There is a special pleasure in the irony of a moralist brought down for the very moral failings he has condemned. It’s the pleasure of a well-told joke. Some jokes are funny one-liners, but most require three versus: three guys, say, who walk into a bar one at a time, or a priest, a minister, and a rabbi in a lifeboat. The first two set the pattern, and the third violates it. With hypocrisy, the hypocrite’s preaching is the setup, the hypocritical action is the punch line. Scandal is a great entertainment because it allows people to feel contempt, a moral emotion that gives feelings of moral superiority while asking nothing in return. With contempt you don’t need to right the wrong (ad with anger) or flee the scene (as with disgust). And best of all, contempt is made to share. Stories about the moral failings of others are among the most common kinds of gossip, they are a staple of talk radio, and they offer a ready way for people to show that they share a common moral orientation. Tell an acquaintance a cynical story that ends with the both of you smirking and shaking your heads and voila, you’ve got a bond…..well, stop smirking. We are all hypocrites, and in our condemnation of others’ hypocrisy we only compound our own….
Each of us thinks we see the world directly, as it really is. We further believe that the facts as we see them are there for all to see, therefore others should agree with us. If they don’t agree, it follows either that they have not yet been exposed to the relevant facts or else that they are blinded by their interests and ideologies.

We judge others by their behavior, but we think we have special information about ourselves—we know what we are “really like” inside, so we can easily find ways to explain away our selfish acts and cling to the illusion that we are better than others.

From Chapter 4 of The Happiness Hypothesis

By: Jonathan Haidt

For the great majority of mankind are satisfied with appearances, as though they were realities and are often more influenced by the things that seem than by those that are.

 Niccolo Machiavelli (1469 – 1527)

 

Advertisements