I think some good words would be conflicted, or confused. As an example of context, think of someone who believes in freedom of speech, but, at the same time, they would support banning comedians who make jokes about certain issues that person cares about.

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    Your example may well be describing a person who is balanced and able to draw fine distinctions. The freedom of speech vs suppression of sedition/slander/offensive speech issue is far from black and white. Commented Aug 15, 2016 at 10:14
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    @EdwinAshworth: I agree with you. As an American, I uphold the "Free Speech Amendment," but I also realize that free speech is not an absolute. Certain categories of speech, as you point out, are exempt from protection by the First Amendment to the US Constitution. Interestingly, in recent years, "speech" has been broadened to include "expression," and pornographers, for example, have exploited (and have, perhaps contributed to) the expansion of the amendment to include a category of expression which the Supreme Court has never fully sanctioned, at least in its hardcore manifestation. Commented Aug 15, 2016 at 16:08
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    The first word that comes to mind is "human" Commented Aug 15, 2016 at 17:30
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    Didn't the US Supreme Court rule not long ago that lies - ie. statements that had been shown/proven to be false - where not protected under The First Amendment? And in any case, there are other laws - like prohibiting slander - which "limits" Free Speech. Of course, Free Speech is between you and your government/authorities - that the government won't have to approve/censor what you say or write... I am not part in your right to free speech... I'm not required to listen, to agree, to spread, nor to not disagree with your free speech... So is it then really a contradiction? Commented Aug 15, 2016 at 18:08

17 Answers 17


There's the term doublethink, which comes from George Orwell's classic 1984.

Doublethink refers to the holding of opposing beliefs, and more specifically, without cognitive dissonance. Those who doublethink are unaware of any contradiction in their beliefs.

  • 18
    That's exactly the word that sprang to my mind when I saw this. Doubleplusgood answer.
    – SeanR
    Commented Aug 15, 2016 at 14:32
  • I don't think Doublethink describes what the OP is asking about. Doublethink is not simply holding opposing views, it is a fictional method of indoctrination in Orwell's 1984 - for example, in the novel, there are posters everywhere with slogans that say things like "War is Peace" and "Freedom is Slavery" - things that are clearly not true, but if repeated often enough, condition the populace to believe them, so believing that a perpetual state of war and slavery is a desirable thing. It is a type of brainwashing. That is not the same as what the OP describes.
    – drkvogel
    Commented Oct 15, 2020 at 15:52
  • To clarify, the OP describes someone freely holding seemingly contradictory views. They have not been indoctrinated or brainwashed, they have arrived at these conclusions themselves, and the opposing views are not necessary actually opposed - e.g. as in the example given, it is quite possible to believe, broadly, in "freedom of speech", whilst accepting that there must be limits to that freedom.
    – drkvogel
    Commented Oct 15, 2020 at 15:59

While not really a descriptive term of the person, as you suggest conflicted or confused, Cognitive Dissonance might be applicable.

  • Often used to describe 'animal lovers' who eat meat, support factory farming etc
    – Enilorac
    Commented Aug 17, 2016 at 14:59
  • 1
    Cognitive dissonance really describes the feeling of discomfort brought about by conflicting beliefs.
    – dangph
    Commented May 8, 2017 at 5:14

As a single word I'd suggest


  • not always acting or behaving in the same way


  • Agreed. (50171)
    – Mr.Wizard
    Commented Aug 15, 2016 at 20:13
  • Inconsistent while very correct lacks the emotional impact that the original poster might have hoped to find. Inconsistent has very little blame associated with it, and is something you might use to politely describe a hypocrite. Commented Aug 16, 2016 at 21:43
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    @VoronoiPotato. I am not sure the term has any "polite" connotation. I'd not take it as such personally.
    – user66974
    Commented Aug 16, 2016 at 21:45
  • Perhaps I should have said it's a polite way to insult someone. Much like "Bless your heart" in the south. Commented Aug 16, 2016 at 21:46
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    @VoronoiPotato - sorry I don't agree with your view. If you are inconsistent you may result unreliable, which, to me may look as bad as being a hypocrite.
    – user66974
    Commented Aug 16, 2016 at 21:54

There are quite a few words that would work for this, here are a few that come to mind (all definitions from the Free Dictionary):

1. dichotomous

adj. 2. Characterized by dichotomy.


Noun 1. being twofold; a classification into two opposed parts or subclasses; "the dichotomy between eastern and western culture"

Supposedly some feel that this usage is not correct:

Usage: Dichotomy should always refer to a division of some kind into two groups. It is sometimes used to refer to a puzzling situation which seems to involve a contradiction, but this use is generally thought to be incorrect

But this is the primary way that I've heard the word used. Seems consistent with the "two opposed parts" meaning.

2. contradictory

adj. 1. Involving, of the nature of, or being a contradiction:
contradictory reports about the vaccine's effectiveness. See Synonyms at opposite.

3. hypocritical

adj. 1. Characterized by hypocrisy: hypocritical praise.


