Sep 022015
 

This is belated notification of one of Forbes column from last month: “Free Speech 1, FDA 0“.

I discuss an update to my earlier Forbes piece on drug company Amarin’s fight to engage in free speech in the form of off-label marketing of one of its products.

Basically, Amarin wanted to give truthful medical information to doctors which would allow them to more effectively use one of their drugs in a way that was legal, but not FDA-approved. The FDA forbade Amarin from engaging in such speech, and Amarin sued the FDA.

Last week, Amarin won an important legal victory in federal court. Judge Paul Engelmayer came down firmly on the side of free speech.

For more details see the full text of, “Free Speech 1, FDA 0“.

(Earlier Forbes piece, “Drug Company Amarin Stands Up For Free Speech Against FDA“, 5/8/2015.)

 

My latest Forbes piece is now out: “The Positive Value of Negative Drug Trials“.

I discuss the unfortunate bias against publishing “negative” scientific results that show a drug doesn’t have much clinical benefit, and why it’s in the self-interest of drug companies to still report these.

In particular, I highlighted two interesting facts:

1) Most drug trial results are still not being reported to a central registry.

2) Negative results funded by private industry (e.g., pharmaceutical companies) are more likely to be reported than from government-funded research.

Fortunately, free market incentives are driving more drug companies towards full disclosure of both positive and negative study results — which will benefit patients.

For more details, read the full text of “The Positive Value of Negative Drug Trials“.

Aug 312015
 

On Sunday’s episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, Greg Perkins and I answered questions on impartialism in ethics, changing names with marriage, and more. The podcast of that episode is now available for streaming or downloading.

You can automatically download podcasts of Philosophy in Action Radio by subscribing to Philosophy in Action’s Podcast RSS Feed:


Whole Podcast: 30 August 2015

Listen or Download:

Remember the Tip Jar!

The mission of Philosophy in Action is to spread rational principles for real life… far and wide. That’s why the vast majority of my work is available to anyone, free of charge. I love doing the radio show, but each episode requires an investment of time, effort, and money to produce. So if you enjoy and value that work of mine, please contribute to the tip jar. I suggest $5 per episode or $20 per month, but any amount is appreciated. In return, contributors can request that I answer questions from the queue pronto, and regular contributors enjoy free access to premium content and other goodies.


Podcast Segments: 30 August 2015

You can download or listen to my answers to individual questions from this episode below.

Introduction

My News of the Week: Last weekend, I participated in really useful workshop on self-improvement in Atlanta. I got lots of ideas to bring to the show, and now there’s lots of reading that I want to do.

Question 1: Impartialism in Ethics

Question: Does ethics require impartiality? Critics of egoism, particularly utilitarians, accuse egoists of being biased in favor of oneself without justification. They assert that a scientific ethics must be neutral and impartial: it must take a third-person viewpoint where the self isn’t given any special consideration. Are the utilitarians wrong? If so, why should a scientific ethics bias the self over others?

My Answer, In Brief: Impartialism in ethics attempts to disconnect the good from the agent, and thereby oblige people to promote everyone’s good, not just their own. However, the arguments for that are weak, the results are appalling. Ethics should be partial – in the sense that ethics should promote the good of the agent – but they should be universal and benevolent too.

Listen or Download:

Links:

To comment on this question or my answer, visit its comment thread.

Question 2: Changing Names with Marriage

Question: Should I change my name when I marry? I’m a gay man who is engaged to be married. The question has come up about whether or not either of us would change our last name and historically we’ve said no. We have thought we would just maintain our given names. My fiance doesn’t want to change his name and we both think trying to hyphenate our last names would be unwieldy and fussy. But as we’ve talked about planning a family in the future, it’s occurred to me that I actually like the idea of sharing a name with my husband and my children. So, I’ve been considering changing my name. Somewhat ironically, however, changing my name means giving up a five-generation-old family name in order to take on the name of our new family. I don’t mind this irony very much since my decision would be about taking on a family I choose rather than one I didn’t. What do you think? What pros and cons do you see for changing your name at marriage? Do you see any additional pros or cons for gay men considering this question?

