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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

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"Sexual relations," Bill. Get it right. ;-)

Perhaps we could introduce distinctions among varieties of 'scamps.' Some people lack any high ideals because they're just cynical about ideals and think that they're all phony. Such people can thereby become the sorts of scumbags you describe, but quite a few people, I suspect, remain fundamentally decent, and simply don't have high expectations of themselves or of anyone else. Such people would be far better off than hypocrites, in my opinion, because hypocrites don't really believe in their ideals either, but they go around trying to deceive and manipulate people -- which my jaded, cynical, but fundamentally decent scamp does not. Perhaps you have in mind something altogether different by 'scamp,' but I don't think my example fits into any of your other categories. You're right, I think, that honesty doesn't save the scumbag and make him better than the hypocrite, but it still seems that some people without high ideals *could* be better off than hypocrites by virtue of their honesty.

"Although the hypocrisy is reprehensible, it would be worse had he embezzled and refrained from making such speeches..."

I think I differ with you there. That isn't the same thing as denying that he would get credit for not being a hypocrite. The hypocrisy can be worse because it adds a form of blatant public deception to his original misdeed. To admit this is not to admit that the non-hypocritical embezzler can excuse himself by pointing out that he isn't a hypocrite. We would not sensibly say of him, "Well, at least he isn't a hypocrite," but if two people both committed exactly the same criminal act X, but one of them did it hypocritically, I think we should say that the hypocrite is worse than the non-hypocrite. The only reasons I can think of for *not* saying so would be reasons that would count against his being a hypocrite: did he really believe in the ideals he espoused, but simply got corrupted? did he have a moment of weak will? If we answer yes to those questions, then he's more like the ordinary person who fails to live up to his ideals, just in a very big way. If we answer no, then I say he does worse than the non-hypocrite who otherwise acts identically.

"One thing seems clear: a scumbag like Genet is not let off from being a scumbag by his honesty about his being a scumbag. It is a fallacy to think that honesty about one's misdeeds excuses them. So when someone says, 'At least he's not a hypocrite,' you say: 'True, he is worse than a hypocrite.'"

To make things equal, consider a counterpart of Genet who does everything Genet does and yet paints himself as someone concerned with higher values. This person is clearly worse than Genet. I agree that it is mistaken to see the person who truly aspires to higher virtues/values and falls short as in any way hypocritical. But it is worse than hypocritical to portray yourself as concerned with higher values though you truly don't care, or don't care nearly as much as you're suggesting, about them. This person is misleading others into thinking that he cares about lofty things when in fact he doesn't, or not so much that he won't violate them when convenient. Or worse, not so much that he won't violate them under some cowardly cloak. This is a truly despicable type.

Smokers sometimes get lectured by teenagers. The smoker lights up and a teenager says "smoking is bad for you." The smoker replies "indeed it is a disgusting habit, don't let me catch you doing it." The teenager accuses the smoker of being a hypocrite. But what else can he say? Should he say "smoking is good for you?"

That's the point of Sartre's Saint-Genet story; that a smoker should say smoking is good. Since they don't believe in truth, consistency and inconsistency are how leftists make their value judgements. It's like certain philosophic views of mathematics which posit no meaning to truth or falsity. Formal consistency or formal inconsistency is all that counts. A sinner should day that sinning is good. If a sinner says that he is struggling with a problem and that sin is bad, he is being inconsistent. Which is the greatest moral crime in leftist ethics.

Two points:

1) Bill has argued that a hypocrite is morally better than a scamp because the hypocrite at least has ideals, whereas the scamp lacks any. However, there is one (Kantian) consideration that might tip the balance here in favor of a scamp. The hypocrite by publicly espousing certain ideals without making any effort to live up to them in effect undermines the value of these ideals and weakens them in the eyes of others. I think that it is this fact that creates outrage when a public figure who preaches certain ideals is found to deliberately betray them in exactly the manner he preaches no one ought to. The outrage stems from the concern that by his behavior the hypocritical preacher of these ideals has in fact weakened them in the public eye thereby eroding the value of ideals.

