Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2020)

Jessica Isserow
University of Leeds
The term ‘hypocrisy’ is said to derive from the Greek words ‘hupokrasis’ and ‘hupokrinesthai’, the former meaning ‘acting a part’, and the latter meaning ‘to act on a stage’. The element of play-acting reflects how the phenomenon of moral hypocrisy is commonly understood within philosophy. According to one long-standing tradition, hypocrites are those who advocate moral principles that do not reflect their underlying commitments, and who do so in order to mislead or manipulate others. A second tradition parts ways from the long-standing association between hypocrisy and pretence, however, and understands hypocrisy primarily in terms of exception-seeking. The latter family of views takes hypocrites to be those who apply moral standards to others that they do not apply to themselves. The different elements of hypocrisy that each tradition emphasises is a testament to the multifaceted nature of the phenomenon, whose complexity raises a host of philosophical questions. Among those questions that have attracted the attention of philosophers are whether hypocrisy must be intentional, what explains its moral undesirability, and whether it is always criticisable.
Keywords Hypocrisy
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