What Is The Meaning Of Hypocrisy Is The Homage Vice Pays To Virtue

Folks have been asking what is the meaning of hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue?

Well, read on…

“Hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue.”

(Reflections: Or Sentences And Moral Maxims By Francois Duc De La Rochefoucauld, Prince De Marsillac, Translated From The Editions Of 1678 And 1827 With Introduction, Notes, And Some Account Of The Author And His Times By J. W. Willis Bund, M.A. LL.B and J. Hain Friswell, Simpson Low, Marston & Company, Ltd., 1898, 218; p.27)

(The quote is also found here.)

This popular quote (a maxim) is by François de La Rochefoucauld, an eminent French author of maxims and memoirs.

The original maxim in French is:

“L’hypocrisie est un hommage que le vice rend à la vertu.“

(Reflexions Ou Sentences Et Maximes Morales De Rochefoucauld, Edition Louis Lacour, Imprimee Par D. Jouaust, Academie Des Bibliophiles, 1868, 218; p.70)

(The quote in French is also found in: Réflexions, Sentences, Et Maximes Morales Mises En Nouvel Ordre, Avec Des Notes Politiques & Historiques, Amelot de La Houssaye, Nouvelle Edition Corrifée & Augmentée De Maximes Chretiennes, Etienne Ganeau, Paris, 1746, Hypocrisie; p.143)

So what is the meaning of this line?

What Is The Meaning Of Hypocrisy Is The Homage Vice Pays To Virtue

What Is The Meaning Of Hypocrisy Is The Homage vice Pays To VirtueThis witty French author François de La Rachefoucauld had a way with words.

He is known for his cynical sarcasm.

If you have read through all his maxims,  you know he did not express his thoughts directly.

That’s why most of his maxims are quite difficult to understand or even to explain.

Now let’s unravel this Rachefoucauld’s epigram:

“Hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue.”

A virtuous person is someone living according to high moral standards.

But generally, we all have our own vices.

Many a times, in order for us to appear virtuous in the eyes of other people, we need to pretend.

Pretending to have qualities, beliefs, or feelings that we do not actually have.

In other words, we are being hypocritical.

A phoney.

As a fake, pretending to be good, naturally we would act humble; to the extend of being obsequious or kowtowing.

That’s is why Rachefoucauld sarcastically used the phrase “vice pays homage to virtue“, or some translated it as “vice pays tribute to virtue“.

When we say to pay homage or tribute to someone or something, it means to show our deep respect, honor or admiration.

Or to worship something or someone great.

By the way, there is a similar maxim in the same book.

It reads:

“Our virtues are most frequently but vices in disguise.”

(Reflections: Or Sentences And Moral Maxims by Francois Duc De La Rochefoucauld, Prince De Marsillac, Translated From The Editions Of 1678 And 1827 With Introduction, Notes, And Some Account Of The Author And His Times By J. W. Willis Bund, M.A. LL.B and J. Hain Friswell, Simpson Low, Marston & Company, Ltd., 1898; p.1)

“Nos vertus ne sont, le plus souvent, que des vices déguisés.” (French)

(The quote in French is found in: Reflexions Ou Sentences Et Maximes Morales De Rochefoucauld, Edition Louis Lacour, Imprimee Par D. Jouaust, Academie Des Bibliophiles, 1868, 218; p.7)

(The quote in French is also found in: Maximes Par La Rochefoucauld, Edited By F. C. Green, Cambridge University Press, 1945; p.56)

It means very often, we are just pretending to be morally good.

Again, it is saying, we are just being hypocritical.

Now, check out my big list of selected authentic Francois De La Rochefoucauld maxims with citations, linking to their original sources.