2) I repeat here a point I made elsewhere. It is not enough that a hypocrite has ideals and makes no effort to live up to them. Someone might think that he can certainly recognize certain ideals as valuable and yet maintain that human nature is so weak that it is hopeless to expect anyone to live up to them and so does not make much effort to live up to them nor does he expect others to do so. Such a person is not a hypocrite. What is needed is also that a person espouses certain ideals, makes no effort to live up to them, yet is ready to and indeed does criticize others to their face or publicly when they are found not make an effort to live up to these ideals.

peter

The dictionary (WNW, College ed) puts it simply: a hypocrite is “someone who pretends to be what he is not,…who pretends to be better than he is…” The hypocrite is always a liar and poseur, because he claims to admire and to possess moral qualities he does not have.

Sunday morning a preacher goes before a large church audience and says “Fidelity in marriage is hard, I know, but God commands it and I have found the strength in God’s word to stay faithful to my wife of 25 years.” Sunday evening the preacher is busted in the red light district with a pair of whores. They describe him as a regular and a good tipper, especially on Sundays.

That preacher is a hypocrite. Some arithmetic explains why he is (much) worse than a mere adulterer. The adulterer has done one thing wrong, the hypocrite several. The hypocrite has committed adultery, he has lied about it publicly, and by virtue of the circumstances and venue of his lie, he has helped undermined the morality of those who looked up to him as a paradigm of Christian virtue. Can you imagine the cynical lesson many of the teenagers in his church will draw from this spectacle?

The motivation of this hypocrite is also relevant to our moral judgment of him. He preaches fidelity and Christian virtue to his congregation in order to get money to fund his whoring. The irony would be delicious were it not so disgusting.

Contrast with this preacher another man who stands up in congregation and says “I believe in fidelity, I believe God commands us to live faithfully to our spouses, I believe this is how I should live, but I do not know whether I have the strength in me to resist temptation, God help me.” This man, if he lapses into adultery, I don’t think we would want to call a hypocrite. Weakness is not hypocrisy.

There is, may I note, a marvelous little passage preserved in the fragments of Epictetus (Frag. 10, Gellius AN 17) about the effects of hypocrisy. The hypocrite does great damage by bringing the doctrines he mouths into discredit. Words coming out of a “dirty and defiled” vessel are turned “into urine or something worse.”

Hello, Bill.

I finally caught up with your move to Typepad. Congratulations on making the Times Online Top 100 Bloggers.

The scamp is a more miserable creature than the hypocrite. Virtue that the hypocrite may defile, the scamp destroys. The hypocrite does service to the truth by promoting virtue even though he has no desire for it. The scamp, who also has no desire for virtue, justifies himself with the lie that it does not exist.

Yet, many of us revile the hypocrite more than scamp. Why? We despise the inconsistency between the hypocrite's good words and evil deeds, while giving credit to the scamp for the consistency of the evil in both his words and deeds. This is odd, because a moral being (as we human beings are) properly orients himself to the truth, and so we should recognize that the truth of what the hypocrite promotes is no less true because of his contrary actions. So we should give the hypocrite a modicum of credit over the scamp for at least publicly acknowledging what is good and true.

But, many of us will not. We have bought into the leftist idea of authenticity -- i.e., the visceral self unburdened by false consciousness -- as a good thing. Thus, the scamp is authentic in the consistency of his word and deed, and so he is superior to inconsistent, inauthentic hypocrite.

Regards,
Bill T

Hi Bill,

Thanks for the congrats. I hope a bad economy, made worse by Obama's and the Dem's irresponsible socialist policies, don't have too much of an effect on your business.

Your statement above is excellent. I agree with it in toto.

Phil,

Suppose I publish a rigorously argued defence of temperance but am later discovered dead drunk in the public square surrounded by some similarly inebriated floozies. How on earth could that detract either from the value of temperance or from the quality of the arguments in favor of it, assuming that they are good?

I committed an egregious solecism above in my response to Bill Tingley. Read 'doesn't' for 'don't' in my second sentence. And while you're at it, replace 'the Dem's' with 'the Dems'.'