  1. the practice of professing standards, beliefs, etc, contrary to one's real character or actual behaviour, esp. the pretence of virtue and piety
  • 2
    I would upvote this except that it includes 'dichotomous'. The latter just means having two distinct possibilities, and says nothing about contradiction.
    – Mitch
    Commented Aug 16, 2016 at 15:33
  • @Mitch "a classification into two opposed parts or subclasses" The two distinct things should be opposed, or it's not dichotomous.
    – DCShannon
    Commented Aug 16, 2016 at 15:38
  • Dichotomous in my understanding implies more extreme black and white thinking, whereas one can be a mild hypocrite. Someone who has very extreme opinions might be considered dichotomous, but I've never heard it used to refer to someone who simultaneously holds opposing positions. Commented Aug 16, 2016 at 21:40

Formally you would say that person's arguments are 'logically inconsistent'. I would probably describe it in conversation as:



having two or more parts that disagree with each other


Here are a few that may fit.

Multifaceted: Having many aspects, sides, or faces.

Capricious: Given to sudden and unaccountable changes of mood or behavior.

Erratic: Not even or regular in pattern or movement; unpredictable.

Protean: Tending or able to change frequently or easily.

Versatile: Able to adapt or be adapted to many different functions or activities.

Multifarious: Many and varied.

Divers (Not misspelled): Many and varied.

Hypocrite: A person who claims or pretends to have certain beliefs about what is right but who behaves in a way that disagrees with those beliefs.

Contradictory Traits: Traits that coexist whilst excluding one another.

Personality Paradox: The observation that a human being’s personality tends to remain the same over time, while their behavior can change in different situations.

Mutually Inclusive: Able to occur or exist at the same time.

Oxford American College Dictionary. Meriam-Webster



Having mixed feelings about someone or something; being unable to choose between two (usually opposing) courses of action.


  • I think this is the correct answer, or to be precise, "Ambivalence" - the state of having mixed feelings. You would describe someone who was in a state of ambivalence (a noun) as being ambivalent (an abjective).
    – drkvogel
    Commented Oct 15, 2020 at 16:02
  • Also, this reminds me of a quote by F. Scott Fitzgerald (or rather, looking up the quote led me to this discussion): “The test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function”
    – drkvogel
    Commented Oct 15, 2020 at 16:03

Of two minds (about someone or something) — TFD

Fig. holding conflicting opinions about someone or something; being undecided about someone or something.

"I am of two minds about whether I should go to the convention."



From M-W:

a combination of contradictory or incongruous words (as cruel kindness); broadly : something (as a concept) that is made up of contradictory or incongruous elements


Some who speaks out of both sides of their mouth is a phrase I hear quite a bit to refer to someone who says contradicting things. Usually it indicates someone who is just saying what people would like to hear.

be speaking/talking out of both sides of your mouth (American) 1. to say different things about the same subject when you are with different people in order to always please the people you are with "How can we trust any politicians when we know they're speaking out of both sides of their mouths?"

Speaking out of both sides of your mouth

  • Welcome to ELU, can you please add sources to your answer to substantiate your claim. You can also have a look at the help center to find out about good answers.
    – Helmar
    Commented Aug 16, 2016 at 21:01
  • idioms.thefreedictionary.com/… Commented Aug 16, 2016 at 21:29
  • Please incorporate it into your answer.
    – Helmar
    Commented Aug 16, 2016 at 21:29

Besides doublethink, what first came to mind is compartmentalization:

An unconscious psychological defense mechanism used to avoid cognitive dissonance, or the mental discomfort and anxiety caused by a person's having conflicting values, cognitions, emotions, beliefs, etc. within themselves.

Source: Wikipedia


To be used in this way is offensive to some, but the following (non-clinical usage) fits your description - schizophrenic:

  1. Of, relating to, or characterized by the coexistence of disparate or antagonistic elements: "I vacillated back and forth without once perceiving that my impulses were schizophrenic" (Shirley Abbott). - thefreedictionary.com

I think you mean: Hypocrite

a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that he or she does not actually possess, especially a person whose actions belie stated beliefs. Source:http://www.dictionary.com/browse/hypocrite



From M-W:

having or showing concern only about your own needs and interests


From M-W:

exploiting opportunities with little regard to principle or consequences : a politician considered opportunistic


From oxforddictionaries.com:


1 (Of an action) seeming sensible and judicious in the circumstances: [WITH INFINITIVE]: I did not think it politic to express my reservations


Although not a decrption of the person, Paradox ~ (from MW ) a statement that seems to say two opposite things but that may be true but Hypocrite ~ (from MW) a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings

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    The person would not be called a paradox, would they? Please mind it is customary to provide a link to any source you mention, especially when you quote from them.
    – oerkelens
    Commented Aug 15, 2016 at 10:35
  • I wasn't clear on Paradox & updated the post. oerkelens you must be very busy here on english.stackexchange.com correcting people. Seems you overlooked others in this thread though.
    – aloko
    Commented Aug 15, 2016 at 15:46
  • @aloko - As this is your first post, it pops up in a review queue specifically asking for people to review it, in order to help the new poster meet the standards of the site. This is likely why oerkelens has provided you with guidance, but not others.
    – AndyT
    Commented Aug 17, 2016 at 10:35

From the point of view of the observer: irrational.

From the point of view of the person: misunderstood.


A Moron?

I see it as; an Oxymoron is a phrase that contradicts itself and moron is someone that contradicts themselves. I do also tend to think that its more of an intellectual dissonance between two thoughts; say someone who believes everyone was born equal, unless you were born gay, as opposed to someone who is fine with immigration, as long as the migrants aren't moving in next door.

You could also have a hypocrite who is someone that acts in a way that contracts whats they say; I do feel this word really has more to do with actions than beliefs - "do as i say, not as i do" or learning through the voice of experience. My father, for example, used to tell me never to have children and never get married. He proceeded to do both some years later...

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