On Sunday’s episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, Greg Perkins and I answered questions on obligation, responsibility, and duty, stockpiling medication, poking fun at friends’ ideas online, encouraging friends to be more purposeful, and more. The podcast of that episode is now available for streaming or downloading.

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Whole Podcast: 22 April 2012

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Podcast Segments: 22 April 2012

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


My News of the Week: I’ve been mopping up from NoodleFood’s move to Philosophy in Action, and I sent out the first Philosophy in Action Newsletter. This week, I’ll be experimenting with Philosophy in Action on BlogTalkRadio! This first radio call-in show will be on Wednesday April 25th at 9 pm ET / 8 pm CT / 7 pm MT / 6 pm PT. Its theme will be “Getting More Done.”

Question 1: Obligation, Responsibility, and Duty

Question: What is the difference between obligation, responsibility, and duty? Often, people use these terms interchangeably. What’s difference between them, if any?

My Answer, In Brief: Obligations and responsibilities can be valid and powerful – if based on person’s own choices. Duties are claims of obligation deriving solely from the say-so of some authority, and that’s why they are invalid.

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

Question 2: Stockpiling Medication

Question: Is it wrong to stockpile medication now in the event of an economic crash in the future? We are concerned that increasing economic troubles will raise the prices of some prescription and over-the-counter medications, and make them hard to find in the future. Is it okay to start a stockpile of some medications (most of which have a long shelf-life)? In the case of prescription medications, is it okay to exaggerate to our doctors or play “musical pharmacies” in order to obtain more medication?

My Answer, In Brief: Stockpiling medication in case of an emergency is a very good idea, but don’t undermine your relationship with your doctor by lying about your medical condition.

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

Question 3: Poking Fun at Friends’ Ideas Online

Question: Is poking fun at people’s ideas on social media rude, offensive, or otherwise wrong? For example, is it proper to make jokes about Jesus, Obama, or environmentalism on Facebook – knowing that some of your Facebook friends are Christians, Democrats, or environmentalists? Should those people be offended? Should a person limit himself to serious arguments?

My Answer, In Brief: Facebook and other online media are like a large cocktail party with everyone talking. Don’t rush around seeking out conflict, but rather seek out positive values.

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

Question 4: Encouraging Friends to Be More Purposeful

Question: How can I encourage my friends to be more purposeful and passionate? I have been certain about my life’s purpose – in terms of what career and personal creative works I’d like to pursue – from a young age. I’ve had friends who are above-average in their academic and career work, and who explore various hobbies, but they do not pursue those activities with eager passion. They say that they “do not know what they want out of life” and have not “found their calling.” What is at the root of uncertainty about one’s purpose? Is there a moral breach involved? How can I motivate, encourage, and inspire my friends?

My Answer, In Brief: Be sure that your advice would be welcome to your friends – and that you don’t fall into the trap of assuming that everyone should be like you.

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

Rapid Fire Questions


  • What do you think of Earth Day?
  • Is it moral to use a program that blocks website advertisements?
  • Please clarify your position on the morality of using the goods and services stolen from Canadian taxpayers.
  • Is it irrational to feel worse about a disaster if there are people of your own nationality among the victims (assuming they’re all strangers)?
  • Do you think that the government will attempt to crack down on free speech on the internet anytime soon – and if so, how?

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  • Start Time: 48:08
  • Duration: 13:58
  • 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: 1:02:06

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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