Philoponus writes, "The hypocrite is always a liar and poseur, because he claims to admire and to possess moral qualities he does not have."

The hypocrite needn't be a liar. Suppose Jones preaches temperance as part of his job but is regularly intemperate in his behavior, not out of weakness, but willfully. Then Jones is clearly a hypocrite. But where is the lie? Is he lying when he preaches that temperance is a virtue? No. Is he misrepresenting any fact? He need not be. Note that one can preach temperance without claiming to be temperate oneself.

Is Bertrand Russell to be praised because not only did he preach free sex, he practiced it as well?

Hi Victor,

But at least Lord Russell was no hypocrite! I understand that even at the age of 90 he refused to be faithful to his wife.

Peter writes,
>>1) Bill has argued that a hypocrite is morally better than a scamp because the hypocrite at least has ideals, whereas the scamp lacks any. However, there is one (Kantian) consideration that might tip the balance here in favor of a scamp. The hypocrite by publicly espousing certain ideals without making any effort to live up to them in effect undermines the value of these ideals and weakens them in the eyes of others. I think that it is this fact that creates outrage when a public figure who preaches certain ideals is found to deliberately betray them in exactly the manner he preaches no one ought to. The outrage stems from the concern that by his behavior the hypocritical preacher of these ideals has in fact weakened them in the public eye thereby eroding the value of ideals.<<

I see your point, but how exactly is the value of an ideal damaged by someone's refusing to honor it by his actions? Fiscal responsibility is a choice-worthy ideal, but one that members of Congress are prseently betraying. Arguably, the ideal shines forth all the more brightly in the breach than in the observance.

Peter continues,

>>2) I repeat here a point I made elsewhere. It is not enough that a hypocrite has ideals and makes no effort to live up to them. Someone might think that he can certainly recognize certain ideals as valuable and yet maintain that human nature is so weak that it is hopeless to expect anyone to live up to them and so does not make much effort to live up to them nor does he expect others to do so. Such a person is not a hypocrite. What is needed is also that a person espouses certain ideals, makes no effort to live up to them, yet is ready to and indeed does criticize others to their face or publicly when they are found not make an effort to live up to these ideals.<<

Peter is claiming that it does not suffice for a person to be a hypocrite that he espouses choice-worthy ideals but makes no attempt to live up to them. For he may consider the ideals unrealizable. My response is that an unrealizable ideal is no ideal. Nothing counts as an ideal for us unless it is possibly such as to be realized by us. This is an analog of the 'ought implies can' principle.

Peter goes on to say that it is a necessary condition of one's being a hypocrite that one criticize others who make no attempt to live up to the ideals in question. I don't see it. Suppose I am a preacher man. I preach marital fidelity but make no attempt to honor my marital vows. But I never criticize anyone for violating his or her marital vows. I'm still a hypocrite.

I suppose one might consider that preaching marital fidelity involves implicit criticism of people who are guilty of infidelity. But that would surely be a very different sort of 'criticism' than the kind Bill has in mind.

I'm confused as to what we're now considering a hypocrite to be. I originally thought that the hypocrite was a person who espoused the ideal, but made no attempt to live up to it. That would not, in my book, count as genuinely believing in the ideal, at least not without some serious qualification. It would make espousing the ideal *dishonest*, indeed a kind of lying. Thus my earlier point about the hypocrite who does X but publicly espouses some ideal that makes a serious point against X being worse than the scamp who merely does X but does not go around preaching against X.

Victor and Bill are still missing my point, I think. The point is not that the scamp who merely does X deserves some sort of praise for not being a hypocrite. Presumably X is a bad thing for which nobody deserves any praise; the question is simply whether the hypocrite is guilty of something worse on account of his hypocrisy. I've got no qualms saying that Russell would have been worse if he had written a bunch of books and gone on the radio arguing in favor of marital fidelity, yet really believed that marital fidelity was a bunch of nonsense and so spent his off-hours chasing after exciting young women. As I've tried to make clear, I take it to be a necessary condition of hypocrisy that one does not genuinely embrace the ideals that one espouses. So the hypothetical Russell here would not seriously believe in the ideal of fidelity, he would just be riding around on a moral high horse about how important it is without believing it or practicing it.

