On Thursday’s episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, I interviewed physician and activist Dr. Paul Hsieh about “Understanding the Three Languages of Politics.” The podcast of that episode is now available for streaming or downloading. You’ll find it on the episode’s archive page, as well as below.

Remember, you can automatically download podcasts of Philosophy in Action Radio by subscribing to Philosophy in Action’s Podcast RSS Feed:

Podcast: Dr. Paul Hsieh on Understanding the Three Languages of Politics

How many times have you been in political discussions with friends where you find you’re talking past one another? You’ll make points they consider irrelevant, whereas they’ll focus on issues you consider nonessential. Such problems can be overcome, at least in part, using Arnold Kling’s concept of the “Three Languages of Politics.” Paul Hsieh will explain how freedom advocates (e.g., Objectivists and better libertarians), conservatives, and liberals tend to use three vastly different metaphors in political discussions, which can create unintentional misunderstandings and miscommunications. He will also discuss how to frame discussion points so they better resonate with those speaking the other “languages” without compromising on principles.

Dr. Paul Hsieh is a physician in practice in South Denver. He is the co-founder of Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine (FIRM). He has written scores of columns, mostly on health care policy, as well as articles for The Objective Standard. He blogs offbeat tech news at GeekPress.

Listen or Download:

Topics:

  • About the “three languages of politics”
  • The differences in the three languages
  • The difference that the three languages make
  • Examples of the three languages
  • Conflict between camps
  • Alliances between camps
  • Political argument between camps
  • The debates over the Hobby Lobby decision
  • Using the three languages to become more persuasive
  • Caveats and cautions
  • Three take-home points

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Philosophy in Action Radio applies rational principles to the challenges of real life in live internet radio shows on Sunday mornings and Thursday evenings. For information on upcoming shows, visit the Episodes on Tap. For podcasts of past shows, visit the Show Archives.

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Did Facebook Betray Our Trust?

 Posted by on 3 July 2014 at 10:00 am  Business, Internet, Rights, Science
Jul 032014
 

I’ve seen lots of people upset — on Facebook, of course — about Facebook’s social science experiment with people’s newsfeeds. However, I’ve yet to find an argument that’s compelling. Consider this one from Stephen Green:

Facebook has been described as an internet-within-the-internet, and the secret to making that work is it’s an internet curated for you by people you trust. To see something on your Facebook TL, it has to come from someone with a mutually-defined relationship, or from someone you trust enough to follow. Untrustworthy acts — like when somebody tags your name on something that has nothing to do with you, in order do win unearned trust and attention — are easily reported and corrected. The fact that Facebook uses this web of relationships, clicks, and behaviors to do some seriously creepy data-mining and ad sales behind the scenes doesn’t affect the strengths of the service it provides in public.

But for this to work, Facebook must remain neutral. What you see must be what your trusted friends have curated and presented to you. There can’t be any monkeying around with the Facebook timeline, any more than AT&T or Verizon can decide which phone calls you may receive, or when you may receive them.

Facebook is now essentially corrupt, and it did it to itself. First, they performed this “experiment” of altering timelines in order to assess possible mood changes they could affect on their users. Then, after the fact, they slipped new language into their Terms of Service allowing them to do more of the same in the future.

I agree with the point about the Facebook’s late change to its terms of service. That sucks. Yet the fact remains that Facebook has monkeyed around with the timeline for years in various mysterious ways. I don’t have access to the raw feed of just what my friends post; no one does. (That’s what Twitter displays, which is both refreshing and annoying.) For many years now, Facebook’s display has been extremely selective, only showing me a portion of what my friends post, based on some hocus-pocus algorithm, partly designed to increase my “engagement.”

Then, for this study, Facebook tweaked their hocus-pocus algorithm in a slightly different way… and then published the results. What’s supposed to be so new or so horrible about that?

Or, as Tom said: “I don’t get it. We’ve known all along that Facebook were manipulating the timeline for commercial purposes. They decide to do it once FOR SCIENCE! and suddenly everyone throws a hissy fit? Color me so not caring.”

Am I wrong? If so, tell me what’s so darn horrible about what Facebook did here!

New Questions in the Queue

 Posted by on 3 July 2014 at 8:00 am  Question Queue
Jul 032014
 

As you know, on Sunday morning’s Philosophy in Action Radio, I answer 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, please submit it. Then just e-mail me at diana@philosophyinaction.com to make your request.

