On Thursday’s episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, I answered questions on egoism and harm to others, the presence of juries at trials, philosophy in romance, and more with Greg Perkins. The podcast of that episode is now available for streaming or downloading. You’ll find it on the episode’s archive page, as well as below.

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Podcast: Egoism, Juries, Philosophy in Romance, and More

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

Introduction (0:00)

My News of the Week: I finalized the text for Explore Atlas Shrugged. The updated and revised questions, podcasts, and other resources, are available for purchase for $20. Alas, I’m not the owner of a new horse, as I’d hoped to be today.

Question 1: Egoism and Harm to Others (3:22)

In this segment, I answered a question on egoism and harm to others.

Should an egoist be willing to torture millions to benefit himself? In your discussion of explaining egoistic benevolence on December 22, 2013, you indicated that you regarded such a scenario as absurd. Could you explain why that is? Why wouldn’t such torture be not merely permitted but rather obligatory under an egoistic ethics? Why should an egoist even care about what happens to strangers?

My Answer, In Brief: To benefit himself most, the egoist must value other people, trading with them to mutual benefit. Harming other people doesn’t produce any genuine or lasting benefits but risks destroying everything of value in life.

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Question 2: The Presence of Juries at Trials (39:44)

In this segment, I answered a question on the presence of juries at trials.

Should juries be present at trials? In fictional portrayals of trials, the jury is often told to disregard certain statements. Also, interruptions in the form of objections are common. Wouldn’t it be easier for the jury to be absent from the trial itself, then presented with all and only the admissible evidence and testimony afterward? In fact, the jury need not see the parties in question, nor even know their names. Wouldn’t that eliminate the possibility of racial discrimination and other irrelevant judgments?

My Answer, In Brief: In most cases, the tone, demeanor, and body language of a witness are very important for a jury to witness first-hand. That’s not merely critical for judging the honesty of the witness, but also for understanding the meaning of the testimony.

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Question 3: Philosophy in Romance (51:54)

In this segment, I answered a question on philosophy in romance.

Is sharing an interest in philosophy necessary for a good romance? I am extremely interested in philosophy. I’m studying it and planning to make it my career. My girlfriend is not. She wants nothing to do with philosophy, although she is perfectly happy with me doing it. However, I find that I am missing that intellectual engagement with her. I’ve asked a number of times if she would try to talk to me about any sort of philosophical issue – really just anything deeper than day to day happenings – and she just can’t do it. She becomes uninterested or even begins to get overwhelmed and frustrated to the point of tears. Is it necessary for us to engage in this activity together to be happy? Is there any way that I can help her to engage in rational inquiry without it being forced on her, if at all?

My Answer, In Brief: The conflict in this relationship might be that the girlfriend has no interest in even very practical philosophy or that the boyfriend is forcing unwelcome conversations about academic philosophy on her – or somewhere in between. Either case would be a serious problem, but the relationship might be worth saving – or not.

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Rapid Fire Questions (1:08:15)

In this segment, I answered questions impromptu. The questions were:

  • Do you have an opinion on the recent armed standoff between the Bureau of Land Management and Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy?
  • Should the CDC exist? How should sudden outbreaks of a new and infectious disease be controlled?
  • After reading Nietzsche, and then looking at the evidence all around me, I’m starting to think that democracy was a bad idea. What do you say to this?

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Conclusion (1:17:45)

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


About Philosophy in Action Radio

Philosophy in Action Radio applies rational principles to the challenges of real life in live internet radio shows on Sunday mornings and Thursday evenings. For information on upcoming shows, visit the Episodes on Tap. For podcasts of past shows, visit the Show Archives.

Remember, with every episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, we show how rational philosophy can help you find joy in your work, model virtue for your kids, pursue your goals effectively, communicate with respect, and advocate for a free society. We can’t do that without your support, so please remember to tip your philosopher!

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On Sunday’s episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, I answered questions on weak versus strong atheism, dating people with psychological problems, and more with Greg Perkins. The podcast of that episode is now available for streaming or downloading. You’ll find it on the episode’s archive page, as well as below.

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

Podcast: Varieties of Atheism, Dating People with Psychological Problems, and More

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

Introduction (0:00)

My News of the Week: Starting today, I’m running a “Kindle Countdown Deal” on the Kindle edition of my book, Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame Basically, the price starts super-low: $3.99. Then, day by day, the price will slowly rise, until it reaches its regular price of $9.99 by next weekend. So if you want the best deal, buy your copy today! Last week, I spent many hours writing the character summaries for Explore Atlas Shrugged. The updated and revised questions, podcasts, and other resources, are available for purchase for $20. A print-on-demand and ebook will be avilable soon. Next week, because Lila and I will be competing in our first event of the season over the weekend, Greg and I will broadcast on Thursday evening, rather than Sunday morning.

Question 1: Weak Versus Strong Atheism (8:07)

In this segment, I answered a question on weak versus strong atheism.

