Instagram is a “best foot forward” platform. It’s a digital space for people to showcase their best selves. Hume would love it!
Pope Francis also seems to be keen (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/25/technology/instagram-celebrities-cultural-powerhouse.html?).
Inspired by the “best version of your self” idea, Francis has an Instagram post where he declares: “It’s good not to do evil. But it’s evil not to do good.” This sounds nifty but it isn’t quite right. It really is good not to do evil but the moral tradition — including moral theology — has always recognized the same rigorous demand does not hold for doing good.
Kolnai (V&R Chapter 7) is especially good on this but Francis’s formulation seems to set a person up for persecutory scruples. With care, I can avoid doing evil, but at every turn in life there are opportunities to do good that we leave fallow. Francis seems to say that those moments of discretion are morally culpable.
Lord Kames argues that decisions not to do good for others is not because we are hard-hearted. He offers many examples to show that we have a “direct impulse” to compassion and sympathy but also a more reflective habit of mind where we balance our affirmation of self alongside our concern for others. Kames is picking up on the intuition that one could be blameworthy if preoccupied only with the good of others. There is such a thing as leaving oneself fallow, and that is not good.
Of course, Francis’s pithy formulation does not exactly say that the good one must do is a good for others — so the formula might be compatible with Kames and Kolnai — but it does rather suggest one is good only if a permanent Good Samaritan.
And were this true, it would be hard to see how fashion could be moral. The thinkers of the Scottish Enlightenment generally agree with Smith that to “figure well at the ball” is to do good for others, in the aggregate. Glamour stimulates the whole economy and all flourish in time. Francis is famously not impressed by this argument (see V&R, Chapter 2).