On the next Philosophy in Action Radio, I'll answer questions on the justice of defamation laws, pursuing justice at great personal cost, the cultural effects of superhero movies, and more. The live broadcast begins at 8 am PT / 9 MT / 10 CT / 11 ET on Sunday, 27 July 2014. If you can't attend live, be sure to listen to the podcast later.

Friends with Benefits, Need, Legal Marijuana, and More

Webcast Q&A: 27 November 2011

I answered questions on friends with benefits, obligations to help others in need, political compromise on legal marijuana, lying to a dying person, and more for Philosophy in Action Radio on 27 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: Happy Post-Thanksgiving Dieting! Unfortunately, my ancient horse Tara died unexpectedly on Tuesday. Ari Armstrong and I have been busy making the final edits on our paper on abortion rights for The Objective Standard.

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Segments: 27 November 2011


Question 1: Friends with Benefits (3:31)

Question: Are "friends with benefits" relationships a mistake? It is moral and/or wise to pursue sexual relationships with friends, even though you're not in a romantic relationship? What are some of the benefits and/or pitfalls? If it's a mistake, what should a person do to avoid such entanglements?

Answer, In Brief: Sex is not some kind of hobby that you can add to friendship. It's an inherently intimate act; it's not compatible with mere friendship; and it often results in dishonest with yourself and your friend. The better alternative for people uninterested in a serious relationship is to date unseriously.

Tags: Dating, Ethics, Friendship, Honesty, Romance, Self-Deception, Sex

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Question 2: Obligations to Help Others in Need (17:13)

Question: Do we have an obligation to help others in need? Many people think that the need of others creates an obligation to help. Is that right or wrong? Why? When should a person help others?

Answer, In Brief: All the arguments for moral obligations based on need fail. Every person's life – and hence, every person's needs – are his own responsibility. Moral obligations arise from a person's choices, and ought to be based on shared values and interests, not mere need.

Tags: Altruism, Benevolence, Charity, Egoism, Emergencies, Ethics, Integrity, Self-Interest

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Question 3: Political Compromise on Legal Marijuana (34:51)

Question: When is it morally right or wrong to support political compromises? The marijuana legalization initiative for the 2012 Colorado ballot also specifies open-ended taxation that circumvents the protections of TABOR (the Taxpayer Bill of Rights). It specifies that the first $40 million raised goes to government schools. Both of these taxation items are compromises added to get voters to accept the marijuana legalization. Is it ethical to support more taxation to get more freedom from drug laws? Is it okay to circulate petitions to get this on the ballot so the voters can decide? More generally, when if ever should a person support political compromises that uphold some rights but violate others?

Answer, In Brief: With mixed legislation, you need to examine the good and the bad, with particular emphasis on precedents set by the law. Sometimes, like with this measure, you should support it because the good hugely outweighs the bad, but that's not always the case.

Tags: Alcohol/Drugs, Compromise, Drug War, Elections, Ethics, Politics, Voting

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Question 4: Lying to a Dying Person (45:23)

Question: Is it wrong to lie to a person on their deathbed? Is lying in such cases justified so that the dying person can "go in peace"? For instance, a man might tell his fellow soldier dying on the battlefield that his heroism helped win a critical victory, even if it actually made no difference. Or a nurse might tell a dying mother desperate to make peace with her long-estranged daughter that the daughter called to tell her she loves her, even if that didn't happen. Is that wrong? If so, what's the harm?

Answer, In Brief: Honesty is a virtue, even in dealings with a person dying. To die in peace means to die in harmony with the facts, not in a state of blissful ignorance or blind evasion.

Tags: Conflict, Death, Ethics, Honesty, Relationships

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Rapid Fire Questions (55:19)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • What do you think of the argument that it in a modern society it is wrong to not feed everyone that is starving when we are capable of producing enough food to do so?
  • What do you think of Terry Goodkind's novels?
  • What do you think of the term "anti-choice" to describe people who oppose abortion?
  • Have you gleaned any moral lessons from caring for Dr. Gimpy these past few months?

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Conclusion (1:00:42)

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About Philosophy in Action

I'm Dr. Diana Hsieh. I'm a philosopher specializing 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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