My Answer, In Brief: If you’re thinking of changing your name, be sure to do or not do it for good reasons!

Listen or Download:

To comment on this question or my answer, visit its comment thread.

Rapid Fire Questions

Questions:

  • On commissioning art, what about the morality of commissioning fanart of work not yet in public domain? Like a drawing of superman or a short story about Ragnar Danneskjold? (This would not be for publication, just for yourself.)
  • What is your opinion of the anthropic principle that “observations of the physical universe must be compatible with the conscious life that observes it”? Does it beg the question?
  • Are there any normative propositions that are axiomatic? – done?
  • What are oaths? Are they just romantic elements for fiction or real things that are useful some way?
  • Do you believe there are unconscious parts of the human mind? If so, what implications does this have for free will?
  • Are all people interdependent? What does that mean?
  • Benjamin Franklin wrote letters to his brother’s newspaper posing as a widow named Silence Dogood (the original “sock puppet account”). If you met Franklin in person, would you find him untrustworthy?

Listen or Download:

  • Start Time: 45:19
  • Duration: 17:05
  • Download: MP3 Segment

To comment on these questions or my answers, visit its comment thread.

Conclusion

Be sure to check out the topics scheduled for upcoming episodes! Don’t forget to submit and vote on questions for future episodes too!

  • Start Time: 1:02:24


About Philosophy in Action Radio

Philosophy in Action Radio focuses on the application of rational principles to the challenges of real life. It broadcasts live on most Sunday mornings and many Thursday evenings over the internet. For information on upcoming shows, visit the Episodes on Tap. For podcasts of past shows, visit the Show Archives.

Philosophy in Action's NewsletterPhilosophy in Action's Facebook PagePhilosophy in Action's Twitter StreamPhilosophy in Action's RSS FeedsPhilosophy in Action's Calendar

 

On Sunday’s episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, Greg Perkins and I will answer questions on impartialism in ethics, changing names with marriage, accusations of date rape, and more. This episode of internet radio airs at 8 am PT / 9 MT / 10 CT / 11 ET on Sunday, 30 August 2015, in our live studio. If you can’t listen live, you’ll find the podcast on the episode’s archive page.

This week’s questions are:

  • Question 1: Impartialism in Ethics: Does ethics require impartiality? Critics of egoism, particularly utilitarians, accuse egoists of being biased in favor of oneself without justification. They assert that a scientific ethics must be neutral and impartial: it must take a third-person viewpoint where the self isn’t given any special consideration. Are the utilitarians wrong? If so, why should a scientific ethics bias the self over others?
  • Question 2: Changing Names with Marriage: Should I change my name when I marry? I’m a gay man who is engaged to be married. The question has come up about whether or not either of us would change our last name and historically we’ve said no. We have just thought we would just maintain our given names. My fiance doesn’t want to change his name and we both think trying to hyphenate our last names would be unwieldy and fussy. But as we’ve talked about planning a family in the future, it’s occurred to me that I actually like the idea of sharing a name with my husband and my children. So, I’ve been considering changing my name. Somewhat ironically, however, changing my name means giving up a five-generation-old family name in order to take on the name of our new family. I don’t mind this irony very much since my decision would be about taking on a family I choose rather than one I don’t. What do you think? What pros and cons do you see for changing your name at marriage? Do you see any additional pros or cons for gay men considering this question?
  • Question 3: Accusations of Date Rape: What’s the proper response to an accusation of date rape in the absence of hard evidence? When faced with this kind of serious accusation within a social group, what is the proper judgment and course of action? If the victim seems believable, should the accused rapist be shunned or banned from the group? Should private warnings be given to group members? Does refusing to engage in any public discussion of the matter constitute silent assent to the crime? Or should judgment and action be reserved until further evidence comes to light?

After that, we’ll tackle some impromptu “Rapid Fire Questions.”