So, if Bill or Victor would like to address this issue, I'd welcome it. I'm absolutely unconvinced that the scamp is somehow *worse* than the hypocrite, so long as the only different between them is that the hypocrite runs around dishonestly preaching against the immoral action that both of them commit. I'm strongly inclined to think that the hypocrite is in fact worse, though I may be able to be persuaded that he's just equally bad. What makes no sense is the idea that the hypocrite is *better*, because the only reasons for thinking so are reasons for denying that he's a hypocrite (e.g., he really does believe in the ideal, he's just an akratic wretch, etc.).

As for Bill's point about the hypocrite not being a kind of liar, I think we can see that he must be a liar if we think carefully about what he does.

So, our preacher goes out in public and preaches against infidelity. Let's suppose for the sake of argument that he never directly criticizes anyone for infidelity (he never walks up to Bertrand Russell and says, "You scamp! You're bad for not practicing marital fidelity!" or whatever). Still, going around saying "infidelity is bad, people should practice fidelity," without actually believing it is a form of dishonesty. The preacher need not be saying anything *false* (suppose we're all comfortable moral realists who believe that "infidelity is bad" is as true as true can be) in order to be dishonest. By preaching, he publicly commits himself to an ideal, yet ex hypothesi he doesn't actually believe it or pursue it at all. Preaching involves making implicit claims about one's own commitments, and in this case those claims are false. The preacher knows, ex hypothesi again, that he doesn't actually believe the stuff he preaches. Therefore he's lying. I happily admit that it isn't a straightforward case, like telling your mom that you didn't eat those cookies when you just ate those cookies. Still, it's a form of intentional deception, which is what I consider lying to be.

So...

1) I have made two points:

(i) A necessary (but not sufficient) condition of being a hypocrite is that one expects, publicly preaches, and criticizes others who fail to live up to certain ideals (when they can), while he himself surreptitiously, intentionally and voluntarily acts in a manner that fails to live up to these ideals.
(ii) In comparing a hypocrite with a scamp, I have argued that while neither one lives up to the ideals they espouse, the hypocrite commits an additional transgression of eroding and undermining the worthiness of these ideals in the community.

Note about (ii): I have pointed out that the second point is an instance of a Kantian principle. The principle (roughly) is that knowingly and intentionally violating a moral precept is wrong even if the particular action that violates the principle yields favorable consequences in the short term because by so doing one erodes and undermines the principle and thus causes more damage overall than the limited and immediate gain achieved by the action. For example: suppose that by lying you can save the life of a person. Kant argues that doing so is wrong. It is wrong because all communication is based upon a presumption of truth-telling and by lying even under these circumstances you undermine a prerequisite principle of truth telling. If I understand him correctly, Philoponus emphasized this very same point in a couple of posts above. I shall leave a discussion of this point to a different post and only discuss point (i) here.

2) In support of (i) I have given an example of someone who espouses certain ideals but since he *believes* that he cannot realize them, he does not make an effort to do so. Bill objected that such a case violates the ‘ought implies can’ principle (another Kantian principle) because “Nothing counts as an ideal for us unless it is possibly such as to be realized by us.” While I certainly admit that Bill is correct in spirit, he is not correct about this particular case. The following is consistent: someone espouses an ideal, thinks one should live up to it, *falsely believes* he cannot live up to it, but as a matter of fact he can live up to it. The ‘ought implies can’ principle is not violated by such a case. The person has a false belief about their own capacity to live up to an ideal. Examples can be given that satisfy all of these conditions. I won’t give them currently because Bill has a reasonable case that is worth debating on its own grounds. But now consider Yokul.

