Judging Others, Chivalry, Blue Laws, and More
Radio Q&A: Sunday, 16 September 2012
I answered questions on judging people struggling with temptations, judging others when I'm flawed, chivalry as a virtue, blue laws, and more on Philosophy in Action Radio on Sunday, 16 September 2012. 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.
My News of the Week: Paul and I were visiting my parents early in the week, and now I'm super-busy preparing for the Coalition for Secular Government's trial in federal court against Colorado's anti-free-speech campaign finance laws.
- Duration: 1:11:18
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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: 16 September 2012
Question: Does a person deserve extra moral praise for acting rightly despite strong contrary emotions? How does overcoming strong emotions in order to do the right thing (or refrain from doing the wrong thing) factor into morally judging a person? If person A has no emotional conflict and thus does the right thing more or less "effortlessly," while person B takes the same correct action despite strong emotional motivation to act otherwise, does person B deserve any extra moral credit for the amount of emotional or mental effort he made? Or is moral judgment to be made solely on the basis of actions, with internal mental effort being irrelevant?
Answer, In Brief: It is far better for a person to cultivate a virtuous moral character so that right actions are easy for him, rather than constantly struggling against temptation. Still, it's proper to praise moral effort, not only because it's better to struggle than to sink into wrongdoing, but also because such moral effort is the process by which a person creates a virtuous character.
Question: It is wrong to judge others when I'm still flawed? Given that I have various inconsistencies and unresolved contradictions, for me to morally judge others seems like self-righteousness. Does a person need to be morally good (or even perfect) to justly judge others?
Answer, In Brief: A person needs to morally judge others in order to protect and advance his goals – and that's true whether he's fully virtuous or still in the process of achieving that.
Question 3: Chivalry as a Virtue (37:46)
Question: Is chivalry virtuous? In the Aurora Masacre, three men died in the process of physically shielding their girlfriends from the gunfire. Is that kind of sacrifice noble? More generally, does chivalry have any place in an ethic of rational egoism?
Answer, In Brief: Chivalry is not a virtue, but an religious, altruistic, and sexist moral code. Sacrificial ethics work as well in emergencies as they do in ordinary life – which is, not at all. In an emergency, people should work together to survive, not offer themselves as sacrifices.
Question 4: Blue Laws (51:21)
Question: Do "blue laws" violate rights? Many communities have "blue laws" – such as prohibitions on selling liquor, or even cars or other goods, on Sundays. Are these laws violations of the separation of church and state?
Answer, In Brief: Blue laws violate rights, including the proper separation of church and state. They should be repealed, to the last.
Rapid Fire Questions (57:46)
- In his recent e-mail to Cato employees, John Allison said "I have come to appreciate that all objectivists are libertarians, but not all libertarians are objectivists". Would this mean something different of one or both of the terms "libertarian" or "objectivist" were capitalized?
- What do you think of New York City's ban on big sugary drinks?
- When, if ever, should children be tried as adults?
- How should intellectual property be protected abroad?
- How come America only has two parties? I live in a country that's smaller than some of your states and saw twenty candidates on our ballot today.
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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 email@example.com.