Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Is there a difference between 
politeness and hypocrisy?

If so, how would you define it?

20 comments:

Always On Watch said...

Very fine line there.

I see hypocrisy more as a self-serving thing as opposed to politeness, which is more out of consideration for someone else's feelings.

FreeThinke said...

Tact v. Honesty

FreeThinke said...

Consideration v. Dissimulation

FreeThinke said...

Diplomacy v. Duplicity

-FJ said...

I agree w/AoW...

Pol- iteness is a subordination of ego done out of consideration for the polis

but hypocrisy is done in violation of a consideration for the polis, in support of an ego need (ego over-ruling Superego).

Ducky's here said...

Hypocrisy has to involve some hope of personal gain.

Anonymous said...

Working for personal gain is pure evil, isn't it? In a just society everyone would would for the good of everyone else and never even dream of having more or being more than his neighbor, isn't that it?

What a dreary outlook! Equality is so boring. Thank God it's impossible to achieve, since people by nature are about as unequal as any random group of items could possibly get.


-----------> Katharine Heartburn

jez said...

It's easy to be hypocritical without being polite, so the interesting part of the question is How can you be polite without being hypocritical?

Can one remain polite while avoiding hypocrisy, ie promoting beliefs, principles etc. to which one does not sincerely subscribe?

Can silence be hypocritical?

Politeness is somewhat in the eye of the beholder, but I believe it is possible to disagree politely; I have examples.

Jen Nifer said...

In the South, the most polite people are sometimes the biggest hypocrites. ;-)

But then there is also sincere politeness.

I think that we are all hypocrites, but not everyone knows how to be polite.

Jen Nifer said...

I like Jez's questions.

Z said...

"Excuse me, I'm so sorry I just bumped into you..I didn't see yoU!" is polite but certainly not hypocritical.

Yes, you can be polite without being hypocritical and you can be hypocritical without being polite.

Silence is hypocrtical when, for example, you say you're pro choice but when someone mentions working for pro choice causes, you remain quiet....? Sort of? As an example?

Yes, I think there's a difference; as a matter of fact, I don't even see lumping them together at all. Any more than politeness and ironical.?

Z said...

that'd be IRONY :-)

FreeThinke said...

All right. Z just gave me something to go on.

If I am attending a social gathering, and somebody approaches me aggressively and asks, "You're pro-choice of course, aren't you?"

It would be hypocritical for me to say, "Of course, you're right, I am. How did you know?" but it would also be polite, because if I told the truth, as boldly and impertinently as she had asked the question, it would be sure to spark an unpleasant, possibly-loud altercation.

As a guest in someone else's house or a host in my own, it would be exceedingly impolite and unkind to the other guests to allow such a contretemps to occur, so the most sensible thing to do under those circumstances would be to pretend to sympathize with the woman's impertinently stated position, change the subject as quickly as possible and then move away from the miserable cunt at the earliest available opportunity.

Now it was certainly impolite of me to slip that exceedingly vulgar epithet into the conversation, but no one could possibly accuse me of hypocrisy for doing so.

Please be assured, if I were caught in such a situation -- as sadly I have been many times --, I would never tell the bitch what I thought of her as I have just told you. However, this is a blog not a garden party, so it seems a perfectly appropriate way to me to illustrate a point. There are times when bluntness is the best way to carry one's point.

Hypocrisy is always a form of dishonesty. Most indulge in it not so much for "personal gain," as Ducky suggested, but more to satisfy a longing most have to have others think well of him -- and to feel as though he properly "belongs" in whatever milieu he finds himself at a given moment.

Now political "activists" may or may not be hypocritical, but they are always extremely impolite in their fervent desire to make others feel uncomfortable with themselves and possibly guilty.

All of which is to say that whether or not someone has been polite or hypocritical it depends a great deal on whose ox is being gored -- and the kind and class of human interaction in which the participants are engaged.

Context means everything in these matters.

The advice given in DESIDERATA is always worth heeding:

"Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are a vexation to the spirit."

FreeThinke said...

One may be polite without being hypocritical, but usually there is an element of dishonesty in both -- especially for the literal-minded, who would refuse to see any difference between studied, agenda-driven prevarication and "little white lies."

FreeThinke said...

