Welcome to the Nexus of Ethics, Psychology, Morality, Philosophy and Health Care

Welcome to the nexus of ethics, psychology, morality, technology, health care, and philosophy
Showing posts with label Hypocrisy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hypocrisy. Show all posts

Friday, June 2, 2023

Is it good to feel bad about littering? Conflict between moral beliefs and behaviors for everyday transgressions

Schwartz, Stephanie A. and Inbar, Yoel
Originally posted 22 June 22


People sometimes do things that they think are morally wrong. We investigate how actor’s perceptions of the morality of their own behaviors affects observers’ evaluations. In Study 1 (n = 302), we presented participants with six different descriptions of actors who routinely engaged in a morally questionable behavior and varied whether the actors thought the behavior was morally wrong. Actors who believed their behavior was wrong were seen as having better moral character, but their behavior was rated as more wrong. In Study 2 (n = 391) we investigated whether perceptions of actor metadesires were responsible for the effects of actor beliefs on judgments. We used the same stimuli and measures as in Study 1 but added a measure of the actor’s perceived desires to engage in the behaviors. As predicted, the effect of actors’ moral beliefs on judgments of their behavior and moral character was mediated by perceived metadesires.

General Discussion

In two studies, we find that actors’ beliefs about their own everyday immoral behaviors affect both how the acts and the actors are evaluated—albeit in opposite directions. An actor’s belief that his or her act is morally wrong causes observers to see the act itself as less morally acceptable, while, at the same time, it leads to more positive character judgments of the actor. In Study 2, we find that these differences in character judgments are mediated by people’s perceptions of the actor’s metadesires. Actors who see their behavior as morally wrong are presumed to have a desire not to engage in it, and this in turn leads to more positive evaluations of their character. These results suggest that one benefit of believing one’s own behavior to be immoral is that others—if they know this—will evaluate one’s character more positively.


Honest Hypocrites 

In research on moral judgments of hypocrites, Jordan et al. (2017) found that people who publicly espouse a moral standard that they privately violate are judged particularly negatively.  However, they also found that “honest hypocrites” (those who publicly condemn a behavior while admitting they engage in it themselves) are judged more positively than traditional hypocrites and equivalently to control transgressors (people who simply engage in the negative behavior without taking a public stand on its acceptability). This might seem to contradict our findings in the current studies, where people who transgressed despite thinking that the behavior was morally wrong were judged more positively than those who simply transgressed. We believe the key distinction that explains the difference between Jordan et al.’s results and ours is that in their paradigm, hypocrites publicly condemned others for engaging in the behavior in question.  As Jordan et al. show, public condemnation is interpreted as a strong signal that someone is unlikely to engage in that behavior themselves; hypocrites therefore are disliked both for
engaging in a negative behavior and for falsely signaling (by their public condemnation) that they wouldn’t. Honest hypocrites, who explicitly state that they engage in the negative behavior, are not falsely signaling. However, Jordan et al.’s scenarios imply to participants that honest hypocrites do condemn others—something that may strike people as unfair coming from a person who engages in the behavior themselves. Thus, honest hypocrites may be penalized for public condemnation, even as they are credited for more positive metadesires. In contrast, in our studies participants were told that the scenario protagonists thought the behavior was morally wrong but not that they publicly condemned anyone else for engaging in it. This may have allowed protagonists to benefit from more positive perceived metadesires without being penalized for public condemnation. This explanation is admittedly speculative but could be tested in future research that we outline below.

Suppose you do something bad. Will people blame you more if you knew it was wrong? Or will they blame you less?

The answer seems to be: They will think your act is more wrong, but your character is less bad.

Friday, May 19, 2023

What’s wrong with virtue signaling?

Hill, J., Fanciullo, J. 
Synthese 201, 117 (2023).


A novel account of virtue signaling and what makes it bad has recently been offered by Justin Tosi and Brandon Warmke. Despite plausibly vindicating the folk?s conception of virtue signaling as a bad thing, their account has recently been attacked by both Neil Levy and Evan Westra. According to Levy and Westra, virtue signaling actually supports the aims and progress of public moral discourse. In this paper, we rebut these recent defenses of virtue signaling. We suggest that virtue signaling only supports the aims of public moral discourse to the extent it is an instance of a more general phenomenon that we call norm signaling. We then argue that, if anything, virtue signaling will undermine the quality of public moral discourse by undermining the evidence we typically rely on from the testimony and norm signaling of others. Thus, we conclude, not only is virtue signaling not needed, but its epistemological effects warrant its bad reputation.


