Friends and Fans — I have retired from my work as a public intellectual, so Philosophy in Action is on indefinite hiatus. Please check out the voluminous archive of free podcasts, as well as the premium audio content still available for sale. My two books — Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame and Explore Atlas Shrugged — are available for purchase too. Best wishes! — Diana Brickell (Hsieh)

Overthinking, Sexual Preferences, College Degrees, and More

Webcast Q&A: 19 December 2010

I answered questions on thinking too much, talking about sexual preferences, the value of college degrees, criminal death of a fetus, the morality of revenge for harms, capitalism as misunderstood, and more on 19 December 2010. Greg Perkins of Objectivist Answers was my co-host. Listen to or download this episode of Philosophy in Action Radio below.

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Segments: 19 December 2010


Question 1: Thinking Too Much

Question: Is it possible to think too much? And where does one draw the line between necessary thinking and overthinking? Objectivists are people who take ideas seriously; they are intellectually inclined (as far as I can discern) and spend a lot of time "inside the mind." With all this emphasis on rationality, thinking, introspection, analysis, judgment, reading, etc., how does one avoid the frustration or sense of "analysis paralysis" and ultimately depression that ensues from all this deep thinking and focus on ideas. For example, I've heard numerous people in forums or in letters to Dr. Peikoff state that they are depressed about the state of current politics, our culture, etc. What principles or general rules does one use to put the breaks on all the deep thinking and just chill out, "live and let live," and stop one from becoming crazy. Meditation? Get drunk? (Kidding). On a personal note, I've found that it is necessary for me to literally suppress my thinking and let myself drift into an out of focus state in order to maintain a sense of serenity necessary to get through the day.

Answer, In Brief: The purpose of thought is to guide action in pursuit of your values. So make sure that you mind working for your life, not obsessing over what beyond control that just make you miserable to contemplate.

Tags: Ethics, Introspection, Psycho-Epistemology, Psychology, Rationality

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Question 2: Talking about Sexual Preferences

Question: When do you talk to a romantic interest (or partner) about your sexual preferences? Is there a right or wrong way to talk with your romantic partner about sexual preferences? Do you wait until you are "in the sack" to find out whether you are sexually compatible? And, how important is sexual compatibility to a romantic relationship?

Answer, In Brief: You should talk about sex with your partner, and be sure to do so in a simple and direct way.

Tags: Communication, Dating, Romance, Sex

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Question 3: The Value of College Degrees

Question: Are college degrees worth the price paid for them? Do they offer a good value for the investment of time, effort, and money? Why or why not? And if not, how might a person obtain a solid education in the humanities instead?

Answer, In Brief: The value of standard college education is questionable, but much depends on the field and one's goals. You should consider whether college will serve your professional goals or not, because you can get a better education for much cheaper on your own.

Tags: Academia, Education, Finances

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Question 4: Criminal Death of a Fetus

Question: Should a criminal who kills a pregnant woman (and her unborn child) be charged for two murders or one? Does it matter if she's obviously pregnant or not? (Perhaps it should only matter in the sentencing phase of the trial?) I've read your paper on the "personhood" movement and I agree that a person does not have rights until they're born, but it seems different in this situation. Where is my thinking flawed, or is it?

Answer, In Brief: Rights are contextual absolutes, meaning that only apply in certain context, but that they apply fully in that context. Given nature of rights and nature of pregnancy, rights cannot apply to fetus but only to born infant.

Tags: Abortion, Crime, Ethics, Pregnancy, Rights

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Question 5: The Morality of Revenge for Harms

Question: Is revenge moral or not? Is it wrong to want to hurt people who have hurt you? It is wrong to make them hurt?

Answer, In Brief: It is self-destructive to nurture hatred and anger toward those who have wronged you. You need to accept that the wrong happened, deal with it as you can, and then move on to pursuing your positive values.

Tags: Ethics, Justice, Revenge

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Question 6: Capitalism as Misunderstood

Question: Why is capitalism so misunderstood? I've noticed a huge backlash against capitalism in the media and on the internet for a while. Why? Why are people so resentful towards capitalism when it gave them all the prosperity?

Answer, In Brief: Epistemic confusion is often at root of wrong ethics and politics – and that's definitely the case here.

Tags: Capitalism, Communication, Epistemology, Ethics, Politics

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Conclusion (59:54)

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The vast majority of Philosophy in Action Radio – the live show and the podcast – is available to anyone, free of charge. That's because my mission is to spread rational principles for real life far and wide, as I do every week to thousands of listeners. I love producing the show, but each episode requires requires the investment of time, effort, and money. So if you enjoy and value my work, please contribute to the tip jar. I suggest $5 per episode or $20 per month, but any amount is appreciated. In return, regular contributors enjoy free access to my premium content.

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About Philosophy in Action

I'm Dr. Diana Brickell (formerly Diana Hsieh). I'm a philosopher, and I've long specialized in the application of rational principles to the challenges of real life. I completed my Ph.D in philosophy from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2009. I retired from work as a public intellectual in 2015.

From September 2009 to September 2015, I produced a radio show and podcast, Philosophy in Action Radio. In the primary show, my co-host Greg Perkins and I answered questions applying rational principles to the challenges of real life. We broadcast live over the internet on Sunday mornings.

You can listen to these 362 podcasts by subscribing to the Podcast RSS Feed. You can also peruse the podcast archive, where episodes and questions are sorted by date and by topic.

My first book, Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame, can be purchased in paperback and Kindle. The book defends the justice of moral praise and blame of persons using an Aristotelian theory of moral responsibility, thereby refuting Thomas Nagel's "problem of moral luck." My second book (and online course), Explore Atlas Shrugged, is a fantastic resource for anyone wishing to study Ayn Rand's epic novel in depth.

You can also read my blog NoodleFood and subscribe to its Blog RSS Feed.

I can be reached via e-mail to diana@philosophyinaction.com.

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