I wish Jez had provided us with a few of his examples.

jez said...

they're just people I know. Our shared acquaintance Silverfiddle is good at it.

"to have others think well of him" is a flavour of personal gain.

Maybe the interesting question is "How can I escape the garden party scenario without resorting to hypocrisy nor being impolite?"

For myself, I have an aversion to going along with prevailing opinion if I cannot sincerely do so, but I don't condemn those who do: I recognise it for the social tactic that it is. So I would probably opt for some sort of side-step. "I certainly think liberty is meaningless without choice. Have you tried the vol-au-vents?"

Anonymous said...

The Cynic will always interpret politeness, tact and diplomacy as hypocrisy.

The Ingenuous, the Optimist -- and the committed Christian -- tend to take behavior at face value, and put the most charitable interpretation possible on it.

--------> Katharine Heartburn

Anonymous said...

'"Excuse me, I'm so sorry I just bumped into you. I didn't see you!" is polite but certainly not hypocritical.'

That depends on whether you really did not see the person, or whether you're just pretending you didn't to cover your clumsiness or possible act of aggression.

---------> Katharine Heartburn

-FJ said...

Zizek, "How to Read Lacan"

This brings us to the next feature of the symbolic order: its non-psychological character. When I believe through another or have my beliefs externalized in the ritual I mechanically follow, when I laugh the TV set emanating canned laughter or do the work of mourning through weepers, I accomplish a task concerning my inner feelings and beliefs without really mobilizing these inner states. Therein resides the enigmatic status of what we call “politeness”: when, upon meeting an acquaintance, I say “Glad to see you! How are you today?”, it is clear to both of us that, in a way, I do not mean it seriously (if my acquaintance suspects that I am really interested, he may even be unpleasantly surprised, as though I were aiming at something too intimate and of no concern to me – or, to paraphrase the old Freudian joke, “Why are you saying you’re glad to see me, when you’re really glad to see me?”). However, it would nonetheless be wrong to designate my act as hypocritical, since, in another way, I do mean it: the polite exchange does establish a kind of pact between the two of us; in the same sense as I do “sincerely” laugh through the canned laughter (the proof of it being the fact that I effectively do feel relieved afterwards).

What this means is that the emotions I perform through the mask (false persona) that I adopt can in a strange way be more authentic and truthful than what I really feel in myself. When I construct a false image of myself which stands for me in a virtual community in which I participate (in sexual games, for example, a shy man often assumes the screen persona of an attractive promiscuous woman), the emotions I feel and feign as part of my screen persona are not simply false: although (what I experience as) my true self does not feel them, they are nonetheless in a sense true. Say, what if, deep in myself, I am a sadist pervert who dreams of beating other men and raping women; in my real-life interaction with other people, I am not allowed to enact this true self, so I adopt a more humble and polite persona – is it not that, in this case, my true self is much closer to what I adopt as a fictional screen-persona, while the self of my real-life interactions is a mask concealing the violence of my true self? Paradoxically, it is the very fact that I am aware that, in cyberspace, I move within a fiction, which allows me to express in it my true self – this is what, among other things, Lacan means when he claims that “truth has the structure of a fiction.” These coordinates allow us to delineate succinctly what is false in the reality TV shows: the “real life” we get in them is as real as decaf coffee. In short, even if these shows are “for real,” people still act in them – they simply play themselves. The standard disclaimer in a novel (“characters in this text are a fiction, every resemblance with the real life characters is purely contingent”) holds also for the participants of the reality soaps: what we see there are fictional characters, even if they play themselves for the real. The best comment on reality TV is the ironic version of this disclaimer recently used by a Slovene author: “All characters in the following narrative are fictional, not real – but so are the characters of most of the people I know in real life, so this disclaimer doesn’t amount to much…”

FreeThinke said...

The second paragraph in your last Zizek post is much too convoluted for a benignant old "simplicist" like me.

After having had considerable experience with it I rejected the egomaniacal circular thinking characteristic of psychoanalysis long ago in favor of "Reality Therapy" a catchy term in the psych trade for Common Sense.

I'm a pragmatist now. My motto today is Always be Sincere Whether You Mean It or Not.

Works like a charm.

ACTING like a nice guy MAKES you a nice guy -- and vice versa, of course.