New Questions in the Queue

 Posted by on 26 February 2014 at 8:00 am  Question Queue
Feb 262014

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:

Are horse rescues a worthy charitable cause?

I know that you love horses, and that you’ve adopted dogs and cats from rescues. So what’s your opinion of horse rescues? Are they charities worth supporting? Are they a good alternative to euthanasia or slaughter? Would you ever adopt a rescued horse?

Do confidentiality agreements justify privacy lies?

Some professions, like clinical psychology, law, or sex work commonly utilize confidentiality agreements between professionals and clients due to the sensitive nature of the information shared between them. Generally, such professionals can (and do) have a policy of refusing to answer any questions about their clients and so avoid any supposed need for privacy lies to protect from nosy inquiries. However, these agreements also often include the understanding (sometimes explicit) that, if professional and client should ever meet in a social situation, the professional would follow the client’s lead about if and how they knew each other. This means that a dishonest client could push the professional into a lie. Yet even in the case where both people are basically honest, the mere act of showing recognition of each other could compromise the client’s privacy if the professional’s job is not a secret. And there are reasonable social situations in which you couldn’t hide familiarity without deceit of some kind. So ethically, we seem to be stuck between (1) clients having their privacy might be violated if they are unlucky enough to encounter their professional outside the office or (2) professionals having to lie to protect the privacy of their clients. Is there another alternative here? If not, what’s the best course?

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? Is this dangerous? How can people explain what’s wrong with this approach or combat it?

How can I become more comfortable advocating free market ideas?

In the past, I have found opportunities to express free market opinions to friends and acquaintances. However, I have found that in doing so, I lose focus on what matters most to me (i.e. my work and family) and my stress level spikes. For instance, commenting on a friends Facebook post where he scorned the wealthiest individuals in society, I found that my sleep was significantly impacted for about 7 days. During the first day I had to calm myself down many times to respond to my friend’s ad hominem replies. My physical conditions included shaky hands, damp armpits, and chattering teeth. All of that is presumably from an adrenaline response. Currently, I have come to the conclusion that I don’t know how to comfortably advocate free market ideas while maintaining my life, health, and happiness. I see this as me lacking a skill, not an innate failing. So am I doomed to keep my mouth shut? Can I learn these skills? If so, how and where?

Is evil is necessary for good to exist?

Often people – particularly religious people – say that evil exists so that we know what good is. I think this is wrong, because a thing is what it is regardless of whether it can be contrasted with an opposite. Also, this idea seems to imply a tautology that evil is non-good and good is non-evil. I think this just an “out” that people give to God. So does the existence of good require the existence of evil?

How can I overcome my past failure to capitalize on the perfect opportunity?

Two years ago, after years of struggling in the post-2008 job market, I had a job opportunity that could have been the best thing that ever happened to me. It was a job that represents my values and could have brought me much-needed financial success if I had pulled it off. But it was also an extremely difficult, demanding, and stressful proposition, and I was uncertain whether I have what it takes to succeed at it. To make matters worse, when it came along, I was depressed to the point of having lost the will to live. In my bad emotional state, I was unable to go through with the job, and I let the opportunity slip. In the two years since then, I have done nothing but hold down an menial job while reflecting on the missed opportunity. I can’t move on or get over the fact of what I did and have become almost obsessed with it. I need to approach the employer and ask him for another chance at it. It is doubtful that he would say yes, but I have nothing to lose by trying. However, for all the same reasons I didn’t go through with it before, I still cannot work up the will to do it. Every day I wake up wanting to die and I am so depressed that I can’t feel the warmth of a great opportunity; everything just seems hopeless and pointless. How can I rehabilitate myself enough approach the employer for a second chance?

How can I trust a therapist to help me?

I have psychological problems, and I probably need help. However, I have a negative view of the mental health profession in general due to bad experiences in the past. It bothers me that therapists are educated in modern universities where all forms of leftism and equally irrational psychological theories predominate. In my state, many licensed “counselors” are just social workers (the most leftist whackjob profession of all time) with government licenses to counsel people. I am afraid that they will have me involuntarily committed if I am honest about my thoughts of suicide, which I have ready plans to carry out if I decide to. How can I trust anybody in this [expletive deleted] profession?

Is ‘scientism’ an anti-concept?

