The more I search about hypocrisy, the more I see that it's something that is detested by the masses.

I wonder if there is anytime or anywhere in the world or during history that a nation valued hypocrisy, advised for it, cherished it, saw it as a morally and ethically good thing, and preached it?

  • 1
    I do not think that you can find a "society" liking it... but you can find reference to Renaissance Europe: Nicodemite. Jun 6, 2022 at 14:39
  • Extensive hypocrisy and lying even if it is not grave (eg covering up criminal behavior) is still detrimental as it gradually creates extensive mistrust and suspiciousness thus nullifying social unity. It is no wonder no society (openly) supports such behavior
    – Nikos M.
    Jun 6, 2022 at 22:59
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    What do you call "hypocrisy" and "value"? If hypocrisy is talking nice to people we despise or don't care about, it's the bread and butter of sociability since time immemorial. Seduction, career advancement, business deals, elections are based on it (or at least much facilitated). In that sense it could be said that it's been valued forever. People claim to not like it but I also observe they tend to dislike people who speak their mind too much even more...
    – armand
    Jun 6, 2022 at 23:21
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    @NikosM. I explicitly said "talking nice to people we despise". How is that kind in anyway? I could have understood if you said "politeness", but that's the point: the difference between politeness and hypocrisy is about the same as between a "terrorist" and a "freedom fighter", hence my comment that OP should define their terms if they expect an helpful answer.
    – armand
    Jun 7, 2022 at 3:10
  • 2
    There is a a blurred line of demarcation between hypocrisy and taqiyyah in Islamist ideology. It is a much discussed ethical issue in Islamic theology. Jun 7, 2022 at 9:58

2 Answers 2


I suggest that is just marketing.

We might call the same behaviour stubborn, or determined.

One persons hypocrisy, is another's ‘pragmatic flexibility in the encounter with realpolitik’, say.

“Never attempt to win by force what can be won by deception.”

“A man who is used to acting in one way never changes; he must come to ruin when the times, in changing, no longer are in harmony with his ways.”

-Machiavelli, in The Prince

I would describe Machiavelli as having basically game—theory derived ethics, and in that context his judgements turn on what works, and how people behave in practice.

We more usually in philosophy deal with intersubjective-derived ethics, about universalising personal rules, like Kant’s Imperative or Rawl’s theory of justice.

It’s important to consider context. Say you are in a war against desperate opposition, saying someone trying to shoot you is also a hypocrite, not useful. And keeping standards of honesty and consistency when lives are on the line, may look morally unjustifiable to those people. You could argue satisfying your conscience is a luxury weighed against heavy consequences. The British were extremely deceptive in WW2, indeed they had earned the nickname Perfidious Albion already back during the French Revolution. By contrast, almost no German-born spies operated in WW2, they had to use foreign nationals.

In practice there is a tension between these systems. Often more concern for family members, isn’t written into ethical theories. It’s a game-theory product, from natural selection. Kant wrote On a Supposed Right to Tell Lies from Benevolent Motives, and I think it’s fair to say the overwhelming majority of philosophers and others consider it an unjustifiably extreme stance. The converse, is that very few would genuinely follow Machiavelli’s advice, or celebrate those that do even if they are successful.

  • Some say a lie can be as grave as a murder, because it can be used to cover it up. In less grave cases then there is no reason anyway. I tend to agree with the stance of zero hypocrisy
    – Nikos M.
    Jun 6, 2022 at 22:45
  • @NikosM.: As in, lying is never moral, like Kant?
    – CriglCragl
    Jun 7, 2022 at 20:35
  • Kant·s thesis is close to my heart. I have not found a case so far where approaches other than deception cannot achieve same or better results (assuming good results)
    – Nikos M.
    Jun 7, 2022 at 21:38
  • Radical honesty would be the admission that dishonesty is ubiquitous.
    – Meanach
    Nov 16, 2023 at 14:31
  • @Meanach: Tell me the bitter truth? We are all rascals. Tell me the sweet lie? We wish we weren't.
    – CriglCragl
    Nov 16, 2023 at 15:38

It seems to me that most individuals value harmony over truth. A soft lie is preferable to a hard truth. As to hypocrisy and lies, it is abundant in politics, advertising, and diplomacy. So our current society values hypocrisy privately and condemns it publicly. More hypocrisy. The Prince by Machiavelli is a ruthlessly honest work. I would also recommend The Inferno by Dante for attitudes to hypocrisy.

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