New Questions in the Queue

 Posted by on 16 October 2013 at 6:00 pm  Question Queue
Oct 162013

As you know, on Sunday morning’s Philosophy in Action Radio, I answer four questions chosen in advance from the Question Queue. Here are the most recent additions to that queue. Please vote for the ones that you’re most interested in hearing me answer! You can also review and vote on all pending questions sorted by date or sorted by popularity.

Also, I’m perfectly willing to be bribed to answer a question of particular interest to you pronto. So if you’re a regular contributor to Philosophy in Action’s Tip Jar, I can answer your desired question as soon as possible. The question must already be in the queue, so if you’ve not done so already, please submit it. Then just e-mail me at to make your request.

Now, without further ado, the most recent questions added to The Queue:

How can I achieve greater psychological visibility?

Recently, I realized that many of my emotional difficulties in life – such as in maintaining motivation or keeping serene – may be exacerbated by feelings of psychological invisibility. In other words, I feel uncared for and unnoticed, and the deep dissatisfaction stemming from that could be potentially affecting a lot of areas in my life. For instance, I recently spoke to my manager as to my problems at work, and it made me feel so uniquely good that I was able to finish my shift in peace and on-track, in contrast to the bitter, near seething prior hours. That unique feeling indicates that I may have a deep unfulfilled emotional need in their area, hurting other realms of performance. Thus, what is psychological visibility? What does it add to my life? How can I satisfy it?

Is memory trustworthy?

Memory is often described as being highly fallible and even malleable. Is that true? If so, what are the implications of that for claims about the objectivity and reliability of knowledge? What are the implications for daily life? Should we trust our experiences when we can’t be trusted to remember them?

Should employers be required to warn employees of possible harms on the job?

Discovery Channel’s TV show titled “Gold Rush” depicted a South American gold miner using mercury in the mining process because mercury binds to gold and makes extraction from a “sluice.” Mercury being heavier, falls below the surface and is collectable at the bottom of a “sluice box.” The episode (possibly titled “The Jungle”) depicts workers using their bare hands in the sluice where I’m assuming they are in direct physical contact with the mercury. In a free society, should employers be allowed to expose their employees to such risks? Should they be obliged to warn them of those risks? Or are workers responsible for the risks and correct procedures of their job?

Should minors be forbidden from buying dangerous goods?

Under current law, minors are often restricted from buying goods regarded as dangerous, such as cigarettes, alcohol, fireworks, or firearms. In a free society, should those restrictions be abolished or upheld? Should parents be allowed to permit their children to buy such goods?

How should I judge the rapper Eminem?

I love the rapper Eminem. In terms of lyrical writing ability, I consider him the most gifted individual probably in the history of music, and a better poet than anyone who writes poetry. Much of his content, which includes lyrics glorifying drug use and raping and killing women, is morally abhorrent on the surface; however, it’s obvious to me that he doesn’t intend for such statements to be taken literally, and I actually find some of his most “evil” lyrics to be quite fun. I am struggling to understand why I find such artistic value in such malevolent music. How should I judge him and similar musicians?

How should European colonizers be judged for their treatment of Native Americans?

Some people, especially conservatives, give blanket praise to Columbus and European colonizers, notwithstanding their conquest and displacement of native populations. Those Native Americans are sometimes denigrated as ignorant, brutal, and/or lacking any concept of property – and hence, as unworthy of the protection of rights. Many others consider the Native Americans either noble savages or at least the rightful owners of the land. They condemn European colonization as unethical conquest or even genocide. Are either of those approaches correct? What counts as a fair judgment of European colonizers in their behavior toward Native Americans? How should European colonizers have treated native persons?

Should I leave my inmate boyfriend?

I am in a dilemma. My current boyfriend is in prison serving a 6 year sentence. He has been away for a year and a half. It took over two years for the legal matters to be settled and for him to finally get a sentence. This is also my first ever boyfriend and I am already 26. Is it wrong for me to want to move on with my life? After he gets out (if no appeal is granted) he will be forced into a very limited lifestyle being on a sex offender list. I keep thinking about trying to make new friends and what I should and should not disclose to them. Right now, I live with his parents and work with his mother. I feel like I have myself cornered and am drowning in this huge mess. I want my own life but with zero support and friends I am terrified of the risk. Do I stick it out? do I suck it up and leave him, my home, and my job?

Does the military ethos of honor, duty, and sacrifice have a rational basis?

Soldiers are often portrayed as acting from duty and nobly sacrificing themselves for their country and its citizens (present and future). Is this ethic completely irrational? Or does it have some rational roots?

Should fashion be protected by copyright?

In France, it is somewhat (really, just a wee bit) possible to obtain copyright over certain aspects of apparel and accessory design. Yet in the US, there is no protection for new garment design, only for textile innovations and processes. But if something is truly unique and new in ways that have never existed before, should the designer be able to own that design as his intellectual property and prevent others from using it? Artists, musicians, and writers are able to protect their works from partial or whole plagiarism. Shouldn’t fashion be afforded the same protections?

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?

Can we learn ethical and social behavior from animals?

A National Geographic article on insect behavior entitled “Swarm Theory” closes with the following lines: “‘A honeybee never sees the big picture any more than you or I do,’ says Thomas Seeley, the bee expert. ‘None of us knows what society as a whole needs, but we look around and say, oh, they need someone to volunteer at school, or mow the church lawn, or help in a political campaign.’ If you’re looking for a role model in a world of complexity, you could do worse than to imitate a bee.” Is that right? Can studying animal behavior give us insights into how we should act?

Does Ayn Rand’s acceptance of Social Security payments invalidate her case for laissez faire capitalism?

I often hear leftists claim that Ayn Rand’s acceptance of Social Security payments makes her a hypocrite and invalidates her criticism of the welfare state. Was Ayn Rand wrong to accept such payments? Why or why not? More generally, if free-market advocates incur benefits from government-provided services financed through compulsory taxation – such as collecting Social Security, driving on government-built roads, and using city-owned public libraries – does this invalidate the case for privatization and the night watchman state?

How can I convince myself, deep-down, that God does not exist?

I was raised Catholic, although I was never deeply religious. Now, many years later, a friend is showing me Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism. I can see its benefits, but my religious upbringing still lingers in the back of my head. So part of me still thinks that God exists, even though I don’t really believe that any longer. It was just engrained in me from such a young age that I can’t seem to let it go. Can I change that? If so, how?

Does being rational mean having faith in reason?

I’m a high school student in a religious school. Many of my classmates claim that my belief in a knowable reality, science, and reason is merely a form of faith. So how can a person validate his own reason and senses? How can a person know that they are reliable means of knowing reality – unless he uses them and thereby engages in circular reasoning? My classmates claim that God is the only way out of this puzzle: God checks our reasoning by verifying and opposing our various conclusions. How can I respond to their arguments effectively?

To submit a question, use this form. I prefer questions focused on some concrete real-life problem, as opposed to merely theoretical or political questions. I review and edit all questions before they’re posted. (Alas, IdeaInformer doesn’t display any kind of confirmation page when you submit a question.)

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