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Forgiveness, Recycling, Homeopathy, and More

Webcast Q&A: 5 June 2011

I answered questions on the process of forgiveness, visiting home for the holidays, to recycle or not, pharmacies selling homeopathic remedies, Objectivism and psychology, doctors prescribing placebos, and more on 5 June 2011. Greg Perkins of Objectivist Answers was my co-host. Listen to or download this episode of Philosophy in Action Radio below.

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Segments: 5 June 2011


Question 1: The Process of Forgiveness

Question: What is the proper process of forgiveness? In your March 6th episode, you spoke about forgiveness from the perspective of the person wronged. However, imagine that you're the person who has done wrong to someone else, thereby harming him. What should you do now? How can you prove to that person that you're not as bad as you seemed at that time? What should you do if the other person isn't willing to hear you out?

Answer, In Brief: Although errors and wrongs differ in significant ways – ranging from honest ignorance to willful evasion – the basic process is always (1) identify what happened, (2) make amends as necessary, and (3) ensure no repetition, if possible.

Tags: Ethics, Forgiveness, Judgment, Justice, Moral Wrongs

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Question 2: Visiting Home for the Holidays

Question: Am I obliged to visit my family for the holidays? I'm in my mid-20s. My family expects me to return home for the holidays, i.e. for Thanksgiving or Christmas. I dislike the trouble of traveling during that hectic time. (I live across the country.) Also, I dislike the chaotic bustle at my parents' home during the holidays. I feel like I never get to spend meaningful time with anyone, and I'm stuck with people I can barely tolerate. I'd prefer to visit family I like at other times in the year. However, my parents would be extremely angry with me if I refused to come home during the holidays. They'd probably attempt to make me feel guilty for ruining their holidays. Should I just give in to their wishes? If not, how can I make them accept that I'd rather visit at some other time?

Answer, In Brief: A person ought always pursue his own happiness, including during the holidays. That might require making plans apart from family and visiting at other times, even in face of much opposition.

Tags: Adult Children, Communication, Ethics, Family, Holidays, Parenting

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Question 3: To Recycle or Not

Question: Should I recycle? When I don't have to go out of my way to recycle – if both bins are right in front of me, say – should I? And what if I am sharing an apartment with someone who will fish recyclables out of the trash and put them in the recycling bin? Are there cases where one should just recycle in order to avoid confrontations at home or work?

Answer, In Brief: The fervor to recycle raw materials from consumer goods is based on a series of myths about its costs and benefits, but when faced with requests or mandates to recycle, a person ought to do what's most convenient, without infringing on the rights of others.

Tags: Business, Economics, Economics, Environmentalism, Ethics

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Question 4: Pharmacies Selling Homeopathic Remedies

Question: Should pharmacies sell homeopathic remedies next to real medicines? For example, Cobroxin with Asian Cobra Venom 4x HPUS is sometimes sold next to acetaminophen (or Tylenol). Calms Forte's non-drowsy sleeping pills are often displayed next to diphenhydramine (the generic for Benadryl or Tylenol p.m.). James Randi, a magician in his 80's, took 30 of these sleeping pills with no effect. Basically, these homeopathic alternatives are nothing more than expensive water. So is it wrong for pharmacies to sell them as if they were effective medicine?

Answer, In Brief: Homeopathy is pure pseudo-science, and pharmacies ought not sell it at all. But if they do, the posted warnings ought to be very, very clear about what's not being bought, namely medicine.

Tags: Business, Epistemology, Ethics, Medicine, Science

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Question 5: Objectivism and Psychology

Question: Does Objectivism need a psychology? The philosophy of Objectivism does not address the domain of human psychology as a distinct and significant category. Does that make it incomplete? If so, is that important?

Answer, In Brief: Objectivism is a philosophy, not the sum of all knowledge. Psychology is and ought to be respected as a separate discipline.

Tags: Ethics, Objectivism, Psychology

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Question 6: Doctors Prescribing Placebos

Question: Is it ethical for a psychiatrist (or other doctor) to prescribe placebos? This question arose as a result of this article: The power of placebos. While the alleged benefits of placebos mentioned in the article can be argued, my question is: To the extent a placebo is beneficial to a patient, is the doctor justified in prescribing it to him? Of course, the doctor cannot reveal to the patient at the time of prescription since it nullifies the effect of the placebo.

Answer, In Brief: The placebo effect is genuine, in that the mind can stimulate healing even without effective medicines. Doctors might prescribe them with some general consent of their patients, particularly if the alternatives risk significant side-effects or other harms.

Tags: Ethics, Medicine, Psychology

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Conclusion (1:13:03)

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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. 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 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 radio show, Philosophy in Action Radio, broadcasts live over the internet on most Sunday mornings and some 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 discuss a topic of interest.

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