To join the live broadcast and its chat, just point your browser to Philosophy in Action’s Live Studio a few minutes before the show is scheduled to start. By listening live, you can share your thoughts with other listeners and ask us follow-up questions in the text chat.

The podcast of this episode will be available shortly after the live broadcast here: Radio Archive: Q&A: Impartialist Ethics, Name Changes, Rape Accusations, and More. You can automatically download that and other podcasts by subscribing to Philosophy in Action’s Podcast RSS Feed:

I hope you join us for the live show or enjoy the podcast later. Also, please share this announcement with any friends interested in these topics!

Philosophy in Action Radio focuses on the application of rational principles to the challenges of real life. It broadcasts live on most Sunday mornings and many Thursday evenings over the internet. For information on upcoming shows, visit the Episodes on Tap. For podcasts of past shows, visit the Show Archives.

Philosophy in Action's NewsletterPhilosophy in Action's Facebook PagePhilosophy in Action's Twitter StreamPhilosophy in Action's RSS FeedsPhilosophy in Action's Calendar

 

On Sunday’s episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, Greg Perkins and I answered questions on confidence in opinions, delegation in marriage, deriving self-esteem from university study, and more. The podcast of that episode is now available for streaming or downloading.

You can automatically download podcasts of Philosophy in Action Radio by subscribing to Philosophy in Action’s Podcast RSS Feed:


Whole Podcast: 16 August 2015

Listen or Download:

Remember the Tip Jar!

The mission of Philosophy in Action is to spread rational principles for real life… far and wide. That’s why the vast majority of my work is available to anyone, free of charge. I love doing the radio show, but each episode requires an investment of time, effort, and money to produce. So if you enjoy and value that work of mine, please contribute to the tip jar. I suggest $5 per episode or $20 per month, but any amount is appreciated. In return, contributors can request that I answer questions from the queue pronto, and regular contributors enjoy free access to premium content and other goodies.


Podcast Segments: 16 August 2015

You can download or listen to my answers to individual questions from this episode below.

Introduction

My News of the Week: I’m recovered from my migraines, thank goodness!

Question 1: Confidence in Opinions

Question: How much confidence should a person express in her own opinions? I work with a woman who constantly makes declarative statements about things for which she lacks sufficient facts and knowledge. The result is that she is often contradicted and people have to tell her, “That’s not true.” She will argue with them and then they have to prove her wrong so that the conversation can move forward. By contrast, I’ve noticed that I often express uncertainty in ways that undermine confidence in my knowledge and experience. The default position I tend to take is that maybe I am missing something and the other people in the conversation can give me that information. How does one learn to strike the right balance between being open to new facts and information but also being confident in one’s own knowledge and experience?

My Answer, In Brief: The problem with your co-worker is not overconfidence, but a lack of concern for the facts but instead having some other agenda. That’s the key to not being underconfident or overconfident: focusing on the facts, including the evidence that justifies your beliefs, and then accurately conveying that to others.

Listen or Download:

To comment on this question or my answer, visit its comment thread.

Question 2: Delegation in Marriage

Question: When is delegation in a marriage irresponsible or unwise? There are some parts of normal adult life that I’m really bad at, in part due to social anxiety. Examples include calling or meeting with companies (airlines, banks, etc) to make changes, writing emails that involve stress or conflict, scheduling events that we’ll both attend, budgeting and finance, driving and navigating, and dealing with mechanical stuff. Should I ask my husband to do those chores? If I ask for help, I worry that I’m being weak, lazy, and avoiding my responsibilities. On the other hand, if I try to do the hard things on my own, I often mess up. Where’s the line between delegating and shirking?

My Answer, In Brief: It’s good to delegate in marriage based on strengths and weaknesses. However, that’s different from one spouse enabling dependence and psychological problems in the other. Instead, use your spouse’s help to overcome these problems so that you’re more competent at life.

Listen or Download:

To comment on this question or my answer, visit its comment thread.