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

Are magic shows a form of art?

Ayn Rand said, “Art is a selective re-creation of reality according to an artist’s metaphysical value-judgments.” Do magic shows, such as those performed by Harry Houdini, David Copperfield, and Penn & Teller, count as “art”? Their magic acts, to me, seem to be symbolic representations of the idea that even when one faces danger, one can rely on one’s own cleverness to triumph over the danger and come out unscathed. Are magic shows malevolent celebrations of trickery, telling the audience members that they cannot trust their own senses? Or can magic shows be a benevolent reminder to audience members of the importance of checking their own premises?

Do artists deserve royalties from unique works with every sale?

Every time a copyrighted book is purchased, the copyright holder receives some royalties for that. The same applies to recordings of music and other intellectual property. However, if an artist sells a painting, no matter the future value of that painting, he receives nothing but the original sale price. Is that fair to the artist? Should he be paid royalties with every sale? Or can he legitimately demand royalties only for the prints of his work?

Was Facebook’s psychological experiment unethical?

Recently, Facebook allowed their network to be used for a psychological experiment on mood. They did not tell people they were participating in the experiment. Was this unethical? Do people have a right to informed consent for these kinds of studies?

What is the role of free will in literature?

In your June 26, 2014 podcast, you raised the idea that what makes a story compelling is that it focuses on characters and the volitional choices they make. The idea was that if all the characters are assumed to be mere automatons with no free will of their own, then there is no real story. So must you implicitly accept the existence of free will even to enjoy a work of narrative fiction that is about fate, such as “Oedipus Rex” and stories about prophesied Chosen Ones? I remember once hearing about an old Japanese movie in which the characters work hard to prevent the fulfillment of a horrible prophesy and, in their efforts, inadvertently start a chain reaction that makes the prophesy come true. Even in these cases, does the story “work” insofar as those who enjoy it implicitly recognize that the characters have free will? More generally, is free will fundamental to literature? Are there other important divides in literature besides “naturalism” versus “romanticism”?

Does resiliency as an adult require enduring hardship as a child?

Many people assume that having faced great hardship is a necessary part of having resiliency – meaning: the ability to withstand great challenges in the future. These people think that if you have faced less-than-average hardship in your youth, that makes you soft, spoiled, pampered, and weak, and therefore ill-equipped to face challenges throughout your adulthood. As an extreme (but, sadly, real) example, I have a relative who insists to me, “All of the men I have met who attended private school are weak and naive. In their private schools, they were able to leave their belongings unattended without fear of their belongings being stolen. That’s not the real world! By contrast, the public school we attended is the school of hard knocks that shows you the Real World. We remember, all too well, that when anyone left possessions unattended, the norm was for the possession to be stolen. That’s Real Life. That builds character and gave me a thicker skin. That’s why, when I have children, I will send them to public school to toughen them up. I refuse to raise privileged weaklings.” I seethe and feel tempted to respond, “What if you got really drunk and beat up your children? Following the logic of your assumptions, wouldn’t that toughen them up even further?” Why are these assumptions about hardship so prevalent? How can a person develop great discipline, stamina, and fortitude absent hardship and cruelty? What can be done to combat the idea that hardship in youth is necessary for strength and resilience as an adult?

What is wrong with Immanuel Kant’s essay “What Is Enlightenment?”?

On your June 26, 2014 radio show, you mentioned that Immanuel Kant’s essay “What Is Enlightenment?” initially seems to be arguing in favor of independent reason and political liberty, but that it really does not. I am confused by this. I thought that “What Is Enlightenment?” indeed praised independent reasoning and political liberty, encouraging readers to “dare to know.” What is wrong with the case Kant makes in “What Is Enlightenment?”? In what manner does it fail to uphold reason and liberty?

Are the police in a mixed economy worthy of respect?

