About Blaming Assholes

Thinking like an asshole: The man takes it as given (perhaps subconsciously or inchoately) that he is justified in allowing himself special advantages in social relations, in light of special entitlement to them. That is, his sense of special entitlement tells him that he has no reason or insufficient reason to abide by the expectations of conduct that normally apply among mere mortals.

So while the fully cooperative person takes there to be good and normally sufficient reasons to queue up in good order when a line has formed, the asshole sees no reason he should wait, or at least no reason sufficiently good to justify the inconvenience. His line-cutting action is thus his action, simply because it reflects his normative views: he’d defend them if we asked him why he thought it should be acceptable. To the extend he is also wrong about what reasons he has or doesn’t have, to the extent he has a mistaken normative perspective, he is the appropriate object of blame. He is the appropriate object of blame just because he thinks like an asshole, just because his actions flow from that (mistaken) set of moral views. He is to blame because, in that attitudinal sense, he fails to recognise others as the equals they are, by failing to recognise what treating them as equals calls for.

Aaron James – Assholes: A Theory

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