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)

Immoral Means, Adoption, Regulations, and More

Webcast Q&A: 27 March 2011

I answered questions on immoral means to great values, optional values versus moral values, adoption versus abortion, the excuse of 'I'm only human', Objectivist conferences, laws and regulations, and more on 27 March 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: 27 March 2011


Question 1: Immoral Means to Great Values

Question: Is it ever acceptable to act immorally if one is willing to accept the consequences? This question was sparked by a statement in the 9 January 2011 webcast that it would be wrong to deceive a partner in order to save a relationship. Are there ever cases where one cares so much about a particular value that it can be legitimate to act immorally (and thus, in all probability, hurt one's own life) in order to gain or keep that value? For example, what if life were not worth living without that value?

Answer, In Brief: To act viciously in pursuit of a value destroys the actual worth of that value – and degrades your own moral character.

Tags: Character, Ethics, Relationships, Romance, Values, Work

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Question 2: Optional Values Versus Moral Values

Question: Are "optional values" genuine values? Sometimes Objectivists distinguish between "moral values" and "optional values." What does that mean? Is the distinction legitimate? How does it apply to real life?

Answer, In Brief: Optional values genuinely promote a person's life and happiness, but they are not universally necessary, but rather depend on a person's particular circumstances.

Tags: Ethics, Personal Values

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Question 3: Adoption Versus Abortion

Question: Why do you think that giving a child up for adoption can be "problematic"? Why wouldn't adoption be preferable to abortion in most cases? (This question is a follow-up to the discussion in the 23 January 2011 webcast about children as an optional value.)

Answer, In Brief: Adoption is a wonderful option in many cases, but the differences between an embryo or early-stage fetus and born baby often make adoption far more emotionally and morally difficult.

Tags: Abortion, Adoption, Children, Ethics, Parenting, Pregnancy

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Question 4: The Excuse of "I'm Only Human"

Question: What do you think of the oft-quoted bromide "I'm only human"? I have heard that phrase often, and it seems there are several uses to which it is applied, some legitimate and some seem nefarious and ugly.

Answer, In Brief: The phrase has two distinct meanings – "don't expect me to be good" and "hey, pay attention to my limits." The former is a false excuse (and often vile), while the latter is a useful reminder. Due to these mixed meanings, the phrase is perhaps best avoided.

Tags: Ethics, Language, Responsibility

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Question 5: Objectivist Conferences

Question: What are the benefits of attending Objectivist conferences in person? I know that there are several regional Objectivist conferences this year in addition to the Ayn Rand Institute's OCON. What are the benefits of attending these in person, rather than just listening to the lectures via a webcast or buying the lectures afterwards?

Answer, In Brief: Objectivist conferences offer huge benefits in the form of social interaction and networking, even apart from the lectures!

Tags: Friendship, Objectivist Movement, Relationships

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Question 6: Laws and Regulations

Question: Are regulations necessarily different from laws? Regulations do not violate the presumption of innocence – they are jurisprudential signals. A law against murder does not violate the presumption of innocence; rather, it is a signal that denotes a consequence that will be levied upon the violator of the law. This is the same standard that regulations follow. A law is a "regulation" on behavior in the way that legislative regulations are, in fact, "regulations" on business behavior. Is this a correct assessment of laws and regulations?

Answer, In Brief: Legislation differs from regulations on two axes: the source of the laws and their objectivity.

Tags: Government, Law, Politics, Regulations, Rights

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Conclusion (57:13)

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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