New Questions in the Queue

 Posted by on 1 July 2015 at 8:00 am  Question Queue
Jul 012015

As you know, on Sunday morning’s Philosophy in Action Radio, I answer 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:

When is delegation in a marriage irresponsible or unwise?

There are some parts of normal adult life that I’m really bad at due to social anxiety. Should I ask my husband to do those chores? If I ask for help, I worry that I’m being weak, lazy, and avoiding my responsibilities. On the other hand, if I try to do the hard things on my own, I often mess up. Where’s the line between delegating and shirking?

Should I change my name when I marry?

I’m a gay man who is engaged to be married. The question has come up about whether or not either of us would change our last name and historically we’ve said no. We have just thought we would just maintain our given names. My fiance doesn’t want to change his name and we both think trying to hyphenate our last names would be unwieldy and fussy. But as we’ve talked about planning a family in the future, it’s occurred to me that I actually like the idea of sharing a name with my husband and my children. So, I’ve been considering changing my name. Somewhat ironically, however, changing my name means giving up a five-generation-old family name in order to take on the name of our new family. I don’t mind this irony very much since my decision would be about taking on a family I choose rather than one I don’t. What do you think? What pros and cons do you see for changing your name at marriage? Do you see any additional pros or cons for gay men considering this question?

Is it wrong to take up a hobby for the sake of dating?

I’m single, and I want to meet more women. Is it wrong or unwise to take up hobbies like dancing, acting, painting, singing, or guitar just to have some skill to show and to meet women interested in those activities? I wouldn’t take up these hobbies without the dating angle: I’m just not interested in them, at least not right now. Is that wrong?

Is loving and excelling at the process of the work enough for a career?

In your June 14th, 2015 discussing of choosing a career, you said that a person should love the day-to-day process of doing the work, not merely the effects it creates. What about the reserve problem – meaning that you enjoy the day-to-day work but you don’t feel very inspired by its effects, and you feel like it’s not important, inspiring, or real work? In my own case, I enjoy translation, foreign languages and linguistics. I taught myself French and German, and I am teaching myself several more languages. When I began tutoring others, I realized that I learn instantly what others struggle to master. I’m fascinated by how different languages express the same thought, and I’ll lose myself in the process of translation. However, I don’t find myself inspired by the results. If I were to translate patents or fiction, I wouldn’t feel like I was doing much of importance. Plus, I’d not feel like I was doing any real work because it’s like playing to me. Also, it doesn’t pay well. I’m also interested in technology and electronics, and I like the process of programming too. I feel like the effects of programming are more inspiring and have way more potential, but I have more aptitude for languages. Given these factors, how should I decide on a career path?

Is it wrong for a woman not to report a sexual assault?

I harshly judge grown women who do not report or otherwise address sexual assault. (I say “address” because I’m super picky about bringing in the police on questionable matters, but saying something about it to mutual contacts often might be enough.) I’m missing the empathy component when some douche assaults one lady after another. I do not understand why someone would not address this in some way: assault is a major deal. But maybe I am being too harsh. How should these women be judged?

Do my parents have a right to force me to take a paternity test?

My parents’ marriage has always been rocky, with doubts about my mother’s faithfulness pervading their relationship despite the fact that her infidelity has never been proven. About a year ago, my parents approached me out of the blue about taking a paternity test due to my father’s doubt that I am his biological daughter. Given their unhealthy, abusive past, I was immediately concerned about opening an old wound for my father and endangering my mother with this dangerous “evidence.” So I agreed to take the test only if my father would be willing to forgive my mom for either result and get counseling for past pains. He was infuriated by this and refused to agree to forgive mom or address his anger. He claims that he “deserves to know the truth” and that I am unfairly torturing him by not taking the test. I do not feel it is my responsibility or obligation to take a paternity test that would contribute nothing to me, but could result in more abuse and resentment toward my mother. At age 33, I could care less about the test results as I am a grown adult who will always relate to my dad as my only father, for better or for worse. I was secure in my decision until several weeks ago when I received a letter from my parents threatening legal action if I do not take the paternity test. I am unsure what the law says on this matter, but I do not trust the courts to act rationally (especially because my mother works for a law firm and has some weight to throw around here). I am now uncertain how to balance protecting myself against protecting them from each other and from additional pain. I have consulted other trusted family members on what to do and they have urged me to hold out on taking the test. What should I do?

