As you know, on Sunday morning’s Philosophy in Action Radio, I answer four 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, submit it. Just e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org to make arrangements.
Now, without further ado, the most recent questions added to The Queue:
People often oppose some possible exception to the rules on the grounds that if everyone acted that way, the results would be terrible. For example, suppose that an honest and diligent student is in the hospital, and he wants to keep up with his school work as much as possible. His parents propose that he take his math exam from the hospital, and they’ll monitor him during the exam. The school refuses on the grounds that if all students were allowed to do that, then cheating would be rampant because not all parents would be honest or diligent monitors. Is that a valid reason for refusing the exception to the rules? Does it signal concern for fairness and principle? Or does it amount to ignoring individual circumstances?
I take the virtue of justice seriously: I try to be careful and objective in my moral judgments of others, and then I act on those judgments. However, I’ve found that most people don’t do that. Instead, they bitch about other people out of annoyance, including about serious wrongs, but then continue to deal with those people as before, perhaps after a cooling-off period. I hate to listen to these unserious and often unjust complaints about others, and I don’t relish the thought of people complaining about me in that way to others. How can I explain my objections to such bitching in a friendly way? How can I avoid being bitched-to or bitched-about?
Advocates of free markets often observe that government controls over medicine, food, gasoline, and other consumer goods result in rationing, whereby government bureaucrats decide who can obtain the goods necessary for life. In response, I’ve seen people argue that the free market imposes its own form of rationing, whereby a person’s wealth determines whether he can obtain the goods necessary for life. This parallel seems wrong to me, but I can’t put my finger on the error. So what’s the difference between “rationing” in markets and “rationing” by governments?
Many free-market advocates are despairing over the election results, particularly the re-election of President Obama. They claim that America has sunk to a new low in re-electing an openly socialistic and egalitarian hater of America. Do you think that such despair is warranted? Also, many free-market advocates urge us to work harder in spreading the message of individual rights, including via “education” campaigns. Do you think that such efforts will be effective?
Is ambition properly regarded as a virtue? Ayn Rand defined ambition as “the systematic pursuit of achievement and of constant improvement in respect to one’s goal.” If we apply ambition only to rational goals – as happens with the virtue of integrity, where loyalty to values only constitutes integrity if those values are rational – then could ambition be considered a virtue? Or at least, could ambition be an aspect of a virtue like productiveness?
What is the moral difference between compelling parents to support their children and compelling all people to support the needy in society? Many critics of the welfare state believe that parents should be compelled to support their children with basic levels of physical sustenance and education, such that failing to provide these constitutes violating children’s rights. But how is that different from compelling people to support other needy or vulnerable people? Is the blood relationship what creates the obligation to support the child – and if so, how?
If a person recognizes the serious health risks of smoking cigarettes, is it wrong for him to promote smoking through advertising and other marketing? Does the CEO of a cigarette company have an obligation to his shareholders to maximize the number of people who smoke or the amount that people smoke? Should those shareholders sell their stocks? More generally, do people who work in the tobacco industry face a conflict between their personal profits and the good of others or even society as a whole?
It seems that teaching philosophy to young children – as young as kindergarten – might result in much better reasoning skills, as well as greater willingness to think independently and question what they’re taught. So is philosophy not taught to the young just because some parents and politicians might not like those good results?
Even supporters of capitalism often say that “capitalism has its weaknesses.” What are those claimed weaknesses? Are they genuine problems of capitalism – or problems with our current mixed economy? What can and should be done about them, if anything? More generally, what’s the proper way to identify and compare the strengths and weaknesses of various political and economic systems?
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.)