New Questions in the Queue

 Posted by on 23 October 2013 at 8:00 am  Question Queue
Oct 232013

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:

What should a person do when another person is likely to go insane or commit suicide if others cut him off?

At one point in my life, I knew a person who led such a self-destructive life that he essentially reached the point where he had to have evasions in place and enablers around him in order to keep sane, for if he fully realized how self-destructive he had been he would have literally gone insane or, extremely likely, committed suicide. I know this since I was aware of his extreme emotional instability persisting for decades, suicide attempts, alcoholism, and so on. The only way for him to keep it together was to keep evading how he ruined his life or be surrounded by people pretended to love and care for them, who in reality felt indifference or contempt since this person was very malicious, envious, and toxic towards other people. What should a person or network of people do in this case, where it’s extremely likely this person would simply lose his mind or commit suicide within a few days of people cutting him off?

In a free society, would psychics be prosecuted for fraud?

How would the government in a rational, free-market system handle people and businesses, such as the Psychic Friends Network, which claim to have psychic powers (such as being able to talk to the dead) and charge the gullible hundreds of dollars in fees for “spiritual consultations”? Would the government prosecute such people for fraud? Or would the government have a “caveat emptor” attitude and say, “If people want to waste their money on that nonsense, that’s their rightful prerogative”?

How can we better explain that benevolence toward others is egoistic?

In the October 7, 2013 podcast, you mentioned that people have a difficult time understanding how exercising benevolence towards one’s friends is egoistic and self-interested. Instead, they think that being benevolent toward anyone is “other-regarding” and hence, not egoistic. You also mentioned that proponents of ethical egoism need to develop new methods of explaining how egoism does not preclude benevolence toward others. How can egoists help people understand the proper distinction between altruism and egoism better?

Should a professor pass a student who deserved to flunk for fear of reprisals?

Because you’ve taught at the university level, I want to ask you about integrity in grading as a professor. Suppose you flunked a student who never showed up to class and didn’t complete the assigned work adequately. However, this student was well-connected to university donors and administrators. After you flunked this student, suppose that a high-ranking administrator threatened reprisals against you if you didn’t give this student a passing grade. What should you do? Would it be corrupt to comply with the administrator’s demand? What might you (or another professor) do instead?

Does the limited-liability of corporations allow them to harm people with impunity?

I have heard libertarians argue that the limited-liability status of corporations allows them to violate rights and not pay the full cost of doing so. I’ve heard an argument like this: suppose ten billionaires, each with a net worth of $1 billion, co-found a corporation. Each billionaire puts $100,000 into the company, and it doesn’t yet have any debts, giving the corporation a net book value of $1 million. This corporation ends up accidentally leaking toxic chemicals into a city, causing $100 million worth of damage. Yet if the victims sue the corporation for damages, they can receive no more than the $1 million value of the corporation, and they can’t go after the billionaire shareholders’ personal assets. Therefore, limited liability is evil. But can’t plaintiffs sue a corporation and in addition sue its principal stockholders personally? Are anti-corporation libertarians right that limited liability is a violation of rights that should be abolished?

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?

How strongly should a student object to a professor’s objectionable views?

I am a senior undergraduate in liberal arts major at a public university. I’m currently taking a class with the bleak subject matter of genocide. My blatantly socialist teacher presents her views in discussions of the Armenian genocide, the “genocide” in Soviet Russia, and the Holocaust. Often, she ignores the role of religion and flawed socialist policies. Also, she blames greed and capitalism to an unreasonable degree for the woes of the aforementioned countries. How should I respond to these objectionable claims of hers? How much should I try to undermine her wrongheaded views?

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.)

  • John Pryce

    My question for you, Diana: is this funny?


    In the terrifying first film, a man with a history of psychological problems and drug abuse gets into a violent argument with a waiter at a small diner, kills and partially consumes him, and then leads state troopers on a high-speed chase with a fiery conclusion!

    In the shocking second film, a woman is captured by a powerful cult of cannibals who believe that she is their goddess descended, and who intend to sacrifice and eat her flesh as the sun rises on the morning of the summer solstice. In order to save her, her fiance must infiltrate the dangerous cult, and convince them he is one of them. Whether he saves her or not, their lives will never be the same!

    The King of Splatter Sam Raimi proudly presents DINE AND DASH! Followed by BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS!

Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha