Perspectives: The Truth About Hypocrisy; December 2008/January 2009; Scientific American Mind; by Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse; 2 Page(s)
Former U.S. vice president Al Gore urges us all to reduce our carbon footprint, yet he regularly flies in a private jet. Former drug czar William Bennett extols the importance of temperance but is reported to be a habitual
gambler. Pastor Ted Haggard preached the virtues of ¿the clean life¿ until allegations of methamphetamine use and a taste for male prostitutes arose. Eliot Spitzer prosecuted prostitution rings as attorney general in New York State, but he was later found to be a regular client of one such ring.
These notorious accusations against
public figures all involve hypocrisy, in
which an individual fails to live according
to the precepts he or she seeks to impose
on others. Charges of hypocrisy
are common in debates because they are
highly effective: we feel compelled to
reject the views of hypocrites. But although
we see hypocrisy as a vice and a
symptom of incompetence or insincerity,
we should be exceedingly careful about
letting our emotions color our judgments
of substantive issues.