Friday, May 05, 2006

The Immorality of Hypocrisy

Inspired by Amanda's posts at Pandagon I thought I'd write a little bit about my take on the whole issue. Sometime awhile back I read something (maybe this article by Jonah Goldberg) by someone who was really wondering "Why all the fuss over hypocrisy?", which got me to thinking about why I put hypocrisy is on my short list of "really bad things". Amanda says that hypocrisy is bad because its anti-egalitarian. This would tend to imply that, in a more egalitarian time and place, hypocrisy would be less of an issue. I disagree with this assessment; hypocrisy gets an honored place on my short list because its an absolute transgression. The special nature of this particular sin makes it invariant across time and space. I recognize that this is a bold statement to make, but hear me out. I accept that many things, morality included, are contingent on the understandings of a particular place and time. So, I say to you, pick and arbitrary time and an arbitrary place, and let's see if my argument makes sense. The only thing that I ask is that you allow me a single stipulation, that in your time and your place there is a value placed on little-t truth, defined loosely as some kind of correlation with facts on the ground. Hypocrisy is not a sin, but rather a meta-sin. It's an assault its on little-t truth, on the superstructure that we use to judge things as right or wrong. It is, to borrow a metaphor, throwing sand in our eyes as week seek to determine the truth. This is why I say that hypocrisy is a universal transgression; the particulars of time and place don't really matter as long as people agree that the search for truth is a worthwhile endeavor. That's also why its an especially grave transgression; its an assault against society as a whole, not a particular individual or set of individuals. The ability to recognize the truth is a necessary precondition for reasoned discourse. Amanda is right that hypocrisy is anti-egalitarian, but its worse than that; in some sense hypocrisy is a theoretical analogue to shooting cops and judges. Amanda is right that hypocrisy is anti-egalitarian, but its


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