Should a rational person’s atheism be weak or strong? People often distinguish between “weak atheism” and “strong atheism.” The weak atheist regards the arguments for the existence of God as invalid, so that God’s existence has not been proven. The strong atheist positively asserts that God does not exist. Which of these views is correct?

My Answer, In Brief: Weak atheism is the result of seeing that the arguments for the existence of God fail. Strong atheism is the result of seeing that God’s very nature is impossible. Both views are true, and the view that any person should adopt is the view consistent with his best understanding and thinking.

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Question 2: Dating People with Psychological Problems (42:11)

In this segment, I answered a question on dating people with psychological problems.

Is it a mistake to enter into a serious relationship with a person with serious psychological problems? Recently, my wife took her own life after a long struggle with major depression and other psychological issues. When we started dating, I saw clearly that she had issues although they were not as bad at the time. She was also intelligent, beautiful, and ambitious – among other good qualities. At the time, I thought she could work through her psychological issues with support, and she did improve for a while. However, after her loss, I’ve decided that, when and if I’m to the point where I’m interested in dating again, I will avoid becoming involved with women who display clear psychological problems. This decision has forced me to wonder if it was a mistake to become involved with my wife in the first place. So is it a mistake to enter into a serious relationship, knowing that the person has serious psychological struggles?

My Answer, In Brief: You face two different issues: (1) Should I risk doing this again? (2) Should I regret having done it? The answer to both questions seems to be “no.” So don’t date women with clear psychological problems, but don’t regret your marriage to your wife.

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Rapid Fire Questions (1:01:27)

In this segment, I answered questions impromptu. The questions were:

  • How would you articulate why consciousness cannot come before existence?
  • In “Pride and Prejudice,” is it Mr Darcy’s fault that people perceive him as arrogant, or are they just too quick to judge?
  • Are you superstitious about anything? If so, why?

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Conclusion (1:11:59)

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


About Philosophy in Action Radio

Philosophy in Action Radio applies rational principles to the challenges of real life in live internet radio shows on Sunday mornings and Thursday evenings. For information on upcoming shows, visit the Episodes on Tap. For podcasts of past shows, visit the Show Archives.

Remember, with every episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, we show how rational philosophy can help you find joy in your work, model virtue for your kids, pursue your goals effectively, communicate with respect, and advocate for a free society. We can’t do that without your support, so please remember to tip your philosopher!

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On Sunday’s episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, I answered questions on public displays of body dysmorphia, licensing parents, responsibility for a sibling, and more with Greg Perkins. The podcast of that episode is now available for streaming or downloading. You’ll find it on the episode’s archive page, as well as below.

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

Podcast: Body Dysmorphia, Licensing Parents, Irresponsible Siblings, and More

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

Introduction (0:00)

My News of the Week: I’ve been very bush creating the print-on-demand book of study questions for Explore Atlas Shrugged. The updated and revised questions, podcasts, and other resources, are available for purchase for $20.

Question 1: Public Displays of Body Dysmorphia (7:16)

In this segment, I answered a question on public displays of body dysmorphia.

What should I do when a friend exhibits severe body dysmorphia on social media? At several points in my life, I had a valued friend who seemed otherwise rational and grounded, but who also exhibited dangerous body dysmorphia on social media. In these cases, the friend would first go through a several-month phase of confessing to several psychological problems, such as fantasizing about suicide and of cutting herself with a blade. This friend would then sternly add that she has since recovered, but would admit to still feeling that her natural physical features are ugly and deformed. Then, months later, the friend would go into another phase. On social media, in front of many other people, she would make brazen gestures indicating body dysmorphia, such as uploading photoshopped pictures of herself as a corpse ready for burial or saying that she planned to starve herself to achieve her ideal of being skeletally thin. A major problem was the reaction from our online mutual acquaintances. Some admitted that they saw these problems, yet they acted like the friend was behaving normally. Others outright complimented the dysmorphic imagery and statements. In these cases, I think that my friend knew that her body dysmorphia was dangerous. She put it on display so that others would normalize her pathology, because then she could more easily rationalize her behavior as harmless. That seems really dangerous, but what is the proper alternative? How should people respond when a person puts his pathological self-destruction on display?

My Answer, In Brief: This girl is in the grips of a very serious and deeply-embedded pathology: she needs professional help. You might encourage her to get that, but mostly, you need to extract yourself from a miserable situation about which you can do nothing.

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Question 2: Licensing Parents (27:53)

In this segment, I answered a question on licensing parents.

Should parents be licensed? Given the cost to society of parents shirking their obligations to their children, to entrust children to just anyone able to bear that child seems negligent. The state does, after all, forbid chronic drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel again. On the other hand, to give discretionary power to the state over such a personal matter seems very dangerous. Is there any middle ground that would better protect kids from abusive or neglectful parents and protect society from the growing scourge of poor parenting?