In this paper, we have challenged two recent defenses of virtue signaling. Whereas Levy ascribes a number of good features to virtue signaling—its providing higher-order evidence for the truth of certain moral judgments, its helping us delineate groups of reliable moral cooperators, and its not involving any hypocrisy on the part of its subject—it seems these good features are ascribable to virtue signaling ultimately and only because they are good features of norm signaling, and virtue signaling entails norm signaling. Similarly, whereas Westra suggests that virtue signaling uniquely benefits public moral discourse by supporting moral progress in a way that mere norm signaling does not, it seems virtue signaling also uniquely harms public moral discourse by supporting moral regression in a way that mere norm signaling does not. It therefore seems that in each case, to the extent it differs from norm signaling, virtue signaling simply isn’t needed.

Moreover, we have suggested that, if anything, virtue signaling will undermine the higher order evidence we typically can and should rely on from the testimony of others. Virtue signaling essentially involves a motivation that aims at affecting public moral discourse but that does not aim at the truth. When virtue signaling is rampant—when we are aware that this ulterior motive is common among our peers—we should give less weight to the higher-order evidence provided by the testimony of others than we otherwise would, on pain of double counting evidence and falling for unwarranted confidence. We conclude, therefore, that not only is virtue signaling not needed, but its epistemological effects warrant its bad reputation. 

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Chapter One - Moral inconsistency

Effron, D.A, & Helgason, B.A. 
Advances in Experimental Social Psychology
Volume 67, 2023, Pages 1-72


We review a program of research examining three questions. First, why is the morality of people's behavior inconsistent across time and situations? We point to people's ability to convince themselves they have a license to sin, and we demonstrate various ways people use their behavioral history and others—individuals, groups, and society—to feel licensed. Second, why are people's moral judgments of others' behavior inconsistent? We highlight three factors: motivation, imagination, and repetition. Third, when do people tolerate others who fail to practice what they preach? We argue that people only condemn others' inconsistency as hypocrisy if they think the others are enjoying an “undeserved moral benefit.” Altogether, this program of research suggests that people are surprisingly willing to enact and excuse inconsistency in their moral lives. We discuss how to reconcile this observation with the foundational social psychological principle that people hate inconsistency.


The benefits of moral inconsistency

The present chapter has focused on the negative consequences of moral inconsistency. We have highlighted how the factors that promote moral inconsistency can allow people to lie, cheat, express prejudice, and reduce their condemnation of others' morally suspect behaviors ranging from leaving the scene of an accident to spreading fake news. At the same time, people's apparent proclivity for moral inconsistency is not all bad.

One reason is that, in situations that pit competing moral values against each other, moral inconsistency may be unavoidable. For example, when a friend asks whether you like her unflattering new haircut, you must either say no (which would be inconsistent with your usual kind behavior) or yes (which would be inconsistent with your usual honest behavior; Levine, Roberts, & Cohen, 2020). If you discover corruption in your workplace, you might need to choose between blowing the whistle (which would be inconsistent with your typically loyal behavior toward the company) or staying silent (which would be inconsistent with your typically fair behavior; Dungan, Waytz, & Young, 2015; Waytz, Dungan, & Young, 2013).

Another reason is that people who strive for perfect moral consistency may incur steep costs. They may be derogated and shunned by others, who feel threatened and judged by these “do-gooders” (Howe & Monin, 2017; Minson & Monin, 2012; Monin, Sawyer, & Marquez, 2008; O’Connor & Monin, 2016). Or they may sacrifice themselves and loved ones more than they can afford, like the young social worker who consistently donated to charity until she and her partner were living on 6% of their already-modest income, or the couple who, wanting to consistently help children in need of a home, adopted 22 kids (MacFarquhar, 2015). In short, we may enjoy greater popularity and an easier life if we allow ourselves at least some moral inconsistency.

Finally, moral inconsistency can sometimes benefit society. Evolving moral beliefs about smoking (Rozin, 1999; Rozin & Singh, 1999) have led to considerable public health benefits. Stalemates in partisan conflict are hard to break if both sides rigidly refuse to change their judgments and behavior surrounding potent moral issues (Brandt, Wetherell, & Crawford, 2016). Same-sex marriage, women's sexual liberation, and racial desegregation required inconsistency in how people treated actions that were once considered wrong. In this way, moral inconsistency may be necessary for moral progress.

