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"Atlas Shrugged" Movie, Free Riding, Siblings, and More

Webcast Q&A: 17 April 2011

I answered questions on review of the movie Atlas Shrugged, Part 1, the morality of free riding, browsing without buying, age in romance, responsibility for siblings, desires and determinism, and more for Philosophy in Action Radio on 17 April 2011. Greg Perkins of Objectivist Answers was my co-host. Listen to or download the podcast below.

Remember, Philosophy in Action Radio is available to anyone, free of charge. That's because our goal is to spread rational principles for real life far and wide, as we do every week to thousands of listeners. We love doing that, but each episode requires our time, effort, and money. So if you enjoy and value our work, please contribute to our tip jar. We suggest $5 per episode or $20 per month, but any amount is appreciated. You can send your contribution via Dwolla, PayPal, or US Mail.

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Segments: 17 April 2011


Question 1: Review of the Movie Atlas Shrugged, Part 1 (2:54)

Question: What did you think of the movie Atlas Shrugged, Part 1?

Answer, In Brief: The movie was a C+. The basic story and characters were left intact, yet it suffered from a range of defects as a drama, some quite serious. The take-home message is simple: read the book!

Tags: Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, Film

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Question 2: The Morality of Free Riding (22:32)

Question: Is it morally wrong to be a free rider? Some people say that it's wrong to be a free rider – for example, by sneaking into a movie without paying for it, using a gas station bathroom without buying anything, accepting a ride to the airport but refusing to return the favor, hiking on trails in your community without helping to maintain them, or enjoying the Christmas lights of your neighbors without putting up your own. In such cases, you seem to be enjoying a benefit from someone else that you've not paid for or earned. Isn't that unjust, and hence, morally wrong?

Answer, In Brief: The term "free rider" is a massive package-deal. Any action ought to serve your long-term rational self-interest: you must act virtuously and respect the rights of others. Within that framework, the myriad benefits available to you from living in society ought to be accepted and enjoyed.

Tags: Business, Economics, Ethics, Honesty, Justice

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Question 3: Browsing Without Buying (33:38)

Question: Is it immoral to browse a store with no intention of buying there? Is it immoral to take advantage of the freedom to look through books in a bookstore, or to try out a laptop in a shop, with no intention to actually buying it in that shop? For instance, you check out a book in the shop to decide whether you want to buy it, knowing that if you buy it, you'll do so from Amazon instead. Is that wrong?

Answer, In Brief: Local merchants must compete with online sellers, and customers ought feign an interest to those merchants if unwilling to give them a chance to compete.

Tags: Business, Competition, Ethics, Fraud, Honesty, Internet

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Question 4: Age in Romance (39:05)

Question: Should age matter in romance? Is it in your rational best interest to date someone who is significantly older or younger than you? Assuming that both individuals are mature, is there anything wrong with an 18 year old dating someone who is 38? Or a 40 year old dating someone who is 60? Or a 70 year old dating someone in their 20s? Does age matter?

Answer, In Brief: Age can matter in romance, because people in different life-stages might not be able to integrate their lives into a happy unity. Hence, a couple would need to discuss and agree on how to deal with the difficulties created by the age gap for the relationship to last.

Tags: Dating, Marriage, Relationships, Romance

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Question 5: Responsibility for Siblings (45:26)

Question: Do I have any responsibility towards my younger brother? My parents constantly ask me to help my brother with his studies, homework, etc, and look after him when they're out and do things for him at the expense of my own studies and time. But I don't find any value in helping my brother. Should I refuse to help my parents in this way?

Answer, In Brief: You are not your brother's keeper! However, while under your parents' roof, your option are limited. Speak to them: calmly express how you feel unfairly burdened by your younger brother, then seek a mutually satisfactory arrangement, such as agreeing to watch him for a certain number of hours per week, payment for watching him, etc.

Tags: Ethics, Family, Family, Parenting, Responsibility, Siblings

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Question 6: Desires and Determinism (51:32)

Question: How do you validate free will? For example, if a man is hungry and he values his life, then wouldn't his eating be predetermined?

Answer, In Brief: Free will is validated by introspection, including your power to act against bodily appetites like hunger. The question confuses the final causation involved in motivated action with the efficient causation of determined action.

Tags: Emotions, Free Will, Introspection, Metaphysics, Philosophy

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Conclusion (57:21)

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About Philosophy in Action

I'm Dr. Diana Hsieh. I'm a philosopher specializing in 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."

My radio show, Philosophy in Action Radio, broadcasts live over the internet on Sunday mornings and most Thursday evenings. On Sunday mornings, I answer questions applying rational principles to the challenges of real life in a live hour-long show. Greg Perkins of Objectivist Answers co-hosts the show. On Thursday evenings, I interview an expert guest or chat about a topic of interest.

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