Question 3: Deriving Self-Esteem from University Study

Question: Can a person derive any self-esteem or happiness from university study? Study is not a productive activity: it is preparation for future productivity. In light of this, how can I draw any self-esteem from my studies, whether successful or not? Can I consider my learning as “productive achievement” even though I am not making any money from it or creating anything? Do I have to wait until later to start being happy or feeling self-esteem? Should I be working on the side while taking classes?

My Answer, In Brief: You can and should derive self-esteem and happiness from university study – and from every life-serving activity, even if not productive work. If that weren’t the case, a person wouldn’t survive to the point of starting his career.

Listen or Download:

To comment on this question or my answer, visit its comment thread.

Rapid Fire Questions

Questions:

  • What do you think is the status of the death premise in America? Is hatred of the good for being the good a major force? What are some examples of that premise at work in modern America?
  • What do you think of the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump?

Listen or Download:

  • Start Time: 57:25
  • Duration: 6:19
  • Download: MP3 Segment

To comment on these questions or my answers, visit its comment thread.

Conclusion

Be sure to check out the topics scheduled for upcoming episodes! Don’t forget to submit and vote on questions for future episodes too!

  • Start Time: 1:03:45


About Philosophy in Action Radio

Philosophy in Action Radio focuses on the application of rational principles to the challenges of real life. It broadcasts live on most Sunday mornings and many Thursday evenings over the internet. For information on upcoming shows, visit the Episodes on Tap. For podcasts of past shows, visit the Show Archives.

Philosophy in Action's NewsletterPhilosophy in Action's Facebook PagePhilosophy in Action's Twitter StreamPhilosophy in Action's RSS FeedsPhilosophy in Action's Calendar

 

On Sunday’s episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, Greg Perkins and I will answer questions on confidence in opinions, delegation in marriage, deriving self-esteem from university study, and more. This episode of internet radio airs at 8 am PT / 9 MT / 10 CT / 11 ET on Sunday, 16 August 2015, in our live studio. If you can’t listen live, you’ll find the podcast on the episode’s archive page.

Note: This episode was scheduled for last Sunday, but due to a terrible migraine on Saturday, I had to cancel and reschedule it.

This week’s questions are:

  • Question 1: Confidence in Opinions: How much confidence should a person express in her own opinions? I work with a woman who constantly makes declarative statements about things for which she lacks sufficient facts and knowledge. The result is that she is often contradicted and people have to tell her, “That’s not true.” She will argue with them and then they have to prove her wrong so that the conversation can move forward. By contrast, I’ve noticed that I often express uncertainty in ways that undermine confidence in my knowledge and experience. The default position I tend to take is that maybe I am missing something and the other people in the conversation can give me that information. How does one learn to strike the right balance between being open to new facts and information but also being confident in one’s own knowledge and experience?
  • Question 2: Delegation in Marriage: When is delegation in a marriage irresponsible or unwise? There are some parts of normal adult life that I’m really bad at, in part due to social anxiety. Examples include calling or meeting with companies (airlines, banks, etc) to make changes, writing emails that involve stress or conflict, scheduling events that we’ll both attend, budgeting and finance, driving and navigating, and dealing with mechanical stuff. Should I ask my husband to do those chores? If I ask for help, I worry that I’m being weak, lazy, and avoiding my responsibilities. On the other hand, if I try to do the hard things on my own, I often mess up. Where’s the line between delegating and shirking?
  • Question 3: Deriving Self-Esteem from University Study: Can a person derive any self-esteem or happiness from university study? Study is not a productive activity: it is preparation for future productivity. In light of this, how can I draw any self-esteem from my studies, whether successful or not? Can I consider my learning as “productive achievement” even though I am not making any money from it or creating anything? Do I have to wait until later to start being happy or feeling self-esteem? Should I be working on the side while taking classes?

After that, we’ll tackle some impromptu “Rapid Fire Questions.”

To join the live broadcast and its chat, just point your browser to Philosophy in Action’s Live Studio a few minutes before the show is scheduled to start. By listening live, you can share your thoughts with other listeners and ask us follow-up questions in the text chat.

