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)

New Beliefs, Strategic Default, Swearing, and More

Webcast Q&A: 10 July 2011

I answered questions on announcing life-changing new beliefs, the morality of strategic default, swearing before strangers, letting friends fail, and more on 10 July 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: While in Los Angeles and Palm Springs, I've mostly been enjoying spending time with family and friends. I've also been working on programming for this webcast, as well as my updates to Explore Atlas Shrugged.


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Segments: 10 July 2011


Question 1: Announcing Life-Changing New Beliefs

Question: When a person adopts a life-changing set of beliefs, how should he present that to family and friends? The point would not be to try to convince them to follow, but to say "look... this is what I believe, these are the principles by which I now live my life now, and please respect my choice to do so."

Answer, In Brief: You need to focus on what you can do – namely be clear, be firm, and be kind about your change in views and practices.

Tags: Communication, Conflict, Family, Friendship, Philosophy, Relationships

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Question 2: The Morality of Strategic Default

Question: Is it moral to strategically default on your mortgage? Suppose that you could continue to pay your mortgage, but you're underwater: you owe more than the house is worth. You realize that you'd save tens of thousands of dollars by defaulting. Would it be morally wrong to default, assuming that you don't engage in any fraud or other dishonesty in doing so? Would it make a difference if you do that in today's highly regulated market versus in a fully free market?

Answer, In Brief: Strategic default is morally wrong: it's dishonest and unjust. It's your job in life to ensure that you borrow money sensibly and then repay those loans.

Tags: Bankruptcy, Business, Ethics, Finances, Honesty, Integrity, Law, Responsibility

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Question 3: Swearing Before Strangers

Question: Should you swear in front of strangers? Swearing is sometimes a great "exclamation point" when you're telling a story or having an intense or extraordinary conversation. But, is it appropriate to swear in front of people who don't know you very well? Is that poor manners? Would "being yourself" conflict with "putting your best foot forward" in this case?

Answer, In Brief: Swearing is a minor point of style that a person should use or not depending on his circumstances.

Tags: Communication, Communication, Ethics, Integrity, Relationships

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Question 4: Letting Friends Fail

Question: Are there times when you shouldn't help a friend? If you see a friend taking some action which may be ultimately self-defeating or self-destructive, but you are pretty sure they don't have the knowledge or experience to understand the future consequences of their actions, should you allow them to learn on their own or stop them from making a mistake that you know will be disastrous?

Answer, In Brief: When a friend seems to be making a mistake, don't shoot first then ask questions later. Instead, ask questions first, then think about their answers, then give your advice if it's wanted, and then see what happens.

Tags: Communication, Conflict, Ethics, Friendship, Moral Wrongs, Relationships

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Rapid Fire Questions (47:30)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • What do you think of interventions?
  • What is bankruptcy? Should a person's debt expire?
  • What if you approached the bank with a speculative loan and were upfront about it (accepting a higher interest rate, etc.)? Is it OK to default if the property value crashes?
  • Why are some words considered bad – and is that right?
  • Does the fact that Tourettes sufferers involuntarily spew "bad" words indicate a low level psychological acceptance of social language norms?
  • If a person just thinks destructive thoughts, does that make the person evil?
  • Where's the line between sharing new ideas and information with friends and family – and proselytizing to them?
  • What is your opinion of the Suicide Girls?
  • Do adult children have an obligation to maintain a relationship with their parents?
  • Does the failure of an incorporated business - say an S corporation - impose moral obligations on the owners to pay those debts from other income?
  • Should pediatricians ask their patients about guns in the house?

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Conclusion (1:03:58)

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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