In discussions about philosophy and social science, the pejorative label of “scientism” often arises. It seems to have two definitions. The first is “the improper application of scientific-sounding jargon to rationalize unscientific assertions.” The second definition is: “the application of any scientific discoveries to the discipline of studying human behavior.” Many leftwing and rightwing activists say that those two definitions are the same – meaning that any attempt to apply scientific discoveries to understanding human behavior is invalid, rationalistic scientism. They cite the eugenics movement as proof of this, and say that anyone who tries to apply scientific discoveries to understanding human behavior is as guilty of Scientism as were the eugenicists. I do think that some people cite neuroscience to foist irrational conclusions, such as saying that brain scans prove that non-leftwing people are more paranoid and hysterical than are leftwing people. But I think there are cases where applying scientific discoveries to studying human nature can be valid. Am I right to think that the pejorative label of “scientism” is a problematic “package deal”?

Is Immanuel Kant’s distinction between noumenal and phenomenal realms valid?

In the past, I’ve dismissed Kant’s distinction between noumenal and phenomenal realms simply because Kant seems to suggest that the noumenal realm is unknowable. If that were true, then not only can he not say anything about the noumenal realm, but he can’t even say that it’s unknowable because even that would require some evidence. Is that right? Does the distinction have any validity? If not, why is it so widely accepted by philosophers?

Do dog owners violate rights by allowing their dogs to poop on others’ lawns?

I live in a residential urban area along with many dog owners. On a daily basis, I observe those dog owners allowing their dogs to defecate on other peoples’ lawns. I view this action as a trespass and violation of property rights, whether or not they pick up afterward. (For those who believe that picking up after your dog mitigates the trespass, would you let your child play on that spot afterward?) I don’t believe that property owners should have to create fences, hedges, or other structures to prevent this trespass. On several occasions, I have asked owners not to let their dogs poop on the front lawn of our apartment. I have received various responses from polite acquiescence to incredulousness. Many dog owners seem to feel a sense of entitlement about using others’ property without permission. Isn’t that wrong? Would you agree that it is the SOLE RESPONSIBILITY of the animal owners to care for their pets without violating the rights of the people around them? What, if any, recourse would property owners have in a free society against blatant repeat offenders of this principle?

Can laws against animal cruelty be justified without animal rights?

In past radio shows, you’ve said that animals don’t have rights – even though you condemn cruelty toward animals. You’ve also explained why the “marginal humans” argument does not validate animal rights. If that’s the case, is there any hope for a rational argument for laws against cruelty to animals? Would such laws always violate human rights? If not, are people obliged to sit on their hands while animals are deliberately tortured or starved on neighboring property?

Is jury nullification moral and proper?

Jury nullification happens when the jury knows that the defendant in a criminal case broke the law, yet that jury finds the defendant not guilty due to moral objections to the law. For instance, during Prohibition, a jury might have proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant produced liquor, yet find him not guilty. Today, the same might happen with people guilty of drug crimes. Some critics of jury nullification say that the practice is illegal, anarchistic, and undermines the rule of law. Is that right? Or is jury nullification a moral and proper aspect of our system of checks and balances?

Why aren’t women strongly condemned for sexual relationships with underage boys?

A few years ago, I saw a flurry of news stories about female teachers in their twenties committing statutory rape by having sex with their teenage male students. At the time, many public commentators and comedians said that they didn’t see how the boys could have been harmed, and they thought an adult male teacher having sex with a female student would be much more predatory. Besides, those commentators often added, the female teachers in these cases were “hot.” At the time, I agreed with those views, but lately, I’ve been thinking that I should check my premises. So is it the case that an adult man having sex with a female minor is more predatory than that of an adult woman having sex with a male minor? Are the teenage male minor’s rights are violated if he is seduced into a sexual relationship with a female teacher? is a double standard at work here?

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, such that God’s existence has not been proven. The strong atheist positively asserts that God does not exist. Which of these views is correct?

Can a black market dealer in a corrupt society be moral?

I lived in a purely free society with a night watchman state, I think that being a vigilante would be unjust, as I would not be constrained by the due-process procedures that properly constrain the government. However, imagine that I lived in a developing country where the police and courts were corrupt, and they wouldn’t do anything if I didn’t bribe them. Then, if someone violated my rights, vigilante justice might be the only justice available to me. Likewise, if I lived in such a corrupt regime, I might only be able to survive and live decently by becoming an unlicensed operator in the black market. Yet then I’d be obliged to act as a vigilante too: if someone cheated me in the black market, I would only be able to exact justice by acting as a vigilante. Therefore, is the decision to become a black-market operator inevitably corrupting, even though vigilante justice would only be required because the police and the courts cannot be relied upon?

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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