What Kind of Jerk Are You?


Henry Shevlin, a PhD student at CUNY, has posted about the philosophy of jerks:

What makes someone a jerk? Is it merely being rude, or selfish, or is there something more subtle that underlies the behavior of the jerk? And just as important, how do you know if you’re a jerk yourself?

Following up on Eric Schwitzgebel’s prolific jerk work, Shevlin offers a situationist account of the jerk, and then provides a taxonomy of jerks, including “the bore,” “the martyr,” “the drama king/queen,” “the vice jerk,” and others, including “the academic jerk”:

The academic jerk
“Ethics is junk. I do analytic metaphysics because I want to study something real.”
Academics can be jerks in lots of ways – unresponsive to their students, dismissive of colleagues, and cruel to kittens. But one particularly common jerkish tendency I’ve noticed as a philosopher is a tendency to accentuate the importance of one’s own work and interests while utterly disregarding your colleagues’ areas of expertise. And this in spite of having little to no awareness or understanding of those fields. What makes this especially jerkish is its self-serving and unreflective nature: there’s no point in them learning anything about, say, continental philosophy, because if it was good, it might undermine their own smug sense of superiority (“and besides, it’s all junk anyway”).

We’ve discussed jerk moves in philosophy before, but if you have other examples or thoughts on the matter, feel free to share them. (Note that attempts to identify specific jerks will likely not be approved. If that itself is a jerk move, well, tough.)

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