What’s wrong with hypocrisy

Dissertation, University of Warwick (2020)
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Hypocrisy seems to be a distinctive moral wrong. This thesis offers an account of that wrong. The distinctive wrong of hypocrisy is not a rational failing, or a deception of others. It is a problem in how we critique, and blame, others, when we ourselves are guilty of similar faults. Not only does it seem wrong to blame others hypocritically; it is also widely remarked that hypocrites ‘lack standing’ to blame. I defend both judgments. When we engage others in response to wrongdoing, there is both instrumental and non-instrumental value in ensuring that those who face similar moral predicaments reason about these predicaments, and the appropriate responses to them, together. Hypocrisy is wrong because it hampers our ability to realise that value. And hypocrites lose standing to blame for a similar reason. Standing depends on the value of particular people engaging in an accountability procedure together, a value which the hypocrite forestalls, by failing to acknowledge wrongdoing in the course of blaming. This account of a duty to blame non-hypocritically helps unpack the relationship between hypocrisy and a range of other defects in a person’s standing. It also responds to a central sceptical challenge to the wrongness of hypocritical blaming. The challenge is that accurate hypocritical blaming can’t be wrong because it is morally good, and indeed is morally better than not blaming others at all. My response: hypocritical blaming is wrong, not because it is morally worse than not blaming at all, but because it is second-best, i.e. worse than non-hypocritical blaming, which enables mutual deliberation about wrongdoing.



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Kartik Upadhyaya
University of Warwick

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References found in this work

The moral problem.Michael Smith - 1994 - Cambridge, Mass., USA: Blackwell.
Moral dimensions: permissibility, meaning, blame.Thomas Scanlon - 2008 - Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Ethics without principles.Jonathan Dancy - 2004 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Unprincipled virtue: an inquiry into moral agency.Nomy Arpaly - 2003 - New York: Oxford University Press.

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