The podcast of this episode will be available shortly after the live broadcast here: Radio Archive: Q&A: Confidence, Delegation in Marriage, University Study, and More. You can automatically download that and other podcasts by subscribing to Philosophy in Action’s Podcast RSS Feed:

I hope you join us for the live show or enjoy the podcast later. Also, please share this announcement with any friends interested in these topics!

Philosophy in Action Radio focuses on the application of rational principles to the challenges of real life. It broadcasts live on most Sunday mornings and many Thursday evenings over the internet. For information on upcoming shows, visit the Episodes on Tap. For podcasts of past shows, visit the Show Archives.

Philosophy in Action's NewsletterPhilosophy in Action's Facebook PagePhilosophy in Action's Twitter StreamPhilosophy in Action's RSS FeedsPhilosophy in Action's Calendar

Aug 112015
 

My July 29th Forbes column is available: “Genuine Charity Requires Freedom“.

I discuss the case of the amazingly generous man James Harrison, whose voluntary charity has helped save the lives of 2 million Australian babies. In Harrison’s case, he literally gave of himself to help others in the form of over 1,100 voluntary blood donations.

I then discuss the nature of charity, why it requires freedom, and how compulsory “giving” destroy the morality of charity.

For more details, read the full text of “Genuine Charity Requires Freedom“.

 

Aug 102015
 

PJ Media has posted my latest short column, “In Praise of the Market Economy“.

One of my take-home points is that the prosperity created by the modern market economy creates both material and spiritual freedom unimaginable to our ancestors of 200 years ago.

 

Link-O-Rama

 Posted by on 7 August 2015 at 1:00 pm  Link-O-Rama
Aug 072015
 

 

On Sunday’s episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, Greg Perkins and I answered questions on morality versus prudence, concealing a relationship from parents, death notifications via Facebook, and more. The podcast of that episode is now available for streaming or downloading.

You can automatically download podcasts of Philosophy in Action Radio by subscribing to Philosophy in Action’s Podcast RSS Feed:


Whole Podcast: 2 August 2015

Listen or Download:

Remember the Tip Jar!

The mission of Philosophy in Action is to spread rational principles for real life… far and wide. That’s why the vast majority of my work is available to anyone, free of charge. I love doing the radio show, but each episode requires an investment of time, effort, and money to produce. So if you enjoy and value that work of mine, please contribute to the tip jar. I suggest $5 per episode or $20 per month, but any amount is appreciated. In return, contributors can request that I answer questions from the queue pronto, and regular contributors enjoy free access to premium content and other goodies.


Podcast Segments: 2 August 2015

You can download or listen to my answers to individual questions from this episode below.

Introduction

My News of the Week: I’ve returned from a fun trip to San Francisco to visit friends, and now I’m back to work.

Question 1: Morality Versus Prudence

Question: In ethics, should moral actions be differentiated from prudential actions? I often hear academic philosophers say that a person should clearly distinguish prescriptive actions that are “prudential” from those that are “moral.” For example, if I want to bake a cake properly, I have to follow a certain set of procedures. However, whether I bake the cake or not – or whether I follow the recipe competently or not – has no bearing on my moral standing. Generally, “prudential actions” are considered actions that would benefit me and not harm others. By contrast, I hear it said that whether my action is moral or immoral is determined by whether it harms others. In moral philosophy, is it valid to separate that which is prudential from that which is moral – and to do so in that way?

My Answer, In Brief: The way that moral actions are distinguished from prudential actions in contemporary academic philosophy is fraught with problems, particularly due to assumptions of altruism. However, we can learn much from Aristotle’s concept of practical wisdom, and a distinction between moral and prudential principles is valid.

Listen or Download:

Links:

To comment on this question or my answer, visit its comment thread.

