Nuclear War, Genetic Diseases, Recreation, and More
Radio Q&A: Sunday, 23 September 2012
I answered questions on the morality of nuclear weapons, passing genetic diseases to kids, calling the police on marijuana smokers, productiveness versus recreation, and more on Philosophy in Action Radio on Sunday, 23 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: I was super-busy preparing for the Coalition for Secular Government's trial in federal court against Colorado's anti-free-speech campaign finance laws, but that was delayed, since "personhood" is almost certain not to make the ballot in 2012. Also, next Sunday after the broadcast, I'll be speaking on "Equality: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly" at the Free Minds Film Festival in Colorado Springs.
- Duration: 1:07:56
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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: 23 September 2012
Question: When should nuclear weapons be used, if ever? Under what circumstances would a free society use nuclear weapons – or chemical or biological weapons? Are they so destructive that their use would never be acceptable? Or might they be used in self-defense to win a war or win a war more quickly?
Answer, In Brief: All wars should be for self-defense, and in that context, nuclear weapons may be the most effective way to bring a speedy end to the conflict with minimal loss to one's own side.
Question: Should people with severe genetic diseases take active measures to prevent passing the disease to their children? Some people have severe hereditary diseases – such as Huntington's or Multiple Sclerosis – that might be passed on to their biological children. If that happens, the child will be burdened with the disease later in life, perhaps suffering for years and dying young. Is it wrong for such people to conceive and merely hope for the best – rather than screening for the disease (and aborting if necessary), using donor eggs or sperm, or adopting? Are the parents who just hope for the best harming their future child? Are they violating their child's rights by refusing to take advantage of available technology for preventing the disease?
Answer, In Brief: To knowingly conceive a child likely to suffer from a serious genetic disorder is a major failure of the basic moral principles and obligations of a parent.
Question: Is it moral to use the law to force someone to stop doing something that shouldn't be illegal? Is it moral to make use of a law that shouldn't exist? For example, suppose you live in a condo and your next-door neighbor smokes marijuana. You're annoyed by the smell. On the one hand, it shouldn't be illegal for him to smoke up; on the other, the law's existence precludes your finding a condo association with a voluntary agreement not to use pot. Is it morally proper to call the cops or should you let him be?
Answer, In Brief: The person has many other options to pursue in this case to eliminate the nuisance, rather than ruining someone's life via a drug charge.
Question: Is time for recreation compatible with the virtue of productiveness? If productive work is the means by which I achieve my values, how can one justify spending even one minute doing something that doesn't propel me toward some value? I am specifically referring to leisure activities like going to the movies, playing video games, and following sports. I'm not referring to activities that have obvious benefits like sleep, exercise, or cooking healthy food. What about hobbies that are enriching, but ultimately have no productive purpose like dance or guitar lessons (assuming I don't want to perform in either context as a career)? Is pursuing such hobbies wrong?
Answer, In Brief: The question wrongly assumes that work should be a person's highest value. In fact, a person should work to live, not live to work.
Rapid Fire Questions (59:44)
- Do Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all worship the same God?
- Is there such a thing as indigenous rights? Might a remote tribe have a right to the land they use for hunting?
- Is it wrong to borrow money from your parents if they're willing to loan it?
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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.