Hypocrisy as Two-Faced

Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics (forthcoming)
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This paper argues that there is a distinctive vice of hypocrisy, which is Janus-faced. The vice of hypocrisy is the self-excepting avoidance of a particular pain, namely, the pain associated with being an object of blame one believes deserved. One can self-exceptingly avoid this pain attitudinally or behaviorally. With “attitudinal” hypocrisy, a person avoids it at the level of her beliefs: she avoids forming the belief that she is blameworthy for some act, while blaming others for their comparable acts. With “behavioral” hypocrisy, by contrast, a person avoids it at the level of her behavior. She shields herself from the blame she believes her acts merit (e.g. by hiding what she has done), while blaming others for their comparable acts. The paper argues that both forms of hypocrisy are objectionable and explains how they are in tension, such that a given instance of the vice will typically involve only one or the other. Though both attitudinal and behavioral hypocrisy selectively spare the hypocrite the same pain, they require incongruous moral-psychological states: the attitudinal hypocrite avoids blaming herself, while the behavioral hypocrite proceeds on the assumption she is blameworthy.

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Margaret Shea
Princeton University


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