New ERC-CZ research project on Self-Righteousness—a Vice of the Digital Age.


Led by Professor John Lippitt, this project --"Combatting Self-Righteousness: a Vice of the Digital Age"-- will span from the present to the end of 2028. Lippitt, known for his contributions to virtue ethics, moral psychology, and the thought of Søren Kierkegaard, brings a wealth of expertise to this interdisciplinary project. As well as his affiliation with the Centre for Ethics as Study in Human Value at the University of Pardubice, Prof. Lippitt retains an appointment in the Institute for Ethics and Society at the University of Notre Dame, Australia.

The project is funded by a substantial 45,000,000 CZK award from the ERC-CZ Advanced Grants Scheme and marks a crucial step in understanding and addressing the complex moral dimensions of self-righteousness in our current digital cultures.



Project Abstract:

Self-righteousness has a serious claim to be one of the vices of the digital age. The risks associated with echo chambers and political polarisation involve an ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality, in which ‘we’ judge ‘them’ as not just mistaken but immoral. Yet despite a burgeoning interest in moral and intellectual virtues and vices in philosophy and related disciplines in recent years, self-righteousness remains no more than a footnote. This project addresses that lacuna in a ground-breaking way. First, it treats self-righteousness as a vice of *groups*, not just individuals. Second, its methodology involves an innovative dialogue between moral philosophy and the sociology of digital media cultures. Third, the basic and applied levels of research cross-fertilise each other: the project’s philosophical inquiry is not only motivated by recent societal challenges, but integral to it is an applied part investigating how to combat them.

The main objectives of the project are thus:

  • To offer a detailed new account of self-righteousness as a vice of individuals and groups

  • To explain how an understanding of individual and group self-righteousness can open new horizons for solving contemporary problems concerning ‘virtue signalling’; epistemic bubbles and echo chambers; and political polarisation

  • To demonstrate how the vice of self-righteousness can be combatted, in terms of both cultivating countervailing virtues such as generosity of spirit and tackling societal factors.

The results of the project will impact upon debates within moral philosophy, social philosophy, and the sociology of digital cultures. However, this is no purely academic project: it will also impact upon wider social and cultural debates, about such topics as political polarisation, ‘cancel culture’, and declining trust in institutions. The project’s topic is thus a pressing aspect of what it would mean to create ‘a Europe fit for the digital age’.

For more details see here.