My Answer, In Brief: Parental licensing is a terrible idea. Without preventing child abuse and neglect, the bureaucracy would be costly, arbitrary, and unjust. Any such scheme would violate the rights of prospective parents. However, the courts could – and sometimes should – order people convicted of serious abuse and neglect not to procreate and order any new children produced to be placed for adoption.

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Question 3: Responsibility for a Sibling (51:23)

In this segment, I answered a question on responsibility for a sibling.

Is a person responsible for his incapable sibling? Imagine that your brother (or sister) is not capable of taking care of himself: he makes poor choices, he has poor work habits, and he is emotionally immature. Are you thereby responsible for him? Should you try to help as much as possible, so long as you don’t drag yourself down? Or should you refuse to help on the principle of “tough love,” even though that won’t help him take care of himself? If you take the latter approach, doesn’t that mean that you’re foisting the care for your sibling on society? Wouldn’t that be shirking your responsibilities as a sibling? Also, does your responsibility depend on whether your brother is incapable due to his own choices, as opposed to merely bad luck?

My Answer, In Brief: You do not have a moral duty to help a sibling – ever. You might want to (and sometimes ought to) help a beloved sibling suffering from the effects of bad luck or from an honest mistake, as an expression of your caring for them. You should not help a self-destructive sibling if that’s a sacrifice to you – particularly not when your help will just enable more self-destructive behavior.

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In this segment, I answered a question on [[Q4TopicLower]].

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Rapid Fire Questions (1:03:15)

In this segment, I answered questions impromptu. The questions were:

  • If someone in a shop gives you too much change, should you tell them or just pocket it?
  • Is “LOL” a lie if I didn’t really laugh out loud?

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Conclusion (1:09:30)

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


About Philosophy in Action Radio

Philosophy in Action Radio applies rational principles to the challenges of real life in live internet radio shows on Sunday mornings and Thursday evenings. For information on upcoming shows, visit the Episodes on Tap. For podcasts of past shows, visit the Show Archives.

Remember, with every episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, we show how rational philosophy can help you find joy in your work, model virtue for your kids, pursue your goals effectively, communicate with respect, and advocate for a free society. We can’t do that without your support, so please remember to tip your philosopher!

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On the next episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, Greg Perkins and I will answer questions on public displays of body dysmorphia, licensing parents, responsibility for a sibling, the presence of juries at trials, and more. This episode of internet radio airs at 8 am PT / 9 MT / 10 CT / 11 ET on Sunday, 4 May 2014, 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: Public Displays of Body Dysmorphia: What should I do when a friend exhibits severe body dysmorphia on social media? At several points in my life, I had a valued friend who seemed otherwise rational and grounded, but who also exhibited dangerous body dysmorphia on social media. In these cases, the friend would first go through a several-month phase of confessing to several psychological problems, such as fantasizing about suicide and of cutting herself with a blade. This friend would then sternly add that she has since recovered, but would admit to still feeling that her natural physical features are ugly and deformed. Then, months later, the friend would go into another phase. On social media, in front of many other people, she would make brazen gestures indicating body dysmorphia, such as uploading photoshopped pictures of herself as a corpse ready for burial or saying that she planned to starve herself to achieve her ideal of being skeletally thin. A major problem was the reaction from our online mutual acquaintances. Some admitted that they saw these problems, yet they acted like the friend was behaving normally. Others outright complimented the dysmorphic imagery and statements. In these cases, I think that my friend knew that her body dysmorphia was dangerous. She put it on display so that others would normalize her pathology, because then she could more easily rationalize her behavior as harmless. That seems really dangerous, but what is the proper alternative? How should people respond when a person puts his pathological self-destruction on display?
  • Question 2: Licensing Parents: Should parents be licensed? Given the cost to society of parents shirking their obligations to their children, to entrust children to just anyone able to bear that child seems negligent. The state does, after all, forbid chronic drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel again. On the other hand, to give discretionary power to the state over such a personal matter seems very dangerous. Is there any middle ground that would better protect kids from abusive or neglectful parents and protect society from the growing scourge of poor parenting?
  • Question 3: Responsibility for a Sibling: Is a person responsible for his incapable sibling? Imagine that your brother (or sister) is not capable of taking care of himself: he makes poor choices, he has poor work habits, and he is emotionally immature. Are you thereby responsible for him? Should you try to help as much as possible, so long as you don’t drag yourself down? Or should you refuse to help on the principle of “tough love,” even though that won’t help him take care of himself? If you take the latter approach, doesn’t that mean that you’re foisting the care for your sibling on society? Wouldn’t that be shirking your responsibilities as a sibling? Also, does your responsibility depend on whether your brother is incapable due to his own choices, as opposed to merely bad luck?
  • Question 4: The Presence of Juries at Trials: Should juries be present at trials? In fictional portrayals of trials, the jury is often told to disregard certain statements. Also, interruptions in the form of objections are common. Wouldn’t it be easier for the jury to be absent from the trial itself, then presented with all and only the admissible evidence and testimony afterward? In fact, the jury need not see the parties in question, nor even know their names. Wouldn’t that eliminate the possibility of racial discrimination and other irrelevant judgments?

