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)

Fear of Death, Do Not Call Registry, and More

Webcast Q&A: 2 October 2011

I answered questions on fear of death, using the Do Not Call Registry, genetic influences on thinking, the morality of selling your body, and more on 2 October 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: Like last week, I've been tending to Paul and programming the new web site for this webcast. Yesterday was also "Hay Day Chez Hsieh"!


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Segments: 2 October 2011


Question 1: Fear of Death

Question: Should death be feared? Why or why not? Also, why do most people fear death? How can a person overcome that, if ever?

Answer, In Brief: A person actually facing own death might reasonably fear the pain of dying or regret that his life will be cut short. However, others should not fear those possibilities just because they might happen someday, nor ever fear what would happen in the fantasy of an afterlife.

Tags: Afterlife, Atheism, Death, Emotions, Life, Psychology, Religion

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Question 2: Using the Do Not Call Registry

Question: Should the "Do Not Call" Registry exist? The National Do Not Call Registry was established in 2003, and it's run by the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission. Is this legitimate? Does a person have a right not to be called by solicitors and other unwanted persons? Given that there was no real attempt to come up with a private, market-based solution for the issue of unwanted solicitations, was this a legitimate case of "market failure"? Should advocates of free markets put themselves on the "Do Not Call" list and/or report violators thereof? Why shouldn't a person just hang up?

Answer, In Brief: Telemarketers do not have a right to use your telephones and telephone lines against your will. In a free society, private methods could and should be used to protect yourself against trespasses by telemarketers, but in the meantime, adding yourself to the government's Do Not Call List is a legitimate way to announce that telemarketers are not welcome to call you.

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

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Question 3: Genetic Influences on Thinking

Question: Do our genes affect our reasoning? Evolution makes fruit taste sweet and burning human flesh smell awful. Presumably, evolution can hard wire pleasures and pains because interaction with that thing has caused our ancestors to live longer or die earlier. Wouldn't this same process make certain actions easier or more difficult, such as sacrificing yourself to save your child versus watching your child die? Couldn't evolution affect that decision by making focus more difficult, so that a person is easier impelled by his immediate emotions?

Answer, In Brief: While it's easy and popular to appeal to genetics to explain human behavior, such explanations are almost always implausible on closer inspection.

Tags: Evolution, Free Will, Psychology, Rationality, Science, Values

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Question 4: The Morality of Selling Your Body

Question: Is it moral to sell your body? Selling our bodies or certain parts of them are perfectly acceptable in our society, such as being an egg or sperm donor, being a pregnancy surrogate, or selling hair. But others are condemned, such as prostitution or selling organs. Where should the line be drawn? When is it moral to sell a part of oneself – and why?

Answer, In Brief: There's nothing wrong with "selling your body" per se, since all productive work involves the body. The moral questions with any and all work are primarily (1) Does it violate anyone's rights? and (2) Will I be damaging or sacrificing myself, physically or psychologically, in the long term?

Tags: Business, Career, Ethics, Medicine, Sex

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Rapid Fire Questions (57:18)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • How does your answer on genetic influences on thinking apply to homosexuality?
  • What's the difference between focus and concentration?
  • Why should public employees to be represented by labor unions, if at all?
  • Is having an emergency pack in case of a natural disaster/society collapsing irrational?
  • How do you handle a spouse who insists upon taking the child to church when the spouse knows your opposition to religion?

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Conclusion (1:07:50)

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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