The Jury Talks Back


What is a Hypocrite?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Fritz @ 9:39 pm


Maverick Philosopher has recently written some interesting posts about hypocrisy.  He notices that the charge of hypocrisy is a popular one, but few ever attempt to get to the bottom of what it really means with any degree of philosophic rigor.  He noticed that since, short of being a saint, we all fail to live up to our moral ideals (unless those ideals are scandalously low), being a hypocrite can’t mean simply not living up one’s ideals or hypocrite would simply be an uninteresting synonym for human being.

To solve this problem, and breath some life into the word, he makes a useful distinction between what he calls Strivers, those who espouse high ideals but fail to live up to them; Hypocrites, those who espouse high ideals but make little or no effort to live up to them; and Scamps, those who do not espouse any ideals at all. 

What got me thinking about MP’s post were the following statements:

1.     My idea, you say, is, how did you put it? — so strong as to be ridiculous — only to those of a type who bring up Nixon and right wing eliminationist ranting and are so busy ascribing base motives that they use such as a reason to avoid the discussions altogether  What saddens me is that people here pretend this to be some intellectual forum, and yet I’ve seen responses that serve only to diminish my argument (without knowing it) or to dismiss me out of hand (for the crime of having been labeled by others a “right winger,” which identity I’m learning saddles me with baggage that those who are doing the identifying have given themselves license to strap to my back, as a way of preemptively putting me on the defensive). [emphasis added]*

2.     As Patterico has no honor, and SEK — in addition to not being around during the conflagration that supposedly prompted my banning — is about as slippery as a porno queen’s dildo, I haven’t bothered to read it, nor do I intend to. But if I know SEK (and, come on — we all do), I imagine that at key moments he leaves out key pieces that would necessary alter his narrative.*

3.     And I’ll have the benefit of the support not coming from a tricky little progressive crapweasel like SEK.*

4.     [To SEK:] I haven’t read the post, but let me ask a few quick questions.* 

Each of these four statements, it goes without saying, were written by the same person.  I think it’s fair to say that the first is inconsistent with the latter three.

The principle of the first comment is one that I’ve often espoused myself; good arguments are good, bad arguments are bad no matter who argues them.  It is problematic to ascribe bad motives to an interlocutor in order to avoid dealing with their arguments.  Given that general agreement, what sense can we make of the latter three comments?

If the writer in question believed comments #2 and #3, that there are some people so dishonest and low that there is no point in responding to them at all, why bother writing #4?  If you’re dealing with someone who is a known and notorious “crapweasel”, what possibly could be gained?

At the same time, this doesn’t seem to jibe with the sentiment that there is something illegitimate about the notion of dismissing arguments out of hand.

Is the writer in question merely inconsistent, do they belong in the Striver category, or is there something more going on?  MP’s latest post, on the subject of accusations of hypocrisy being themselves a kind of hypocrisy, bears keeping in mind.


  1. I think we could view it as the intersection of the ad hominem and appeal to authority arguments. So we could say, “The relative personal strengths or weaknesses of the proponent are not necessarily a reflection on the merits of his ideas”, but when we change “proponent” to “leader”, the “not necessarily” can become very small or go away altogether in his followers’ perceptions.

    Comment by nk — 3/25/2009 @ 5:22 am

  2. What is a hypocrite? Someone who decries someone calling him “Jeffy” as the actions of a leftist, but who calls another blogger “Patty” in a comment.

    That is a hypocrite.

    Comment by Patterico — 3/28/2009 @ 9:45 am

  3. *snickers* I knew I got to the man…

    He truly is beyond parody. Best we ignore him and his little sycophantic circle-jerk, and wait for him to close his blog again cause people are bein’ all mean to him.

    Comment by Scott Jacobs — 3/28/2009 @ 1:32 pm

  4. Hypocrisy requires the knowledge of the contradictory nature of the assertions or actions before they occur. Without requiring that advanced knowledge, it becomes impossible to distinguish confusion from planned action.

    Once the contradictory nature of the assertions or actions has been pointed out, however, the continuation of the initially confused action or assertion becomes hypocritical. This is why the charge of hypocrisy is incorrect if leveled at the same time as the charge of contradiction. It’s a repeat offender designation, not a gotcha.

    Comment by Apogee — 3/28/2009 @ 1:46 pm

  5. Look, if some ____ing armadillo steals all my Cheetos and gets blasted on my absinthe-laced vodka, I would be definitely angry. And if my mother-in-law made me walk two paces behind my wife, the bread-winner, I would not care about whom I tried to take down in order to make myself look bigger.

    Comment by nk a/k/a Patterrico's Resident Hammer — 3/29/2009 @ 10:32 am

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