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: Body Dysmorphia, Licensing Parents, Irresponsible Siblings, 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 applies rational principles to the challenges of real life in live internet radio shows on Sunday mornings and Thursday evenings. For information on upcoming shows, visit the Episodes on Tap. For podcasts of past shows, visit the Show Archives.

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On Sunday’s episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, I answered questions on ambition as a virtue, happiness without close friends, refusing involvement in a biological child’s life, and more with Greg Perkins. The podcast of that episode is now available for streaming or downloading. You’ll find it on the episode’s archive page, as well as below.

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

Podcast: Ambition, Lacking Friends, Absent Fathers, and More

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Remember, with every episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, we show how rational philosophy can help you find joy in your work, model virtue for your kids, pursue your goals effectively, communicate with respect, and advocate for a free society. We can’t do that without your support, so please remember to tip your philosopher!

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

Introduction (0:00)

My News of the Week: I’ve finalized and posted the questions for Explore Atlas Shrugged, and now I turn to making print-on-demand and ebook versions. At 4 am this morning, I watched Martha Deeds’ mare Peekies give birth to a handsome colt! That was exciting!

Question 1: Ambition as a Virtue (3:05)

In this segment, I answered a question on ambition as a virtue.

Is ambition a virtue? Ayn Rand defined ambition as “the systematic pursuit of achievement and of constant improvement in respect to one’s goal.” If we apply ambition only to rational goals – as happens with the virtue of integrity, where loyalty to values only constitutes integrity if those values are rational – then could ambition be considered a virtue? Or at least, could ambition be an aspect of a virtue like productiveness?

My Answer, In Brief: Ambition is not a virtue: it doesn’t share the core qualities of the virtues. However, ambition is morally significant: it’s a moral amplifier. So ambition is a quality of character that makes a good person better and a bad person worse. It’s a quality that you should cultivate in yourself – and then deploy selectively, based on the context.

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Question 2: Happiness without Close Friends (22:51)

In this segment, I answered a question on happiness without close friends.

How can I maintain my sense of self when surrounded by people I don’t relate to deeply? At places like work I have trouble relating to my coworkers on a significantly deep level. For the most part, we just don’t share the deepest or most important aspects of life, such as a genuine interests in ideas, various nuances of the culinary arts, and so on. However, I enjoy interacting with these people, but I’m not likely to engage in frequent outings and whatnot. Yet, in other aspects of life – for the time – I don’t have the ability to deal with people I share a “like soul” with, to use Aristotelian terms. Thus, how can I truthfully express my personality and values while maintaining, or even deepening, my friendship with these people? I feel like I’m “faking” myself too often.

My Answer, In Brief: Intimate friends are often few and far between, but you can manage and arrange your life to give yourself a greater chance to find such people. Appreciate and cultivate your lesser friends, expand your social network, develop yourself without compromise or concealment, and don’t give up!

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Question 3: Refusing Involvement in a Biological Child’s Life (40:00)

In this segment, I answered a question on refusing involvement in a biological child’s life.

It is wrong to refuse any involvement in my biological child’s life? Some years back I had a contraceptive malfunction, and a child was conceived as a result. I offered to pay for an abortion but the woman refused. The child was born, and the mother and child moved away. I voluntarily pay child support, but I have no desire to be part of the child’s life. I never wanted to be a father nor do I want to now. Am I right – morally and legally – to take this stance?

My Answer, In Brief: A man doesn’t have any moral obligation to play the role of a father to a child, simply because he contributed his sperm. Being a parent is a very serious obligation, and it should not be undertaken lightly by either men or women.

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Rapid Fire Questions (52:42)

In this segment, I answered questions impromptu. The questions were:

  • Are all people really created equal?
  • What is your opinion of camp as an aesthetic style? Is it in any way nihilistic?
  • Wouldn’t the principles (or maxim) of ones action’s be universally applicable according to Objectivism – just as for Kantian ethics?
  • Sometimes when people talk openly about sex or their sex life, I just think ‘Eeek! How tasteless and vulgar. Keep it to yourself!’ Am I too prudish?
  • What does it really mean to be a ‘nice person’? Can someone be too nice?

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Conclusion (1:04:56)

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


About Philosophy in Action Radio

Philosophy in Action Radio applies rational principles to the challenges of real life in live internet radio shows on Sunday mornings and Thursday evenings. For information on upcoming shows, visit the Episodes on Tap. For podcasts of past shows, visit the Show Archives.

Remember, with every episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, we show how rational philosophy can help you find joy in your work, model virtue for your kids, pursue your goals effectively, communicate with respect, and advocate for a free society. We can’t do that without your support, so please remember to tip your philosopher!

