Gut Feelings, Emotional Affairs, Pirating Music, and More
Webcast Q&A: 6 February 2011
I answered questions on relying on gut feelings, friendship versus emotional affairs, desires and infidelity, the morality of pirating music, the supererogatory, the morality of eating bread, and more on 6 February 2011. 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: 6 February 2011
Question: Is it ever rational to rely on a "gut" feeling? More than once I have dismissed feelings that a person is not trustworthy, if I couldn't find a rational basis for them. Every time my initial instinct was proven to be accurate. Is it possible that I'm picking up on something that I can't consciously identify?
Answer, In Brief: Gut feelings can be accurate, but that doesn't mean that they should be trusted. So you should pay attention to your emotions, seek to understand them, then always act on your best rational judgment.
Question: What's the difference between a close friendship and an "emotional affair"? Where do you draw the line between them? What's the essential wrong of emotional affairs, if any?
Answer, In Brief: Friendships are a compliment to romantic relationships, whereas an emotional affair acts as a replacement for the psychological intimacy of a romantic relationship.
Question: Is there a fundamental/substantial difference between seriously wanting to have sex with someone other than your significant other and actually doing it? Should a person not act on such desires solely in order to be monogamous? Isn't that still like cheating? (Read the full question.)
Answer, In Brief: A person is morally responsible for his actions, as well as for his cultivated desires and thoughts, but not for uncultivated or unbidden thoughts and desires. Moreover, monogamy is not a duty or intrinsic value, but a means to greater focus and intimacy. If it's value isn't apparent, then experiment with an open relationship – but only with the consent of all parties.
Question: Is pirating music immoral? Why or why not? In one way I think it must be immoral because it involves gaining the unearned, but there have been (granted I know little of the music industry) many claims that illegal file sharing has actually been good for the music industry in a number of ways. There have also been arguments that it is not technically theft because it involves copying information instead of physically taking it from the owner i.e. the original owner (and creator) has not lost the music even after you have copied it, but this argument seems shoddy by its concrete bound concept of theft and ownership. Simply put, to me, it feels immoral, but I have trouble conceptualizing exactly why.
Answer, In Brief: As Adam Mossoff persuasively argues, all property is fundamentally intellectual property. So, contrary to the spurious arguments found in the question, the reason to respect intellectual property is the same as the reason to respect tangible property, namely that the mind is the source of all value.
Question: Does the moral concept of 'supererogatory' have any place in an egoistic ethics? Recently, I stumbled on the concept of 'supererogatory' moral actions – i.e. actions that are morally praiseworthy but which, if one did not perform them, one would not be morally blameworthy. Any validity to this concept from the perspective of the Objectivist ethics?
Answer, In Brief: The concept of "supererogatory" is derived from a duty-based ethics. It's an example of why we should be cautious in our use of concepts, as often they come with baggage.
Question: Since eating wheat is purported to be unhealthy due to gluten (and other stuff), is it immoral to eat bread? (Analogous to smoking being purportedly bad for you.) Since one has to eat something, it would be better to ask, "Is eating bread immoral when other food sources are available?"
Answer, In Brief: Health is not an optional value, but a person's diet cannot be a moral issue absent some evasion.
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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.
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.
I can be reached via e-mail to email@example.com.