New Questions in the Queue

 Posted by on 14 November 2012 at 9:00 am  Question Queue
Nov 142012

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 to make arrangements.

Now, without further ado, the most recent questions added to The Queue:

How can I efficiently evaluate potential romantic prospects?

When introduced to a person – or out on a first or second date – it’s often difficult to evaluate that person quickly and fairly as a potential romantic prospect. What should I look for? What questions should I ask? What kinds of qualities – moral and psychological – should I regard as particularly important, for better or worse?

Should people ask for permission or ask for forgiveness when breaking the rules?

People often say that “it’s better to ask forgiveness than to ask for permission” when excusing their own rule-breaking. I hate the phrase, but I can’t put my finger on what’s so objectionable about it. So what does the phrase mean? Is it right or wrong? If it’s true for some organizations, doesn’t that indicate that the organizations’s rules or policies are somehow bass-ackwards?

What’s wrong with the government “investing” in business?

During the election debates, President Obama claimed that the government should be “investing” in science, education, alternative energy, and other worthy businesses. What is the ideal at work in such claims? What’s right or wrong about it? What does such “investment” mean in practice?

Is it moral to buy products from Chinese companies?

Recently I discovered several online companies based in China that sell clothing of reasonable quality for very low prices. I’ve made a few purchases, and I am happy with the items received. But I wonder: is it moral to purchase goods made in a communist country? Granted China has changed a lot in the past two decades, but the communists still rule in a totalitarian fashion. Am I supporting that kind of regime by sending my money there, or am I supporting the entrepenurial class which might exist in China?

Is it wrong for me to do less than my best at my job?

At work, I used to go above and beyond my basic obligations routinely. However, I was never recognized or rewarded for my superior performance. Instead, I was paid the same as those who barely functioned in their jobs. To this day, my employer uses only collective or team recognition; he does not appreciate individuals. Also, those who do poorly or make serious mistakes are not being disciplined, while those of us who work hard are given more duties. My response has been to lower my own work output. While I meet the minimum standards of my employment and still do far more than my equally paid coworkers, I am not performing nearly close to the level I could. Is that wrong of me? Should I do my best at work, even though my employer doesn’t seem to value that? Should I continue to suggest ideas for improvement – and perhaps work on them on the side, in secret, if ignored?

What should happen when the energy practices of one nation threaten another nation’s property?

Suppose that global warming were in the process of causing a substantial rise in the sea level, such that the coasts of all nations were in danger of being obliterated. Would that be a violation of rights? What should be done about it, by individuals, corporations, and governments? (This issue arose in Alex Epstein’s November 2012 debate with Bill McKibben. See: )

What’s the difference between laws enforcing property rights and regulations?

Laws preventing fraud and defending property rights can be complex – and, in my opinion, they need to be strengthened and actually enforced. What distinguishes such proper laws from rights-violating regulations? For example, a mining company does not have the right to dump toxic waste and thereby pollute an underground aquifer long-used for drinking water. So should the water pollution standards be codified into law in some way? How can that be done without instituting burdensome and rights-violating regulations?

What is philosophic nihilism?

What is the definition of philosophic nihilism? Some people seem to be quick to apply the label “nihilistic” to a broad range of phenomena, particularly art and ideas. So how should the term be used? Can a philosophy be very harmful and destructive without it being nihilistic?

Is it wrong to have children in an increasingly irrational and statist culture?

People should think about the long-range effects of their actions, and act based on principles. So if a person thinks that our culture is in decline – and perhaps even slipping into dictatorship – is it wrong for that person to have children? Is such an assessment accurate? Along similar lines, were people wrong to have children in Soviet Union and other dictatorships?

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.)

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