A Puzzle about Hypocrisy

Frances Howard‐Snyder

in Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion Volume 3

Published in print February 2011 | ISBN: 9780199603213
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191725388 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion

A Puzzle about Hypocrisy

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This chapter defines hypocrisy as moral inconsistency where the subject does x, while making some verbal or behavioral expression of the claim that x is wrong. It considers purported counterexamples and argues that the original definition survives most of these, although it may need a little tinkering. The second half deals with the concern that moral realism has a difficult time explaining why hypocrisy is so objectionable, while constructivist moral theories can more easily explain this. In response the author argues that, even if realism is true, the hypocrite is guilty of the special vice of knowingly doing what is wrong. Either she is acting wrongly or she is wrongly condemning or blaming others or placing unnecessary burdens on them. This is true even (or maybe especially) in cases where it isn't clear what the right action is. If we think of hypocrisy as a vice (rather than a wrong action) this seems to illuminate its special sort of badness.

Keywords: hypocrisy; moral realism; vice; inconsistency; constructivism

Chapter.  9387 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

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