- 22 Things You Never Knew You Needed To Know: Fun “how stuff works” animated gifs!
- Cruz’s Constant References to Jesus Drive Millions to Atheism: Andy Borowitz strikes again!
- 7 Tips on Dating an Equestrian: These are all pretty hilarious (and true!) but this takes the cake: “You may think based on all the research and Instagram posts on Equestrians you follow that riding is exclusively a summer sport. To which I say HA! You’re sadly mistaken. Prepare yourself with proper footwear, jackets/sweaters and even your best friend’s scooby doo blanket that was left in the back of your car. Bonus tip, if someone hands you a cooler off their horse, WEAR IT. It might stink and be full of hair but if you’re cold, wearing one of those does the trick.” Seriously, that’s good advice!
- Apocalyptic Schadenfreude: This is a fascinating article on the causes of the water crisis in California. Hint: “California is running through its water supply because, for complicated historical and climatological reasons, it has taken on the burden of feeding the rest of the country.”
- Right Side of the Law: Eugene Volokh’s Global Influence: Wow, what a great article on Eugene Volokh!
- The 21 Most (and Least) Trusted Companies in the US: It’s interesting to see whole industries dominating the top and the bottom. Methinks government involvement has something to do with that.
- SMBC on Tech Support for Analytical Engines: Ah, I feel his pain.
- Why I Wear the Exact Same Thing to Work Every Day: I’ve been thinking about radically simplifying my life of late, and this is very appealing to me.
- The 29 Most Awkward Breakups To Go Down On Facebook: These are terrible, and I’m a terrible person for finding so many of them hysterical.
On Sunday’s episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, Greg Perkins and I will answer questions on doctrine of double effect, the obligation to report a crime, cutting ties with homophobic family members, and more. This episode of internet radio airs at 8 am PT / 9 MT / 10 CT / 11 ET on Sunday, 26 April 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: Doctrine of Double Effect: Is the doctrine of double effect true? The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy says: “The doctrine (or principle) of double effect is often invoked to explain the permissibility of an action that causes a serious harm, such as the death of a human being, as a side effect of promoting some good end. It is claimed that sometimes it is permissible to cause such a harm as a side effect (or ‘double effect’) of bringing about a good result even though it would not be permissible to cause such a harm as a means to bringing about the same good end.” How has this principled used in analyzing real-world ethics? Is it true? Why or why not?
- Question 2: The Obligation to Report a Crime: When is a person obliged to report a crime? About ten years ago, as a nurse, I heard a patient planning to do something illegal – particularly, to lie to an insurance company about the relationship between her injuries and the car accident so that she could keep all the settlement money. At the time, I decided to disengage but not confront or report her. I opted for that due to concerns about patient privacy, the non-violence of the planned crime, and the fact that the insurance company could detect her lie from her medical records. Recently, I’ve been thinking about the situation again. I’m trying to come up with a principle to apply, and I’m getting all muddled. What is my moral responsibility to intervene or report when I know that another person is planning or has done something illegal – meaning, something that would violate someone’s rights? Does my responsibility change if it’s a friend (assumed in confidence) or stranger (overheard in public)? Does it matter if the crime has already taken place or is merely in the works? Where is the line regarding severity of the crime? (I’d obviously report if I even heard a stranger plotting murder.) Also, what if you might be harmed if you report, such as in the case of a gang murder? Is there some basic principle that can clarify when a person is obliged to report knowledge of a crime?
- Question 3: Cutting Ties with Homophobic Family Members: Should I cut ties with my homophobic family? My boyfriend and I visit my family every year for Christmas, and every year they treat him rudely and unfairly. This is solely because they do not accept my sexuality, and they blame him for it. I have made it very clear that if their behavior continues, I will no longer visit them on holidays. They always agree to my terms, but as soon as we arrive, they immediately go back on their word. To make matters worse, I visited them alone this summer for my birthday. During my visit, the daughter of a family friend “just happened to stop by.” It was very clear to me that this was a set up. When we received a moment alone, I told her that I was in a happy, committed relationship with a man. Her reaction showed that she was entirely deceived. I left the house, and I have not spoken to my family since. I have no desire to have a relationship with them. Should I permanently end the relationship?
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: Double Effect, Earning Money, Homophobic Family, and More. You can automatically download that and other podcasts by subscribing to Philosophy in Action’s Podcast RSS Feed:
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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.
