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LostInParadise's avatar

Can we agree that hypocrisy is always a moral violation?

Asked by LostInParadise (17846 points ) February 10th, 2014

It is difficult to come up with moral absolutes, but I suggest that avoiding hypocrisy might be one. We can of course forgive people for moral lapses. We are all fallible. I am just saying that hypocrisy must always count as moral lapse. Regardless of what your moral beliefs are, you are obligated to follow them uniformly.

To take an extreme case, if someone is an overt racist, but occasionally treats members of other races fairly, this is an indication of immorality. People may disagree whether the moral violation is the racist attitude or the occasional equal treatment. What we must agree on is that the inconsistency must point to immoral behavior.

[Edit] I should point out that we have to agree that the hypocrisy is related to a morality issue, without necessarily agreeing which side is right. If for example, I say blue is my favorite color, but sometimes prefer things that are green, that inconsistency would not count as hypocrisy.

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15 Answers

hominid's avatar

So I’m clear, can you expand on the racist example? Are you saying that the inconsistency “point[s] to immoral behavior” as in it reveals the immorality of the racist’s position? Or is the inconsistent behavior itself the immoral part?

JLeslie's avatar

I don’t think I agree, but possibly I don’t fully understand your point. I think it depends on what we are being hypocritical about.

In your racism example are you saying treating some races equally is the immoral act? Because it is inconsistent with the person’s overall belief system regarding race? I would say the immoral behavior is when they treat people unequally.

Is it a moral failure when conservative Jews eat nonkosher outside of their home? Many Conservative Jewish people keep kosher at home, but eat anything when they are out, or they modify by eating anything, but still not pork or shellfish, or however they choose to modify. Another example along that thought process is some people insist on taking time off from work for religious holidays but never go to church/temple and might even be athiests. Is that hypocrtitical? Is that behavior immoral with how you are looking at things?

ninjacolin's avatar

do you mean a parent who smokes while instructing their child not to?

I think you’re going to have to define Hypocrisy first, @LostInParadise.
It’s a little hypocritical to want to get philosophical without providing definitions, don’t you think?

ibstubro's avatar

I agree that we have to start by defining hypocrisy.

“Willfully acting contrary to one’s true beliefs,” perhaps?

Generally, I think I agree with your interesting premise.

Personally, I would say that making an action with a poor or evil intent is a moral violation.

antimatter's avatar

Is going to church and while in church I update my social media status is that what you are trying ask?

bolwerk's avatar

No, I don’t agree. A lot of things just aren’t very important. Do you smoke while telling others it’s bad for them? Well, you’re right about that last part, but probably have a powerful enough addiction not to be able to overcome the first part. You’re arguably a hypocrite. If someone is an overt racist, but actually ends up treating other races fairly, does it really matter much why? The racism seems worse to me than the hypocrisy.

The only time hypocrisy is particularly troubling is when it leads to actual abuse of power. Otherwise, who cares?

WarmFuzzies23's avatar

It would appear to me from the original question whether we can agree in an absolute. My answer would have to be no.
When your taking something as complex as personal beliefs, ones moral compass and asking others to simplify it to fit in with your belief would that in it’s self not be hypocrisy?

If you change your personal compass and actions due to the situation, it seems to me to be indicative of a lack of moral compass, a much deeper concern than being a hypocrite. I might add this does to seem to be more prevalant in our drive thru, I want it now society.

ibstubro's avatar

That’s interesting. @bolwerk has turned the thread back to the age-old question, “Practice what you preach” or “Do as I say, not as I do.” My answer reflects that I’m in the “Practice” camp, however, in light of @bolwerk‘s and @WarmFuzzies23‘s answer, I have to change my answer to “No”.

If that makes me a hypocrite, so be it.

zenvelo's avatar

There are unintended hypocritical behaviors which I would not call a moral lapse. For instance, in California anyone under 18 is required to wear a helmet while on a bicycle. It is not uncommon to see a family out riding bikes with all the kids properly helmeted, but the parents sans headgear.

The parent would say they are not being hypocrites, they are abiding within the requirements of the law. A child would say, “why aren’t you wearing a helmet?” I would call the parents hypocrites, but I would not call it a moral lapse. A lapse in morality requires intent or willfulness.

In your racist example, the “hypocrisy” is not a moral lapse, the racism is. Morality is not open for debate, but is a set of values.

LostInParadise's avatar

Let me clarify what I meant. I can understand the confusion. What I meant was that if a person says one thing and does another, one of the acts must be wrong. We can disagree over which one but, by the person’s own standards, either what is being said or what is being done is wrong.

kess's avatar

The worst thing a man can do to himself is done through hypocrisy and it is the root cause of all evil. Yes and that is absolute.

hominid's avatar

@LostInParadise: “What I meant was that if a person says one thing and does another, one of the acts must be wrong. We can disagree over which one but, by the person’s own standards, either what is being said or what is being done is wrong.”

I’m still not sure I understand.

Let’s say that I say that I believe that it’s wrong to pay my taxes because a portion of that money goes to fund the bombing of innocent civilians overseas, but I end up paying my taxes anyway, then either paying my taxes or not paying my taxes is wrong? If this is the case, then isn’t this a necessity by means of the setup? I mean, is this an accurate understanding?....

Regarding issue X:
- I believe and profess position A.
- I act as though I believe position B

Either position A or position B is immoral. So, the gap between stated position and actions reveals the fact that either the position or the actions are immoral.

Is this correct?
If so, I suppose it would be correct if:

- A or B are morally correct
- A and B are not both morally correct
- A and B are not both morally wrong

Right?

JLeslie's avatar

@LostInParadise What if neither are consider immoral? Is drinking immoral? If a parent tells their child not to drink but they drink themselves. Or, if they don’t want to drink, but they do, is it an immoral act? Or, just a behavior they think is better if they don’t do it.

LostInParadise's avatar

I was originally hoping to be able to find a simple guaranteed way of recognizing immoral behavior. If you look at the edit that I added, I realized that it is necessary to recognize that an issue is one of morality, without committing to which side of the issue is right. This falls short of what I had originally hoped that I could do. Funny how putting something in writing forces you to rethink things.

ibstubro's avatar

Fluther at it’s best, @LostInParadise.

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