with Spencer Greenberg
the podcast about ideas that matter

Episode 107: A philosophical theory of jerks (with Eric Schwitzgebel)

June 2, 2022

To what extent does thinking about ethics actually cause a person to behave more ethically? Do ethicists behave more ethically than the average person, or are they just better at justifying their unethical behavior? Why do we sometimes have strong negative reactions to people who seem "too" moral — even if they're genuinely altruistic and not just acting as though they're better than everyone else? Is morality inherently motivating? More specifically, are some kinds of moral beliefs more motivating than others (e.g., beliefs obtained through reasoning vs. beliefs adopted because of social pressures vs. implicit beliefs to which our brains are predisposed for evolutionary reasons, etc.)? In philosophical terms, what is a jerk? How many kinds of jerks are there? Are philosophers mostly trying to find the truth, or are they mostly just playing logic games?

Eric Schwitzgebel is a professor of philosophy at University of California, Riverside. He has published widely in moral psychology and philosophy of mind, including on the moral behavior of ethics professors, on introspection and consciousness, and on the role of science fiction in philosophical thinking. His most recent book is A Theory of Jerks and Other Philosophical Misadventures. He blogs at The Splintered Mind.

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