Next Tuesday, Ari Armstrong will deliver a lecture for CU Boulder Philosophy Department’s Think! series entitled “Ayn Rand and the Scope of One’s Interests.” I think that Ari will do a marvellous job with this topic, so I hope that some of my readers can attend! Here are the details:
When: Tuesday, April 28, 7:30 pm Where: University of Colorado, Boulder, Eaton Humanities 1B50 A Think! Talk, sponsored by the Center for Values and Social Policy
Abstract: Ayn Rand says that selfishness is a virtue, a claim that many people find odd or outlandish. Won’t an egoist abuse others; ignore the interests of others; free-ride on the efforts of others to better the world; and lie, cheat, and steal if he can get away with it? On the contrary, argued Rand: A rational egoist is concerned with principle, virtue, and justice. How could this be so? The key to the paradox is to discover what, in fact, is in a person’s interests. This talk explores why acting on principle, developing meaningful social relationships, and working toward a rights-respecting society are integral to a person’s rational self-interests.
Bio: Ari Armstrong is an associate editor for the Objective Standard and the author of Values of Harry Potter: Lessons for Muggles. He has written about such issues as abortion rights, gun rights, and the drug war for various newspapers, including the Denver Post and Boulder Weekly. In 2009 Ari won the Modern Day Sam Adams award, and in 2011 he was a finalist in the Hoiles Prize for regional journalism.
- 14 Apr: Doc Fix Critiques by Paul Hsieh
- 13 Apr: Perry: Lessons From Cosmetic Surgery Markets by Paul Hsieh
- 17 Apr: Marco Rubio’s Presidential Campaign Launch: Good and Bad by Ari Armstrong
- 14 Apr: Gwyneth Paltrow’s SNAP Food Stamp Farce by Ari Armstrong
- 18 Apr: The State of Modern Paleo by Diana Hsieh
I saw this post on a group about draft horses on Facebook a few days ago:
Here’s my question: How many sweet, wonderful, and sound draft horses went to slaughter while this person lived out his fantasy of “fate” with this poor colt … who will likely never be more than a pasture ornament? This kind of emotionalism — combined with the broken window fallacy — makes me so very sad.
This Sunday morning, we’re putting doggie Mae to sleep for the aggression problems that I discussed here. At the same time, we’re also putting kitty Elliot to sleep too: his heart is definitely failing, and by keeping him alive, we risk him throwing a clot and thereby having a terribly painful end. My wonderful, wonderful vet is making a special trip out to our place on her day off to do this.
So Sunday will be a terribly day for me, and I couldn’t even think of broadcasting. I know that we’re making the right choice, but still, this is so hard.
Here’s an interesting philosophical question, raised indirectly by philosopher Iskra Fileva on Facebook:
If a person refrains from doing a wrong act due to some wrong motive, does that person count as self-controlled (in Aristotle’s sense) or not?
For example, a married man wants to have an affair with a co-worker but he refrains — not because he’s pledged his fidelity to his wife, but due to fear of social disapproval if the affair is revealed because she’s black/Jewish/older/Catholic/wiccan/whatever.
I don’t think that this counts as self-control (a.k.a. continence) because the person is ignorant of and/or blind to the relevant moral considerations. On Aristotle’s descending moral scale from virtuous to self-controlled to un-self-controlled to vicious (explained briefly here), he’s in the vicious category, even though he happens not to have done the immoral act of cheating on his wife.
This is why — as I argue in my book on moral luck — we need to distinguish between judgments of actions, outcomes, and character. These judgments identify different facts and serve different purposes. A person can still be of vicious character, yet not perform any immoral acts. (At least, that can happen in the short term. Long-term, bad acts are pretty darn likely.) That’s only a puzzle if we’re not clear about the various purposes and bases of our various kinds of moral judgments.
Forget Inbox Zero… Yesterbox Zero is the sweet spot! With Yesterbox Zero, I have to have all of yesterday’s email processed sometime today by 9 pm (i.e. my daily stand-up meeting with Andrew and Arthur Zey).
As a result, I tend to answer only important or interesting emails on the day that I receive them (as opposed to fussing about every new email because I want to stay at Inbox Zero), and then I answer all the rest sometime on the next day, usually in the morning. Then, my inbox is clear to receive this day’s mail. So I delete the unimportant stuff, answer what I please, and leave the rest for later. (I’ve never been able to do a “reply later” folder, as GTD recommends… that’s just a black hole for me.)
