No one in this city can drive! Now that you think of it, those interns are totally incompetent too. You’re pretty much the only capable person you know. If this all sounds familiar, you might be a jerk. But what if you’re not entirely sure? How do you find out if you are, indeed, a jerk, and if so, can it be fixed? Eric Schwitzgebel, professor of philosophy at University of California, has a theory:

The essence of jerkitude in the moral sense, is this: the jerk culpably fails to appreciate the perspectives of others around him, treating them as tools to be manipulated or idiots to be dealt with rather than as moral and epistemic peers. . .

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… the all-out jerk is inevitably ignorant. 

So how can you tell?

To discover one’s degree of jerkitude, the best approach might be neither (first-person) direct reflection upon yourself nor (second-person) conversation with intimate critics, but rather something more third-person: looking in general at other people. Everywhere you turn, are you surrounded by fools, by boring nonentities, by faceless masses and foes and suckers and, indeed, jerks? Are you the only competent, reasonable person to be found?. . .

If your self-rationalising defences are low enough to feel a little pang of shame at the familiarity of that vision of the world, then you probably aren’t pure diamond-grade jerk. But who is? We’re all somewhere in the middle. That’s what makes the jerk’s vision of the world so instantly recognisable. It’s our own vision. But, thankfully, only sometimes.

Read the rest at Aeon.


  • http://programminglife.net/ mcatlett

    Not to say that one might not occasionally find oneself in a room full of incompetents, but agreed – how one finds the world to be, is how one is. Jerk, or loving, or whatever else.

  • http://krayzcomix.solitairerose.com/ SolitaireRose

    I have been in situations like this as both the person who felt surrounded by jerks and as a supervisor of someone who felt they were surrounded by jerks. An important question to ask is:

    Are you in a successful environment? If things are running well and you feel that you are the only one who knows anything, you’re probably wrong. If the place is falling apart, you may be right and it’s time to get out. I had a job where, after a shift in management, I felt like I was the only competent person…so I got out. Two years later, they had sold off all but one facility to stave off shutting down, and had to sell the
    final facility to pay off the debt they had built up in those two years.

    So, self-awareness is the key, IMHO.

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