On the next Philosophy in Action Radio, I'll answer questions on abortion and rights in pregnancy, and more. The live broadcast begins at 8 am PT / 9 MT / 10 CT / 11 ET on Sunday, 26 October 2014. If you can't attend live, be sure to listen to the podcast later.

Citizenship, Automatic Weapons, Reasoning, and More

Webcast Q&A: 20 November 2011

I answered questions on the meaning of citizenship in a free society, the legal status of automatic weapons, forcing religious fanaticism on others, reasoning by facts rather than emotions, and more for Philosophy in Action Radio on 20 November 2011. Greg Perkins of Objectivist Answers was my co-host. Listen to or download the podcast below.

Remember, Philosophy in Action Radio is available to anyone, free of charge. That's because our goal is to spread rational principles for real life far and wide, as we do every week to thousands of listeners. We love doing that, but each episode requires our time, effort, and money. So if you enjoy and value our work, please contribute to our tip jar. We suggest $5 per episode or $20 per month, but any amount is appreciated. You can send your contribution via Dwolla, PayPal, or US Mail.

My News of the Week: Happily, Dr. Gimpy is doing great! I've been editing the paper that Ari Armstrong and I are writing on abortion, as well as updating and improving the new web site for Philosophy in Action.

Note: Unfortunately, we had a slew of technical problems with this webcast... but we muddled through!

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Segments: 20 November 2011


Question 1: The Meaning of Citizenship in a Free Society (4:01)

Question: What should it mean for a person to be a citizen of country? Suppose that America were a free country, with open borders. What would be the difference between a long-term resident and a citizen? How would that affect a person's relationship to the government? How would a person (including someone born in the US) become a citizen? Could a person be a citizen of two countries?

Answer, In Brief: In a free society, a citizen must be loyal to basic principles of country, in word (by swearing allegiance to the constitution) and deed (by voluntarily financing the government). That would entitle the citizen to extra protections by the government, as well as the right to participate in the government by voting and more. Other people, so long as not hostile or criminal, would be free to live and work in the country as residents, with their rights protected.

Tags: Citizenship, Free Society, Government, Immigration, Law, Politics, Rights

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Question 2: The Legal Status of Automatic Weapons (23:37)

Question: Should it be legal for civilians to own fully automatic weapons? At present, civilians can only own full-auto firearms by special permission of the US Treasury. In a free society, would such weapons be banned or regulated, such that only members of the police and military could access them? As a law-abiding civilian, am I somehow violating someone else's rights by owning an M-16 fully automatic rifle – as opposed to the virtually identical (and currently legal) semi-automatic AR-15 rifle?

Answer, In Brief: The critical question to ask with any potentially dangerous property is whether mere ownership constitutes a threat to others. That's not true of firearms, including fully automatic weapons.

Tags: Firearms, Law, Politics, Rights, Self-Defense

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Question 3: Forcing Religious Fanaticism on Others (36:25)

Question: Why do religious fanatics seek to impose their beliefs on others? Most religious fanatics aren't content to practice their religion for themselves: they seek to impose it on others by law. Why is that? Why is that wrong? What can be done to combat it?

Answer, In Brief: For myriad reasons, the politics that naturally flows from religious faith is forced obedience, not freedom.

Tags: Christianity, Epistemology, Ethics, Ethics, Government, Politics, Psycho-Epistemology, Psychology, Religion

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Question 4: Reasoning by Facts Rather than Emotions (43:10)

Question: How do I know that I'm reasoning based on facts, rather than just being driven by my emotions? Often, I feel strong emotions on some personal or political issue. How do I know that I'm not rationalizing what I want to be true?

Answer, In Brief: By monitoring his thinking, a person can notice the many signs of rationalizing feelings rather than reasoning based on facts. Introspection is the key to noticing and solving this problem.

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

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Rapid Fire Questions (54:18)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • Is jury nullification ever justified?
  • When saying the Pledge of Allegiance, what should be one's policy concerning "under God"? Should one simply leave out those words?
  • Is there anything wrong with being strongly attracted to certain unchosen traits in a potential romantic partner (e.g. blonde vs brunette, short vs tall, race, etc)?
  • I know many people who supposedly share my same rational, egoistic, pro-freedom philosophy – but they're unpleasant jerks! How can this be, if we're all committed to reason and happiness?
  • What do you think of the idea of a "temporary marriage", as Mexico has instituted?
  • What do you think about the Joe Paterno situation at Penn State? Specificaally, how should someone handle receiving second-hand allegations?

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Conclusion (1:02:53)

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About Philosophy in Action

I'm Dr. Diana Hsieh. I'm a philosopher specializing in the application of rational principles to the challenges of real life. I received my Ph.D in philosophy from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2009. My book, Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame, is available for purchase in paperback, as well as for Kindle and Nook. 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 radio show, Philosophy in Action Radio, broadcasts live over the internet on Sunday mornings and most Thursday evenings. On Sunday mornings, I answer questions applying rational principles to the challenges of real life in a live hour-long show. Greg Perkins of Objectivist Answers co-hosts the show. On Thursday evenings, I interview an expert guest or chat about a topic of interest.

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