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)

Rights of the Disabled, Risky Sports, Votes, and More

Webcast Q&A: 29 May 2011

I answered questions on the rights of the severely mentally disabled, the morality of risky sports, Francisco's slap of Dagny, imitating the 'rape' scene in The Fountainhead, accepting unauthorized discounts, buying votes in elections, and more on 29 May 2011. Tim Peck of Et in Arcadia ego 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: It's just AtlosCon 2011!


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Segments: 29 May 2011


Question 1: The Rights of the Severely Mentally Disabled

Question: What rights do severely mentally disabled people have? If someone is mentally disabled to the extent that he or she will never be able to be rational and/or live independently, does that person have rights? Who should be financially responsible for the care of such people?

Answer, In Brief: A disabled person with some capacity to reason has rights, although may require the guidance and assistance of a guardian. However, humans born without any capacity to reason (such as anencephalics) cannot be said to have rights, since rights protect a person's capacity to act on his own rational judgment.

Tags: Disability, Ethics, Law, Politics, Rights

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Question 2: The Morality of Risky Sports

Question: Are risky sports immoral? Some people engage in highly risky sports, such as freestyle skiing or snowboarding, mountain climbing in extreme conditions, surfing huge waves, skydiving, free (non-scuba) diving, super-technical mountain biking, and so on. Since life is the standard of value, is it wrong to risk your life (or limbs) in such pursuits? Should a person take pleasure in risks for its own sake? What is the value of such sports, if any?

Answer, In Brief: While the pursuit of risk per se is self-destructive, most extreme athletes have the skills required to safely perform the activity or risk only minor injuries.

Tags: Ethics, Risk, Sports

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Question 3: Francisco's Slap of Dagny

Question: Was Francisco justified in slapping Dagny? In their teenage years, when Dagny asked Francisco whether she should try to get D's in order to gain popularity in school, Francisco slapped her. I understand what he meant by the "unspeakable" thing that she said. But couldn't have he talked it over with her instead of slapping her – and shouldn't he have done so? Why does he use physical violence – and why does Dagny not just accept but relish in it?

Answer, In Brief: The slap in question was not just deliberately provoked, but necessary in the context of fiction to dramatize the tension and bond between them.

Tags: Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, Ethics, Literature, Relationships, Rights, Romance

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Question 4: Imitating the 'Rape' Scene in The Fountainhead

Question: Should a man ever act in real life as Howard Roark did in his first sexual encounter with Dominique? In your 24 April 2011 webcast, you said that a person should not act as Howard Roark did in the "rape" scene in The Fountainhead, implying it would be immoral. Could you explain why? Is the problem that you cannot know for certain what the woman wants? I've slept with a few women and only once have I ever been 100% certain that she wanted it that way and so I took it without any real permission and I was right. She even told me later she wouldn't have wanted it any other way. I understand it is very dangerous to say to guys, "Hey, its okay to do this!" because most people are idiots, but wouldn't there be rare real-life cases in which a man would be right to act like Roark did?

Answer, In Brief: The "rape" scene is wonderful drama, but to do the same in real life would risk actually raping the woman – which is not merely horrible in and of itself, but also likely to result in years of imprisonment.

Tags: Ayn Rand, Crime, Ethics, Literature, The Fountainhead

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Question 5: Accepting Unauthorized Discounts

Question: Is it moral to accept discounts for products and services when the person giving you the discount isn't a manager or owner of the business? Is it moral for a person to accept "nice face" discounts? I've had people (mostly women) tell me that they've received discounts or better service for being nice, dressing in low-cut shirts or short skirts, being cheerful or otherwise friendly to store clerks or employees (usually of the opposite sex). Is it moral to offer or accept such discounts?

Answer, In Brief: Businesses are free to offer discounts to any customers, and you should feel free to accept them. However, if you know that the discount is offered in secret, without the permission of the business owner or manager, you should refuse.

Tags: Business, Ethics, Honesty

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Question 6: Buying Votes in Elections

Question: Should it be legal in a free society to buy votes? It doesn't seem that the practice would violate anyone's rights, so shouldn't it be legal for a person who wants to hold office to pay willing voters to cast their vote for him?

Answer, In Brief: To buy votes in an election would not only be wildly expensive but also likely ensure defeat. It's not an activity that could or should be banned.

Tags: Corruption, Elections, Free Society, Law, Politics, Voting

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Conclusion (59:40)

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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