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Feeling Hypocritical? Don't Worry: Everybody Else Is, Too

Everyone hates hypocrisy. But, hold on, says one philosopher, we’re all hypocrites. It’s part of being human.

In a photo taken Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013, newly-elected Rep. Vance McAllister, a Republican of Louisiana, waits to be sworn in at the Capitol in Washington. McAllister says he's asking his family and constituents for forgiveness after a West Monroe newspaper published a video that it says shows the congressman kissing a female staffer in his congressional office in Monroe, La. McAllister, only in office a little over four months, attracted national attention because of his endorsement from the bearded men of the "Duck Dynasty" reality TV show. (AP)

In a photo taken Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013, newly-elected Rep. Vance McAllister, a Republican of Louisiana, waits to be sworn in at the Capitol in Washington. McAllister says he’s asking his family and constituents for forgiveness after a West Monroe newspaper published a video that it says shows the congressman kissing a female staffer in his congressional office in Monroe, La. (AP)

We all know hypocrisy when we see it.  Say one thing, do another and you’re there.  We condemn hypocrites and hypocrisy.  Dante, in his Inferno, consigned hypocrites to the eighth circle of hell.  And yet, if we’re honest, we can see what a crowded place that would be.  Neuroscientists now say we are, as a species, hard-wired for some degree of hypocrisy.  For self-deception.  Cognitive dissonance.  But that’s different than saying it’s okay.  If we don’t resist hypocrisy, we’re in a big moral muddle. This hour On Point:  the human capacity for hypocrisy, and just how deep it goes.

– Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Clancy Martin, philosopher and novelist. He’s contributing editor at  Harper’s Magazine and professor of philosophy and business ethics at the University of Missouri,  Kansas City’s  Bloch School of Management. Author of “How to Sell: A Novel.”

Roxanne Roberts, feature writer covering Washington’s culture for the Washington Post, and former co-author of the Post’s pop culture column, the Reliable Source.

From Tom’s Reading List

Harper’s: On Hypocrisy – “I’m in good company in my dislike of hypocrisy. Complaints about it were common in Ancient Greece and Rome: Aristotle’s successor, Theophrastus, wrote a treatise attacking it as a vice, and one of Cicero’s requirements for friendship was that a friend must never engage in “feigning or hypocrisy. ”

New York Times: Amid Charges of Hypocrisy, Louisiana Lawmaker Faces Calls to Step Down – “After winning an election pledging to ‘defend our Christian way of life,’ Mr. McAllister now faces accusations of hypocrisy as thick as spring mosquitoes on the bayou. Gov. Bobby Jindal, a fellow Republican, has called on him to step down, and the state Republican chairman labeled him ‘an example of why ordinary people are fed up with politics.’”

Huffington Post: Staffer Who Was Caught Kissing Vance McAllister Resigns, While Congressman Keeps His Job — “McAllister chief of staff Adam Terry says Peacock has already been removed from the congressman’s payroll. However, the congressman told the News-Star he has no plans to resign. He says he will seek reelection in the fall ‘unless there is an outcry for me not to serve, and so far there has been an outpouring of support, not for my actions, but for me to continue to represent the people.’”

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