Sunday, April 2, 2023

Being good to look good: Self-reported moral character predicts moral double standards among reputation-seeking individuals

Mengchen, D. Kupfer, T. R, et al. (2022).
British Journal of Psychology
First published 4 NOV 22


Moral character is widely expected to lead to moral judgements and practices. However, such expectations are often breached, especially when moral character is measured by self-report. We propose that because self-reported moral character partly reflects a desire to appear good, people who self-report a strong moral character will show moral harshness towards others and downplay their own transgressions—that is, they will show greater moral hypocrisy. This self-other discrepancy in moral judgements should be pronounced among individuals who are particularly motivated by reputation. Employing diverse methods including large-scale multination panel data (N = 34,323), and vignette and behavioural experiments (N = 700), four studies supported our proposition, showing that various indicators of moral character (Benevolence and Universalism values, justice sensitivity, and moral identity) predicted harsher judgements of others' more than own transgressions. Moreover, these double standards emerged particularly among individuals possessing strong reputation management motives. The findings highlight how reputational concerns moderate the link between moral character and moral judgement.

Practitioner points
  • Self-reported moral character does not predict actual moral performance well.
  • Good moral character based on self-report can sometimes predict strong moral hypocrisy.
  • Good moral character based on self-report indicates high moral standards, while only for others but not necessarily for the self.
  • Hypocrites can be good at detecting reputational cues and presenting themselves as morally decent persons.
From the General Discussion

A well-known Golden Rule of morality is to treat others as you wish to be treated yourself (Singer, 1963). People with a strong moral character might be expected to follow this Golden Rule, and judge others no more harshly than they judge themselves. However, when moral character is measured by self-reports, it is often intertwined with socially desirable responding and reputation management motives (Anglim et al., 2017; Hertz & Krettenauer, 2016; Reed & Aquino, 2003). The current research examines the potential downstream effects of moral character and reputation management motives on moral decisions. By attempting to differentiate the ‘genuine’ and ‘reputation managing’ components of self-reported moral character, we posited an association between moral character and moral double standards on the self and others. Imposing harsh moral standards on oneself often comes with a cost to self-interest; to signal one's moral character, criticizing others' transgressions can be a relatively cost-effective approach (Jordan et al., 2017; Kupfer & Giner-Sorolla, 2017; Simpson et al., 2013). To the extent that the demonstration of a strong moral character is driven by reputation management motives, we, therefore, predicted that it would be related to increased hypocrisy, that is, harsher judgements of others' transgressions but not stricter standards for own misdeeds.


How moral character guides moral judgements and behaviours depends on reputation management motives. When people are motivated to attain a good reputation, their self-reported moral character may predict more hypocrisy by displaying stronger moral harshness towards others than towards themselves. Thus, claiming oneself as a moral person does not always translate into doing good deeds, but can manifest as showcasing one's morality to others. Desires for a positive reputation might help illuminate why self-reported moral character often fails to capture real-life moral decisions, and why (some) people who appear to be moral are susceptible to accusations of hypocrisy—for applying higher moral standards to others than to themselves.

Thursday, September 1, 2022

When does moral engagement risk triggering a hypocrite penalty?

Jordan, J. & Sommers, R.
Current Opinion in Psychology
Volume 47, October 2022, 101404


Society suffers when people stay silent on moral issues. Yet people who engage morally may appear hypocritical if they behave imperfectly themselves. Research reveals that hypocrites can—but do not always—trigger a “hypocrisy penalty,” whereby they are evaluated as more immoral than ordinary (non-hypocritical) wrongdoers. This pattern reflects that moral engagement can confer reputational benefits, but can also carry reputational costs when paired with inconsistent moral conduct. We discuss mechanisms underlying these costs and benefits, illuminating when hypocrisy is (and is not) evaluated negatively. Our review highlights the role that dishonesty and other factors play in engendering disdain for hypocrites, and offers suggestions for how, in a world where nobody is perfect, people can engage morally without generating backlash.

Conclusion: how to walk the moral tightrope

To summarize, hypocrites can—but do not always—incur a “hypocrisy penalty,” whereby they are evaluated more negatively than they would have been absent engaging. As this review has suggested, when observers scrutinize hypocritical moral engagement, they seem to ask at least three questions. First, does the actor signal to others, through his engagement, that he behaves more morally than he actually does? Second, does the actor, by virtue of his engagement, see himself as more moral than he really is? And third, is the actor's engagement preventing others from reaping benefits that he has already enjoyed? Evidence suggests that hypocritical moral engagement is more likely to carry reputational costs when the answer to these questions is “yes.” At the same time, observers do not seem to reliably impose a hypocrisy penalty just because the transgressions of hypocrites constitute personal moral failings—even as these failings convey weakness of will, highlight inconsistency with the actor's personal values, and reveal that the actor has knowingly done something that she believes to be wrong.

