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)

Torture, Emotions, Second-Handedness, and More

Webcast Q&A: 18 September 2011

I answered questions on the morality of torturing terrorists and criminals, feeling guilty for emotions, photocopying essays for study, extroversion versus second-handedness, and more on 18 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.

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Segments: 18 September 2011


Question 1: The Morality of Torturing Terrorists and Criminals

Question: Is it moral to torture criminals and/or terrorists? We supposedly were able to track down Osama Bin Laden with information obtained by torturing captured Al Qaeda prisoners. Is it moral to torture criminals, terrorists or other evildoers to gain useful information to fight crime or help win a war? If so, should there be any limits on when and how torture should be used by the government?

Answer, In Brief: Torture can be moral, but only in clearly-defined contexts of defending against aggressors. The tricky question is whether it's an effective method or not for extracting information.

Tags: Crime, Ethics, Foreign Policy, Free Society, Law, Military, Politics, War

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Question 2: Feeling Guilty for Emotions

Question: Should a person feel guilty about his emotions? Sometimes I feel emotions that I know are misplaced, such as envy at a co-worker's promotion or anger at a friend's mistake. What should my response be to these emotions? Should I feel guilty about them? Should I change them – and if so, how?

Answer, In Brief: If you're caught up in a storm of emotions, you'll never be able to resolve emotional problems. Instead, introspect about the causes of your emotions, then distance yourself from wrong emotions by focusing on the facts.

Tags: Emotions, Ethics, Introspection, Psycho-Epistemology, Psychology

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Question 3: Photocopying Essays for Study

Question: Is it moral to photocopy an essay for a class or discussion group? My friend and I are starting a reading group at our university focused on philosophy, and the group will meet each week to discuss an essay or article related to philosophy. I want to use one of Ayn Rand's essays from The Virtue of Selfishness. I have purchased and own a copy the book. Is it moral for me to make photocopies of the essay for the purpose of the reading group – or would that violate copyright?

Answer, In Brief: You have lots of options other than photocopying the essay: pursue them!

Tags: Ethics, Intellectual Property, Law

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Question 4: Extroversion Versus Second-Handedness

Question: What's the difference between extroversion and second-handedness? According to Wikipedia, extroversion is "the act, state, or habit of being predominantly concerned with and obtaining gratification from what is outside the self." A key distinction between introverts and extroverts is that extroverts mentally "recharge" by interacting with other people, while introverts do that by being alone. Does being an extrovert mean that you're second-handed? Is it a moral failing of any kind?

Answer, In Brief: Extroversion concerns a person's base personality, whereas second-handeness is a matter of cultivated moral character. These are totally different things!

Tags: Character, Ethics, Extroversion, Independence, Introversion, Personality, Psychology

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Rapid Fire Questions (41:33)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • What's the difference between staying poor and Going Galt?
  • Are service professions second-handed or altruistic, since you're not producing anything tangible but instead focused primarily on serving others?
  • Shouldn't justice matter more than your own personal happiness?
  • Since selfishness is natural, why bother telling people to do it more?
  • Isn't everyone selfish, as a matter of human nature?
  • Shouldn't ethics be about restraining self-interest, rather than indulging in it?
  • What's the point of living if just for yourself?
  • Won't your interests conflict with the interests of others?
  • Why did Ayn Rand reject cryonics?
  • Is public nudity immoral?

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Conclusion (1:00:23)

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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