Jun 132011
 

On Sunday’s episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, Greg Perkins and I answered questions on proper reliance on experts, the evil of Immanuel Kant, responding to expressions of hatred for work, the morality of exploiting flaws in government lotteries, appropriating insulting terms, dismissing arguments with pejorative language, and more. The podcast of that episode is now available for streaming or downloading.

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Whole Podcast: 12 June 2011

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Podcast Segments: 12 June 2011

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

Introduction

My News of the Week: I’ve working on upgrades to the webcast, getting my health in order, and reading the wonderfully absorbing dystopia The Hunger Games.

Question 1: Proper Reliance on Experts

Question: What role should experts play in our decision-making? Specifically, should a person defer to experts in fields where he’s not well-informed? What if he’s only partially knowledgeable? Should experts expect such deference? Does it matter whether the field is philosophy, plumbing, diet, or something else?

My Answer, In Brief: We can and ought to make use of experts when our own knowledge is lacking. However, we shouldn’t ever defer to them but rather keep an active mind, acting as traders in knowledge.

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

Question 2: The Evil of Immanuel Kant

Question: Was Immanuel Kant evil rather than just wrong – and if so, why and how? I understand that Kant’s ideas are very wrong, even evil. But couldn’t he have been honestly mistaken, perhaps not taking his own work seriously? Given that he never advocated or did anything even remotely comparable to Hitler’s genocide, why should he be regarded as evil, if at all?

My Answer, In Brief: Kant’s philosophy cannot be the result of honest errors, and he did know, or ought to have known, of its destructive power. Hence, he should be regarded as evil, not merely mistaken.

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

Question 3: Responding to Expressions of Hatred for Work

Question: How should I respond when people disparage their work? Often, people make comments about the great burden that work is – not in the sense that they’re unhappy with some problem in their current job, but that they resent the need to work at all. These are the kinds of people who live for weekends and vacations. I don’t feel that way about my work, and I think these people are missing so much in life. How can I respond to such casual remarks in a way that might make the person re-think their attitude?

My Answer, In Brief: People often adopt such an attitude toward their work without thinking, and often just stating your own disagreement can shock people into rethinking what work might and ought to be.

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

Question 4: The Morality of Exploiting Flaws in Government Lotteries

Question: Is it moral to exploit a design flaw in a government or private lottery? An article in Wired describes how a statistician noticed a design flaw in the Ontario government lottery “scratchers” game which would allow people to consistently win money. He was described as being “ethical” because he alerted the authorities rather than taking advantage of it for personal gain, and they fixed the problem. Would it be moral to exploit a mathematical flaw in a government lottery without alerting anyone? Would it make a difference if the game was the work of a private casino rather than the government (e.g., exploiting a bias in a casino’s roulette wheel)?

My Answer, In Brief: So long as you’re playing by the rules, you’re not cheating. However, you don’t want to adopt the mindset of a cheater, nor harm yourself in some other way by exploiting this weakness.

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

Question 5: Appropriating Insulting Terms

Question: What do you think of people using pejorative terms for themselves, such as gays referring to themselves as “faggots” or Objectivists calling themselves “Randroids”? The term “Randroid” is supposed to imply that Objectivists are unthinking, mindless drones. However, I happily use this term to describe myself – after first calling myself an Objectivist, of course – because I think it squashes a lot of the negativity behind the pejorative when I adopt it willingly. Do you think it’s for good Objectivists to adopt this term – and more generally, for people to use insults as badges of honor?

My Answer, In Brief: To use insults ironically among people who understand the joke is unproblematic, but to simply describe oneself in insulting terms does not combat the insult but sanctions it – or demands a double standard.

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

Question 6: Dismissing Arguments with Pejorative Language

Question: Is pejorative rhetoric useful? When should you or when may you describe someone’s argument or analysis in pejorative terms, because you don’t consider them intellectually honest or educable, and you just want to make it clear to the wider audience that you don’t accept them as a worthwhile opponent? Is it acceptable to just vent in such cases?

My Answer, In Brief: A person should never just vent, and if you do, you’re likely to look like the dishonest jerk unworthy of civilized discussion.

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

Conclusion

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: 1:00:11


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  • Jeff

    “A person should never just vent, and if you do, you’re likely to look like the dishonest jerk unworthy of civilized discussion.” I agree. What do you think of the woman who published the long public and personal attack on Chris Sciabarra, which seemed just like vile and puerile venting for its own sake?

   
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