In a world where nobody is perfect, then, how can one engage morally while limiting the risk of subsequently being judged negatively as a hypocrite? We suggest that the answer comes down to two key factors: maximizing the reputational benefits that flow directly from one's moral engagement, and minimizing the reputational costs that flow from the combination of one's engagement and imperfect track record. While more research is needed, here we draw on the mechanisms we have reviewed to highlight four suggestions for those seeking to walk the moral tightrope.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Morality just isn't Republicans' thing anymore

Steve Larkin
The Week
Originally posted 23 APR 22

Here is an excerpt:

There is no understanding the Republican Party without understanding its leader and id, former President Donald Trump. His sins and crimes have been enumerated many times. But for the record, the man is a serial adulterer who brags about committing sexual assault with impunity, responsible for three cameo appearances in Playboy videos, dishonest in his business dealings, and needlessly callow and cruel. And, finally, he claims that he has never asked God for forgiveness for any of this.

Trump's presidency would seem to have vindicated the Southern Baptist Convention's claim that "tolerance of serious wrong by leaders sears the conscience of the culture, spawns unrestrained immorality and lawlessness in the society, and surely results in God's judgment." Of course, that was about former President Bill Clinton and the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Now, tolerating this sort of behavior in a leader is par for the Republican Party course.

And Trump seems to have set a kind of example for other stars of the MAGAverse: Rep. Matt Gaetz is under investigation for paying for sex with an underage girl and sex trafficking; former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, who was forced to resign that post after accusations that he tried to use nude photos to blackmail a woman with whom he had an affair, has not let that stop him from running for the Senate; Rep. Madison Cawthorn has been accused of sexual harassment and other misconduct by women who were his classmates in college.

Democrats, of course, have their own fair share of scandals, criminals, and cads, and they see themselves as being on the moral side, too. But they're not running around championing those "traditional values."

Why do Republicans thrill to Trump and tolerate misbehavior which previous generations — maybe even the very same people, a few decades ago — would have viewed as immediately disqualifying? (A long time ago, Ronald Reagan being divorced and remarried was a serious problem for a small but noticeable group of voters.) Maybe it's because, while Trump is an extreme (and rich) example, in many ways he's not so different from his devotees.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Southern Baptists are forcing out followers who don’t pledge allegiance to Trump

John Gallagher
Originally published 23 May 2021

White evangelicals have always been the core of Donald Trump’s support. Once they got over their unease with his fungible approach to morality, conservative Christians found in Trump the political warrior — or mega-bully — that they have long been seeking. The only thing they disliked about him was that he curses.

After acting like a political party through the Trump presidency, it’s no surprise that evangelicals are now following the GOP’s template of purging their ranks of anyone who does not worship at Trump’s altar. The latest case in point: the departure of Russell Moore from the leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).

Moore held one of the top positions in evangelical Christianity. As head of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, he has been a fervent advocate for the denomination’s right-wing positions. He has been a staunch opponent of LGBTQ rights, especially marriage equality, and has pushed hard for religious liberty exemptions that would gut existing protections.

However, Moore has never been a fan of Donald Trump. Unlike other prominent evangelicals, like Franklin Graham and Tony Perkins, Moore was unwilling to trade his religious beliefs for access to power and Supreme Court appointments.

When Trump was running for president in 2016, Moore accurately described him as “someone who not only characterizes sexual decadence and misogyny, brokers in cruelty and nativism, and displays a crazed public and private temperament — but who glories in these things.”

For his honesty, Moore very nearly lost his job in 2017. Now he’s leaving, apparently voluntarily, as the SBC makes adherence to Trumpism a higher priority than adherence to articles of faith.

Monday, May 17, 2021

New York City’s new sex work policy isn’t only about changing morals

Noah Feldman
Milford Daily News
Originally published 27 April 21

Here is an excerpt:

Sexual morality from the early modern period into recent decades tended to condemn the people — especially women — who accepted money in exchange for sexual services, depicting them as morally corrupt. Those who paid for sex — especially men — were often let off the hook by the same (hypocritical) standard. In this now out-moded worldview, taking money for sex amounted transformed a woman’s social status, while paying for sex had little or no effect on a man’s.

Today, we are increasingly willing to acknowledge that people who accept money for sex may often have had little or no choice in the decision. We recognize the realities of trafficking and substance dependence. We’re more aware of power disparities based on sex, race, gender identity and income. It has come to seem primitive to blame those who sell sex rather than those who purchase it.

To be sure, Manhattan — like Baltimore and Philadelphia, which have adopted similar policies — has not adopted the view promoted by some activists, namely that we should take morality out of the equation altogether and simply legalize and regulate all forms of sex work. The association between sex and morals remains as strong as ever in the new policy. But the moral calculus has changed.

