In last Sunday’s Philosophy in Action Webcast, I discussed unfriendly disputes in online communities. The question was:

Why are disputes so belligerent in online communities? I’ve noticed that people get into very loud and heated disputes online, whereas that doesn’t seem to happen in local communities. Disputes in local communities tend to be less frequent, less belligerent, and last for a shorter time – even when some people end up hating each other and refusing to have anything to do with each other in the end. Why is that? Also, why do people who are closest with each other (whether close friends, dating, or married) seem to agree more on hot-button issues? Are people more willing to reject a stranger’s arguments than those of a friend? Is that an error?

My answer, in brief:

Conflicts with other people are inevitable in life. Online conflicts are often more belligerent, due to the differences between online and in-person communication. People should try to manage online conflicts in a sane way, with respect for facts about the limitations of the medium.

Here’s the video of my full answer:

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Apr 042012
 

In Sunday’s Philosophy in Action Webcast, I discussed outing anti-gay politicians as gay. The question was:

Is it wrong to “out” a hypocritical anti-gay public figure who is secretly gay? Some conservative politicians have taken strongly anti-gay positions, but are secretly gay themselves. If one learns of this, is it wrong for gay activists to publicly “out” them? What if they don’t engage in public hypocrisy, but are just quietly “in the closet”? Should activists respect their privacy in that case?

My answer, in brief:

People who publicly advocate meddling in other people’s private choices should not expect others to respect their private hypocrisy. They should be exposed, as a matter of justice.

Here’s the video of my full answer:

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Mar 302012
 

In Sunday’s Philosophy in Action Webcast, I discussed talking about selfishness. The question was:

Should I use the term “selfish” in conversation without explanation? According to Ayn Rand, selfishness means acting for your own long-range life and happiness, and that’s moral and proper. Yet most people think that selfishness means brutalizing other people, lying and cheating to satisfy your desires, or at least acting like an insensitive jerk. Should I avoid using the term unless I can explain what I mean by it? And how can I best explain its proper meaning?

My answer, in brief:

When speaking to other people, make sure that you’re actually communicating what you mean to them. Most often, that will require explaining what you mean by “selfishness” or using another term.

Here’s the video of my full answer:

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Mar 292012
 

In Sunday’s Philosophy in Action Webcast, I discussed overcommitment in projects. The question was:

How can I manage my projects better? Too often, I’m overwhelmed by the sheer volume of projects on my agenda. Because I’m overcommitted, I’ll miss important deadlines or allow some projects to be delayed into oblivion. Other times, my work is rushed and sloppy. Sometimes I feel so overwhelmed that I become paralyzed, and then I don’t get any work done. What can I do to manage my various work and home projects better, so that I keep making progress on what really matters to me?

My answer, in brief:

If you tend to take on more projects than you can manage well, then you need to work on being more realistic and more selective. Otherwise, you’re just making false promises.

Here’s the video of my full answer:

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In Sunday’s Philosophy in Action Webcast, I discussed offers of prayers for atheists. The question was:

What should I do when other people offer to pray for me? Sometimes my friends and family members offer to pray for me – whether because I’ve got some problem in my life or because they know that I’m an atheist. How should I respond?

My answer, in brief:

You should tailor your response to the context, but in most cases, you should be clear, firm, and kind in refusing the prayers of others.

Here’s the video of my full answer:

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In Sunday’s Philosophy in Action Webcast, I discussed the depth of Ayn Rand’s fictional characters. The question was:

Are the characters in Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged flat due to philosophic consistency? I’m reading the novel currently, and rather enjoying it. However, I’ve heard many people claim her characters are flat, one-dimensional, etc. I usually respond to this by saying that Ayn Rand’s characters are the incarnation of her ideas, the physical embodiment of her ideas: an individual is consumed with this philosophy, so much so that they are entirely logically consistent (or at least as much as humanly possible, they are human, and do make mistakes, e.g. Rearden’s marriage), thus, because of their abnormally extensive logical consistency within their philosophy, these characters merely appear to be ‘one-dimensional’. Is this an accurate understanding of Rand’s characters?

My answer, in brief:

The criticism that Ayn Rand’s characters are flat is dead wrong, as is the response that they embody ideas.

Here’s the video of my full answer:

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Video: Responding to Requests for Prayers

 Posted by on 7 March 2012 at 11:00 am  Religion, Videocast
Mar 072012
 

In Sunday’s Philosophy in Action Webcast, I discussed requests for prayers. The question was:

What is the proper response of an atheist to requests for prayers? A relative of mine recently had surgery to have his appendix removed. I was asked by another relative to pray for the first relative, even though everyone in my family knows that I don’t believe in God or the power of prayer. I tried to let it slide during the conversation, but she was insistent. How should I respond to such requests for prayers, particularly when I don’t want to offend anyone or seem unconcerned?

My answer, in brief:

You should tailer your response to the context, but in most cases, you should be clear, firm, and kind in saying that you do not pray.

Here’s the video of my full answer:

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Mar 062012
 

In Sunday’s Philosophy in Action Webcast, I discussed giving the benefit of the doubt. The question was:

When should we give another person the benefit of the doubt? Often, people say that public figures facing some scandal should be given the benefit of the doubt? What does that mean in theory and in practice? When ought people give the benefit of the doubt? Is doing so a matter of generosity or justice?

My answer, in brief:

To give someone the benefit of the doubt means that you’re not leaping to conclusions about wrongdoing, but considering their past actions and character, and hence, only condemning when the proof of wrongdoing is definitive. It’s proper to give someone the benefit of doubt when it’s likely that the person didn’t act wrongly, when you’re waiting for definitive evidence, or when your judgments are based on knowledge of character.

Here’s the video of my full answer:

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Video: The Meaning of Faith

 Posted by on 1 March 2012 at 8:00 am  Language, Religion, Videocast
Mar 012012
 

In Sunday’s Philosophy in Action Webcast, I discussed the meaning of faith. The question was:

Is it wrong to use “faith” to mean “trust and confidence in a person”? Some people talk about having “faith” in their friends or in themselves – and by that, they mean that they trust and have confidence in those people. Is it wrong to use “faith” in that way? In other words, blind faith is wrong, but is all faith blind faith?

My answer, in brief:

The term “faith,” when used to refer to trust or confidence in a person, suggests that such is not justified or warranted based on facts. That’s why I avoid the term, and I suggest that others do the same. However, a person is not corrupt for using it.

Here’s the video of my full answer:

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Video: Consent in Sex

 Posted by on 29 February 2012 at 8:00 am  Ethics, Law, Love/Sex, Politics, Videocast
Feb 292012
 

In Sunday’s Philosophy in Action Webcast, I discussed consent in sex. The question was:

What constitutes consent in sex? Can a person give tacit consent by his or her actions? Is explicit consent required for some sex acts? Once consent has been given, when and how can a person withdraw that consent? Does the legal perspective on these questions differ from the moral perspective?

My answer, in brief:

To consent to sex requires communicating a willingness engaging in the act, whether by word or deed. Consent can be withdrawn at any point, and for the other person to ignore that constitutes sexual assault.

Here’s the video of my full answer:

Warning: This video is loooong at 42 minutes. (It’s a new record for me!)

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