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On Sunday’s episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, I answered questions on the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, being virtuous but not happy, defending abortion rights, and more with Greg Perkins. The podcast of that episode is now available for streaming or downloading. You’ll find it on the episode’s archive page, as well as below.

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

Podcast: Immanuel Kant, Virtuous But Not Happy, Abortion Rights, and More

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Remember, with every episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, we show how rational philosophy can help you find joy in your work, model virtue for your kids, pursue your goals effectively, communicate with respect, and advocate for a free society. We can’t do that without your support, so please remember to tip your philosopher!

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

Introduction (0:00)

My News of the Week: I’ve been finalizing the questions for Explore Atlas Shrugged.

Question 1: The Philosophy of Immanuel Kant (6:14)

In this segment, I answered a question on the philosophy of Immanuel Kant.

What’s so bad about the philosophy of Immanuel Kant? In academic philosophy, Kant is often regarded as the culmination of the Enlightenment. According to this standard view, Kant sought to save reason from skeptics such as Hume, he aimed to ground ethics in reason, and he defended human autonomy and liberty. In contrast, Ayn Rand famously regarded Kant as “the most evil man in mankind’s history.” She rejected his metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics, saying that “the philosophy of Kant is a systematic rationalization of every major psychological vice.” Who is right here? What’s right or wrong with his philosophy?

My Answer, In Brief: Immanuel Kant’s metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics represent radical departures from the Enlightenment traditions – and they ushered in the close of that period of thought. Ayn Rand’s philosophic criticisms of him are well-deserved.

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Question 2: Being Virtuous But Not Happy (38:52)

In this segment, I answered a question on being virtuous but not happy.

How can I live more joyfully? I believe that the world is a wonderful place full of opportunity, great things, and lovely people. I also believe that I am an efficacious person, and therefore capable of flourishing and achieving happiness. So why do my emotions not match my convictions? I want to live more joyfully. I adhere to the cardinal virtues to the best of my ability. I’ve tried mental exercises, such as listing all my personal values and thinking about how important and good they are for me, but it still doesn’t make me feel happy. What am I doing wrong? What can I do instead?

My Answer, In Brief: You need to jettison this overly abstract view of your life, and instead learn to live in all the messy particular moments of your days, so that those moments add up to an interesting, engaging, challenging, and meaningful life.

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Question 3: Defending Abortion Rights (56:43)

In this segment, I answered a question on defending abortion rights.

How can abortion rights be more effectively defended? Although the biblical case against abortion is weak, the religious right has gained much traction against abortion rights in the last decade or two. The “personhood” movement is growing every year, and incremental restrictions on abortion have mushroomed. Even more alarming, the demographics seem to be against abortion rights: young people are increasingly opposed to abortion. What can be done to more effectively defend abortion rights? Can any lessons be drawn from the success of the campaign for gay marriage?

My Answer, In Brief: The advocates of abortion bans are largely motivated by the divine command, “Thou Shalt Not Kill,” which is then often cast in the language of the “right to life.” To combat that, those people need to be confronted with the reality of what abortion bans mean to women and couples.

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Rapid Fire Questions (1:25:43)

In this segment, I answered questions impromptu. The questions were:

  • What do you think of Sartre’s dictum that when you make choices, you should always imagine that you are serving as a role model for the rest of mankind?

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Conclusion (1:29:06)

Be sure to check out my blog NoodleFood and to submit and vote on questions for upcoming episodes.

About Philosophy in Action Radio

Philosophy in Action Radio applies rational principles to the challenges of real life in live internet radio shows on Sunday mornings and Thursday evenings. For information on upcoming shows, visit the Episodes on Tap. For podcasts of past shows, visit the Show Archives.

Remember, with every episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, we show how rational philosophy can help you find joy in your work, model virtue for your kids, pursue your goals effectively, communicate with respect, and advocate for a free society. We can’t do that without your support, so please remember to tip your philosopher!

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On Sunday’s episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, I answered questions on the meaning of marriage vows, animals as property, the problem of overwork, and more with Greg Perkins. The podcast of that episode is now available for streaming or downloading. You’ll find it on the episode’s archive page, as well as below.

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

Podcast: Marriage Vows, Animals as Property, Overwork, and More

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

Introduction (0:00)

My News of the Week: I’ve been very busy preparing the scripts, web pages, questions, and podcasts for Explore Atlas Shrugged. They’ll be ready and available for sale for $20 this upcoming week.

Question 1: The Meaning of Marriage Vows (3:16)

In this segment, I answered a question on the meaning of marriage vows.

Are the promises of marriage binding when a spouse becomes self-destructive? When couples marry, they often promise to stay together “for better or for worse” and “in sickness and in health.” But imagine that a wife chooses a self-destructive course of action – say, abusing drugs, profligate spending, or gambling. She refuses to listen to reason or change her behavior. Does the husband have an obligation to stay in the marriage or support her financially due to his past promise? Basically, what do the promises of marriage oblige a person to do?

