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)

Altruism, Festivus, Wikileaks, First Dates, and More

Webcast Q&A: 26 December 2010

I answered questions on altruism and sacrifice, celebrating Festivus, what to do about Wikileaks, eating pets, topics for first dates, black and white thinking, and more on 26 December 2010. Greg Perkins of Objectivist Answers was my co-host. Listen to or download this episode of Philosophy in Action Radio below.

The mission of Philosophy in Action is to spread rational principles for real life... far and wide. That's why the vast majority of my work is available to anyone, free of charge. I love doing the radio show, but each episode requires an investment of time, effort, and money to produce. So if you enjoy and value that work of mine, please contribute to the tip jar. I suggest $5 per episode or $20 per month, but any amount is appreciated. In return, contributors can request that I answer questions from the queue pronto, and regular contributors enjoy free access to premium content and other goodies.

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Segments: 26 December 2010


Question 1: Altruism and Sacrifice

Question: Why does altruism measure virtue by the depth of a person's self-sacrifice, rather than the amount of good actually done for others? Altruism demands every person promote the welfare of others as his ultimate value. Despite that, however, altruistic virtue is not measured by the actual good done for others, but rather by the depth of the person's self-sacrifice. Why is that?

Answer, In Brief: Altruism is not inconsistent to measure virtue by depth of a person's self-sacrifice. It must do that – or acknowledge that mankind's greatest benefactors are not people doling out charity, but rather people who produce and trade for their own selfish gain.

Tags: Altruism, Christianity, Christianity, Ethics, Sacrifice, Self-Sacrifice

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Question 2: Celebrating Festivus

Question: Would you recommend your fellow Objectivists to celebrate Festivus? If so, how should we celebrate it?

Answer, In Brief: It's just as wrong to be contrarian as to be conformist. Instead, use rituals and holidays to reflect your values.

Tags: Culture, Holidays, Weddings

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Question 3: What To Do about Wikileaks

Question: What should the US government do about Wikileaks founder Julian Assange? In particular, can and should the US government go after him, given that he is not an American citizen and he apparently committed his bad acts outside of US territory?

Answer, In Brief: Wikileaks is a major problem, but it's wrong for the US to claim power to prosecute anyone anywhere.

Tags: Crime, Foreign Policy, Law, Rights

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Question 4: Eating Pets

Question: Would you kill your pets for food? Why and why not?

Answer, In Brief: Our deep feelings for our pets are wonderful, but those feelings shouldn't get in the way of being sensible, selfish pet owners.

Tags: Animal Rights, Animals, Ethics, Pets, Rights

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Question 5: Topics for First Dates

Question: What are some good topics to discuss on a first or second date? Also, what topics should be avoided?

Answer, In Brief: Focus on the positive, and ask questions that reveal your own and your date's personality and values.

Tags: Communication, Dating, Romance

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Question 6: Black and White Thinking

Question: Isn't it wrong to be a "black and white" thinker? To a lot of people that is not a good trait. Life isn't black and white. Black and white thinking limits you. It closes doors instead of opening them and it also closes minds. In the case of gray, you can give and take. Why is black and white thinking a necessary part of Objectivism? Shouldn't common contradicting viewpoints be welcome in a healthy discussion?

Answer, In Brief: We should seek the clarity of a black and white world, but that doesn't mean that we should pretend to know more than we do, ignore complicating factors, or treat people like morons.

Tags: Absolutes, Epistemology, Metaphysics

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Conclusion (57:14)

Thank you for joining us for this episode of Philosophy in Action Radio! If you enjoyed this episode, please contribute to contribute to our tip jar.


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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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