3) Yokul believes that honesty, courage, etc., are valuable ideals. He actively avoids conversing about them. Yokul does not publicly express any expectation that others ought to try to live up to these ideals and never criticizes anyone who fails to do so. Yokul has powerful urges that induce him to violate these ideals. He failed in the past to resist them and so he gave up on doing so. However, Yokul sincerely wishes that he had the will to resist them and live up to these ideals. Yokul wishes that he were a better person. He lives in an existential angst, internally torn between his belief that he should be a better person and live up to his ideals and his weak will to resist the powerful urges that overcome him.

4) So:
(a) Yokul has ideals; they are very real for him; having these ideals is an indispensible element in his existential struggle.
Also,
(b) Yokul no longer attempts to live up to his ideals and this fact causes him enormous emotional distress. It is also an indispensible element of his existential struggle.
But,
(c) Yokul is not a hypocrite.
Hence,
(d) Having ideals and not attempting to live up to them are not jointly sufficient to be a hypocrite.

5) Now consider Gogul. Gogul is a well known preacher who publically espouses the same ideals as Yokul. Gogul is eager to discuss the need to live up to these ideals, demands it from those who listen to him and severely criticizes those who fail to do so. Yet Gogul, like Yokul, has powerful urges to violate these ideals. Unlike Yokul, however, Gogul readily gives in to these urges whenever he believes he will not get caught. He does not experience an existential angst and rejoices in the notion that his position shields him against being readily caught violating these ideals. And then one day it is revealed that Gogul himself has repeatedly failed to live up to these ideals.
Gogul is a hypocrite.

6) What is the difference between Yokul and Gogul? Both believe in certain ideals yet do not make an effort to live up to them. So both exhibit a certain kind of inconsistency between their beliefs and actions: they are both incontinent or exhibit weakness of the will. But that alone does not make them hypocrites. What makes Gogul a hypocrite is an additional performative inconsistency between his preaching and criticizing others for failure to live up to the ideals they espouse and his own actions which voluntarily violate these very same ideals. Hence, a hypocrite is one who is not merely weak willed but also exhibits the second form of performative inconsistency between public espousal of ideals and a critical attitude towards others when they do not live up to these ideals and their own actions.

peter

Hello, Bill.

Business is fine. Obama is doing us a favor by knocking the stuffing out of our competitors. The time is ripe for a roll-up. Thanks for asking.

Regards,
Bill

Hello, DJR.

I think a good definition of "lie" is a knowingly false statement made to deceive. So the hypocrite's statement that we should live virtuously is not a lie, because it is true. It matters not whether the hypocrite believes it to be true, because the messenger is not the message. Of course the hypocrite may also lie about his practice of the virtues he espouses, which then makes him both a hypocrite and a liar.

Regards,
Bill T

Hello, Peter.

I think you are making this too complicated. Two things make a hypocrite: [1] Apparently sincere advocacy of a virtue and [2] a willful refusal to practice that virtue. These are the necessary and sufficient conditions of hypocrisy.

Therefore, Yokul is not a hypocrite because does not advocate virtuous living. We need not go any further. We need not consider whether he is weak or willful in his failure to live virtuously. Gogul is a hypocrite because he advocates what he willfully refuses to do. What else he does or believes is superfluous to his hypocrisy.

Regards,
Bill T

Bill,

So we have a terminological dispute, and nothing more, so long as you agree that hypocrisy involves intentional deception. If you want to restrict the word 'lie' to one kind of intentional deception, that's fine with me. What I fail to see is how hypocrites do not engage in a form of intentional deception. The significance of speech-acts is not exhausted by the content of the propositions that a speaker utters, and preaching implies genuine acceptance of the ideal that one preaches. I agree, I think, with your response to Peter, but I'm still confused as to why you think that hypocrites are *better* than scamps.

I may be confusing my Bills. Sorry about that.

Peter,

Yokul, as you describe him, has ideals but does not espouse them. But I wrote, at the top of my main post, "Hypocrites espouse high and choice-worthy ideals, but make little or no attempt to live up to them." So I agree with you that Yokul is not a hypocrite, but don't see how that tells against my definition of the hypocrite.

