The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







Hypocrisy is the act of pretending to have beliefs, virtues and feelings that one does not truly possess. The word derives from the late Latin hypocrisis and Greek hupokrisis both meaning play-acting or pretence. The word is arguably derived from hypo- meaning small, + krinein meaning to decide/to dispute.

A classic example of a hypocritical act is to denounce another for carrying out some action whilst carrying out the same action oneself.

Cognitive scientist Keith Stanovich has made a career out of studying hypocrisy. He sees it as arising out of an incompatibility with desires such self interest and desires and higher order beliefs in morality and virtue. The only people who are not hypocrites are the tiny and perhaps non-existent minority who are so saintly they never give into baser instincts and the larger group who never try to live by principles of morality or virtue. He thus argues that hypocrites are in fact the nobler class of people. François duc de la Rochefoucauld had centuries earlier phrased a similar opinion when he stated that "hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue."

The term hypocrisy is also commonly used (some would say misused) in a way which would be more specifically termed a double standard, bias, or inconsistency. An example would be when one honestly believes that one group of individuals should be held to a different set of morals than another group.


Famous Examples

Examples of hypocrisy can be found among all political parties, organizations, and religious orientations, for example:

Hypocrisy in Religion

Religion is rife with examples of hypocrisy and no one religion can be said to be immune from it. The Roman Catholic Church sex abuse scandal among supposedly celibate priests is a recent example.

During the rule of the theocratic Taliban government there were numerous reports concerning hypocritical behavior the Taliban rulers engaged in while at the same time punishing others for the same behavior [1].

The New Testament of Christianity refers specifically to hypocrites in several places, especially when caricaturing the sect of the Pharisees as, for example, the Gospel of Matthew chapter 23, paragraphs 13 to 15:

"But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves."

In Zen Buddhism, the San Francisco Zen Center forced its abbot Zentatsu Richard Baker to resign in the 1980's due to charges involving, among other things, allegedly hypocritical behavior.

Hypocrisy in Legislation

The United States Congress, requiring U.S. citizens to participate in the Social Security program, while exempting themselves from participating in that very program, in favour of a more profitable one.
The United States Congress, defeating nominal increases to the minimum wage for U.S. citizens at the same time as providing substantial wage increases for themselves for 8 years in a row. (The federal minimum wage is currently approximately $10,000 per year ($5.15 per hour for a 40 hour work week) and hasn't changed in nine years (1996 to 2005), at the same time as Congress has repeatedly acted to increase their own wage by $28,500 to $162,000 [2].)
A person has the right to life, but not the right to die or a right to a low quality life.

Ex: Narcotic drugs are illegal, gambling is illegal in most states of America. These laws define such actions as victimless crime.


RIAA Recording industry organization prosecuting individuals engaged in file sharing purportedly to protect the interests of the artists, at the same time as supporting publishers engaged in artist exploitation that cheats artists out of their fair share of royalty payments by using accounting tricks .

Hypocrisy in Film and Literature

The following films or works of literature have been cited as either dealing with issues of hypocrisy, or portraying hypocritical characters:



See also

External links

Last updated: 05-20-2005 03:30:55