On the next Philosophy in Action Radio, I'll interview emergency medicine physician Dr. Doug McGuff on "Government Controls in Emergency Medicine." The live broadcast starts promptly at 6 pm PT / 7 MT / 8 CT / 9 ET on Thursday, 31 July 2014. If you can't attend live, be sure to listen to the podcast later.

Compromise, Libertarian Party, Stolen Property, and More

Webcast Q&A: 13 February 2011

I answered questions on compromise in relationships, the Libertarian Party, long-ago stolen property, abandonment of property, gossip, moral advice, and more for Philosophy in Action Radio on 13 February 2011. Greg Perkins of Objectivist Answers was my co-host. Listen to or download the podcast below.

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Segments: 13 February 2011


Question 1: Compromise in Relationships (4:19)

Question: At what point is a compromise in a relationship irrational? Couples can reach a point where one of them wants something that is mutually exclusive from what the other wants (To move, to have children, to do something sexually), and it becomes a make-or-break moment: either the curtains go, or I do. So to speak. But when is a spouse's refusal to accept a change irrational? At what point is it no longer something one must learn to deal with, but instead must break up with the other person over? And if it hasn't yet crossed over into the break-up point, how can one reach a suitable compromise, when the choices are, or seem, mutually exclusive?

Answer, In Brief: Compromise on principles is never rational, but compromise on particulars can be, provided that both parties are better off as a result. Sometimes that's possible in a relationship, and sometimes it's not. If not, and the issue is significant, then that might necessitate the end of the relationship.

Tags: Compromise, Conflict, Integrity, Relationships, Romance

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Question 2: The Libertarian Party (13:48)

Question: Why do Objectivists single out the Libertarian Party as particularly bad? I understand the objections to the Libertarian Party, but how are the Republican and Democratic Parties any better? Also, how do you propose we affect change in our society? Should people work to change the Republican party from within? Or focus solely on intellectual activism?

Answer, In Brief: The Libertarian Party deserves to be shunned due to its false advertising as the party of principle and the party of liberty. The Democratic and Republican Parties are more honest in their statism, but working within them is likely to be useless and frustrating. Political and intellectual activism, however, need not concern political parties, but you ought to work on projects that you're passionate about.

Tags: Free Society, Libertarianism, Politics, Republican Party, Sanction

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Question 3: Long-Ago Stolen Property (24:49)

Question: I have an object in my possession that I stole almost 20 years ago. Finding the rightful owner and returning it is impossible. What should I do? I once lived in a large, very old apartment building, with a bike room in the basement, where residents were supposed to keep their bicycles. The room was virtually unused, as residents tended to keep theirs in their apartments. There were many dusty old unused bikes in there. I cut the lock off one, got new tires for it (the old ones were flat and brittle) and used it frequently while I lived there. I rationalized that a) it was probably abandoned (although I didn't know that, really) and b) the owner was always free to call security, have my lock cut off, and reclaim his bike. When I moved away, a couple years later, I kept the bike. Clearly I shouldn't have done so, and I would never do such a thing today. Should I just donate the bike to charity and move on? This is really bothering me.

Answer, In Brief: Even though it's likely that the bike was abandoned, you should have asked the building management and/or other tenants before claiming the bike as your own. At this point, you ought to donate the bike to charity – not because you want to rid yourself of this source of guilt but because you should not benefit from your past wrongdoing.

Tags: Ethics, Justice, Law, Moral Wrongs, Property

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Question 4: Abandonment of Property (29:38)

Question: What constitutes abandonment of property? Can you forfeit your property by not using it for a certain period of time? Suppose your father cultivated a certain stretch of land and left it to you after his death. After some time, you stop cultivating it and move away. Many years pass. Would someone else be justified to claim the land as his if he starts cultivating it again? Would you have abandoned and forfeited your property rights to it? If so, would it make a difference if you did not move away but continued living in the vicinity, but without using the property at all, not even for a walk?

Answer, In Brief: That's an issue for a specialist in property law, not a philosopher. However, as a general matter, some legal process by which abandoned property can be homesteaded is necessary in property law.

Tags: Ethics, Law, Property

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Question 5: Gossip (36:22)

Question: What is a proper view of gossip? Should a rationally egoistic person listen to and/or tell gossip about other people? Why or why not?

Answer, In Brief: Gossip is "casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true." It's fine – even good – to share information about others within one's own community. It's malicious and destructive, however, to tell stories about others with little concern for the truth, that makes the person look bad unfairly, or that concerns private information.

Tags: Communication, Epistemology, Ethics, Relationships

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Question 6: Moral Advice (49:06)

Question: Why do so many Objectivists persist in asking for concrete moral advice? I'm not knocking anybody for asking questions about moral choices, but after listening to Peikoff's and Diana's podcast, and browsing the questions on this forum, I'm struck by how often people ask "is it moral [insert action or life choice]?" I might be wrong, but it seems that the frequency these questions arise, and the eagerness to answer them feeds into the "cultish" accusers source of ammunition since, it smacks of someone seeking a religious authority's proscriptions, instead of using an individual's reason and principles applied in context?

Answer, In Brief: The application of abstract ethical principles to everyday life is just as difficult as the application of abstract medical principles to a particular disease. In both cases, the advice of experts is often helpful.

Tags: Ethics, Expertise, Independence, Life

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Conclusion (59:28)

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I'm Dr. Diana Hsieh. I'm a philosopher specializing the application of rational principles to the challenges of real life. I received my Ph.D in philosophy from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2009. My book, Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame, is available for purchase in paperback, as well as for Kindle and Nook. 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."

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