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)

Activism, Extreme Couponing, Sexting, and More

Webcast Q&A: 11 September 2011

I answered questions on activism as a moral imperative, the morality of extreme couponing, sexting as cheating, gifting valuable memorabilia to the team, and more on 11 September 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: Mostly, I've been tending to Dr. Gimpy! Also, on the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, I recommend John Lewis' new essay: 9/11 Ten Years Later: The Fruits of the Philosophy of Self-Abnegation.


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Segments: 11 September 2011


Question 1: Activism as a Moral Imperative

Question: Should every person engage in some kind of political or cultural activism? Given the current abysmal state of the culture, might a moral person choose to live his own life based on rational principles, without advocating those principles? Is it moral to overlook the ever-increasing rights-violations by our government, rather than speaking out? Is it enough to offer moral support and/or financial support to other activists?

Answer, In Brief: A person should not engage in activism as a grim moral duty, but rather as an expression and defense of his own values.

Tags: Activism, Culture, Ethics, Politics

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Question 2: The Morality of Extreme Couponing

Question: Is "extreme couponing" moral? Earlier this year, the Boston Globe wrote about people who engage in "extreme couponing." Basically, they find ways to redeem store coupons in a fashion that still abides by the rules, but they get free stuff out of the deal. Are these people moral, or are they parasites because they don't actually live by trading value for value? Are they violating rights?

Answer, In Brief: There's nothing immoral about seeking out great savings as a consumer, provided that you're honest and the sale is voluntary.

Tags: Business, Ethics, Finances, Law

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Question 3: Sexting as Cheating

Question: Is sexting a form of cheating? If you are married or in a committed relationship and you send sexually explicit texts or emails to another person, is that cheating?

Answer, In Brief: Sexting is cheating – and it ought to be regarded as a major warning and offense in a relationship.

Tags: Dating, Honesty, Infidelity, Integrity, Internet, Romance, Sex

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Question 4: Gifting Valuable Memorabilia to the Team

Question: Is it dumb to return a valuable home run baseball to the team? When NY Yankees star Derek Jeter hit a home run for his 3000th hit, the fan in the stands Christian Lopez who caught the ball returned it to the Yankees, even though he was legally entitled to keep it. Some experts estimate it could have been sold on eBay for up to $250,000. The Yankees did give him some season tickets and team memorabilia but nowhere near as valuable. (In fact, he may have to pay thousands of dollars of taxes for those gifts he received from the Yankees.) Some people praised Mr. Lopez for doing the "right thing." Other said he was foolish for giving up something valuable that could have, say, paid for his kids' college or been used for other important life goals. Was he moral or immoral for returning the baseball with no expectation of reward.

Answer, In Brief: A person in possession of such a windfall should think carefully about how to use it to serve his best interests. For this person to give the ball to the Yankees was probably a major sacrifice.

Tags: Business, Egoism, Ethics, Integrity, Property, Sacrifice, Self-Interest, Self-Sacrifice, Sports

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Rapid Fire Questions (47:33)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • Should a person give back money found in a newly-purchased house if the heirs sold the house because the owner was senile, but he's still living?
  • Should organ donation be opt-in or opt-out?
  • What does it mean to say that the interests of rational people don't conflict?
  • When and why would an egoist help the poor?
  • If everyone was an egoist, would anyone be a soldier, policeman, or firefighter?
  • Doesn't parenting require self-sacrifice for the sake of the children?
  • Don't most seemingly altruistic acts have some core of self-interest, even if only the pleasure of doing the act itself?
  • Didn't selfishness and greed cause the financial crisis?

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Conclusion (1:00:27)

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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