• The Hypocrisy Paradox


    “Hypocrisy” has two, similar, main meanings. The first is claiming (directly or indirectly) to adhere to some moral standard that one does not in fact adhere to. The second is the practice of criticising in others what one does oneself.

    I propose that according to the first definition (though not according to the second) it is impossible to admit to hypocrisy, as the very act of admitting to hypocrisy absolves one from that hypocrisy.

    I often see it proposed that we have an obligation to ‘call out’ abuse whenever we see it. Usually, this means abuse only towards people that the person (the one telling us to ‘call out’ abuse) doesn’t like, and especially not abuse by people they do like. This is hypocrisy, as they are claiming a moral standard that they do not really believe in.

    I claim that we must always be reasonable, consider the evidence, and remain civil at all times. Do I always manage to adhere to this myself? No. I am a hypocrite.

    However, by admitting that I am a hypocrite, I am no longer a hypocrite, as hypocrisy requires that I claim or imply that I hold to a particular moral standard myself. My admission means that I am denying that I hold to such a moral standard, and therefore I cannot be accused of hypocrisy after such an admission. In fact, the admission retroactively becomes false, and it might be claimed that making a false admission is the act of a hypocrite.


    Category: EthicsFeaturedPhilosophy

    Article by: Notung

    I started as a music student, studying at university and music college, and playing trombone for various orchestras. While at music college, I became interested in philosophy, and eventually went on to complete an MA in Philosophy in 2012. An atheist for as long as I could think for myself, a skeptic, and a political lefty, my main philosophical interests include epistemology, ethics, logic and the philosophy of religion. The purpose of Notung (named after the name of the sword in Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen) is to concentrate on these issues, examining them as critically as possible.