Oct 032011

On Sunday’s episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, Greg Perkins and I answered questions on fear of death, using the Do Not Call Registry, genetic influences on thinking, the morality of selling your body, and more. The podcast of that episode is now available for streaming or downloading.

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Whole Podcast: 2 October 2011

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Podcast Segments: 2 October 2011

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


My News of the Week: Like last week, I’ve been tending to Paul and programming the new web site for this webcast. Yesterday was also “Hay Day Chez Hsieh”!

Question 1: Fear of Death

Question: Should death be feared? Why or why not? Also, why do most people fear death? How can a person overcome that, if ever?

My Answer, In Brief: A person actually facing own death might reasonably fear the pain of dying or regret that his life will be cut short. However, others should not fear those possibilities just because they might happen someday, nor ever fear what would happen in the fantasy of an afterlife.

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

Question 2: Using the Do Not Call Registry

Question: Should the “Do Not Call” Registry exist? The National Do Not Call Registry was established in 2003, and it’s run by the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission. Is this legitimate? Does a person have a right not to be called by solicitors and other unwanted persons? Given that there was no real attempt to come up with a private, market-based solution for the issue of unwanted solicitations, was this a legitimate case of “market failure”? Should advocates of free markets put themselves on the “Do Not Call” list and/or report violators thereof? Why shouldn’t a person just hang up?

My Answer, In Brief: Telemarketers do not have a right to use your telephones and telephone lines against your will. In a free society, private methods could and should be used to protect yourself against trespasses by telemarketers, but in the meantime, adding yourself to the government’s Do Not Call List is a legitimate way to announce that telemarketers are not welcome to call you.

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

Question 3: Genetic Influences on Thinking

Question: Do our genes affect our reasoning? Evolution makes fruit taste sweet and burning human flesh smell awful. Presumably, evolution can hard wire pleasures and pains because interaction with that thing has caused our ancestors to live longer or die earlier. Wouldn’t this same process make certain actions easier or more difficult, such as sacrificing yourself to save your child versus watching your child die? Couldn’t evolution affect that decision by making focus more difficult, so that a person is easier impelled by his immediate emotions?

My Answer, In Brief: While it’s easy and popular to appeal to genetics to explain human behavior, such explanations are almost always implausible on closer inspection.

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

Question 4: The Morality of Selling Your Body

Question: Is it moral to sell your body? Selling our bodies or certain parts of them are perfectly acceptable in our society, such as being an egg or sperm donor, being a pregnancy surrogate, or selling hair. But others are condemned, such as prostitution or selling organs. Where should the line be drawn? When is it moral to sell a part of oneself – and why?

My Answer, In Brief: There’s nothing wrong with “selling your body” per se, since all productive work involves the body. The moral questions with any and all work are primarily (1) Does it violate anyone’s rights? and (2) Will I be damaging or sacrificing myself, physically or psychologically, in the long term?

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

Rapid Fire Questions


  • How does your answer on genetic influences on thinking apply to homosexuality?
  • What’s the difference between focus and concentration?
  • Why should public employees to be represented by labor unions, if at all?
  • Is having an emergency pack in case of a natural disaster/society collapsing irrational?
  • How do you handle a spouse who insists upon taking the child to church when the spouse knows your opposition to religion?

Listen or Download:

  • Start Time: 57:18
  • Duration: 10:32
  • 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: 1:07:50

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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