The United States is currently a mixed economy – meaning, a mixture of freedom and rights-violating government controls. Where the rubber meets the road is the police, particularly the officers that enforce the law and interact directly with the public. Police generally do not make the laws, they simply enforce them. If you ask them, they are obliged to do so regardless of personal opinions on the matter. You can see in our own culture a tendency towards distrust and dislike of the police, perhaps in part for that reason. On the one hand, this is understandable because the person holding the gun, far too often literally, is the police officer, not the politician. On the other, that distrust undermines the rule of law, something necessary for a functional society. So is distrust and dislike of police officers in a mixed economy valid, or should we accept that the police are just as much victims as we are? (I’m not talking about situations where the police go rogue or violate the laws themselves; I’m just focused on ordinary cops doing their ordinary jobs.) In general, how should we view people enforcing laws that are mixtures of legitimate protection from force and violations of rights

It is wrong to refuse to return a dog to owners suspected of neglect?

According to a recent local news report, a family’s dog escaped from their backyard. It was found by another party who paid a rather large sum of money to give it medical care and then placed it in foster care. The family searched for their dog, soon discovering the facts and asking for its return. They offered to pay back the cost of the medical care. However, the finders have refused citing a number of things including the suspicion of neglect. Is that wrong? Should the family get the dog back?

Is accepting voluntary sacrifices from others moral?

Imagine that someone offers you a way to increase your wealth, lengthen your lifespan, or achieve your goals at great personal cost to and even sacrifice of himself. Is it wrong to accept that? What if you’ve tried setting them straight and telling them to act in their self-interest, but they still insist on trying to be altruistic? Would accepting such a sacrifice be a breach of integrity for an egoist, or would rational egoism urge you to enjoy the proffered benefits, so long as voluntarily bestowed? In other words, is accepting voluntary sacrifices from others different from forcing others to sacrifice to you?

Should a person punish herself for wrongdoing by depriving herself of a value?

A friend of mine destroyed her phone in a fit of anger over a difficult situation that wasn’t her fault. Now my friend feels guilty about her outburst. She thinks that she doesn’t deserve to properly replace her phone, as that would reward her irrational outburst. She wants to either buy a cheap phone or go without a phone for a while. That seems needlessly self-destructive. How can I explain to her that she really ought to replace her phone?

How can a person make better hard choices?

How to make hard choices was the subject of a recent TED talk from philosopher Ruth Chang. Her thesis is that hard choices are not about finding the better option between alternatives. Choices are hard when there is no better option. Hard choices require you to define the kind of person you want to be. You have to take a stand for your choice, and then you can find reasons for being the kind of person who makes that choice. Her views really speaks to me. In your view, what makes a choice hard? How should a person make hard choices?

Is force truly “anti-mind” and “anti-life”?

Objectivism argues that the initiation of force is anti-mind and anti-life. How does this apply to the perpetrator as it does to the victim? Why is evil to apply force to human beings as opposed to any other animal? One wouldn’t criticize a chicken farmer for forcing chickens to produce for him, on the grounds that he is dependent on them to produce eggs. If a man were to have all the power in the world, what would be anti-mind, anti-life, or anti-self to force another man to give him his food? He needs food, that man has food, how convenient. So how is initiating force is anti-mind and anti-life for the perpetrator if his victims are powerless to stop him?

Is the fact that a name is racist a good reason to cancel or refuse trademarks for it?

The US Patent & Trademark Office recently cancelled the trademarks for the Washington Redskins on the basis that the name is “disparaging to Native Americans.” Putting aside whether or not it’s a good idea for a business to have offensive terms in their trademarks, was this a good decision for the government to have made? Or does this bring America a step toward having thought police? If it was a good decision, by what basis could the government objectively determine whether or not a term is offensive and cannot be trademarked? In general, by what principles do you think the government should guide their decisions about trademarks?

Are some people unworthy of the truth?

“Never tell the truth to people who are not worthy of it”, said Mark Twain in his Notebook (1902). Is that true? Does that justify lying – or merely withholding information?

Does the virtue of pride create an infinite loop?

Pride is a response to your own virtuous moral character, but pride is also a component of that virtuous moral character. Hence, in order to have the utmost pride, a person would have to have the utmost virtue; but, in order to have the utmost virtue, a person would have to have the utmost pride. Is this a catch 22? Is that a problem?

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.)

 

On Sunday’s episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, Greg Perkins and I will answer questions on psychological egoism, the purpose of Atlas Shrugged, limiting another’s generosity, and more. This episode of internet radio airs at 8 am PT / 9 MT / 10 CT / 11 ET on Sunday, 6 July 2014, in our live studio. If you can’t listen live, you’ll find the podcast on the episode’s archive page.

