Moral Hypocrisy and Acting for Reasons: How Moralizing Can Invite Self-Deception

Maureen Sie*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


According to some, contemporary social psychology is aptly described as a study in moral hypocrisy. In this paper we argue that this is unfortunate when understood as establishing that we only care about appearing to act morally, not about true moral action. A philosophically more interesting interpretation of the "moral hypocrisy"-findings understands it to establish that we care so much about morality that it might lead to (1) self-deception about the moral nature of our motives and/or (2) misperceptions regarding what we should or should not do in everyday or experimental situations. In this paper we argue for this claim by elaborating on a fascinating series of experiments by Daniel Batson and his colleagues who have consistently contributed to the moral hypocrisy findings since the late nineties, and showing in what way they contribute to a better understanding of moral agency, rather than undermine the idea that we are moral agents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-235
Number of pages13
JournalEthical Theory and Moral Practice
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Moral hypocrisy
  • Self-deception
  • Acting for reasons
  • Moral agency
  • Daniel Batson
  • Awareness
  • Behavior
  • Agency


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