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)

Reverse Engineering, Religious Music, Police, and More

Webcast Q&A: 31 July 2011

I answered questions on the morality of reverse engineering, atheists singing religious music, this-worldly success of faith-driven people, police lying to suspects, and more on 31 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.

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Segments: 31 July 2011


Question 1: The Morality of Reverse Engineering

Question: Is it immoral to reverse-engineer a product? Is it wrong to take apart a product, improve it, and then sell this new product to others (or use it for yourself)? Is this considered theft or just productive work?

Answer, In Brief: The morality of reverse engineering largely depends on whether the product is protected by copyright and/or patents. In other words, are you violating someone's intellectual property or not?

Tags: Business, Ethics, Intellectual Property, Law, Politics, Property, Rights, Technology

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Question 2: Atheists Singing Religious Music

Question: Is it moral for atheists to perform religious music? I love to sing classical music, and that usually means performing with a group that does religious music, including Catholic mass and other religious songs. Some of these groups are secular and perform it for the artistic value alone, but other groups are explicitly religious, such as those affiliated with a church. Is it wrong for an atheist like me to join either of these types of groups?

Answer, In Brief: Given our present and past cultural context, to sing religious music is not an implicit endorsement of religion – unless purpose of performance to inspire religious belief.

Tags: Art, Atheism, Christianity, Music, Religion, Sanction

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Question 3: This-Worldly Success of Faith-Driven People

Question: Why do some people of faith survive and even flourish? If reason is required for life, and faith abdicates reason, then how can anyone who has faith live and prosper? In particular, how do some devoutly religious people manage to be so productive and creative in business?

Answer, In Brief: Christians today are not ideologically consistent: they're not fully driven by faith. Instead, they are compartmentalized – and that explains the success of some of them.

Tags: Business, Compartmentalization, Epistemology, Ethics, Faith, Rationality, Religion, Wealth

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Question 4: Police Lying to Suspects

Question: Should the police lie to suspects in the course of an investigation? Police routinely do this, usually in order to trick people into admitting something or revealing information they would normally not reveal. Note that the people they lie to may not have been convicted of any crime, and are merely "persons of interest" or suspects. Is this routine constant lying moral? What do you think it does to the policeman's character after many years?

Answer, In Brief: To suppose that the police must never misrepresent the facts in a criminal investigation is wrong – and rationalistic. However, precisely because the overriding goal must be the discovery of the truth about the crime, there are and ought to be limits about what the police can lie about.

Tags: Crime, Ethics, Honesty, Justice, Law, Psychology

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Rapid Fire Questions (54:09)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • Should police be allowed to conduct sting operations to catch people committing illegal acts?
  • What should happen to cops that cross the line and violate people's rights?
  • Should a country permit reverse-engineering of the intellectual property of the enemy in wartime?

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Conclusion (58:23)

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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