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)

Animal Rights, Global Warming, Spousal Consent, and More

Webcast Q&A: 3 April 2011

I answered questions on animal rights, treating animals humanely, global warming, spousal consent for sterilization, criticisms of Objectivism, indulging emotions, and more on 3 April 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.

My News of the Week: My current projects include my April 13th Webcast on Cultivating Moral Character and revisions to Explore Atlas Shrugged.


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Segments: 3 April 2011


Question 1: Animal Rights

Question: Do animals have rights? If not, why not? Given that we don't need to eat animals to survive, shouldn't we be vegetarians or vegans? Also, if animals don't have rights, are people then entitled to do whatever they please with animals that they own?

Answer, In Brief: The claims of animal rights are based on false understanding of the nature and basis of rights. While cruelty to or neglect of animals is deplorable, government should not become involved unless the rights of some person are violated.

Tags: Animal Rights, Animals, Ethics, Law, Rights

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Question 2: Treating Animals Humanely

Question: What does it mean to treat an animal humanely? The term "humanely" when applied to animals is confusing to me. More generally, what is the proper moral treatment of animals?

Answer, In Brief: To treat an animal humanely means to act in a benevolent way toward it. A person ought to act toward animals in such a way that respects the nature of the animal and the context of the interaction, in pursuit of his own self-interest. Generally, particularly with domesticated animals, that means acting kindly but firmly. Brutality toward animals is often ineffective, dangerous, and reveals moral depravity.

Tags: Animals, Ethics, Law

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Question 3: Global Warming

Question: How should I deal with the idea of man-made global warming? What is the proper approach to the whole idea? I can't decide on my own whether it's true or false without educating myself in climatology. And how should I treat others who believe in it just because many university professors do?

Answer, In Brief: Global warming is a scientific matter, and scientists would have to know far more than they do now before recommending any course of action to anyone. In any case, the solution is not more government controls, but rather more freedom for human invention and technology.

Tags: Business, Capitalism, Environmentalism, Government, Law, Rights, Science, Technology

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Question 4: Spousal Consent for Sterilization

Question: Should spousal consent be required for sterilization procedures? A fairly well-known mommy blogger recently revealed that she was required to sign a consent form for her husband's vasectomy. Reading through some of the remarks on her blog, many of her commenters seem to support such a practice, believing that a person has a right to be involved in the reproductive decisions of his/her spouse. I think it's a violation of individual rights, and having had a sterilization procedure myself, I'd have been BEYOND upset if my spouse had been required to give his consent. He was in agreement with my decision, but I can't help but wonder what happens in situations where a person does not want his/her spouse to have a vasectomy, tubal ligation, etc. Any thoughts?

Answer, In Brief: As a matter of law, spousal consent should not be required for any medical procedure. However, a doctor might want such consent to protect his own reputation, given that he knows that married couples are too often not honest with each other.

Tags: Business, Ethics, Law, Medicine, Parenting, Sex

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Question 5: Criticisms of Objectivism

Question: What do you think about Objectivism and the Corruption of Rationality: A Critique of Ayn Rand's Epistemology by Scott Ryan? I came across the book on Amazon, and I was wondering if it's worth reading. Would it change my view about Objectivism?

Answer, In Brief: While criticisms of a philosophy are often useful for ensuring that you've not overlooked some critical issue, the true test of a philosophy is the facts of reality. Also, Objectivism is too young of a philosophy to have attracted much well-aimed criticism.

Tags: Ayn Rand, Objectivism, Philosophy

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Question 6: Indulging Emotions

Question: How do you change from being an emotionalist to being rational? I have the tendency to reminisce on fantasies and memories of martyrdom. I do it because it gives me a emotional surge of ecstasy and heartache. For example, I fantasize about telling the people who mistreated me so badly in Army Basic Training about what that was like for me. This indulgence is costing me my mind. I want to be emotionally competent. Any advice on how to be level-headed lucid/rational thinker, and stop the habit of indulging my emotions?

Answer, In Brief: Stop whining and make a serious commitment to change!

Tags: Emotions, Ethics, Habits, Introspection, Psycho-Epistemology, Psychology, Rationality

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Conclusion (1:02:25)

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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