I also agree that Gogul is a hypocrite. So what are we diagreeing about? We both agree that the hypocrite is not the same as the akratic man, he who suffers from weakness of will. I made that clear. The difference between us seems to be that you want to add a further condition to the definition of 'hypocrite,' namely, that the hypocrite must criticize others for their moral failures. I reject the further condition. Suppose a radio personality preaches temperance to the members of his audience but makes no attempt to be temperate himself, but also never criticizes the members of his audience for their moral failures: he has no desire to do so and in any case doesn't know who they are. This is a clear case of a hypocrite who does not satisfy your additional condition. Am I missing something?

It is always unsettling and distressing to discover that what seemed an interesting difference on a substantive issue is really an artifact of people coming to the table with divergent ideas about the meaning of the words. A salutary and perennial lesson for philosophers, I think.

I cited an entry from Webster’s New World Dictionary above. Substantially the same entry reappears in the more recent Webster’s New Dictionary of Synonyms (s.v. hypocrisy). I could proliferate citations. The core meaning of hypocrisy as the dictionaries have it, and as I have understand it for 40 years, is “a mendacious pretense to be better than you are.” If someone does not claim to be personally virtuous or distinguished in ways he is not, there is no hypocrisy. A man who speaks publicly in favor of fidelity or sobriety, but who does not pretend to these qualities himself, is not discovered to be a hypocrite if he goes whoring and drinking after his speech. To be sure, there is a pathology here. That man cannot live up to or live consistently with the ideals he holds up, but that is a kind of weakness or akrasia, not hypocrisy.

I occasionally hear the usage of “hypocrite” in the sense some are using about. It is a loose usage that wants to conflate all kinds of failing to “walk our talk” and dub them “hypocrisies.” I think it is worthwhile to resist this looser usage and cleave to the well-defined stricter usage whose core is a mendacious pretense to be better.

I think it is clear the hypocrite in the strict sense is worse than the mere scamp or (honest) villain, because the hypocrite is trying to camouflage the same vices as the villain but with a disgusting pretense of virtue. I discussed this above. But if we step down to the man who recommends virtues he himself does not observe, so long as he clearly does not represent himself as exemplifying these virtues, I cannot accuse this man of hypocrisy, nor is it clear than he is worse than the honest villain. One this substantive point I think I agree with Dr Vallicella.

Bill,

Lets us put our disagreement to a clear test. We agree that espousing ideals but not trying to live up to them are both necessary conditions for someone being a hypocrite. You think they are jointly sufficient. I don't. I think that there has to be an element of willingness to judge others as well as actually judging others for not living up to these ideals. So we disagree on the following proposition:

(P) If A is a hypocrite, then A is willing and does judge others for not living up to certain ideals.

Let us assume that A espouses certain ideals. Let us suppose that A fails to even try to live up to them. But, now, suppose A also says the following:

"I espouse these ideals; I think you ought to do the same; I think they are worthwhile and it would be better if you try to live up to them. But I know I cannot live up to them. I hope you can do better than I. But I will not criticize you or judge you for your failure to live up to these ideals because I myself admit I cannot do so."

Suppose A indeed never criticizes anyone for not living up to these ideals. According to my intuitions, A is not a hypocrite. But, A certainly espouses these ideals and he does not try to live up to them. So since both of your conditions are satisfied, according to you, A is a hypocrite. On the other hand, anyone who thinks that A is not a hypocrite must make this judgment because the consequent of (P) is false about A. Therefore, anyone who thinks that A is not a hypocrite under these conditions accepts (P).

peter

Bill T,

Your replies to Peter and to DJR are 'spot on' and models of pithiness.

Peter and Phil,

Will get back to you tomorrow.

Bill T,

"I think you are making this too complicated. Two things make a hypocrite: [1] Apparently sincere advocacy of a virtue and [2] a willful refusal to practice that virtue. These are the necessary and sufficient conditions of hypocrisy."

Perhaps! And then again lets see.

Are your (and Bill I guess agrees) (1) and (2) each necessary and jointly sufficient?

