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.
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Segments: 31 July 2011
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?
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.
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.
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.
Rapid Fire Questions (54:09)
- 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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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.
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.
I can be reached via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.