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Tuesday
Oct212014

RS119 - Aaron James on Assholes (and Bitches)

Release date: October 21, 2014


Aaron James You probably feel like you can recognize someone who's an asshole when you're unlucky enough to encounter him. But can you really? Philosophy professor Aaron James, the author of "Assholes: A Theory," joins the podcast to lay out just what makes an asshole an asshole, and why they're so uniquely maddening. Massimo, Julia and Aaron debate the assholery of certain people in politics and atheism, explore the difference between an asshole and a bitch, and swap coping mechanisms.

Aaron's pick: Last Week Tonight With John Oliver

Reader Comments (12)

I think you are projecting an image of Richard Dawkins that I don't think he has shown or espoused. When it was Neil deGrasse Tyson, rs103, Massimo and Tyson made a caricature of Dawkins that actually was factually wrong based on Dawkins own statements, and I think it is being done again. Dawkins has talked about and mentioned moral philosophy in his discussions in relation to questions about morality and what it can bring to the table. He has also invoked Utilitarianism as what drives him etc. While he may not be a philosophical heavyweight, I think saying he dismisses all philosophy is a bit of a cheap shot.

October 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCathal Ó Broin

Here he talks about moral philosophy, and also readily admits that he is not an expert on it.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O1AlRXlF8DA
I'd also challenge someone to watch:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_dEQRd_cTNs
and show what makes him confrontational, dismissive etc, worthy of being called an asshole?

October 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCathal Ó Broin

Did you know there is a very timely song about this podcast? lyrics below:

Folks, Id like to sing a song about the American Dream
About me, about you
About the way our American hearts beat way down in the bottom of our chests
About that special feeling we get in the cockles of our hearts
Maybe below the cockles,
Maybe in the sub cockle area,
Maybe in the liver, maybe in the kidneys,
Maybe even in the colon, we dont know

Im just a regular Joe, with a regular job
Im your average white, suburbanized slob
I like football and porno and books about war
I got an average house, with a nice hardwood floor
My wife and my job, my kids and my car
My feet on my table, and a Cuban cigar

But sometimes that just aint enough to keep a man like me interested
(oh no, no way, uh uh)
No I gotta go out and have fun at someone elses expense
(woah yeah, yeah yeah, yeah yeah yeah)
I drive really slow in the ultra fast lane
While people behind me are going insane

Im an asshole (hes an asshole,what an asshole)
Im an asshole (hes an asshole, such an asshole)

I use public toilets and I piss on the seat
I walk around in the summer time saying "how about this heat?"

Im an asshole (hes an asshole,what an asshole)
Im an asshole (hes the worlds biggest asshole)

Sometimes I park in handicapped spaces
While handicapped people make handicapped faces

Im an asshole (hes an asshole,what an asshole)
Im an asshole (hes a real fucking asshole)

Maybe I shouldnt be singing this song
Ranting and raving and carrying on
Maybe theyre right when they tell me Im wrong...
Nah

Im an asshole (hes an asshole,what an asshole)
Im an asshole (hes the worlds biggest asshole)

You know what Im gonna do
Im gonna get myself a 1967 Cadillac Eldorado convertible
Hot pink, with whale skin hubcaps
And all leather cow interior
And big brown baby seal eyes for head lights (yeah)
And Im gonna drive in that baby at 115 miles per hour
Gettin' 1 mile per gallon,
Sucking down Quarter Pounder cheeseburgers from McDonalds
In the old fashioned non-biodegradable styrofoam containers
And when Im done sucking down those greeseball burgers
Im gonna wipe my mouth with the American flag
And then Im gonna toss the styrofoam containers right out the side
And there aint a goddamn thing anybody can do about it
You know why, because weve got the bombs, thats why
2 words, nuclear fucking weapons, OK?
Russia, Germany, Romania, they can have all the democracy they want
They can have a big democracy cakewalk
Right through the middle of Tiananmen Square
and it wont make a lick of difference
Because weve got the bombs, OK?
John Wayne's not dead, hes frozen, and as soon as we find a cure for cancer
Were gonna thaw out the duke and hes gonna be pretty pissed off
You know why,
Have you ever taken a cold shower, well multiply that by 15 million times
Thats how pissed off the dukes gonna be!
I'm gonna get the Duke, and John Cassavetes,
and Lee Marvin, and Sam Peckinpah, and a case of whiskey,
and drive down to Texas and say.....

(Hey! You know, you really are an asshole!)
Why don't you just shut up and sing the song, pal?
Im an asshole (hes an asshole.what an asshole)
Im an asshole (hes the worlds biggest asshole)

A-S-S-H-O-L-E
Everybody
A-S-S-H-O-L-E

Im an asshole and Im proud of it

Read more: http://artists.letssingit.com/denis-leary-lyrics-asshole-td9m88p#ixzz3Gxh4tArT
LetsSingIt - Your favorite Music Community

October 23, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterrobert

I tried to be nice, I tried to live my life
But everyone else is an asshole
I tried to forgive, I tried to live and let live
But everyone else is an asshole
And everybody else thinks of no one but themselves
And no one wants to help cause they're all assholes
And every friendly chat is a knife in the back
A sneaky attack waiting to happen
...
But I couldn't take their shit, so I tried to deal with it
And now I look a bit like an asshole.
They called it assault, but it really wasn't my fault
Everyone else is an asshole
...
Everyone else, everyone else
Everyone else is an asshole
You're an asshole too
I'm talking bout you, and you, and you
You're an asshole too

Everyone Else is an Asshole - Reel Big Fish
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjb7rC-RnVc

October 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMax

Funny to hear left-wingers whine about the entitlement mentality of conservatives. How dare those entitled bourgeoisie bristle at paying the medical and college costs of illegal immigrant, Affirmative Action, Chicano Studies majors. Those assholes.