As a result, since I cleared out my inbox after SnowCon (when I had about 20 messages languishing in my inbox, which took about 5 hours to process), I’ve spent just 1 hour per week on email. It’s amazing. I’ve felt oppressed by my inbox for years, and just this one small change has made so much difference.
Lately, I’ve been reading some cross-cultural comparisons — meaning, comparing contemporary American culture to various other cultures of the world — in preparation for my upcoming ATLOSCon talk on the role of philosophy in life. Such comparisons help illuminate the hidden assumptions and dispositions which influence the effect of philosophic principles on a person’s life.
I thought that I’d share this delightfully cantankerous gem: 17 Cultural Clashes This European Had in America. Here’s a bit:
3. SMILES MEAN NOTHING
When I meet Americans abroad, one of their biggest complaints are along the lines of “nobody smiles on Prague’s trams!” “That waitress was so rude to me! She didn’t even smile!”
Goddamnit America – I have the opposite complaint for you. You guys smile way too much. It’s annoying! How can you tell when someone means it? And why the hell would a stranger doing a crossword puzzle on public transport want to look giddy?
When people smile in Europe it means something. For example, because Germans don’t go around looking like an American toothpaste commercial when I was with them and they smiled, it lit up the room – you know it’s genuine and you can’t help but smile back, because you are genuinely happy. You’ve shared a joke, or a funny story or you are in love etc.
But all the time? When you smile all the time in public it means nothing. Apparently a smile releases endorphins, but if your face is stuck that way I’m sure your dreams of a natural high will fade soon. I’d rather focus on trying to make my life better and have reasons to smile than lie to myself and the world.
Despite how surely I sound in this post, because complaining is the theme of the article, the fact that I vent when I mean it, means that when you see me happy you know I’m truly happy. And that is indeed a lot of the time But not all of it!
As someone who smiles even more than the average American… I can’t help but laugh!
Explore Atlas Shrugged is an in-depth course consisting of study questions, podcasts, and other resources developed by me over the past few years. The course breaks Atlas Shrugged into 20 manageable sessions, each covering about 65 pages of the novel.
The newly expanded course — including over 1400 study questions, plot synopses, character summaries, questions for a three-session book club, and a FAQ on creating an Atlas Shrugged Reading Group — is available online at ExploreAtlasShrugged.com. That online course also includes over 22 hours of lively and engaging podcasting. Each podcast — one per session — is an in-depth look at the events, characters, and ideas from those chapters of the novel. The price for all that is $20.
Now, I’ve also made available the print material from the course (meaning: everything except the podcasts) available in book form on Amazon. That’s here:
If you purchase one of these versions, you can access the full online course (including the podcasts) for half price — just $10.
For more details, including free previews of the questions, podcasts, and other resources, visit ExploreAtlasShrugged.com
Explore Atlas Shrugged will help you gain fresh insights into the complex events, characters, and ideas of Ayn Rand’s epic novel—whether you’ve read it just once or a dozen times before.
Notably, the response to Explore Atlas Shrugged has been overwhelmingly positive, including the following remarks:
I require students to read Atlas Shrugged in my introductory economics class. Dr. Hsieh’s Explore Atlas Shrugged podcasts were an essential tool to help communicate the novel’s lesson and hold effective class discussion. Do not attempt to teach the book without consulting the podcasts first!
— Bailey Norwood, Associate Professor, Department of Agricultural Economics, Oklahoma State University
Thank you, thank you, thank you, Diana – our GLO Atlas Reading Group is going so very well. We have about 12-13 people attending, and it is truly the most fun we’ve had in a long time. So much rewarding fun comes out of your ideas and organization. Can’t thank you enough for your efforts!!!
I just wanted to send you a quick note and thank you for your efforts on Explore Atlas Shrugged. As part of the Charm City Objectivists Society we used your questions and podcast to help kick off our reading group yesterday for session one. We had epiphanies all around the table from someone who is a firm student of Objectivism to a person who had read Atlas Shrugged but is new to Objectivism. I know that neither Ray (our moderator) or myself could have undertaken this kind of thing without the wonderful resource you have created. You have helped me make a difference in my community and I thank you for it.
The other day, I began listening to your Explore Atlas Shrugged podcasts. I have read and listened to the book several times, but it has been admittedly too long since the last time. Although I can not adequately express how much experiencing your podcasts has meant to me and the extent to which they have reinvigorated me, I did want to thank you…Thank you.