My Answer, In Brief: Marriage vows are neither forever binding promises, nor meaningless verbiage. They are promises to treat spouse with love and respect, with hope and goal of relationship worthy of enduring for lifetime. However, that’s not always possible – and to sacrifice your life and happiness to the marriage is morally wrong.

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Question 2: Animals as Property (25:15)

In this segment, I answered a question on animals as property.

Are animals a special kind of property? On your blog NoodleFood, you claimed that “the law should recognize that beloved pets are not mere property, but rather a special kind of property. To wrongfully cause the death of a pet should carry a significantly higher penalty than merely compensating the owner for the replacement cost of that pet. Moreover, police officers and government officials who indulge in this kind of reckless killing without good cause should be disciplined severely, preferably fired.” Can you explain this view – the theory and the practice – further? Would this standard be akin to that of hate crimes, on the theory that crime is wrong but a crime motivated by hate is more wrong? Would it apply to other property – like my car (because it adds so much value to my life) or family photographs (which have lots of sentimental values but not monetary value)?

My Answer, In Brief: The value of beloved pets to their owners is not limited to merely their economic value or replacement cost. The law – in police action, criminal law, and tort law – should recognize that.

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Question 3: The Problem of Overwork (49:31)

In this segment, I answered a question on the problem of overwork.

Does the example set by Ayn Rand’s heroes encourage overwork? The heroes of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead seem to have a nearly unlimited well of energy. They work long hours, and they don’t have many interests outside work. However, isn’t that dangerous? Does this approach to work risk exhaustion and burnout? More generally, what’s the rational approach to balancing work and self-care?

My Answer, In Brief: The risk of overwork is a major problem for some people and some jobs, and people should be cognizant of that. Ayn Rand’s heroes work hard, often too hard, but she’s not extolling overwork as a moral ideal thereby.

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Rapid Fire Questions (1:04:17)

In this segment, I answered questions impromptu. The questions were:

  • What do you think of the term neo-Objectivism (analogous to neo-Kantianism) to describe work that is based on Ayn Rand’s fundamentals?
  • What is authenticity? How does it differ from integrity?

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Conclusion (1:08:02)

Be sure to check out my blog NoodleFood and to submit and vote on questions for upcoming episodes.

About Philosophy in Action Radio

Philosophy in Action Radio applies rational principles to the challenges of real life in live internet radio shows on Sunday mornings and Thursday evenings. For information on upcoming shows, visit the Episodes on Tap. For podcasts of past shows, visit the Show Archives.

Remember, with every episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, we show how rational philosophy can help you find joy in your work, model virtue for your kids, pursue your goals effectively, communicate with respect, and advocate for a free society. We can’t do that without your support, so please remember to tip your philosopher!

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On Sunday’s episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, I answered questions on the errors of “Open Objectivism”, giving back an engagement ring, buying books with military secrets, and more with Greg Perkins. The podcast of that episode is now available for streaming or downloading. You’ll find it on the episode’s archive page, as well as below.

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

Podcast: Open Objectivism, Giving Back Gifts, Military Secrets, and More

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Remember, with every episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, we show how rational philosophy can help you find joy in your work, model virtue for your kids, pursue your goals effectively, communicate with respect, and advocate for a free society. We can’t do that without your support, so please remember to tip your philosopher!

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

Introduction (0:00)

My News of the Week: I’ve been busy programming for Philosophy in Action!

Question 1: The Errors of “Open Objectivism” (2:49)

In this segment, I answered a question on the errors of “Open Objectivism”.

What is “open Objectivism”? Recently, I checked out the website of “The Atlas Society,” the organization run by David Kelley. It advocates for “open Objectivism,” which I assume means that each person defines what Objectivism is. Am I interpreting that correctly? What’s wrong with that approach? Does regarding Objectivism as “closed” lead to intolerance, insularity, and schisms?

My Answer, In Brief: The “closed system” view of Objectivism just asks that people respect Ayn Rand’s philosophy as her own creation – and differentiate it from their own or others’ ideas. Contrary to the advocates of the “open system,” that approach doesn’t lead to insularity, dogmatism, or intolerance.

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Question 2: Giving Back an Engagement Ring (35:41)

In this segment, I answered a question on giving back an engagement ring.

Should a woman give back her engagement ring if the relationship goes sour? A friend of mine asked his girlfriend to marry him, and she accepted. However, they broke off the engagement – and the relationship – a few months later. Is she morally or legally obliged to give back the ring? Is the answer different if they married, then split?

My Answer, In Brief: The law on returning engagement rings varies from state to state. Morally, absent fraud or debts, the ring should be returned to the person who bought it.

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Question 3: Buying Books with Military Secrets (43:42)

In this segment, I answered a question on buying books with military secrets.

