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)

Prisoner's Dilemma, Revenge, Building Codes, and More

Webcast Q&A: 8 May 2011

I answered questions on reasoning from the Prisoner's Dilemma, hiring people with an internet presence, the morality and limits of revenge, building codes, numbers of men versus women in Objectivism, wealth creation, and more on 8 May 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: Here's what's on my plate of late. Last week, I testified in defense of free speech at hearing on Colorado's campaign finance laws. I'm still working on my updates to Explore Atlas Shrugged. This week, I'm going to be working on my two lectures on pride for ATLOSCon. And here's the video of my short talk on Cookie Cutter Medicine.


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Segments: 8 May 2011


Question 1: Reasoning from the Prisoner's Dilemma

Question: What do you think of the "Prisoner's Dilemma"? Something about the Prisoner's Dilemma as a basis for economic and ethical claims never settled with me, but I'm not sure why. What is your opinion of it from a philosophical point of view?

Answer, In Brief: The Prisoner's Dilemma cannot be used as a basis for ethical or economic reasoning, because it's a narrow case that only confirms some more fundamental principles of justice and cooperation.

Tags: Economics, Ethics

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Question 2: Hiring People with an Internet Presence

Question: What do you think about the dangers of hiring someone with an internet presence? Some people in business have concerns about hiring people active on blogs, social media, and other online forums. Often that's because of controversial positions advocated by the potential employee that they don't want to reflect on the company or cause drama internally. Also, they might have concerns that the person would share information about the company (including co-workers) that ought to be be kept private. So what are the principles involved in hiring someone who posts controversial material online? For example, should their potential position in the company matter, such as whether they'll be working in the back office or with the public? Or, should companies simply ignore what people say and do on their off-time, including on the internet?

Answer, In Brief: A person's internet activities can reveal facts relevant to suitability for a job, such as character, personality, interests, and judgment. To that extent, as well as for other matters relevant to the work, a person's online activities are of interest to a current or potential employer.

Tags: Business, Ethics, Internet, Social Media

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Question 3: The Morality and Limits of Revenge

Question: Is revenge ever moral? In a famous song, singer Carrie Underwood describes trashing her boyfriend's truck after she finds out that he cheated on her. Is it ever moral to seek out revenge like this on someone who has lied to you or has done something for which there are no real legal repercussions? What are the limits of moral revenge, if any?

Answer, In Brief: It's never moral to violate a person's rights, including property rights. In addition, it's self-destructive to focus on getting one's revenge. Instead, exercise your right to free association – and cut the person out of your life so that you can pursue goals and projects that matter to you.

Tags: Ethics, Justice, Revenge, Rights

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Question 4: Building Codes

Question: Are building codes ethical? In light of the building earthquake and tsunami in Japan, a lot of people are crediting the strict building codes and urban planning for reducing the damage. Is it proper to support building codes, which limit property rights, if the goal is to prevent damage and destruction in the event of an inevitable natural disaster, such as an earthquake?

Answer, In Brief: Again, it's never moral to violate a person's rights, including property rights. Building codes are neither effective nor necessary means to protect people and property in natural disasters.

Tags: Business, Capitalism, Law, Regulations, Rights

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Question 5: Numbers of Men Versus Women in Objectivism

Question: Why are more men than women attracted to Objectivism? More men than women seem to be attracted to Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism. Why is that? And does it matter?

Answer, In Brief: Presumably, more men are attracted to Objectivism than women for the same reason that more men are attracted to philosophy than women. Those reasons may be due to innate differences or cultural influences, yet ultimately, they reflect people's choices. However, the gender gap is not nearly as wide today as it used to be.

Tags: Community, Gender, Objectivist Movement

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Question 6: Wealth Creation

Question: Why is wealth not a zero-sum game? If someone makes a profit, doesn't that mean that someone else loses?

Answer, In Brief: Values are not mere material things: they can be created and destroyed – and they are increased by voluntary trade. As such, profits are the creation of value, not merely the extraction of values from other people.

Tags: Business, Economics, Egoism, Ethics, Wealth

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Conclusion (58:24)

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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