What distinguishes a Hypocrite (Hypocrisy) from Demagogue? Both are speaking out lies and are socially considered "evil" persons, correct. Thus, for me they sound similiar. Or are there precise differences?

For example, differences concerning various aspects, such as

  • motivation/intention
  • goals
  • instruments
  • psychology
  • etc.


  • Welcome to SE Philosophy! Thanks for your contribution. Please take a quick moment to take the tour or find help. You can perform searches here or seek additional clarification at the meta site. – J D Dec 17 '19 at 14:28
  • J D: I appreciate your concern. If the questioner were to have accused a particular person of hypocrisy or of being a 'hypocrat', this would plainly be abusive and the question would have no proper place here. But the question is not personal but conceptual. The questioner is not using the term 'hypocrat' but mentioning it - referring to it - in order to obtain a conceptual elucidation of it and its relation to the other term, 'demagogue'. – Geoffrey Thomas Dec 17 '19 at 15:24
  • @GeoffreyThomas Noted, SOP revised, comment withdrawn. Won't happen again. – J D Dec 17 '19 at 15:56
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    J D: Thanks for comment. Don't worry : I often jump the gun; it just happens. I was mainly concerned to deflect the criticism that the question can be answered straight from a dictionary. I think it does have a genuinely conceptual dimension but not, as I concede in my answer, a very interesting one. But then, it's a beginner's question and we all have to start somewhere. I only have to recall my first questions ! Look forward to reading your comments, questions and answers from now on. Best - Geoff – Geoffrey Thomas Dec 17 '19 at 16:14
  • @GeoffreyThomas Looks like you had the right answer after all! The OP edited it. The first question was more fun. – J D Dec 17 '19 at 22:30

Welcome johnsmiththelird

I read your question with interest. It does have philosophical dimensions, which I've tried to show below. I'm not sure how much we gain when we conceptualise hyocrisy (and the 'hypocrat') and demagoguery since they seem independent of each other. But you've made a start and I look forward to further contributions.


What is it to be a hypocrite? Gilbert Ryle's answer is the by now commonly held one: to be hypocritical is to "try to appear activated by a motive other than one's real motive"; again, it is "deliberately to refrain from saying what comes to one's lips, while pretending to say frankly things one does not mean." Can this be the right answer? My aim is to show that it cannot. In doing this I hope to gesture towards a richer understanding of our notion of hypocrisy. Ryle's model for understanding 'hypocrisy' is that of the self-conscious deception of others. The hypocrite uses "tricks" and "talks in manners calculated to give false impressions" in order to deceive others. While the charlatan pretends to skills he does not have, the hypocrite "pretends to motives and moods" he does not really have. (Béla Szabados, 'Hypocrisy', Canadian Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 9, No. 2 (Jun., 1979), pp. 195-210: 195.)


In ancient Greece, a demagogue was, literally, a "leader of the people." The meaning of the term has changed considerably since then, however, and a demagogue today is regarded as someone who "appeals to greed, fear, and hatred" (Safire 163), a politician who achieves or holds power "by stirring up the feelings of his audience and leading them [sic] to action despite the considerations which weigh against it" (Scruton 115). (J. Justin Gustainis, 'Demagoguery and Political Rhetoric: A Review of the Literature', Rhetoric Society Quarterly, Vol. 20, No. 2 (Spring, 1990), pp. 155-161; W. Safire, Safire's Political Dictionary. New York: Random House, 1978: 163; R. Scruton, A Dictionary of Political Thought. New York: Hill and Wang, 1982: 115).

Lexical and conceptual analysis

The comment can readily be expected that the above is just dictionary work. So it would be if we were to say no more. But three conceptual points can be drawn out:

1.Hypocrisy does not imply demagoguery. The hypocrite may deceive others in a private context. Hypocrisy has conceptually no intrinsic political dimension.

2.Demagoguery in contrast does have an intrinsic political dimension. Both word and concept are inherently political. One cannot practise demagoguery in a private context.

3.Any use the demagogue makes of hypocrisy is purely contingent. The demagogue, who stirs up greed, fear, and hatred, may believe every word he or she says. There need be no concealment of real motive or any other resort to deception.

While I think that the question does invite conceptual analysis, as I've tried to show, I don't think conceptual analysis here throws much light. The two concepts are really independent and fairly obviously so on reflection.


If 'hypocrat' has a specific role in American political discourse - see J D's answer - its implication is, I take it, that Democrats (all or some) are hypocrites. In which case, they are (taken to be) a sub-set of hypocrites and to this extent, by implication, they fit the analysis of - fulfil the conditions for - hypocrisy that I offered at the start. I wouldn't make an en bloc moral characterisation of either of the American political parties but this takes us outside philosophy, a valid excuse for saying no more.

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  • I've upvoted, but there's a difference between a hypocrite which is not unique to political science, and a hypocrat which is. – J D Dec 17 '19 at 16:39
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    J D: point taken. I hadn't realised the role of 'hypocrat' in the US political vocabulary. I'll leave my answer as it stands because in responding to mine, your answer makes the meaning of 'hypocrat' clearer to non-Americans. Nice exchange, thanks. Best - Geoff – Geoffrey Thomas Dec 17 '19 at 16:58
  • Nor, I, good sir. It's one of a hundred neologisms that has bubbled up in the US culture wars along with libtard "liberal retard" and republicrat. How the language prescriptivists mourn. – J D Dec 17 '19 at 17:32

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