I don't think so. My example in the last post is aimed to refute the claim that (1) and (2) are jointly sufficient. In this example your two conditions are satisfied; but I maintain that this is not a case of a hypocrite. There are two reasons for that: first, because in this example the man is not attempting to deceive anyone. Second, because he refuses to judge or criticize anyone for their failure to live up to the ideals.

If you think that the man in this example is not a hypocrite, then I cannot see how you can maintain that your (1) and (2) are jointly sufficient.

Philoponus relying upon Dictionary definitions emphasized that *mendacious pretense* is also required. He appears to reject my insistence upon the condemnation of others. But even if we add Philophonus' *mendacious pretense* as an additional necessary condition that will not do.

Suppose someone sincerely thinks that smoking is a terrible habit, dangerous to one's health, and therefore should not be picked up by youngsters, particularly his own kids. But suppose he is a heavy smoker and attempted to quit many times only to fail. Suppose that he no longer attempts to do so. But suppose he smokes in hiding in order to conceal his habit from his children.

Publicly he espouses the non-smoking virtue, he fails to try to live up to it, he deceives everyone to think he leads by example, but he never condemns anyone who smokes and his deception is motivated by the good intention to prevent others, particularly his children, from emulating his smoking habit.

If we knew and believed all of the facts I cited above, I think we would come to the conclusion that this man is not a hypocrite. Yet your two conditions are satisfied by this example. Even Philoponus' dictionary definition of *mendacious pretense* is satisfied in this case. Yet we do not have a hypocrite on our hand, I maintain. The only thing that is missing here is the condition I require of the willingness to condemn others who violate the ideals.

So, your two conditions are not jointly sufficient. Most likely some condition about deception will be also required as well as the willingness to condemn others.

peter

Philoponus,

You lament:
"It is always unsettling and distressing to discover that what seemed an interesting difference on a substantive issue is really an artifact of people coming to the table with divergent ideas about the meaning of the words."

Indeed!

And you conclude:

"A salutary and perennial lesson for philosophers, I think."

But, what is the lesson?

People come to the table with certain conceptions about the meaning of words derived from cases which they have encountered. They attach a meaning based upon a few typical cases and that suffices for the purposes of daily life. But different people may encounter radically different typical cases, courtesy of the richness of experience. So, around the kitchen table, they debate whether so and so is a hypocrite and discover that they attach different meanings to the word. They consult the dictionary and find that it does not happen to cover this particular case. Why? Because the dictionary records the most typical conditions associated with the application of words. It does not attempt to cover all potential cases. It does not even attempt to record all conditions that are present in the typical cases.

Take your dictionary's definition:

Dictionary Def: A hypocrite is one who acts with a "mendacious pretense to be better than [they] are."

But, here we lack any reference to ideals. 'better' in what respect? For instance, the leader of a gang could act with a *mendacious pretense* to be stronger than they really are in order to maintain control of the gang. This goal is not something we would consider as an ideal. Is this a case of a hypocrite?

Moreover, this dictionary entry does not mention the failure to attempt to live up to an ideal. Nor does it cite the motive for the pretense. Suppose someone has certain ideals and attempts very hard to live up to them. Suppose he goes out of his way to pretend that he is much more successful to live up to the ideals than he really is because he wishes to motivate himself to do better and encourage others to do the same. I think the dictionary definition is satisfied, but I doubt that this case is a case of a hypocrite.

What is then the lesson for philosophers?

Concepts are typically more complicated and require a much deeper analysis than a pre-analytical conception of the meaning of words. While dictionary definitions record typical usage, they can only offer a workable partial characterization that will fall short under serious scrutiny. It took several thousand years and many brilliant minds to come up with a reasonably sound account of the concepts of infinity, validity, soundness, set or collection, probability, energy, matter and so on. There is no reason to think that many everyday concepts feature similarly complicated conceptual structure. It is up to philosophers, in my view, to keep the fire burning under our collective ...., so as to pursue further and further the inquiry into the nature of more and more concepts. The concept of a hypocrite is no exception. Nothing is *simple* if it is to be explored from a philosophical point of view because fortunately our concepts are far richer than required by everyday life. It is for this reason that intellectual history has expanded our understanding and has an indefinite potential to keep expanding and flourishing. The restless inquisitiveness of philosophers to poke deeper and deeper into the structure of concepts keeps their potential growth alive. Philosophers do not always get to the other side of the mountain. Others may take the task further. But, then again personal or even group success is not a reward that philosophy ever promised to anyone. Philosophy promises only one thing: the joy of the process of this sort of inquiry.

peter

Hi, Peter.

