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)

Subpoenas, Office Romances, Art Favorites, and More

Webcast Q&A: 22 May 2011

I answered questions on subpoenas in a free society, office romances, the morality of lending books, developing expertise in the Objectivist ethics, personal art recommendations, wealth and social responsibility, and more on 22 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: I'm actively working on my updates to Explore Atlas Shrugged and my two lectures on pride for ATLOSCon of late. I've also been working solidifying future plans for Front Range Objectivism and promoting my recent work against Colorado's campaign finance laws.


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Segments: 22 May 2011


Question 1: Subpoenas in a Free Society

Question: Why are subpoenas justified but not compulsory juries? In your 15 May 2011 webcast, you contrasted your position on jury duty with that of Dr. Peikoff's, saying that compulsory jury duty constituted the initiation of force. My understanding is that Ayn Rand's position was that subpoenas and the jury selection process are entirely consistent with justice, as Peikoff mentions in this podcast. Juries are selected using subpoenas. How would you reconcile being for subpoenas but against compulsory jury duty? And, does this also mean that you disagree with Ayn Rand's view of justice?

Answer, In Brief: Ayn Rand's view of subpoenas, which I suspect to be right, seems to have been that for a person to fail to testify when required is a violation of the rights of the people involved in the court case, presumably their right to a fair trial. (That's different from the rationale offered by Dr. Peikoff.) A full theory, adequately defended, will depend on the work of philosophers of law.

Tags: Free Society, Juries, Justice, Law, Objectivism, Objectivism, Politics, Rights

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Question 2: Office Romances

Question: What advice do you have about dating coworkers? A romantic interest, who is a sort of coworker of mine, is concerned about the effect on her reputation (she's new), as well as conflicts of interest, should we decide to date. If this is the reason she gave for declining a date, does it make sense to ask again after a period of friendship and to suggest we keep our relationship secret? On the other hand, it might be hard to maintain such a secret.

Answer, In Brief: The problem with office romances – particularly when the people are working in the same team or in the chain of command – is that conflicts over the romance (or its demise) may create problems at work, or vice versa. In this case, if she's accurately representing her concerns, then it might make sense to be discreet about the relationship. Super-secrecy would be untenable – and unwise, however.

Tags: Business, Conflict, Dating, Honesty, Relationships, Romance

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Question 3: The Morality of Lending Books

Question: Is it moral to lend a book to a friend? Given the intellectual property issues regarding downloading music, movies etc. would lending a book, say Atlas Shrugged, to a friend or relative be considered a violation of the rights of the intellectual property holder?

Answer, In Brief: Yes, it's perfectly moral to lend a book to a friend. Intellectual property cannot be duplicated and distributed without permission, but a person can use his copy thereof as he sees fit, absent some further contract.

Tags: Ethics, Intellectual Property, Law, Property, Rights

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Question 4: Developing Expertise in the Objectivist Ethics

Question: How do I become an expert on the Objectivist ethics? I want a complete understanding. I want to be able to prove it to myself and others. How do I get there most effectively? Can you recommend any material other than the most popular books out there?

Answer, In Brief: A person ought to focus on cultivating the knowledge of the philosophy required to serve his goals in life, aiming for a deeper understanding of the relevant principles and their applications – not striving for the impossibility of a "complete understanding."

Tags: Ethics, Expertise, Objectivism

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Question 5: Personal Art Recommendations

Question: Can you give some art recommendations? Specifically, what would say would be your two or three favorites in the following categories, and why? (1) literature, (2) paintings/sculpture, (3) music, (4) movies, and (5) television.

Answer, In Brief: Listen to the answer! (Sorry, but I'm too lazy to compile all those links!)

Tags: Art, Film, Literature, Music, Television

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Question 6: Wealth and Social Responsibility

Question: Doesn't greater wealth entail greater responsibility? If you have amassed a great fortune, don't you also have to shoulder a greater responsibility to society and your fellow man than others? After all, success in business doesn't occur in a vacuum: it always depends on the community to some extent. People like Michael Bloomberg or George Lucas know that they would not be where they are today without some pretty significant assistance from others. So shouldn't they assume more responsibility for their fellow man than others?

Answer, In Brief: The person who has amassed much wealth has done so by offering people much-valued products and services in voluntary trades. He does not become the keeper of humanity thereby.

Tags: Altruism, Business, Politics, Responsibility, Wealth

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Conclusion (1:03:29)

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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