On its own, however, this change in beliefs probably would not have sufficed to bring about a policy change. For that, what was required was a major reduction in the geographical prominence of sex work in Manhattan. Long-time residents of the island know this story well. As late as the 1980s, sex work, including prostitution, played a major role in the economy of the extended Times Square area. (The short-lived HBO series "The Deuce" sought to capture the atmosphere of this urban phenomenon in its late heyday.)

Over time, aggressive policing coupled with rezoning and extensive development moved sex work out of midtown. As Manhattan grew ever wealthier in the 1980s, and property values rose, sex work was also pushed out of other neighborhoods, like the Meatpacking District. Eventually, sex work in Manhattan reached the point where it is today: peripheral and relatively invisible rather than openly flourishing in particular neighborhoods.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Justin Welby tells Church of England to stop using NDAs amid racism claims

Originally posted 20 Apr 21

Justin Welby said he had not been aware confidentiality agreements were being used to stop people speaking publicly.

He told Times Radio the documentary was "rightly shaming".

Mr Welby added that he was "horrified" to hear the extent of racist abuse within the Church.

"I have said many times that I am totally against NDAs [non-disclosure agreements]. NDAs are unacceptable. I am just horrified by that and horrified by the fact of racism," he said.

Together with the Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, he has written to senior members of the Church, telling them confidentiality agreements are no longer to be used.

The Church of England is releasing a report later this week, which it says will include plans to address racism within its own ranks.

Dr Elizabeth Henry, the Church's former adviser on race relations, quit her job last year because she said she felt disillusioned.

"I felt frustrated by the lack of progress with issues of racism," she told Panorama.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Liberty University vs. Jerry Falwell Jr.: A white Christian morality tale

Anthea Butler
Originally posted 20 Apr 21

Here is an excerpt:

The story of Falwell's fall from grace, the Liberty lawsuit and the struggle to regain Liberty's moral high ground is a larger morality tale for the white evangelical movement. After years of proclaiming that sexual, fiscal and spiritual morality were important for their faith and institutions, white evangelicals showed America otherwise by overwhelmingly supporting Donald Trump. Falwell's role in solidifying that support, like his father's Moral Majority movement, was about aligning white evangelicals to Republican power, money and prestige.

But now that's coming back to haunt him. His sin, in the eyes of Liberty University, was to betray the carefully crafted image his father, Jerry Falwell Sr., created, with social media posts and an unseemly public persona that worshipped wealth. White evangelicals have been very good at consolidating power, which they often prioritize over true morality. But heaven help the man who tarnishes the brand.

In response to the lawsuit, Falwell claims that the university has "gone off the rails" and that the suit is "full of lies and half-truths." Falwell filed his own defamation lawsuit against Liberty in October, only to drop it two months later. He continues, however, to claim that the university has damaged his reputation.

Responding to the lawsuit via Twitter, Falwell alleged that "the Exec. Comm of the LU board has made another attempt to defame me and discredit my record following a series of harsh and unnecessary actions against my children, Becki and me."

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Evangelicals Made a Bad Bargain With Trump

Peter Wehner
The Atlantic
Originally published 18, Oct 2020

Here is an excerpt:

But if politically conservative evangelicals have things they can rightly claim to have won, what has been lost?

For starters, by overlooking and excusing the president’s staggering array of personal and public corruptions, Trump’s evangelical supporters have forfeited the right to ever again argue that character counts in America’s political leaders. They might try, but if they do, they will be met with belly laughs. It’s not that their argument is invalidated; it is that because of their glaring hypocrisy, they have sabotaged their credibility in making the argument.

The conservative evangelical David French has reminded us that in 1998, during the Bill Clinton–Monica Lewinsky scandal, the Southern Baptist Convention passed a “Resolution on Moral Character of Public Officials,” declaring that it was wrong to “excuse or overlook immoral or illegal conduct by unrepentant public officials so long as economic prosperity prevails,” because “tolerance of serious wrong by leaders sears the conscience of the culture, spawns unrestrained immorality and lawlessness in the society, and surely results in God’s judgment.”

It further affirmed that “moral character matters to God and should matter to all citizens, especially God’s people, when choosing public leaders,” and “implore[d] our government leaders to live by the highest standards of morality both in their private actions and in their public duties, and thereby serve as models of moral excellence and character.”

“Be it finally RESOLVED,” the document continued, “that we urge all Americans to embrace and act on the conviction that character does count in public office, and to elect those officials and candidates who, although imperfect, demonstrate consistent honesty, moral purity and the highest character.”

