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)

Sustainability, Lies to Kids, Revealing Atheism, and More

Webcast Q&A: 4 December 2011

I answered questions on the principle of sustainability, convincing kids that Ewoks are real, donating sperm or eggs anonymously, revealing atheism to inquisitive strangers, and more on 4 December 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: This week, I submitted a proposal for a talk on the follies of animal rights to the upcoming Ancestral Health Symposium in Boston in August. Ari Armstrong and I reviewed the galley proofs of our article on abortion rights for The Objective Standard. On Wednesday, Ari and I will discuss Colorado's campaign finance laws at Liberty on the Rocks in Denver.


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Segments: 4 December 2011


Question 1: The Principle of Sustainability

Question: What's wrong with the principle of sustainability? In the discussion of "sustainable agriculture" in your October 9th webcast, you didn't explain the problem with the basic principle of the "sustainability movement," namely "that we must meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." Doesn't that just mean respecting rights? If not, what does it mean and why is it wrong?

Answer, In Brief: The principle of sustainability must be understood in its proper ideological context of collectivism, egalitarianism, and environmentalism. Understood that way, it's clearly demanding that people not exploit finite resources for their own benefit, as they ought.

Tags: Egalitarianism, Environmentalism, Epistemology, Ethics, Libertarianism, Philosophy, Politics

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Question 2: Convincing Kids That Ewoks Are Real

Question: Should parents convince their kids that fictional creatures, such as Ewoks, are real for the sake of fun? As recounted in Wired, a father told his kids that Ewoks from Star Wars lived in the Sequoia National Forest. On their recent family vacation, they made a game of looking for these imaginary Ewoks. Afterwards, the father photoshopped a few Ewoks into the family vacation pictures. Are these kinds of deceptions harmless or are they bad parenting? The father said: "Maybe I'm a little wrong for lying to her and falsifying the pictures, but I don't care. She'll never forget the time she spent in the big woods with Ewoks."

Answer, In Brief: Lying to your kids, even if for fun, has pernicious consequences, including on your kids' trust in you and confidence in themselves. Instead, play a game of pretend! Everyone will have fun, without the dishonesty hangover.

Tags: Children, Ethics, Honesty, Humor, Parenting

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Question 3: Donating Sperm or Eggs Anonymously

Question: Is it moral to anonymously donate sperm or eggs, not knowing how the resulting children will be raised? Is the answer the same for donating fertilized embryos left over from an in vitro fertilization procedure, where the DNA is both yours and your spouse's?

Answer, In Brief: Given that (1) DNA does not have any magic power to carry moral responsibility, (2) that sperm, eggs, and embryos are not actual persons, and (3) that most people in our culture will raise a child in a loving and decent way, it's perfectly moral to donate sperm, eggs, or embryos without knowing anything about the parents who will use them.

Tags: Children, Ethics, Parenting, Responsibility

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Question 4: Revealing Atheism to Inquisitive Strangers

Question: Should I reveal my atheism to strangers when asked? I work at a hospital. One night a patient asked me if I'm religious. I answered yes. He then asked me if I believed that Jesus Christ died on the cross for my sins. I answered yes. Then he took my hand and prayed for me. Immediately, I felt guilty, because I lied in answering these questions. In fact, I'm an atheist. The next day, I told the patient the truth, and he thanked me for my honesty. What should I have done in answering his original questions?

Answer, In Brief: Honesty is a virtue, and fully applicable here. So when asked personal questions by strangers, the proper response is to either answer the question honestly or decline to answer it.

Tags: Atheism, Ethics, Honesty, Integrity, Religion

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Rapid Fire Questions (58:36)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • What do you think of Newt Gingrich for president?
  • How can you read Atlas Shrugged in today's political climate and not totally freak out? I'm waiting for Obama to announce the implementation of Directive 10-289 any day now.

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Conclusion (1:04:03)

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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