Is it wrong to buy a book containing sensitive military information? The Pentagon claims that the new book No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission that Killed Bin Laden reveals some potentially sensitive details about the operation. I’d really like to read about the mission, but I’m worried that the Pentagon’s concerns are valid, and I’d rather not contribute to a work that that puts our soldiers at risk. However, given that the book has already been released, does it matter whether I buy it or not?

My Answer, In Brief: Based on the story about the publication of this book, you can read it without misgivings. In general, you should feel free to read anything on the open market, provided that its very publication isn’t morally wrong.

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Rapid Fire Questions (51:11)

In this segment, I answered questions impromptu. The questions were:

  • What is the proper response to people who say, “If you take Objectivism to its logical conclusion, it leads to [this specific conclusion”? They believe you must necessarily come to the same conclusion as them, because their conclusion is the consequence of a syllogistic chain of reasoning, making the conclusion “necessary.”
  • What is the difference between rationalizing and reasoning poorly? Often times people who make bad arguments are accused of rationalization when it might just be that they are mistaken.
  • In a free society, should political parties which advocate statism be outlawed? Or would outlawing them be statism? How else do we stop people voting for tyrants and destroying the free society?

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Conclusion (59:55)

Be sure to check out my blog NoodleFood and to submit and vote on questions for upcoming episodes.

About Philosophy in Action Radio

Philosophy in Action Radio applies rational principles to the challenges of real life in live internet radio shows on Sunday mornings and Thursday evenings. For information on upcoming shows, visit the Episodes on Tap. For podcasts of past shows, visit the Show Archives.

Remember, with every episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, we show how rational philosophy can help you find joy in your work, model virtue for your kids, pursue your goals effectively, communicate with respect, and advocate for a free society. We can’t do that without your support, so please remember to tip your philosopher!

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On Sunday’s episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, I answered questions on evolution’s ethical implications, cultivating a healthy body image, the value of studying theology, and more with Greg Perkins. The podcast of that episode is now available for streaming or downloading. You’ll find it on the episode’s archive page, as well as below.

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

Podcast: Evolution’s Ethical Implications, Body Image, Theology, and More

Listen or Download:

Remember, with every episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, we show how rational philosophy can help you find joy in your work, model virtue for your kids, pursue your goals effectively, communicate with respect, and advocate for a free society. We can’t do that without your support, so please remember to tip your philosopher!

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

Introduction (0:00)

My News of the Week: I’ve been busy posting my early podcasts to Philosophy in Action’s podcast archive. Everything but the Explore Atlas Shrugged series is done!

Question 1: Evolution’s Ethical Implications (3:31)

In this segment, I answered a question on evolution’s ethical implications.

Should ethics begin with facts about evolution, including altruism? The ethical egoism advocated by Ayn Rand doesn’t seem to incorporate genetics or evolution. Having evolved in tribal and family groups, we are creatures tuned to group behavior more than to individual behavior. Altruism wasn’t invented by religion. In a tribe, helping those around you helps you survive too. Helping your kin helps your genes survive. The fact is that feeling good when you help others is built into the core of being human. The fact is that much status seeking and other seemingly irrational actions are techniques to ensure the propagation of our genes. Objectivism starts with “A is A.” But, if reality is most important, shouldn’t people base their ethics on the facts about humans as they actually are – altruism and all?

My Answer, In Brief: This argument might seem sensible on the surface, but it suffers from three fatal defects: (1) biological altruism is very different from ethical altruism, (2) ethics has a biological foundation, but the principles of ethics are not derived from animal behavior, and (3) many actions to benefit others or a group are not altruistic but self-interested.

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Question 2: Cultivating a Healthy Body Image (25:16)

In this segment, I answered a question on cultivating a healthy body image.

How does a person cultivate a healthy body image? Suppose that a woman realizes that she has been unconsciously influenced by unrealistic body images – as portrayed in movies, magazines, and so on? She is basically healthy, and so it would be good for her to feel good about how she looks. But a person can’t always change everything about herself: she can’t change her height, however much she dislikes it. Even if a person can make changes, most people need to accept that they will never look like movie stars. So how does a person cultivate a healthy body image? How might a person notice and combat an unhealthy obsession with appearance?

My Answer, In Brief: If you struggle with an unjustly negative view of your own body, (1) consciously reject the body ideals of our culture, (2) push yourself to look beyond superficials to the deeper values of your body, (3) recognize and accept your physical limits, and (4) make the most of what you have. If you do that, your view of your body will change.

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Question 3: The Value of Studying Theology (46:17)

In this segment, I answered a question on the value of studying theology.

Can a rational atheist extract any value from studying theology? Theology includes a mix of arguments for the existence of God, plus views on ethics, and more. It’s the earliest form of philosophy. Can a person benefit by cherry picking ideas from theological teachings or does the mysticism and other faults outweigh any benefits?

My Answer, In Brief: A rational atheist can extract quite a bit of value from studying the arguments for the existence of God, religious scriptures, and contemporary religious beliefs and practices. He can better his understanding of the culture, become more culturally literate, understand people better, and develop well-justified views on religion.