It turns out that this resolution cannot have been based on deep scriptural convictions, as it was sold to the world (the Southern Baptist resolution included a dozen scriptural verses); it has to have been motivated, at least in large part, by partisanship. It’s quite possible, of course, that many of its supporters were blind to just how large a role partisanship and motivated reasoning played in the position they took. But there is simply no other way to explain the massive double standard.

Friday, December 25, 2020

Catholics' involvement in death penalty killing spree is scandalous

James Keenan & William Montross, Jr.
National Catholic Reporter
Originally published 11 DEC 20

Here is an excerpt:

Study after study demonstrates that the death penalty is infected with racial bias; the federal death penalty is no different. Indeed, in 1994, a mere six years after the implementation of the "modern" federal death penalty, the racial disparities compelled a congressional committee to conclude, "On the federal level, cases selected have almost exclusively involved minority defendants."

We are witnessing this Advent a modern-day lynching.

Each of the defendants in these cases was involved in crimes that resulted in the deaths of others. Some of the crimes were gruesome. But who these people are warrant a closer look.

Bernard was a teenager when he was an accomplice to the murder of a young couple, both youth ministers, on the Fort Hood military reservation in Texas. He did not fire the killing shots — a co-defendant, also sentenced to death and subsequently executed — did.

Bernard, a young black man, was tried in Texas before a jury in which all but one juror was white. His attorneys did not even make an opening statement at his trial and during the penalty phase — where the jury chooses between life and death — the same attorneys offered no witnesses on his behalf.

One of the federal prosecutors who earlier secured Bernard's death sentence later sought to have his life spared. Angela Moore writes that her subsequent "experience with teenagers who have committed violent crimes, especially boys of color, has taught me much about the recklessness and fragility of adolescents, as well as their ability to mature and change."

She also finds "another troubling fact revealed by recent research is that people tend to view Black boys — like Brandon — as more blameworthy than their white counterparts" and that "Black teens like Brandon are systematically denied the 'benefit' of their youth, which is outweighed by their race in the eyes of police, prosecutors, judges and jurors."

Monday, August 31, 2020

I'm Billy Graham's granddaughter. Evangelical support for Donald Trump insults his legacy.

Jerushah Duford
Originally posted 25 August 20

Here is an excerpt:

Women of faith know better

I have given myself permission to lean into that tug at my spirit and speak out. I may be against the tide, but I am firm in my faith that this step is most consistent with my church and its teachings.

At a recent large family event, I was pulled aside by many female family members thanking me for speaking out against an administration with which they, too, had been uncomfortable. With tears in their eyes, they used a hushed tone, out of fear that they were alone or at risk of undeserved retribution.

How did we get here? How did we, as God-fearing women, find ourselves ignoring the disrespect and misogyny being shown from our president? Why do we feel we must express our discomfort in hushed whispers in quiet corners? Are we not allowed to stand up when it feels everyone else around us is sitting down?

The God we serve empowers us as women to represent Him before our churches. We represent God before we represented any political party or leader. When we fail to remember this, we are minimizing the role He created for us to fill. Jesus loved women; He served women; He valued women. We need to give ourselves permission to stand up to do the same.

If a plane gets even slightly off course, it will never reach its destination without a course correction. Perhaps this journey for us women looks similar. Perhaps you cringe at the president suggesting that America’s “suburban housewife” cares more about her status than those in need, but try to dismiss comments on women’s appearance as fake news.

When we look at our daughters, our nieces, our female students, and even ourselves, we feel the need to lean into that tug on our spirit. You might not have felt it four years ago; we do the best with what we know at the time. However, if we continue to ignore the tug we now feel, how will we ever be able to identify what is truly important to us?

The info is here.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Is virtue signalling a perversion of morality?

<p><em>Photo courtesy Wikimedia</em></p>Neil Levy
Originally posted 29 Nov 19

Here is an excerpt:

If such virtue signalling is a central – and justifying – function of public moral discourse, then the claim that it perverts this discourse is false. What about the hypocrisy claim?

The accusation that virtue signalling is hypocritical might be cashed out in two different ways. We might mean that virtue signallers are really concerned with displaying themselves in the best light – and not with climate change, animal welfare or what have you. That is, we might question their motives. In their recent paper, the management scholars Jillian Jordan and David Rand asked if people would virtue signal when no one was watching. They found that their participants’ responses were sensitive to opportunities for signalling: after a moral violation was committed, the reported degree of moral outrage was reduced when the participants had better opportunities to signal virtue. But the entire experiment was anonymous, so no one could link moral outrage to specific individuals. This suggests that, while virtue signalling is part (but only part) of the explanation for why we feel certain emotions, we nevertheless genuinely feel them, and we don’t express them just because we’re virtue signalling.

