thus, even people who are skeptical of the judgments of individual virtue signallers should think that if a majority of them judge that a proposition is true, then that provides significant evidence that the proposition is true. We argue that this is mistaken. Various empirical studies converge on the following point: humans are very conformist in the contexts in which virtue signalling occurs. And stereotypical virtue signallers are even more conformist in such contexts. So we should be skeptical of the claim that virtue signallers are sufficiently independent for the Condorcet Jury Theorem to apply. We do not seek to decisively rule out the relevant application of the Condorcet Jury Theorem. But we do show that careful consideration of the available evidence should make us very skeptical of that application. Consequently, a defense of virtue signalling would need to engage with these findings and show that despite our strong tendencies for conformism, our judgements are sufficiently independent for the Condorcet Jury Theorem to apply. This suggests new directions for the debate about the epistemology of virtue signalling.

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Author Profiles

Renaud-Philippe Garner
University of Toronto, St. George Campus
Scott Hill
University of Innsbruck

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