"Atlas Shrugged" Movie, Free Riding, Siblings, and More
Webcast Q&A: Sunday, 17 April 2011
I answered questions on review of the movie Atlas Shrugged, Part 1, the morality of free riding, browsing without buying, age in romance, responsibility for siblings, desires and determinism, and more on Philosophy in Action Radio on Sunday, 17 April 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: 58:26
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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: 17 April 2011
Question: What did you think of the movie Atlas Shrugged, Part 1?
Answer, In Brief: The movie was a C+. The basic story and characters were left intact, yet it suffered from a range of defects as a drama, some quite serious. The take-home message is simple: read the book!
Question: Is it morally wrong to be a free rider? Some people say that it's wrong to be a free rider – for example, by sneaking into a movie without paying for it, using a gas station bathroom without buying anything, accepting a ride to the airport but refusing to return the favor, hiking on trails in your community without helping to maintain them, or enjoying the Christmas lights of your neighbors without putting up your own. In such cases, you seem to be enjoying a benefit from someone else that you've not paid for or earned. Isn't that unjust, and hence, morally wrong?
Answer, In Brief: The term "free rider" is a massive package-deal. Any action ought to serve your long-term rational self-interest: you must act virtuously and respect the rights of others. Within that framework, the myriad benefits available to you from living in society ought to be accepted and enjoyed.
Question: Is it immoral to browse a store with no intention of buying there? Is it immoral to take advantage of the freedom to look through books in a bookstore, or to try out a laptop in a shop, with no intention to actually buying it in that shop? For instance, you check out a book in the shop to decide whether you want to buy it, knowing that if you buy it, you'll do so from Amazon instead. Is that wrong?
Answer, In Brief: Local merchants must compete with online sellers, and customers ought feign an interest to those merchants if unwilling to give them a chance to compete.
Question 4: Age in Romance (39:05)
Question: Should age matter in romance? Is it in your rational best interest to date someone who is significantly older or younger than you? Assuming that both individuals are mature, is there anything wrong with an 18 year old dating someone who is 38? Or a 40 year old dating someone who is 60? Or a 70 year old dating someone in their 20s? Does age matter?
Answer, In Brief: Age can matter in romance, because people in different life-stages might not be able to integrate their lives into a happy unity. Hence, a couple would need to discuss and agree on how to deal with the difficulties created by the age gap for the relationship to last.
Question: Do I have any responsibility towards my younger brother? My parents constantly ask me to help my brother with his studies, homework, etc, and look after him when they're out and do things for him at the expense of my own studies and time. But I don't find any value in helping my brother. Should I refuse to help my parents in this way?
Answer, In Brief: You are not your brother's keeper! However, while under your parents' roof, your option are limited. Speak to them: calmly express how you feel unfairly burdened by your younger brother, then seek a mutually satisfactory arrangement, such as agreeing to watch him for a certain number of hours per week, payment for watching him, etc.
Question: How do you validate free will? For example, if a man is hungry and he values his life, then wouldn't his eating be predetermined?
Answer, In Brief: Free will is validated by introspection, including your power to act against bodily appetites like hunger. The question confuses the final causation involved in motivated action with the efficient causation of determined action.
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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.