Not hiring Assholes

May 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

A long time ago in undergrad school, after a Kant class, a friend said he was all down with the categorical imperative, but thought that it could be simplified.  “Don’t be a dick,” he said, really captures all that matters.

And then a couple days ago, in a discussion of Francis Beckwith, a poster on the newappsblog said “I’m sure that most everyone would agree that Beckwith is a sexist. However, in this instance, I think it has more to do with the fact that Beckwith is an asshole rather than that he is a sexist.”

I think both comments are insightful.  It is enormously rare that anyone is JUST a sexist.  Vices aren’t atomic that way, at least usually.  People who are assholes in general – domineering, arrogant, bullying, dogmatic, etc. – are likely to take that out on anyone with less power, and that is often enough going to be women.

That said, I believe it is a decidedly WWDAWIL instance that my department makes a conscious effort not to hire assholes.  Sometimes this means turning down prestigious people when we find out they are engaged in sexual harassment, but sometimes it just means that they show up and disparage philosophers they haven’t read, or condescend to and bully grad students.  We don’t hire such people because we are confident that however individually smart they are, and however much they publish, the department as a whole will be less productive with such people in it.

We don’t put this requirement in ads, of course, but we do talk about it and everyone is behind it.  I heartily recommend it.


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