Why do you think men have dominated societies throughout most of history?

The obvious answer to that question is that men are physically stronger, therefore they have been able to take and keep political and intellectual control. But I wonder if there other factors that have also contributed, such as psychological factors. For example, I have often heard women say they are attracted to men who will “take charge” (at least at times, or in certain situations). Might women have at least some tendency to allow men to take leadership roles? And a disproportionate amount of violent crimes are committed by men, suggesting that men have greater tendencies towards aggressive behavior. What, if any, psychological factors or personality traits have led to history to play out as it has?

How do altruists cope with their own moral hypocrisy?

Since learning about the egoism of the Objectivist ethics, I’ve been fascinated by how often morally righteous altruists – who live with their ideas and push them on others – are able to maintain a seemingly high level of psychological strength, self-esteem, and motivation in life. I’m thinking of the kind of altruist who achieves a high standard of living for himself and his family and who pursues a career of his own choice. Many politicians are good examples of this. The Objectivist ethics seems to say that these individuals should not be able to exist. How do they do it? How do they get away with it?

Why are there so many popular songs idealizing women who don’t know they are beautiful?

I’ve noticed that there are lots of pop songs that glorify women who don’t know they’re physically attractive. Here’s an example: “You don’t know you’re beautiful, That’s what makes you beautiful.” Does this indicate something about what men want? Do they want a woman who doesn’t know her own value? Or does this indicate something about how most women have body image issues?

How can I be less annoyed with “Atlas Shrugged”?

I love Ayn Rand’s ideas, and I thoroughly enjoy her non-fiction. I want to enjoy Atlas Shrugged and her other fiction more, but I’m often annoyed with the aesthetics of her work. I acknowledge the fact that the novels are great, but every time I see mention of Francisco’s mocking smile or John Galt’s mocking eyes or Hank Rearden’s mocking laugh or John Galt’s implacable voice or New York City’s implacable skyline or Dagny Taggart’s silent terror, I just want to pull my hair out. I find myself wanting to throw the book at the wall every time she uses those words! I understand that loving her novels is not a prerequisite for applying her philosophy, but I really desire to experience the joy that many other people feel while reading her work. How can I get more enjoyment out of it?

What is the harm of granting unearned forgiveness?

Some people are too forgiving. For example, some religions preach that people should forgive a cheating or abusive spouse or forgive a deadbeat sibling who has stolen money from the family – and many people do just that. I have even seen some people claim that rape victims should forgive their attacker. Aside from the obvious answer that an unreformed perpetrator may commit the same act against us in the future, what are some other real-life practical harms of offering forgiveness when it is not earned?

Is the United States finished as a free country?

Lately, I have seen a lot of people in my circles claim that the United States as a free country is dead and done, that tyranny advances each day and it’s not isolated, it’s everywhere. These are mostly reactions to articles reporting seeming home invasions by police, the FBI’s forensic hair match scandal, and other government abuses. The common claim is that the United States now has an inherently corrupt justice system where policemen can end the lives of citizens with impunity and get away with it. My inner skeptic makes me feel that, while this is evidence of a lot of bad things that shouldn’t be tolerated, the reaction itself seems disproportionate. While there are systemic problems, I have the impression that it is not all-pervasive and not hopeless. Then again, that could be also my inner optimist trying to tell myself that things are not as bad as they first appear. What is your take on the current climate of the United States? Do you think it is as finished as others claim it is? What kind of tools could you recommend for someone to use in gauging the state of the country more accurately?

Can I help my family deal with their grief over the death of my nephew?

My teenage nephew passed away six months ago. He was murdered at a party by someone who crashed it, someone who he had never met before. It was unexpected, and there are a lot of unanswered questions and a lot of anger towards the boy who did it. I think that my partner and I are grieving appropriately. We were devastated at first, and we are doing our best to support our family, and we are adapting to life without my him. I remember you saying in a recent episode that if your mother ever passed away it would be really difficult but that you would need train yourself to adapt to life without her. I’ve found that advice really helpful, and I think that my partner and I are doing a good job at it. However, my family is suddenly turning to religion as an answer, clinging onto every detail of the court case, and pushing people who love and care about them away. I know there is no cookie cutter way to grieve, but what support or suggestions can I offer my family?

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.)

Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha