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)

Unequal Incomes, Friendship, Free Will, and More

Q&A Radio: 30 January 2011

I answered questions on unequal incomes in marriage, men and women as friends, unpaid-for college classes, stealing from a thief, causality and free will, cultural pride, and more on 30 January 2011. 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: 30 January 2011


Question 1: Unequal Incomes in Marriage

Question: Is it moral to have a sugarmomma or sugardaddy? My fiancee and I both have demanding careers, but she earns several times more than I. How should a married couple with very different incomes share income and/or expenses? If we agree to split household expenses evenly, my lower income is a significant constraint on her enjoyment, e.g., she can't buy an expensive house because I can't afford half of it. On the other hand, if we split expenses unevenly or if we treat all income as pooled, it seems that I'm benefiting lavishly from things I didn't produce. Is it moral for me to enjoy an expensive hobby which I couldn't have afforded on my own? I'd love to hear more about how you and Paul manage income and expenses, and especially what ethical principles apply.

Answer, In Brief: Money shared by two productive people in marriage is not unearned, but part of integration of two lives into single whole. Whatever their incomes and expenses, spouses need openly settle on ways to fairly structure their finances.

Tags: Ethics, Finances, Independence, Marriage, Values

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Question 2: Men and Women as Friends

Question: Can men and women be "just friends"? (This is a follow-up to the discussion on infidelity from January 23rd.) Where is the line crossed from friendship to something more intimate that would be a threat to a committed relationship? Is it fair for me to expect a romantic partner to keep his female friends at a distance?

Answer, In Brief: Yes, men and women can be just friends. However, a person must adopt certain policies of thought and action to prevent some friendships from developing an undercurrent of sexual interest.

Tags: Ethics, Friendship, Love/Sex, Relationships

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Question 3: Unpaid-For College Classes

Question: Is it wrong to cheat a partly government funded institution? There are a couple of classes I would enjoy sitting in on at my university. They are large, and I would not be noticed. Would it be wrong to go without paying for them? I wouldn't do this with a private college, nor would I have qualms about a completely government funded school. But colleges are partly privately paid for. Would it be immoral for me to get some of that value without paying?

Answer, In Brief: Regardless of whether the university is government-funded or not, a person should not sneak around but rather openly ask to join (or audit) classes.

Tags: Academia, Government, Taxes

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Question 4: Stealing from a Thief

Question: Would it be wrong to steal from a thief? If an individual were placed in a position where they could steal from a con-man or a common burglar, and they did, would their decision to steal from a thief be moral or immoral and why?

Answer, In Brief: To steal from a thief is to reject the value of objective law, not to mention court a world of trouble.

Tags: Justice, Law, Rights, Theft

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Question 5: Causality and Free Will

Question: How are causality and free will compatible? If my mind is an effect of my brain, and my brain is a complex physical system which operates in a deterministic way, doesn't that mean that my thoughts and actions are ultimately determined, too? What is wrong with the popular notions of causality and free will that make them appear incompatible?

Answer, In Brief: The deterministic premises underlying this question are false. If understood properly, causality and free will need not conflict.

Tags: Causality, Determinism, Free Will, Metaphysics, Physics, Science

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Question 6: Cultural Pride

Question: Is it wrong to be proud of or obtain your pride from your culture, family and ancestors? Is it correct to have pride in one's culture, family and ancestors? For example in Samoan society a Pe'a is a traditional male Samoan tattoo. According to my friend the pe'a tells him that the wearer has pride in their culture, their family and their ancestors. It is not just a physical marking but an indicator of his/her soul according to him.

Answer, In Brief: Pride, whether as virtue or feeling, must be selective and based on your own choices and achievements. To speak of "pride in one's culture" is to distort the term beyond all sensible meaning.

Tags: Culture, Moral Relativism, Pride, Race, Racism, Rights

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Conclusion (1:01:56)

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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