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Rapid Fire Questions (1:02:01)

In this segment, I answered questions impromptu. The questions were:

  • Does my inability to readily define terms mean that my concepts are unclear?
  • How should you respond to envious people who think that you’re ‘showing them up’ when you work harder than they do?

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

Conclusion (1:07:38)

Be sure to check out my blog NoodleFood and to submit and vote on questions for upcoming episodes.

About Philosophy in Action Radio

Philosophy in Action Radio applies rational principles to the challenges of real life in live internet radio shows on Sunday mornings and Thursday evenings. For information on upcoming shows, visit the Episodes on Tap. For podcasts of past shows, visit the Show Archives.

Remember, with every episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, we show how rational philosophy can help you find joy in your work, model virtue for your kids, pursue your goals effectively, communicate with respect, and advocate for a free society. We can’t do that without your support, so please remember to tip your philosopher!

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On Sunday’s episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, I answered questions on concern for future generations, privatizing prisons, buying and returning goods, and more with Greg Perkins. The podcast of that episode is now available for streaming or downloading. You’ll find it on the episode’s archive page, as well as below.

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

Podcast: Future Generations, Privatizing Prisons, Returning Goods, and More

Listen or Download:

Remember, with every episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, we show how rational philosophy can help you find joy in your work, model virtue for your kids, pursue your goals effectively, communicate with respect, and advocate for a free society. We can’t do that without your support, so please remember to tip your philosopher!

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

Introduction (0:00)

My News of the Week: My life has returned to normal – finally! I’ve been busy working on various projects for Philosophy in Action. Greg is on vacation, so he’s only here virtually. He and Tammy will return next Sunday.

Question 1: Concern for Future Generations (1:51)

In this segment, I answered a question on concern for future generations.

Should I care about future generations? People often claim that we should act for the sake of future generations, particularly regarding environmental concerns. Is that rational? Why should I care what happens to people after I am dead? Why should I work for the benefit of people who cannot possibly benefit my life and who aren’t even known, let alone of value, to me?

My Answer, In Brief: The interests of future generations do not conflict with our interests. That’s because the requirements of human flourishing – particularly freedom and technology – are the same throughout time. Benefit yourself by securing those values now, and you’ll benefit future generations too – without any sacrifice by anyone.

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Question 2: Privatizing Prisons (20:27)

In this segment, I answered a question on privatizing prisons.

Is running prisons a legitimate function of government or should they be privatized? Private prisons are a billion dollar industry here in the United States, but should they be left to private companies or should the government handle them instead?

My Answer, In Brief: Privately-run prisons may be more effective and cheaper than government-run prisons – or not. Prisons aren’t inherently a function of government, although the government must oversee them and set standards, at the very least.

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Question 3: Buying and Returning Goods (32:31)

In this segment, I answered a question on buying and returning goods.

Is it wrong to buy goods with the intent to return them? A friend of mine will often buy jewelry from large department stores for events, knowing that she’ll likely return the items. (Sometimes, however, she’ll keep an item even when she thought she’d return it.) She returns the goods undamaged and soon after buying. She asked me what I thought of the morality of her actions. In my opinion, she’s acting morally because she’s not committing fraud. The stores in question have liberal return policies (“if you are unhappy for whatever reason…”). They must know that some of their customers might do what she’s doing and think that allowing it is good for business. Is that right?

My Answer, In Brief: Your friend is abusing generous return policies. She’s not acting as an honest trader, but as a devious exploiter. That embodies a wholly wrong approach to morality that I hope she rethinks her actions.

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Rapid Fire Questions (42:18)

In this segment, I answered questions impromptu. The questions were:

  • Why do people differ so much in their taste in movies?
  • If a person stumbles upon data (say, logins and passwords) without hacking, it is morally and legally wrong to use that data?
  • Is it morally worse for a mother to abandon her child than for a father to do the same?
  • Why did you choose philosophy over programming?
  • Should college athletes be paid? Doesn’t the current system exploit them?
  • My mother believes she is clairvoyant, and she laughs when I try to explain away her ‘premonitions.’ How can I convince her she is not psychic?
  • My significant other is generally uninterested and/or easily frustrated by philosophy. Is there any way to help a person engage in rational inquiry? Is it necessary for a happy relationship?

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

Conclusion (59:57)

Be sure to check out my blog NoodleFood and to submit and vote on questions for upcoming episodes.

About Philosophy in Action Radio

Philosophy in Action Radio applies rational principles to the challenges of real life in live internet radio shows on Sunday mornings and Thursday evenings. For information on upcoming shows, visit the Episodes on Tap. For podcasts of past shows, visit the Show Archives.

Remember, with every episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, we show how rational philosophy can help you find joy in your work, model virtue for your kids, pursue your goals effectively, communicate with respect, and advocate for a free society. We can’t do that without your support, so please remember to tip your philosopher!

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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