A lot has changed since the appearance of rational beings on our planet, and the introduction of social norms that help people to live together amicably can be numbered among the most significant inventions. Nevertheless, there are people who tend to underestimate the importance of mutual respect and being thoughtful of others. “Jerk” presents the most succinct word that can be used to characterize people like Dale who do not care about other people’s problems caused by their disrespectful attitude to fellow creatures.
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What do we know about being a “jerk”? Using the word under consideration in order to express their attitude to some people, individuals tend to mean different things, and this problem must be addressed to come to the right conclusion and define whether Dale can be described as a jerk. Some people think that others are jerks just because their actions and opinions do not meet someone’s expectations. In his work “How to Tell if You’re a Jerk?”, Schwitzgebel discusses the problem, highlighting the importance of jerk self-knowledge. According to the author, this word is not used to denote a stable trait of character as all people have situations in which they act like jerks (Schwitzgebel par. 2). The author believes that all people have their own level of “jerkitude”. To him, being a jerk involves being incapable of respecting others’ perspectives and needs.
A jerk is a person who underestimates or does not want to notice the problems that bother other people. The author argues that jerks usually believe that others are nothing more than tools, helping them to achieve success. The researcher draws a parallel between jerkitude, narcissism, and selfishness due to his observations, demonstrating that all people give priority to their own needs from time to time. Taking the definition provided by the author into account, everything about Dale characterizes him as a jerk. People like Dale do not only neglect the needs of people they barely know. Even his partner has to put up with his unwillingness to be as still as a mouse when he is in a bad mood. Dale does not care about people who cannot park their cars as his comfort is the ultimate goal for him. His disrespectful attitude towards other people and their needs makes Dale a real jerk.
Even though the majority of people agree that being a jerk makes any person a dropout who is unable to get along with others, some individuals believe that being a jerk is just in some cases. Trying to support their opinion with evidence, they often talk about their friends or relatives who are so kind-hearted and not prone to conflicts that other people always try to take advantage of their kindness. Jerks often manage to bounce back from any difficult situation, and this is why some of them can see jerkitude as something just. In fact, the accepted definitions of justice run counter to this point of view which is based on the prevalence of self-interest and individualistic perspective. Speaking about the definitions of justice, it is necessary to pay attention to the opinion of Polemarchus in The Republic. This character agrees that justice involves “the repayment of a debt”; when asked about the meaning of this expression, he says that all people should be kind to their friends (Plato 24). At the same time, this “repayment” may involve doing evil to enemies if they deserve it.
To put it in other words, Polemarchus believes that it is just to live in accordance with the principle that involves treating other people as they treat you. This definition of justice proves that being a jerk is unjust. According to it, people disrespect the principles of justice when they do evil to ones who have done nothing bad to them. The case of Dale described in the assignment illustrates injustice, but Dale may think that he is giving credit where credit is due. Being a jerk means being disrespectful to the needs of other people, and the opinion of Polemarchus proves that it has nothing to do with justice. When it comes to the first fact about Dale (cutting in line for the bathroom), such behavior can be caused by Dale’s willingness to settle with people who did the same and caused inconvenience to him. On the one hand, Dale can try “to repay the debt”, but he is not mindful of the fact that his actions cause inconvenience to innocent people. Jerks use other people to achieve their goals, and being a jerk is not just as justice is opposite to the willingness to do harm to people who have done nothing bad to you. Thus, the behavior of Dale presents a good example of injustice.
Another character of The Republic, Thrasymachus, who thrusts himself into the conversation of other philosophers, states that justice “is nothing else than the interest of the stronger” (Plato 31). The character means that only those things that align with the interests of authorities can be called just. The societal order can be listed among the key factors that provide benefit to authorities as it is easier to rule people who live in accordance with accepted norms. Jerks do not respect the rights and the needs of other people. Jerks are unjust in terms of their attitude to their communities. Using benefits that are available to the members of their communities, they give nothing in return which is unjust. From the point of view of the authorities (or “the strongest”), social misconduct is inappropriate as it causes conflicts and can contribute to the destabilization of a regime. The definition also relates to the behavior that Dale demonstrates; he fails to comply with social norms when he jumps in line and displaces his anger on to innocent people.
In conclusion, Dale presents a classical example of a jerk. His actions demonstrate his inability to comply with social norms. From different perspectives that refer to social norms and morality, his behavior is inappropriate and unjust.
Plato. “The Republic.” Translated by Benjamin Jowett. PinkMonkey, Web.
Schwitzgebel, Eric. “How to Tell if You’re a Jerk.” Nautilus, Web.