As a prelude to forthcoming posts on hypocrisy as seen by Kant and Hegel, here is a Kantian hymn of praise to sincerity. From Immanuel Kant, Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone (trs. Greene & Hudson), p. 178, n. 2:
O sincerity! Thou Astraea, that hast fled from earth to heaven, how mayst thou (the basis of conscience, and hence of all inner religion) be drawn down thence to us again? I can admit, though it is much to be deplored, that candor (in speaking the whole truth which one knows) is not to be found in human nature. But we must be able to demand sincerity (that all that one says be said with truthfulness), and indeed if there were in our nature no predisposition to sincerity, whose cultivation merely is neglected, the human race must needs be, in its own eyes, an object of the deepest contempt. Yet this sought for quality of mind is such that it is exposed to many temptations and entails many a sacrifice, and hence calls for moral strength, or virtue (which must be won); moreover it must be guarded and cultivated earlier than any other, because the opposed propensity is the hardest to extirpate if it has been allowed firmly to root itself. And if now we compare with the kind of instruction here recommended our usual mode of upbringing, especially in the matter of religion, or better, in doctrines of faith, where fidelity of memory in answering questions relating to these doctrines, without regard to the fidelity of the confession itself (which is never put to the test) is accepted as sufficient to make a believer of him who does not even understand what he declares to be holy, no longer shall we wonder at the lack of sincerity which produces nothing but inward hypocrites.
Interpretive Notes by BV
1. According to Bullfinch's Mythology, Astraea is the goddess of innocence and purity. "After leaving earth, she was placed among the stars, where she became the constellation Virgo, the Virgin. Themis (Justice) was the mother of Astraea. She is represented as holding aloft a pair of scales, in which she weighs the claims of opposing parties." (p. 15) Kant would like to draw Astraea (sincerity) back to earth since sincerity is the root of conscience and thus of the religion of inwardness, as opposed to the religion of rites and rituals and external trappings.
2. Kant distinguishes candor from sincerity. One speaks with candor when one truthfully reveals all that one knows. One speaks with sincerity when everything one says one says truthfully. It follows that sincerity, but not candor, is consistent with reticence, where one is reticent just in case one does not reveal all that one knows or thinks. Although Kant finds the absence of candor in us deplorable, he thinks candor cannot be demanded of us. But sincerity can. If we were not predisposed to sincerity we would be utterly contemptible. I agree.
3. Kant appears to regard sincerity as the polar opposite of hypocrisy. This implies that there cannot be a sincere hypocrite. A man can fool others, but not himself. He can present himself publically as having motives that he does not have. He can be outwardly duplicitous, but not inwardly: on Kant's scheme a man cannot fail to be aware of his motives, and so cannot fail to know that he is a hypocrite if he is one. The conscience of each of us gives us privileged access to our motives in such a way that we cannot deceive ourselves as to our motives. So there cannot be a sincere hypocrite. But the alternative analyses of hypocrisy found in Hegel and Sartre challenge the notion that there cannot also be an inner duplicity whereby a man deceives himself as to his motives. On the alternative analyses there is a level of self-deception which makes possible one's being a sincere hypocrite, as self-contradictory as that sounds.