Aug 312015

On Sunday’s episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, Greg Perkins and I answered questions on impartialism in ethics, changing names with marriage, and more. The podcast of that episode is now available for streaming or downloading.

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Whole Podcast: 30 August 2015

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Podcast Segments: 30 August 2015

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


My News of the Week: Last weekend, I participated in really useful workshop on self-improvement in Atlanta. I got lots of ideas to bring to the show, and now there’s lots of reading that I want to do.

Question 1: Impartialism in Ethics

Question: Does ethics require impartiality? Critics of egoism, particularly utilitarians, accuse egoists of being biased in favor of oneself without justification. They assert that a scientific ethics must be neutral and impartial: it must take a third-person viewpoint where the self isn’t given any special consideration. Are the utilitarians wrong? If so, why should a scientific ethics bias the self over others?

My Answer, In Brief: Impartialism in ethics attempts to disconnect the good from the agent, and thereby oblige people to promote everyone’s good, not just their own. However, the arguments for that are weak, the results are appalling. Ethics should be partial – in the sense that ethics should promote the good of the agent – but they should be universal and benevolent too.

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To comment on this question or my answer, visit its comment thread.

Question 2: Changing Names with Marriage

Question: 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 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 didn’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?

My Answer, In Brief: If you’re thinking of changing your name, be sure to do or not do it for good reasons!

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To comment on this question or my answer, visit its comment thread.

Rapid Fire Questions


  • On commissioning art, what about the morality of commissioning fanart of work not yet in public domain? Like a drawing of superman or a short story about Ragnar Danneskjold? (This would not be for publication, just for yourself.)
  • What is your opinion of the anthropic principle that “observations of the physical universe must be compatible with the conscious life that observes it”? Does it beg the question?
  • Are there any normative propositions that are axiomatic? – done?
  • What are oaths? Are they just romantic elements for fiction or real things that are useful some way?
  • Do you believe there are unconscious parts of the human mind? If so, what implications does this have for free will?
  • Are all people interdependent? What does that mean?
  • Benjamin Franklin wrote letters to his brother’s newspaper posing as a widow named Silence Dogood (the original “sock puppet account”). If you met Franklin in person, would you find him untrustworthy?

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  • Start Time: 45:19
  • Duration: 17:05
  • Download: MP3 Segment

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


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

  • Start Time: 1:02:24

About Philosophy in Action Radio

Philosophy in Action Radio focuses on the application of rational principles to the challenges of real life. It broadcasts live on most Sunday mornings and many Thursday evenings over the internet. For information on upcoming shows, visit the Episodes on Tap. For podcasts of past shows, visit the Show Archives.

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