Sunday, September 03, 2006

Hypocrisy   posted by Razib @ 9/03/2006 12:42:00 AM

Like many people I'm not a big fan of hypocrites. Why should you believe in what someone says if they don't practice what they preach? Yet the other day I had a passing thought.

Assume you have a person who

a) has a "must eat" module which is always in hyperdrive
b) but also knows rationally that overeating is bad

On the one hand, the reflective & rational conscious mind knows quite well that gorging is bad, but other mental processes don't get the picture. If one takes a unitary view of the mind one would say that someone who says eating too much is bad and perhaps even supports legislation which would discourage overeating, and yet ate a great deal all the same, is a hypocrite. Perhaps they're trying o display their virtue, or monopolize all the food for themselves. Who knows? There has to be a rational reason why they engage in contradictory speech, belief and behavior.

And yet if we accept a modular mind we see that the reasons might not be that rational at all. Certainly nothing is black and white, modularity can have different levels of encapsulation, and if you plan ahead you can make sure you are out of the choice "danger zone." But, I suppose from now on I'll be willing to give hypocrites a bit more slack, or at least not dismiss their arguments prima facie, their conscious mind might be on the right track even if their credibility is undermined by their lack of impulse control in other contexts.