The second way of cashing out the hypocrisy accusation is the thought that virtue signallers might actually lack the virtue that they try to display. Dishonest signalling is also widespread in evolution. For instance, some animals mimic the honest signal that others give of being poisonous or venomous – hoverflies that imitate wasps, for example. It’s likely that some human virtue signallers are engaged in dishonest mimicry too. But dishonest signalling is worth engaging in only when there are sufficiently many honest signallers for it make sense to take such signals into account.

The info is here.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Why Some Christians ‘Love the Meanest Parts’ of Trump

Emma Green
The Atlantic
Originally posted August 18, 2019

Ben Howe is angry at evangelicals. As he describes it, he is angry that they didn’t just vote for Donald Trump in record numbers, but repeatedly provide moral cover for his outrageous failings. He is angry that leaders of the religious right, who long claimed to be the champions of American morality, appear to have gladly traded their values for power. He is angry that Christians claim they support the president because they want to end abortion or protect religious liberty, when supporting Trump suggests that what they really want is a champion who will mock and crush their perceived enemies.

To redeem themselves, Howe believes, evangelicals have to give up their take-no-prisoners culture war.

This is the story Howe, a writer and pundit, tells in his new book, The Immoral Majority—the title aptly riffs on the Moral Majority, the 1980s-era Christian political machine created by the influential pastor Jerry Falwell. Right-wing Christianity is Howe’s native territory: He grew up attending Falwell’s church in Virginia, Thomas Road Baptist Church, down the street from Liberty University, where Howe’s father, a Southern Baptist pastor, taught classes. In other years, Howe’s family attended First Baptist Church in Dallas, which is now pastored by one of Trump’s most vocal supporters, Robert Jeffress. After being raised in the bosom of the religious right, Howe went on to become a filmmaker, a Tea Party activist, and a blogger for the conservative website RedState, where he spent a not insignificant portion of his time trolling progressives. He was later fired from that website, along with other writers, because of his vocally anti-Trump views, he claims. (Rosie Gray wrote about the purge for The Atlantic in the spring of 2018.)

The interview is here.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

There is no Universal Objective Morality

An Interview with Homi Bhabha
Interviewer: Paula Erizanu

Here is an excerpt:

What does that imply for human rights conventions?

Those who assert the absolute nature of morality are not aware of how much power – political and personal power – gets mixed into the moral idea. The same person who would kneel in church and pray for God’s notion of universal love and brotherhood would go and lynch a person of colour, or would do violence to an untouchable in India. So, morality has to be understood in terms of power and authority in addition to circumstances, cases, forms of interpretation.

Moralities  are enlightened recommendations about how to live your life in a way that is fair and responsible towards others. But at the same time, the question of morality gets so mixed in with political power, with issues of affect, making people anxious, nervous about their conditions, making people feel like they live in a world of insecurity and threat. You know, it’s a much more complex package than can be understood in terms of universal moralities on the one hand, or objective and subjective moralities on the other.

For a number of important legal and political reasons, we want to go with the UDHR and absolutely support the view that all people are born equal, that all people have a foundational dignity, and therefore deserve the protections and provisions of human rights. Having said that, we know from long and bitter experience that only too often states find ways of violating the human rights of their own peoples and the rights of other peoples and countries. They do so with a kind of international impunity, and if I may say so, a collusive insouciance.

There always seem to be forms of legal architecture – however well-intentioned – that make the perfect the enemy of the good, and that is putting it generously. On the negative side, executive orders and states of exception are the enemies of the good. Look at the way in which the basic human rights of Mexicans on the Texan border are being violated on a daily basis. Let me simply refer to a recent comment from the NYT that puts the issue poignantly and pointedly:

“In fact the migrants are mostly victims of the broken immigration system. They are not by and large killers, rapists or gang members. Most do not carry drugs. They have learned how to make asylum claims, just as the law allows them to do.”

The info is here.

Monday, May 13, 2019

How has President Trump changed white Christians' views of 'morality'?

Brandon Showalter
The Christian Post
Originally published April 26, 2019

A notable shift has taken place within the past decade regarding how white evangelicals consider "morality" with regard to the politicians they support.

While the subject was frequently discussed during the 2016 election cycle in light of significant support then-candidate Donald Trump received from evangelical Christians, the attitude shift related to what an elected official does in his private life having any bearing on his public duties appears to have persisted over two years into his presidency, The Washington Post noted Thursday.

A 2011 Public Religion and Research Institute and Religion News Service poll found that 60 percent of white evangelicals believed that a public official who “commits an immoral act in their personal life” cannot still “behave ethically and fulfill their duties in their public and professional life.”