Your smoker is not a hypocrite because he fails out of weakness not willfulness. He does not want to smoke but is too weak to quit. But his weakness does not diminish the value he places upon his message to not smoke. Therefore, unlike a hypocrite, he conceals his vice not to protect himself but to protect others who might otherwise scoff at his message.

Now we get to the moral defect of the hypocrite. He speaks the truth but has no love for it. At the least, he has more love for what is base in him. He values his appetites more than the truth, so he chooses for himself the base over the sublime. That alone is a sufficiently serious moral defect to merit its own distinction -- viz., hypocrisy -- from lying and scandal.

While it is likely that a hypocrite will also lie and scandalize, we would do well to not conflate these bad acts with hypocrisy. A man's lies and scandals injure others. A man's hypocrisy injures no one but himself. Who can claim injury when the hypocrite preaches, "Be faithful to your wife!" Indeed, who can claim injury when the hypocrite condemns those who do cheat on their wives? No one, because the hypocrite's statement is true and his judgment is valid. No one can claim to have been misled, let alone harmed, by a hypocrite's hypocrisy.

Still, we don't like the pot calling the kettle black. Nevertheless, the kettle IS black. If we love the truth (which as moral beings we should), then we will respect even a blackened pot's declaration of the truth. To damn the hypocrite for his truthful statements and judgments accords unearned merit to the scamp who won't speak the truth in the first place because he denies it.

Regards,
Bill T

Thanks, Bill. No doubt I can attribute some of that pithiness to learning a thing or two from a similar discussion you hosted a year or two back.

Regards, Bill T

DJR and Phil,

To the extent that the hypocrite deceives us, his deception is about himself, specifically his conduct. But that deception does no harm to us. What he preaches is true. Each of us has the responsibility for discerning the truth. If we let the contemptible conduct of the hypocrite lead us to doubt the truth of what he preaches, we are at fault in confusing the messenger and the message.

Regards,
Bill T

I'm wondering if the right question is being asked here. Someone who wants to be a scamp and get away with it with impunity might be well advised to be a hypocrite, that is, to pretend to a level of virtue to which you do not even aspire. If you are in an area where all the girls are conservative religious believers and won't look at you twice unless they think you share those beliefs, your only chance of getting laid is to pretend to be religious. The appearance of religious moral commitment is a means to an end.

Second, weakness of will is not hypocrisy. Elvis Presley and Hank Williams both enjoyed sacred music and maintained Christian beliefs throughout their lives, though they engaged in a lot of activity that was inconsistent with evangelical Christianity.

The question I would want to ask is whether social groups that tend to breed hypocrites better than social groups that tend to breed scamps. And I would have to go with the groups that tend to breed hypocrites. Hypocrites are bad things, because they are parasites on the high moral code of a society. A society that rewards a difficult standard of morality will invariably produce persons who want the social advantages of being virtuous without actually being virtuous.

Moliere's Tartuffe is supposed to be the classic case of hypocrisy in literature.

Peter,

The fellow you call A cannot live up to the ideals he espouses. In that case his 'ideals' are not ideals for him. I was assuming all along, and should have explicitly stated, that a putative ideal cannot be an ideal for a person unless the person can realize the ideal. For example, a person who espouses *mens sana in corpore sano* is a hypocrite only if he is capable in some measure of realizing this ideal but fails to make the attempt to realize it.

Bill,

My slip. The 'can't' should be changed to 'unwilling'; unwilling due to past failures etc. The point of A's example was that A hides his violation of the ideals he espouses for reasons we deem to be admirable and he is not exploiting the situation to judge others. Both of these features of the situation, in my opinion, exclude A from being a hypocrite.

peter

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