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A Duty not to Remain Silent: Hypocrisy and the Lack of Standing not to Blame

New publication by Kasper Lippert-Rasmussen in The Philosophical Quarterly, Volume 73, Issue 4, Pages 933–949




A notable feature of our practice of blaming is that blamees can dismiss blame for their own blameworthy actions when the blamer is censuring them hypocritically and, as it is often put, lacks standing to blame them as a result. This feature has received a good deal of philosophical attention in recent years. By contrast, no attention has been given the possibility that, likewise, refraining from blaming can be hypocritical and dismissed as standingless. I argue that hypocritical refrainers have a duty to blame, if asked to do so, and possibly even if they are not asked to do so. Acknowledging this fact about hypocritical silence is crucial to an adequate understanding of our practice of blaming. Specifically, it bears on a worry that naturally arises when we consider cases where the blamee is blameworthy yet the blaming is problematic, because standingless. The worry is that, absurdly, the idea of standing justifies our being more interested in silencing preachers of virtue than making wrongdoers overcome vice. However, if one can lack standing not to blame, this concern is unwarranted. If there is such a thing as standing to blame, then sometimes one must, for reasons of standing, speak up in the face of wrongdoing, meaning, in effect, that one lacks the right not to challenge wrongdoers to improve.