Aaron James on his Theory of Assholes
by Aaron James, Author of "Assholes: A Theory"
“The asshole is the guy who swerves through three lanes of traffic, then parks in two parking spots at the coffee shop, and then berates coffee shop barista. It’s also important why the asshole does these things. He does them out of an entrenched sense of entitlement to special benefits or advantages in cooperative life. That sense of entitlement distinguishes him from the psychopath, on the one hand, who doesn’t use moral concepts or isn’t motivated by them. And, on the other hand, the mere jerk or schmuck or douchebag, who might just be oblivious or insensitive to social cues but won’t necessarily defend or go to bat for their way of being in any kind of moral terms. The asshole is entrenched in their sense of entitlement in the sense that it’s very difficult for them to change, to see things differently and, also, that their sense of entitlement, whatever it happens to be, immunizes them against the complaints of other people. When other people pipe up or object they easily wall out the concerns or complaints or give themselves reasons why they don’t have to listen. Or, why even they, the asshole, aren’t getting the respect they deserve from their point of view. This explains why assholes are deeply frustrating and bothersome to us. That is, that they won’t or they’re deeply resistant to recognizing us as a moral equal in the minimal sense that they hear us out or hear our complaints and see whether they are reasonable.
So, this gives us a basic definition of the asshole which has 3 parts:
First, the asshole systematically helps themselves to special advantages in cooperative life.
Second, he does this out of an entrenched sense of entitlement.
And third, he is immunized against the complaints of other people.
If you’d like to read more about and how to deal with them, check out my book with DoubleDay coming out this October”
This book is a must read for anyone tired of dealing with assholes!
Buy now: Assholes: A Theory
Visit Aaron James' blog for philosophical tomfoolery about assholes, assholery, morality, and more:
About Aaron James:
Aaron earned a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Harvard University and is a professor in the Department of Philosophy, University of California, Irvine, who thinks, writes, and teaches in ethics and political philosophy. He mainly writes for academics, in professional journals and a recent book entitled "Fairness in Practice: A Social Contract for a Global Economy," but also dabbles in popular writing where he hopes to contribute to public life in more direct and more entertaining ways.