Value-Density, Christianity Versus Capitalism, and More
Webcast Q&A: Sunday, 27 February 2011
I answered questions on living a value-dense life, Christianity versus capitalism, being sentimental, student and senior discounts, buying an evildoer's book, helping a stranger in an emergency, and more on Philosophy in Action Radio on Sunday, 27 February 2011. Greg Perkins of Objectivist Answers was my co-host. You can listen to or download the podcast below.Remember, Philosophy in Action Radio is available to anyone, free of charge. That's because our goal is to spread rational principles for real life far and wide, as we do every week to thousands of listeners. We love doing that, but each episode requires our time, effort, and money. So if you enjoy and value our work, please contribute to our tip jar. We suggest $5 per episode or $20 per month, but any amount is appreciated. You can send your contribution via Dwolla, PayPal, or US Mail.
- Duration: 1:01:06
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My first book, Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame, is available for purchase in paperback, as well as for Kindle and Nook.
Does the pervasive influence of luck in life mean that people cannot be held responsible for their choices? Do people lack the control required to justify moral praise and blame? In his famous article "Moral Luck," philosopher Thomas Nagel casts doubt on our ordinary moral judgments of persons. He claims that we intuitively accept that moral responsibility requires control, yet we praise and blame people for their actions, the outcomes of those actions, and their characters – even though shaped by forces beyond their control, i.e., by luck. This is the "problem of moral luck."
In Responsibility & Luck, I argue that this attack on moral judgment rests on a faulty view of control, as well as other errors. By developing Aristotle's theory of moral responsibility, I explain the sources and limits of a person's responsibility for what he does, what he produces, and who he is. Ultimately, I show that moral judgments are not undermined by luck. In addition, this book explores the nature of moral agency and free will, the purpose of moral judgment, causation in tort and criminal law, the process of character development, and more.
Responsibility & Luck is scholarly but accessible to active-minded people interested in philosophy. You can preview the book by reading Chapter One and Chapter Three as PDFs – or by listening to my reading of Chapter One.
Segments: 27 February 2011
Question: What does it mean to live a "value-dense" life? What is value density? How can we make our lives more value dense? How might the concept apply to productivity, vacations, education, and social events, for example?
Answer, In Brief: To live a value-dense life means that your life rich with values – as opposed to when you simply fritter away your time, energy, and resources.
Question: How can a conservative Christian also be a supporter of capitalism? Isn't the Christian philosophy diametrically opposed to the basic principles of egoism and reason necessary to fully support laissez-faire capitalism?
Answer, In Brief: While many Christians support free markets, they cannot be reconciled. Christianity is hostile to every value of capitalism – wealth, profits, individual rights, planning, material pursuits, private property, and egoism.
Question 3: Being Sentimental (25:48)
Question: Is it moral to be sentimental? Some dictionaries define sentiment as an attitude based on emotion rather than reason. Is this accurate? Would it then be moral or rational to be sentimental? For example, would it be moral or rational to: (1) Hold on to your favorite childhood toys when you are an adult (assuming you have the space for them), even if they don't carry the same meaning for you now but they bring about good memories and feelings? (2) Keep old love letters or pictures of friends that you are not on speaking terms with (but were, at one time, good friends with) because they remind you of "the good times"?
Answer, In Brief: To be sentimental is to be "of or prompted by feelings of tenderness, sadness, or nostalgia." That can be rational or not, depending on the particulars. To live in the past or to romanticize the past is wrong. But reflections on and mementos of past achievements and experiences is part of what makes a person's life an integrated sum, rather than just a series of moments. And that's good!
Question: Are student and senior discounts proper? Aren't these purely need-based discounts? Isn't that unjust, i.e. penalizing people for earning more? For example, is it wrong to ask for monetary contributions for this webcast from people able to pay, but allow people unable to pay to attend too?
Answer, In Brief: Student and senior discounts in business are not altruism, but rather sources of additional profit, as well as investment in future customers.
Question: Would you recommend buying Nathaniel Branden's Vision of Ayn Rand or not? Given Nathaniel Branden's history of dishonest attacks on Ayn Rand and Objectivism, would you recommend that anyone buy this book? (It's the book version of his "Basic Principles of Objectivism" course.) I've thought about buying it, but I don't want to support that man in any way.
Answer, In Brief: You should not give moral sanction to an evildoer's book, recommend it without qualifications, or give the evildoer a platform. However, if the book would be of value to you, then you ought to buy it.
Question: Should you help a man who's dying in front of you? Suppose it will cost you two hours and 200 dollars to save the life of a man you do not know. Should you do it?
Answer, In Brief: We have no moral obligation to help others simply in virtue of their need. However, a person who would refuse to offer assistance in case of an emergency – when to do so would not be a sacrifice – displays frightening and dangerous ignorance of the value of other people.
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Remember, Philosophy in Action Radio is available to anyone, free of charge. That's because our goal is to spread rational principles for real life far and wide, as we do every week to thousands of listeners. We love doing that, but each episode requires our time, effort, and money. So if you enjoy and value our work, please contribute to our tip jar. We suggest $5 per episode or $20 per month, but any amount is appreciated. You can send your contribution via Dwolla, PayPal, or US Mail.
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About Philosophy in Action Radio
I'm Dr. Diana Hsieh. I'm a philosopher specializing the application of rational principles to the challenges of real life. I received my Ph.D in philosophy from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2009. My first book, Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame, is available for purchase in paperback, as well as for Kindle and Nook. The book defends the justice of moral praise and blame of persons using an Aristotelian theory of moral responsibility, thereby refuting Thomas Nagel's "problem of moral luck."
My radio show, Philosophy in Action Radio, broadcasts live over the internet on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. On Sunday mornings, I answer four meaty questions applying rational principles to the challenges of real life in a live hour-long show. Greg Perkins of Objectivist Answers co-hosts the show. On Wednesday evenings, I interview an expert guest about a topic of practical importance.
If you join us for the live broadcasts, you can ask follow-up questions and make comments in the text-based chat. Otherwise, you can listen to the podcast by subscribing to our Podcast RSS Feed. You can also peruse the show archives, where episodes and questions are sorted by date and by topic.
I can be reached via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.