Theory of Jerks

The jerk himself is both intellectually and emotionally defective, and what he defectively fails to appreciate is both the intellectual and emotional perspectives of the people around him. He can’t appreciate how he might be wrong and others right about some matter of fact; and what other people want or value doesn’t register as of interest to him, except derivatively upon his own interests…. The moral and emotional failure of the jerk is obvious. The intellectual failure is obvious, too: no one is as right about everything as the jerk thinks he is. He would learn by listening. And one of the things he might learn is the true scope of his jerkitude – a fact about which… the all-out jerk is inevitably ignorant.

Aeon Magazine seems to be running a “greatest hits of the year” at the moment, and  Eric Schwitzgebel’s “A Theory of Jerks” is among them. (We discussed “jerk moves in philosophy” when this article originally came out, early in the summer.) A good choice.

Thinker Analytix: innovative tools for teaching clear and courageous thinking
Notify of

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
9 years ago

For an amusing and perceptive take on the jerk’s close cousin, the asshole, see Aaron James’s book “Assholes: A Theory.”

Food for Thought
Food for Thought
9 years ago

Is the world really in need of a theory of jerks? Or is this rather a case of philosophers re-inventing the wheel? I ask because because there’s a well-established category which already appears to capture the people who exhibit the characteristics for which the theory of jerks attempts to account. That established category is Narcissistic Personality Disorder.