Stoicism claims that virtue is the only good and therefore the highest good.
Is there any evidence for this? People really do not live like virtue is the highest good. But, do they live as if the respect virtuous people? Do people live like they want to be known as good people? Yes:
Human rights non-governmental organizations (NGOs)—like Amnesty International—provide a signaling service to their donors. Donors purchase this signaling service, paying for the ability to show the world they are prosocial, open, multi-cultural, compassionate, empathic, and politically liberal. The primary product on offer is a badge outwardly signaling that the wearer is a person who is associated with the broadly known values of the human rights NGO. For the donor, the benefit is prestige and status that comes with associating with the organization. The NGO, for doing its part, receives money, status, and authority.11The Virtue Economy by Suszie Mulesky
The NGO world is a crowded space. Donors have millions of charities from which to choose. An organization does not need to convince donors to change their minds to attract their donation. Instead, the NGO can convince donors that it represents their views and will provide assistance in signaling their commitment to these views and loyalty to their community.
Corporations have discovered the power of virtue-signaling. In a New York Timesarticle, Paul Sullivan writes, “Firms learn that as they help charities, they also help their brands.” For example, Subaru chose “well-known, noncontroversial charities,” such as the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and Meals on Wheels. On the other hand, Discovery Communications, which produces Shark Week, began a wild tiger conservation program.
Companies also signal their virtues in advertisements. Gillette’s viral commercial “We Believe: The Best Men Can Be” was a calculated virtue-branding effort destined to annoy some and attract others, a worthwhile trade for a declining brand. Amnesty International USA, in a rare endorsement of a corporation, tweeted in support of Gillette: “People are upset about the Gillette ad? Repeat after me: We want a world without #ToxicMasculinity.” The international Twitter account for Amnesty likewise supported the ad: “The [world] will be a better place without #ToxicMasculinity.” In a response to an NPR query, a Gillette spokesperson said, “No longer can companies ‘just advertis[e] product benefits.’ These days ‘brand-building’ also means taking a stand on important societal issues, controversial as they may be.”
A study on corporate social responsibility found that 87 percent of study respondents reported “they would buy a product because of something the company advocated.” However, if the company advocates (signals) the wrong cause, 76 percent said they would boycott the product. This consumer demand produces an incentive for companies to learn what their customers want to signal and enhance their brand through the power of signaling.12
We live like we know virtue is the most important thing, we just wish to be known for it rather than engage in it.