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)

William Hickman, Sustainable Agriculture, and More

Webcast Q&A: 9 October 2011

I answered questions on Ayn Rand's alleged admiration for William Hickman, the validity of sustainable agriculture, product placements in art, teaching young people to use credit cards wisely, and more on 9 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: I've been programming the new web site and tending to Dr. Gimpy. Yesterday, I spoke on "Ayn Rand's Philosophy: Myth Versus Reality" at the fabulous Free Minds Film Festival. The video will be posted online, and I'll blog and podcast it. Also, it's the 100th episode of Philosophy in Action Radio today!


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Segments: 9 October 2011


Question 1: Ayn Rand's Alleged Admiration for William Hickman

Question: Did Ayn Rand draw inspiration from the serial-killer William Hickman? I ask due to this article by Mark Ames on Alternet: "Ayn Rand, Hugely Popular Author and Inspiration to Right-Wing Leaders, Was a Big Admirer of Serial Killer." According to the article, Rand idolized the serial killer William Hickman and used him as inspiration for the leads male characters in her books, notably Howard Roark. Also, Rand is said to seek an environment in which sociopaths like Hickman can thrive. Are these claims true or not? If so, would they affect the validity of Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism?

Answer, In Brief: The article is a baseless, dishonest smear. If a person wants to reject Ayn Rand's ideas, he should do so on the basis of her actual mature views, not invented claims based on private journal entries written when she was 23 about a long-since abandoned writing project.

Tags: Ayn Rand, Ethics, Literature, Philosophy, Psychology

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Question 2: The Validity of Sustainable Agriculture

Question: Is "sustainable agriculture" a legitimate concept? Many advocates of a paleo diet also advocate "sustainable agriculture," including Robb Wolf and Mat Lelonde. Is sustainable agriculture a valid concept? What does (or should) it entail? Should consumers be concerned that their food producers practice "sustainable agriculture"?

Answer, In Brief: The ideology of "sustainability" is a package-deal of legitimate concerns in agriculture and leftist collectivist nonsense. "Sustainability" is a false moral standard, and farmers need free markets, not more controls.

Tags: Diet, Egalitarianism, Environmentalism, Ethics, Nutrition, Paleo, Philosophy, Politics

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Question 3: Product Placements in Art

Question: Is product placement in art a breach of artistic integrity? Given that an artist must select every aspect of an artistic work, does delegating some selection to the highest bidder breach the integrity of the work? Does the type of artwork matter? Would it be okay in movies, television, and literature but not paintings? Why?

Answer, In Brief: Here, the crucial question is not whether the artist is paid, but whether he's exercising proper selectivity in his art. If an artwork refers to or includes some element (whether a product or not, whether paid or not) that detracts from its theme, then to include that element is an artistic failure.

Tags: Art, Business, Ethics, Film, Integrity, Literature

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Question 4: Teaching Young People to Use Credit Cards Wisely

Question: How can young adults learn to use credit cards responsibly? Some young adults (usually college students) seem to make terrible financial decisions, often getting themselves into serious and overwhelming credit card debt. Others seem to handle their new financial responsibilities just fine. How would you recommend that parents teach their teenage children to use credit cards wisely? What advice would you give to young people headed to college about managing their finances well?

Answer, In Brief: Parents need to teach kids more than just managing credit cards: they need to teach them a reality-oriented approach to managing their own personal finances.

Tags: Children, Ethics, Finances, Parenting, Responsibility, Young Adults

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Rapid Fire Questions (57:40)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • Is being overly sensitive of what others think of your naked body a sign that you are a social metaphysician?
  • In the same way that 'sustainable agriculture' is a package deal, is the "Occupy Wall Street" crowd likewise mixing something real with bad ideas?

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Conclusion (1:02:22)

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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