Insensitive, arrogant, cocky, manipulative, selfish and incredibly annoying are some of the traits that can be related to and define a jerk. Dale cuts line for the bathroom, uses two spaces when he parks, takes out his mood on his partner and he even glares at his neighbors when they cross paths. Even though at one point a person becomes a jerk, Dale’s character is unjust.
A jerk is someone who fails culpably to appreciate the perspectives of other people around them, treating them idiots to be dealt with as tools to be manipulated rather than as moral and epistemic peers (Schwitzgebel, 2016). Eric Schwitzgebel tries though to explain the way jerks see the world and also help people minimize their “jerkitude levels.” He invents the theory of jerks, which he says helps understand the way morons behave. The theory of jerks, as Eric says, has significant benefits for jerks because it might assist them to figure themselves out.
Jerks and sweethearts, who are perfect, are non-existent (Schwitzgebel, 2016). Situations can either bring out the jerk or sweetheart in a person. Eric goes on to say that the jerk is one who does not appreciate the people around them. He gives a different example though using the young children and severely mentally disabled individuals, who do not understand the other people’s points of view but are not declared jerks because not all perspectives require the same treatment. The theory of jerks helps us know whether we are jerks ourselves or not. “I’ve called the jerk ‘he,’ for reasons you might guess but then it seems too gendered to call the jerk ‘she,’ so I’ve made the sweetheart a ‘he’ too” (Schwitzgebel, 2016).
The Washington Unpsychologist Simine Vazire argues that we tend to know our characteristics quite well when the relevant traits are neutrally evaluative and straightforwardly observable, and poorly when they are loaded with value judgments and not straightforwardly visible (Schwitzgebel, 2016). Even with Eric’s definition of a jerk and his explanation of the way morons think, Dale’s behavior is still unacceptable. Just like every other jerk, he has a reason for all he does. Presumably, his cutting the line for the bathroom can be justified by having no time to queue, or even having a bad day, hence taking out his bad mood on his partner. He considers himself more important than others, which is not justified though. Not following the rules is not just and so is being a jerk.
When Cephalus rises to leave, his son Polemarchus joins the conversation on justice with Socrates. It is then that Polemarchus claims that justice is helping a person’s friends and then harming a person’s enemies and that this is what one owes people (Plato, 2000, 332c). Harming one’s enemies is not part of justice since that would be creating chains of trouble day by day. It means being choosy, and that also is an attitude that can be called “jerkitude.” Helping one’s friends is not bad but acting all out on your enemy is unjust. Even enemies deserve to be treated well because as Socrates says, it is not often that we know who our enemies are and that not treating anyone well is not just.
Thrasymachus defines justice as the advantage of what is beneficial to the stronger (Plato, 2000, 338c). He thinks that only healthy people do not make mistakes and that the weak are bound. He also adds to the claim that injustice is, in every way, better than justice and that the unjust person, who commits crime undetected, is always happier than the just person (Plato, 2000, 343e-344c). This injustice is not right though. The idea deprives justice the prevalence it requires. It justifies the attitudes that jerks have. Dale’s selfishness on the parking space is not right as he uses two spaces for one automobile, which proves all the more that being a jerk is not just.
Finally, in his book, “The Republic,” Plato focuses on the question of justice and its relation to the happiness of the people. Eric also gives new and accustomed definitions of a jerk and several reasons for their actions. Being a jerk sometimes spoils the relations made among individuals. Dale is an excellent example of a jerk with his taking out his bad mood on his partner and also when he glares at his neighbors when their paths cross. It is unfair that he treats some of the people around him well and others unfairly. He is at least concerned enough about the opinions of those he is concerned about and who will benefit him directly or indirectly.
- Plato. (2000). The Republic. South Bend: Infomotions, Inc.
- Schwitzgebel, E. (2016). How to Tell if You’re a Jerk: If you think everyone around you is terrible, the joke may be on you.