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)

Bankruptcy Law, Transgenderism, Prisons, and More

Webcast Q&A: 30 October 2011

I answered questions on the purpose of bankruptcy law, restrooms for the transgendered in transition, private versus state prisons, revealing atheism to religious parents, and more on 30 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: As usual, I've been tending to Dr. Gimpy. I've also been working on a paper on abortion with Ari Armstrong for The Objective Standard. This will be the last "Rationally Selfish" webcast: next week we'll be "Philosophy in Action"! (Hooray!) Finally, last week I saw Matt Nathanson and Scars on 45 on tour, and they were both awesome!


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Segments: 30 October 2011


Question 1: The Purpose of Bankruptcy Law

Question: What is the proper purpose of bankruptcy laws? When should a person renegotiate his debt with lenders, if ever? Should a person be able to wipe his debt clean by going into bankruptcy? In your 10 July 2011 webcast discussion of strategic default on mortgages, you suggested that a person shouldn't be able to do that, but shouldn't lenders be responsible for who they lend money to?

Answer, In Brief: The purpose of bankruptcy law not to give people a fresh start, but rather to peacefully and fairly resolve conflicts that arise between the debtor and his creditors when the debtor is truly unable to pay his debts.

Tags: Bankruptcy, Business, Ethics, Finances, Honesty, Law, Politics, Responsibility

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Question 2: Restrooms for the Transgendered in Transition

Question: Which bathroom should a pre-operative transgendered person use? The brutal attack at McDonald's on a transgendered person in April 2011 was apparently started because that person used the ladies restroom, which was already occupied by a 14 year old. Was the transgendered person wrong to use that restroom?

Answer, In Brief: Transgendered people deserve to be treated with respect, just like everyone else! As for restrooms, they should use whatever restroom matches their outward appearance.

Tags: Ethics, Etiquette, GLBT, Medicine, Personal Identity, Philosophy, Politics, Psychology, Rights, Science

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Question 3: Private Versus State Prisons

Question: Should prisons be run by the state or private companies? After reading this Huffington Post article, I wonder whether prisons should be run by private companies or the state. I tend to think private is almost always better than anything state-run, but the current system of private prisons seems to be corrupt at best. More generally, what would a prison system look like in a free society?

Answer, In Brief: Private prisons aren't more or less of a problem than state-run prisons, since any prison must be either run by or funded and overseen by the government. The crucial problem is that far too many people in prison are innocent of any real crime.

Tags: Crime, Government, Law, Politics

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Question 4: Revealing Atheism to Religious Parents

Question: How much should I tell my parents about my beliefs, given that I'm still financially dependent on them? I'm in college, and if I told my parents that I'm an atheist, they'd probably stop paying my tuition. Should I tell them now, or wait until I'm done with college?

Answer, In Brief: A person in college is not obliged to tell his parents everything, but to live a lie or seek values from others under false pretenses is self-destructive.

Tags: Adult Children, Atheism, Ethics, Family, Honesty, Integrity, Parenting

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Rapid Fire Questions (51:15)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • Does the Bible condemn abortion, as many Christians say?
  • Doesn't Christianity deserve praise for introducing individualism into Western culture?
  • Can a person be an honest deist?

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Conclusion (59:13)

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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