This week’s questions are:

  • Question 1: Psychological Egoism: Isn’t everyone selfish? If you dig deep enough, everyone seems to act in their own interests. I work because that’s easier than being a welfare queen. But a college student might cave to his parents about his choice of career because that’s easier than standing up for himself. Even the nun who seems to sacrifice everything is doing what she enjoys most and thinks best by her own religious standards. So isn’t true altruism impossible? Isn’t everyone selfish?
  • Question 2: The Purpose of Atlas Shrugged: Was Atlas Shrugged written to save America? Recently, I ran across this comment on the internet: “”Saving America wasn’t the point of Atlas Shrugged, that’s not the happily ever after it proposes in the end. It chronicles the main characters getting over that misguided mission and why.” Two questions come to mind: (1) What was Ayn Rand’s purpose in writing Atlas Shrugged? And (2) Do you think that being inspired to “save America” after reading Atlas Shrugged is misguided?
  • Question 3: Limiting Another’s Generosity: How much generosity is too much? Generosity seems like a trait that would fit well into your theory of moral amplifiers. But how does one best deal with someone who is being overly generous? I recently relocated to a new city and one of my coworkers with whom I am friendly has really gone above and beyond trying to help me get settled. She is constantly offering to help, lend me things, or even give me things to make life easier. I appreciate her offers and turn down many of them as politely as I can. But I struggle to find the right balance of accepting her generosity in due proportion to our friendship. She seems to be fairly wealthy, so I don’t think her offers are sacrificial in any way, my issue is that we are friends, but not close enough friends to justify the incessant barrage of motherly offerings. Through consistent communication about what I am willing to accept and what I won’t – and also owing to actually getting settled in the new city – she’s backed off a bit. More broadly, how would you recommend dealing with this sort of problem? How can a person make sure not to make this mistake of being overly generous?

After that, we’ll tackle some impromptu “Rapid Fire Questions.”

To join the live broadcast and its chat, just point your browser to Philosophy in Action’s Live Studio a few minutes before the show is scheduled to start. By listening live, you can share your thoughts with other listeners and ask us follow-up questions in the text chat.

The podcast of this episode will be available shortly after the live broadcast here: Radio Archive: Q&A: Psychological Egoism, Atlas Shrugged, Generosity, and More. You can automatically download that and other podcasts by subscribing to Philosophy in Action’s Podcast RSS Feed:

I hope you join us for the live show or enjoy the podcast later. Also, please share this announcement with any friends interested in these topics!

Philosophy in Action Radio applies rational principles to the challenges of real life in live internet radio shows on Sunday mornings and Thursday evenings. For information on upcoming shows, visit the Episodes on Tap. For podcasts of past shows, visit the Show Archives.

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Jul 022014
 

On Thursday’s Philosophy in Action Radio, I’ll discuss the “three languages of politics” with my own Paul Hsieh. The concept is not original to Paul, but rather the work of economist Arnold Kling.

If you’re at all interested in politics and political debate, you’ll surely profit from our discussion. If you’re like Paul and me, you’ll find that the “three languages” reframes your whole view of political debates in America today. Plus, that conceptual framework helps you become a more sympathetic listener to other people’s political views — and more persuasive in discussions with them — very quickly. That seems like a win to me!

If you’d like to read a bit about the three languages before or after Thursday’s interview, check out this podcast with Arnold Kling on EconTalk. Also, Kling’s monograph — aptly titled The Three Languages of Politics — is available on Amazon for just $1.99.

See you on Thursday evening!

The Value of Philosophy

 Posted by on 1 July 2014 at 11:00 am  Academia, Philosophy, Science
Jul 012014
 

Bob Pasnau — University of Colorado at Boulder Philosophy Professor — writes in the NY Times on the value of philosophy: Why Not Just Weigh the Fish?

The essence of philosophy is abstract reasoning – not because the philosopher is too lazy to attempt a more hands-on approach, but because the subjects at issue do not readily submit to it. If we could simply weigh the fish, we gladly would. In recent centuries, philosophers in fact have discovered how to weigh that allegorical fish, in various fields, and on each occasion a new discipline has been born: physics in the 17th century; chemistry in the 18th; biology in the 19th and psychology in the 20th. The scientists, short on history but flush with their government grants and Nobel Prizes, cast an eye back on what remains of philosophy and skeptically ask: Why don’t you stop wasting your time and just weigh that fish?