By October 2016, however, shortly after the release of the “Access Hollywood” tape in which President Trump was heard making lewd comments, another PRRI poll found that only 20 percent of white evangelicals answered the same question the same way.

No other religious demographic saw such a profound change.

The info is here.

Monday, April 29, 2019

How Trump has changed white evangelicals’ views about morality

David Campbell and Geoffrey Layman
The Washington Post
Originally published April 25, 2019

Recently, Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg has been criticizing religious conservatives — especially Vice President Pence — for supporting President Trump, despite his lewd behavior. To drive home the point, Buttigieg often refers to Trump as the “porn star president.”

We were curious about the attitudes of rank-and-file evangelicals. After more than two years of Trump in the White House, how do they feel about a president’s private morality?

From 2011 to 2016, white evangelicals dramatically changed their minds about the importance of politicians’ private behavior

Back in 2016, many journalists and commentators pointed out a stunning change in how white evangelicals perceived the connection between private and public morality. In 2011, a poll conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and the Religion News Service found that 60 percent of white evangelicals believed that a public official who “commits an immoral act in their personal life” cannot still “behave ethically and fulfill their duties in their public and professional life.” But in an October 2016 poll by PRRI and the Brookings Institution — after the release of the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape — only 20 percent of evangelicals, answering the same question, said that private immorality meant someone could not behave ethically in public.

The info is here.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Once-prominent 'conversion therapist' will now 'pursue life as a gay man'

Julie Compton
NBC News
Originally posted January 23, 2019

David Matheson, a once prominent Mormon “conversion therapist” who claims to have helped some gay men remain in heterosexual marriages, is looking for a boyfriend.

The revelation broke Sunday night after the LGBTQ nonprofit Truth Wins Out obtained a private Facebook post made by “conversion therapy” advocate Rich Wyler, which stated that Matheson “says that living a single, celibate life ‘just isn’t feasible for him,’ so he’s seeking a male partner.”

Matheson then confirmed Wyler’s assertions on Tuesday with a Facebook post of his own. “A year ago I realized I had to make substantial changes in my life. I realized I couldn’t stay in my marriage any longer. And I realized that it was time for me to affirm myself as gay,” he wrote.

Matheson, who was married to a woman for 34 years and is now divorced, also confirmed in an interview with NBC News that he is now dating men.

The info is here.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Am I a Hypocrite? A Philosophical Self-Assessment

John Danaher
Philosophical Disquisitions
Originally published November 9, 2018

Here are two excerpts:

The common view among philosophers is that hypocrisy is a moral failing. Indeed, it is often viewed as one of the worst moral failings. Why is this? Christine McKinnon’s article ‘Hypocrisy, with a Note on Integrity’ provides a good, clear defence of this view. The article itself is a classic exercise in analytical philosophical psychology. It tries to clarify the structure of hypocrisy and explain why we should take it so seriously. It does so by arguing that there are certain behaviours, desires and dispositions that are the hallmark of the hypocrite and that these behaviours, desires and dispositions undermine our system of social norms.

McKinnon makes this case by considering some paradigmatic instances of hypocrisy, and identifying the necessary and sufficient conditions that allow us to label these as instances of hypocrisy. My opening example of my email behaviour probably fits this paradigmatic mode — despite my protestations to the contrary. A better example, however, might be religious hypocrisy. There have been many well-documented historical cases of this, but let’s not focus on these. Let’s instead imagine a case that closely parallels these historical examples. Suppose there is a devout fundamentalist Christian preacher. He regularly preaches about the evils of homosexuality and secularism and professes to be heterosexual and devout. He calls upon parents to disown their homosexual children or to subject them to ‘conversion therapy’. Then, one day, this preacher is discovered to himself be a homosexual. Not just that, it turns out he has a long-term male partner that he has kept hidden from the public for over 20 years, and that they were recently married in a non-religious humanist ceremony.


In other words, what I refer to as my own hypocrisy seems to involve a good deal of self-deception and self-manipulation, not (just) the manipulation of others. That’s why I was relieved to read Michael Statman’s article on ‘Hypocrisy and Self-Deception’. Statman wants to get away from the idea of the hypocrite as moral cartoon character. Real people are way more interesting than that. As he sees it, the morally vicious form of hypocrisy that is the focus of McKinnon’s ire tends to overlap with and blur into self-deception much more frequently than she allows. The two things are not strongly dichotomous. Indeed, people can slide back and forth between them with relative ease: the self-deceived can slide into hypocrisy and the hypocrite can slide into self-deception.

Although I am attracted to this view, Statman points out that it is a tough sell.