Public Figures, Friendship, Professional Groups, and More
Webcast Q&A: 21 August 2011
I answered questions on moral standards for public figures, friendships with people of opposite philosophy, friendships with intellectual property pirates, joining politically active professional groups, and more on 21 August 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: 21 August 2011
Question: Should public figures be held to higher moral standards? Public figures – like actors, politicians, and athletes – are often lambasted in the media for committing commonplace wrongs like dishonesty and hypocrisy. Is that fair? If Michelle Obama is an outspoken opponent of childhood obesity and lists the things my children and I shouldn't eat, is she a hypocrite for publicly indulging in junk food? Should I not value Tiger Woods as a professional golfer with exceptional talent because he screwed around on his wife?
Answer, In Brief: Heroes can and ought to be sought and recognized, but when such people reveal themselves to be less than heroic, that warrants moral judgment and may affect your enjoyment and admiration of the person.
Question: How can I maintain my integrity in friendships with people of opposite philosophic views? I struggle to keep good relations with family and friends who support our current political system in which some people are helped at the expense of others, which I regard as slavery. They support ObamaCare, EPA restrictions, and welfare programs. Through years of caring discussions, I realize that they do not hold the individual as sacred but instead focus on what's best for "the group." At this point, I often feel more pain than pleasure being with them, even though we have many other values in common, yet I hate to cut them off. How can I maintain good relationships with them – or should I stop trying?
Answer, In Brief: In your relationships with people of mixed values, seek to delimit the interactions so that you can enjoy what the other person has to offer – and leave the rest.
Question: Should I terminate friendships with people who steal music and other intellectual property from the internet? I don't know a single person who doesn't steal something off the internet. I used to do this myself, but stopped when I realized it was wrong and why. Normally, I would cut off contact with anyone who violates rights, because that's worse than just holding wrong ideas, but the activity is so prevalent now that doing so would end my social life. Even now, my clear moral position strains my friendships. So what should I do?
Answer, In Brief: You can only control what you do, not what others do. So stand firm – and refuse to participate in anyone else's theft of intellectual property. If you do that, then you're not endorsing it but rather serving as a moral exemplar.
Question: Is it proper to join non-mandatory professional groups? Many professional organizations provide great benefits to their members, such as educational opportunities, professional conferences, networking, journal subscriptions, insurance, and product discounts. However, many also engage in lobbying of government officials on issues both related to the profession's direct interests and on issues only loosely associated (i.e. funding for political candidates). While some of this lobbying can be viewed as professional self-defense in an immorally regulated industry, where does one draw the line? Is there a point where joining professional associations is providing sanction to activities you believe are wrong?
Answer, In Brief: Beware of professional associations that engage in political activity. Join or not based on your best judgment of the damage they're doing – and express your disapproval when appropriate.
Rapid Fire Questions (47:43)
- If you are part of a mandatory union, and you disagree with a strike, should you cross the picket line?
- What do you think of the common claim that politicians should be judged solely on their policies, not for private actions like cheating on their spouses?
- How do you deal with the nutso people in your social circle?
- What's a good response to "there's no 'I' in team"?
- Is it moral to go to a local shop to ask questions about a product but then go buy it online?
- Why does Objectivism rule out any form of the supernatural?
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About Philosophy in Action
I'm Dr. Diana Hsieh. 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, as well as for Kindle and Nook. 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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