Question 2: Concealing a Relationship from Parents

Question: Is it wrong to conceal information from my father while I live in his home? I am a 21 year old gay college student still living with my parents as I pay my own tuition and progress through college. Both of my parents know I’m gay. My mom is completely fine with it; it’s a sore subject with my dad, and it’s something we don’t discuss. He threatened to kick me out of the house when I came out but then recanted because (I think) he’s wrestling with the morality of the issue. Two months ago, I started dating a really wonderful guy. He comes over often and sometimes spends the night. My mom knows we are together; she is happy for me and approves of my relationship. I haven’t told my dad for fear of being kicked out. My dad specifically told me that he “did not want that kind of activity in his home.” I understand that it is his house (as well as my mom’s, who doesn’t have a problem with my sexuality), and I try to keep things low-key whenever my boyfriend comes over; I also try to spend as much time with him away from my home as possible. But sometimes I would just like to sit down in the comfort of my own room and watch a movie with him. I think my dad would kick me out if he ever thought there was anything going on between me and this guy he knows only as my friend. Am I obligated to tell him about our relationship? Doing so may result in me having to couch-hop until I find a suitable dwelling. It may also make it impossible for me to continue paying my own tuition, a thing I’m quite proud to be able to do. Living at home helps cut a lot of expenses to make that possible. But, is it immoral to lie to my dad about my relationship? I am planning to move out after my bills for the semester are paid and I can save up enough money to afford the down payment on an apartment or house. I will not be keeping my relationship a secret from anyone after that. But, until then, do you think it is immoral to continue lying? I do not understand or sympathize with my dad’s aversion to my sexuality. He’s told me once before that no one else can know, because it would bring embarrassment to him. I think that’s second-handed and irrational. My sexuality has no bearing on anyone but me. Still, I feel like I have to lie to protect my own interests.

My Answer, In Brief: You don’t have any obligation to tell your father about the nature of your relationship with your boyfriend – you’re entitled to your privacy – but while you’re living there, you should respect the rules of the house.

Listen or Download:

To comment on this question or my answer, visit its comment thread.

Question 3: Death Notifications via Facebook

Question: Am I wrong to be upset that I learned of my uncle’s death via Facebook? My uncle recently died. We weren’t close, but I would have expected a phone call from my parents about it. Instead, I learned about his death via a Facebook status update from one of my cousins (not his child, but his niece). I’ve been really angry that I learned such momentous news that way, but I’m having trouble explaining why to my family. Am I wrong to be upset? If I should be upset, what’s wrong with what happened? What should I say to my parents now?

My Answer, In Brief: You have every right to feel upset about the way that this news was communicated to you. You should have a calm and kind conversation with your parents to tell them how you feel, listen to what happened, and ask for better communication in future.

Listen or Download:

To comment on this question or my answer, visit its comment thread.

Rapid Fire Questions

Questions:

  • I love listening to your podcast, but alas, it’s only once a week. Are there any other podcasts that you enjoy or can recommend?
  • If rights are freedom to pursue values, and a “want” can be proven to be a disvalue, why does one have the right to keep the product of the want, e.g. the purchase of a yacht solely for social status?
  • If ideas are open-ended, and a philosophy is made of ideas, shouldn’t every philosophy be open-ended?
  • I feel an obligation to check out the original works of other philosophic schools but I’m not at all interested in them! Why would I feel that way – and should I do that?
  • Is it a valid role of government to establish a national flag and a national anthem?
  • Is elective plastic surgery moral?
  • Is win-or-lose competition in sports and academics good for children?

Listen or Download:

  • Start Time: 38:17
  • Duration: 20:16
  • Download: MP3 Segment

To comment on these questions or my answers, visit its comment thread.

Conclusion

Be sure to check out the topics scheduled for upcoming episodes! Don’t forget to submit and vote on questions for future episodes too!

  • Start Time: 58:34


About Philosophy in Action Radio

Philosophy in Action Radio focuses on the application of rational principles to the challenges of real life. It broadcasts live on most Sunday mornings and many Thursday evenings over the internet. For information on upcoming shows, visit the Episodes on Tap. For podcasts of past shows, visit the Show Archives.

Philosophy in Action's NewsletterPhilosophy in Action's Facebook PagePhilosophy in Action's Twitter StreamPhilosophy in Action's RSS FeedsPhilosophy in Action's Calendar

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