October 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMax

Listening to that episode I couldn't help but think that, for a lot of the examples given (someone cutting in line, driving inconsiderately, dropping in on a wave whilst surfing), if you labelled that person an "asshole" you would be making a Fundamental Attribution Error. That is, concluding that the behaviour is a result of their fundamental nature as "an asshole", rather than being a product of their circumstance at that point in time.

We are all capable of "asshole" behaviour given the right (wrong?) circumstances, whether it's due to stress, hormones, low blood sugar, or because nobody ever taught us the (not immediately self-evident) etiquette of which waves to catch when surfing. It's easy to imagine a situation in which we ourselves might be the one behaving in an asshole-like manner, even though very few of us consider ourselves to actually *be* assholes.

Similarly, what is acceptable behaviour in one culture may be considered asshole behaviour in another. That isn't to say that all cultures are equally valid so we should just suck it up and accept it—there are good arguments for why certain cultural practices are clearly more beneficial to society than others (eg everyone waiting their turn vs pushing past each other competitively)—but to conclude that someone who breaks the "rules" of our culture must therefore inherently be an asshole is not only wrong, but it also prevents us from understanding what actually is causing that behaviour and how we might most effectively respond. It also increased the degree to which the behaviour annoys us.

When someone cuts you off in traffic, your brain's initial reaction is surprise—this is not the way most drivers behave—and, like any unexpected observation, your brain needs to find a way to explain it and fit it into your model of reality. The lazy way to do this is to conclude "he's an asshole", as though "asshole" were a particular phenotype that just occurs at a certain rate in the human population. But whilst this "explanation" may feel satisfying, it doesn't really help you understand what's actually going on.

Furthermore, the moment you conclude that someone is an asshole, you very quickly begin to feel anger and indignation which, as Julia pointed out, is perhaps an evolutionary response. This anger and indignation is actually the primary "harm" that the behaviour causes (the 5 seconds that the inconsiderate driver cost you is nothing compared with the anger and resentment that can linger for hours) so the goal here is really to find a way to avoid feeling that anger and indignation.

My solution is as follows: firstly, try to train yourself to recognise the initial surprise when you encounter asshole-like behaviour and then, rather than reach for the low-hanging explanation of "he's an asshole", ask your self "What combination of cultural background, upbringing, lack-of-education, insecurity, stress, hunger, etc. would cause me to behave that way?". Develop a hypothesis that has testable predictions ("I think he's a self-taught surfer who never learned proper etiquette so I could ask him about when/where he learned to surf"), or even if you can't test it (such as in the case of a driver cutting you off) think about what seems the most plausible.

This approach not only diverts the attention of your brain away from the natural feeling of anger and indignation, but it also makes it easier to empathise with that person and, ultimately, forgive them. Once you have forgiven them—truly and genuinely—you will no longer feel angry. Forgiveness is an extremely useful skill to practice in that way because it completely resolves anger, resentment and a whole host of other negative feelings that decrease your quality of life. It's not easy, but like most things it gets easier with deliberate, mindful practice and eventually becomes habit.

October 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterA_guy_named_Tom

I only listened to the first 13 minutes, I got fed up with hearing Dawkins, who is one of my heroes, maligned as an "asshole" with so little justification. The only transgression mentioned was talking about philosophy, a field in which he does not have a PhD. I think it is a stretch to call anyone who expresses opinions outside their own field an "asshole". Could we similarly call a non-psychologist who attacks evo psych an "asshole"? What about Bill Nye, the Science Guy? He is educated only as a mechanical engineer, yet he is one of the most prominent spokespeople in the media attacking Creationism (though he lacks a Phd in biology) and climate change denial (though he has no education in climate science). Neil deGrasse Tyson argues that we can afford to spend more on manned space exploration, yet he has no education in economics or accounting.

And the two philosophers on the podcast had such consensus that opinions expressed in The God Delusion were amatuerish to anyone well-studied in philosophy, but they never mentioned what the shortcomings were. OK, I've only taken one philosophy class in my life, maybe they have good reasons for their opinions, but it would have been good to hear what those good reasons were.

October 27, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterlalawawa

I agree that inclusion of Richard Dawkins is bogus. He's opinionated and speaks his mind. That isn't A-holery. He isn't rude or thoughtless.

October 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCurt Nelson

Is an Asshole a de facto Lowlife with fully fledged pretensions of being an Aristocrat, and who therefore feels they are inherently privileged and superior? A ROTTEN NOBLESSE OBLIGE ! ABOVE IT ALL! CANNOT BE BOTHERED! Chaney and Dawkins' respective collective solipsism (an achievement in and of it self) is most assuredly exemplary in this regard.. The ancien regime still prevails! Remnants of a fossilized feudalism, methinks!

October 31, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterOmar Mustafa

I also ding you guys for calling Dawkins an asshole. While he may give short shrift to philosophical issues, you can't immerse yourself in nuance and hope to capture a popular audience. People who obsess over one particular topic will no doubt find it painful to see that topic discussed by those less specialized, but they must remember that the word for people who can't leave out details is "bore".

November 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGreg Esres

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March 31, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAkhil
"Funny to hear left-wingers whine about the entitlement mentality of conservatives. How dare those entitled bourgeoisie bristle at paying the medical and college costs of illegal immigrant, Affirmative Action, Chicano Studies majors. Those assholes."

quite the fitting comment for a topic on Assholes here huh Max? ;p
October 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterErnesto

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