It’s a question philosophers ask themselves all the time, and sometimes they despair. The remaining problems of philosophy today concern issues like justice, morality, free will, knowledge and the origins of the universe. In dismissing philosophy as an antiquated relic of our prescientific past, the scientist is making a very large and dubious assumption: that the abstract methods of philosophy, despite the discipline’s string of successes over recent centuries, have nothing more to contribute to our developing understanding of the world. Perhaps scientists think they already have the answers to all these philosophical questions. Maybe, but if so they certainly keep them well hidden. Or perhaps they judge these remaining questions to be simply unanswerable. Possibly they are, but it seems wildly premature to give up hope.

Bob Pasnau was my medieval philosophy professor. He was also the graduate advisor and department chair for periods during my tenure as a graduate student. He was part of what made my experience in the department so good. Go Bob!

 

On Thursday’s episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, I’ll interview physician and activist Dr. Paul Hsieh (my husband!) about “Understanding the Three Languages of Politics.” This episode of internet radio airs at 6 pm PT / 7 MT / 8 CT / 9 ET on Thursday, 3 July 2014, in our live studio. If you can’t listen live, you’ll find the podcast on the episode’s archive page.

How many times have you been in political discussions with friends where you find you’re talking past one another? You’ll make points they consider irrelevant, whereas they’ll focus on issues you consider nonessential. Such problems can be overcome, at least in part, using Arnold Kling’s concept of the “Three Languages of Politics.” Paul Hsieh will explain how freedom advocates (e.g., Objectivists and better libertarians), conservatives, and liberals tend to use three vastly different metaphors in political discussions, which can create unintentional misunderstandings and miscommunications. He will also discuss how to frame discussion points so they better resonate with those speaking the other “languages” without compromising on principles.

Dr. Paul Hsieh is a physician in practice in South Denver. He is the co-founder of Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine (FIRM). He has written scores of op-eds, mostly on health care policy, as well as articles for The Objective Standard. He blogs offbeat tech news at GeekPress.

To join the live broadcast and its chat, just point your browser to Philosophy in Action’s Live Studio a few minutes before the show is scheduled to start. By listening live, you can share your thoughts with other listeners and ask us follow-up questions in the text chat.

The podcast of this episode will be available shortly after the live broadcast here: Radio Archive: Dr. Paul Hsieh on Understanding the Three Languages of Politics. You can automatically download that and other podcasts by subscribing to Philosophy in Action’s Podcast RSS Feed:

I hope you join us for the live show or enjoy the podcast later. Also, please share this announcement with any friends interested in this topic!

Philosophy in Action Radio applies rational principles to the challenges of real life in live internet radio shows on Sunday mornings and Thursday evenings. For information on upcoming shows, visit the Episodes on Tap. For podcasts of past shows, visit the Show Archives.

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A Quick Mid-Year Report on Statistics

 Posted by on 30 June 2014 at 5:00 pm  Statistics Review
Jun 302014
 

Philosophy in Action Radio has enjoyed a nice little bump in traffic over the last few months:

Here’s the stats from BlogTalkRadio for both live and archived shows:

As you can see, BTR didn’t promote the show much during the first few months of the year, so I’m glad to see that’s changed in the past few months.

Here are the stats from Libsyn, which hosts my podcast archive:

So that’s 29,257 for May and 25,065 for June. Not too shabby!

Once again, thank you, thank you to my generous contributors! With your support, I’ve reached thousands of people — and I’ll reach ever more in the months ahead.

Activism Recap

 Posted by on 29 June 2014 at 2:00 pm  Activism Recap
Jun 292014
 

This week on We Stand FIRM, the blog of FIRM (Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine):

Follow FIRM on Facebook and Twitter.


This week on The Blog of The Objective Standard:

Follow The Objective Standard on Facebook and Twitter.


This week on The Blog of Modern Paleo:

Follow Modern Paleo on Facebook and Twitter.

Link-O-Rama

 Posted by on 27 June 2014 at 1:00 pm  Link-O-Rama
Jun 272014
 

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