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My friend and I got into a big argument over whether some of the following examples are hypocritical positions to take:

  1. Being pro climate protection while not doing ANYTHING to stop it yourself (such as saving energy etc etc.

  2. Being pro climate protection while not doing anything other than voting for a party that is pro climate protection

  3. Being pro war (in general) while not joining the war effort yourself (becoming a soldier)

  4. I am for welcoming refugees in our country while not wanting to work in a soup kitchen to help them myself.

My position was that the first two examples are hypocritical while 3 and 4 are not.

Who is right ? Who is wrong and why ?

closed as off-topic by Conifold, curiousdannii, christo183, Jishin Noben, Swami Vishwananda May 29 at 5:55

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  • Sorry, but the dictionary scope of "hypocritical" is not a question about philosophy. You can ask on English SE. – Conifold May 28 at 11:25
  • It might be best to link this to a quote from a philosopher who took ethical positions and ask if these examples illustrate that philosopher's position. Peter Singer might be one to consider. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Singer Perhaps Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics might be another place to look. Welcome. – Frank Hubeny May 28 at 11:51
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Simple definition of hypocrisy would be accusing others of doing something that you do yourself

For example, in WW2 Allies accused Axis of systematically killing civilian population. But those same Allies deliberately killed hundreds of thousand of civilians (including children) in Hamburg, Dresden, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Tokyo e.t.c.

Now lets examine your examples:

  1. Asking from others to sacrifice part of their comfort (save energy, walk instead of driving etc...) in order to save environment, while yourself not doing it, is by our definition good example of hypocrisy .

  2. This is essentially same as no.1 except if pro-climate party really comes to power and forces everyone (including our voter) to sacrifice something for good of environment. But if green party in question has no realistic chance for becoming ruling party, then it is same as no.1

  3. Asking from other to risk their lives, or lives of their beloved ones, while yourself are not doing it, is again hypocritical. Possible exception would be if the person in question is not bodily able to become soldier and has none close to him that could become soldier, but then again their advice about war would be simply irrelevant (they don't have much to loose in war)

  4. Asking from others to bear the burden of refugees or "refugees" while yourself are not doing it could be considered hypocritical . Possible exception would be if person in question pays its taxes, and demands part of them to be spend on feeding refugees. But if refugees in question are in fact "rapefugees" that would not be enough -our humanitarian would have to come into close contact with them to avoid being labeled as hypocritical.

  • Thanks for the answer. Do you think that holding the following position is hypocritical: Being for a "war" to "defeat" ISIS/IS/ISIL while not actively joining combat against them. – Demokrit May 29 at 7:09
  • @Demokrit In any war situation, those who do not sacrifice anything but ask from others to do so are hypocritical . IS is more of terror organization, but those who do not want to actively confront radical Islam in their own countries have no right to send others to die in Syria for example . – rs.29 May 29 at 18:25
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According to Neal Tognazzini and D. Justin Coates, the issue of hypocrisy with regards to blame involves "standing to blame":

There has recently been an explosion of work on the so-called standing to blame, which is often taken to be the primary fact about the blamer that is relevant to whether an instance of blame is appropriate. Hypocritical blame is usually treated as a paradigm example, and the most basic thought is simply that there seems to be something inappropriate about blame issued by a blamer who is guilty of the same transgression to which they are reacting. The standard way of talking about what’s going wrong in this sort of case is to use the label ‘standing’: the hypocritical blamer lacks the standing to blame.

Blame is a form of social disapproval that people wish to be avoid. The hypocrite's blame may itself be morally wrong:

...the hypocritical blamer—as long as they aren’t also blaming themselves, in which case they might not count as hypocritical—treats their own interest in avoiding blame as more important than the interest of the target of their blame. As Wallace puts it (2010: 328): “This offends against a presumption in favor of the equal standing of persons that I take to be fundamental to moral thought”. Thus, for Wallace, the problem with hypocritical blame is that it is morally wrong (and thus inappropriate even if the target is blameworthy). [my emphasis]

Let's consider the OP's question whether some scenarios involve hypocrisy. Here is the first example:

Being pro climate protection while not doing ANYTHING to stop it yourself (such as saving energy etc etc.

Is the person taking the pro climate protection position blaming someone else?

Suppose Jane votes for a pro-climate position on a ballot and she does not blame anyone for taking a different position than she does. Is she a hypocrite if she does not switch to energy-efficient lighting in her own home? Since she is not blaming anyone, she would not be involved in hypocrisy. Blaming her for hypocrisy may itself be inappropriate.

Suppose Bill not only votes for the pro-climate position on the ballot, but also blames other people for not switching to energy-efficient lighting. If he does not himself switch to energy-efficient light, his blaming might be hypocritical. He may be considering his "own interest in avoiding blame as more important than the interest of the target" of his blame.


Tognazzini, Neal and Coates, D. Justin, "Blame", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2018 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2018/entries/blame/.

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