New Questions in the Queue

 Posted by on 9 January 2013 at 8:00 am  Question Queue
Jan 092013

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:

If a person isn’t doing anything wrong, should he care to protect his privacy?

Defenders of intrusive government programs (and other forms of meddling) often assume that only guilty people would object to granting others access to their private information. What, after all, does an honest and decent person have to hide? Or these people assume that everyone is guilty, and that’s what justifies monitoring everyone. What’s wrong with these arguments? Should an honest and innocent person object to government inquiries into his private life?

Is mental illness nothing more than a myth?

Is “mental illness” a valid concept? It seems that many members of the free-market movement are enthused about the theory, promulgated by the likes of Thomas Szasz and Jeffrey A. Schaler, that there is no such thing as mental illness. They say that if one cannot pinpoint a direct physiological cause for behavior considered “mentally ill,” there are no grounds for referring to that behavior as a symptom of some “illness.” Furthermore, they argue that the concept of “mental illness” is simply a term that the social establishment uses to stigmatize nonconformist behavior of which it does not approve. Is there anything to these claims? If not, what’s the proper understanding of the basic nature of mental illness?

Are the moral arguments for vegetarianism rational?

People often argue for vegetarianism on the grounds that a person can (and perhaps should) regard the lives of animals to be a higher value than the advantages to eating meat such as taste or nutrition. Is this a rational moral outlook, consistent with rational egoism?

If a married couple wouldn’t marry again, should they split?

Many married couples seem to stay together due to inertia, not because they truly value each other. My view is that if a couple wouldn’t marry again, they should get divorced. Is that too high a bar in marriage?

Can people with divergent political views enjoy a good romantic relationship?

Some of my liberal friends won’t date conservatives, and some of my conservative friends are horrified at the thought of dating a liberal. Is that reasonable? Since I’m in favor of free markets, should I only date other advocates of free markets? Can people with very different political views enjoy a good romantic relationship?

Should a person try to “win friends and influence people”?

In the classic book “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” Dale Carnegie offers a wide range of advice on how to get what you want from other people. Some of this seems manipulative or second-handed, but is that right? Is the advice in the book of genuine value to a rational egoist seeking honest trade with others?

Is “The Golden Rule” a valid and useful principle of ethics?

In past podcasts, you’ve mentioned that you consider “The Golden Rule” – meaning, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” – as flawed. What are some of the problems with this rule? Does it have any value?

Can marriage be self-interested?

How is marriage possible in a life of uncompromising self-interest? Most people describe marriage as requiring compromise, sacrifice, and concession. Is that right? How can a person approach marriage differently in order to live a fulfilling and self-interested married life?

Is happiness overrated?

Recently, I had a conversation in which the other person told me that “happiness is overrated.” Basically, the person claimed that people should spend less time thinking about their own personal happiness. Instead, people should focus on acting rightly, and then take pleasure in that. Is that view right or wrong?

Is atheism just another form of religion?

I often hear that religious people that atheism is just another form of religion – and just as much based on faith as Christianity and the like. Is that right or wrong?

Should government employees be permitted to unionize?

In your 12/16/12 discussion of “right to work” laws, you said that business owners should have the right to refuse to hire union members (or to fire them). How would that work for government employees? In a free society, could legislators (or departments) forbid government workers from being union members? Could they require union membership? Might unions serve some functions – like providing insurance and other benefits to members – but not engage in collective bargaining over wages or benefits?

Do I have to spend money to use the potty?

I recently blogged about an incident at a gas station: a basic rule of courtesy, I spend money in places when I stop to use the bathroom on road trips. I don’t believe there’s any moral demand for this nor do I think there there is any proper legal requirement here. I just think it’s good manners. They provide good, clean facilities that happen to be convenient for me, so I spent a little money to repay them.What do you think about this?

What should a person do to bear psychological needs he temporarily can’t satisfy?

For right now, the context of my life makes it so that it’s hard to satisfy the needs for companionship. Most of the people around me don’t offer deep and intense enough values to satisfy it, even as I do have friends. The majority of the people who could fulfill my needs live out of state. Furthermore, the industry I work in, by and large, prohibits me from being able to attend clubs and whatnot, as I usually work when they run.As such, I’ve got to grin and bear my loneliness for the meanwhile, temporarily. How can I make myself feel better in doing so?

Should it be legal for individuals to own automatic weapons?

I unequivocally think that people have a right to own handguns. Tentatively, though, I have difficulty in arguing that it should be legal for private households to own sniper rifles or automatic weapons. I’m definitely far from an expert on guns, but I don’t think you need a sniper rifle or an automatic weapon to protect yourself from burglars or muggers. I’m under the impression that an automatic weapon inflicts mass destruction, like a tank or a hand grenade. Are there good philosophic arguments for it being legal for individuals to own sniper rifles and/or automatic weapons?

Can the debates over gay marriage be solved by new terminology?

I’d like to propose that the acrimonious arguments over gay marriage be solved by the following compromise. In our laws, we could replace the term “marriage” with “uniage”, such that we would have three subcategories of uniage: marriage between one man and one woman, “andriage” between two men, and “fembriage” between two women. This way, people could know and understand exactly which combination of genders we are talking about in any covenant union, and the people who defend what’s been the traditional definition of marriage still get to keep it, while the government would begin to have equal laws based on two people being united in any of these covenants, not just in the opposite-sex combination. Is this worth a try?

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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