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)

Rationality, Literature, Introspection, and More

Webcast Q&A: 18 December 2011

I answered questions on rationality in face of overwhelming emotions, the value of reading literature, balancing introspection and productive work, optimism or pessimism about the future, and more on 18 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, Ari Armstrong, Paul Hsieh, and I attended and testified at a campaign finance hearing. You can submit written testimony until Friday December 23rd. Also, look for Ari's and my article on abortion in The Objective Standard this week.


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Segments: 18 December 2011


Question 1: Rationality in Face of Overwhelming Emotions

Question: How can a person regain his rationality in the face of overwhelming emotions? On occasion, I find my rational judgment swamped by strong emotions like anger and anxiety. In such cases, my thinking seems distorted by my emotions. While in the grip of such emotions, what can I do to re-establish my powers of rational thought? Also, how can I prevent myself from saying or doing things that I'll later regret?

Answer, In Brief: You need not be at the mercy of your emotions: you can take charge of own mind in friendly way. So when your emotions rage out of control, you should (1) notice them, (2) analyze them, (3) work to defuse them, and (4) later, prevent the same from happening again.

Tags: Character, Emotions, Introspection, Psycho-Epistemology, Psychology, Rationality, Self-Control, Willpower

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Question 2: The Value of Reading Literature

Question: What value do you gain from reading literature? I've never much connected with literature, particularly not the classics. I know that you read them routinely. What value do you find in them? Or, what am I missing?

Answer, In Brief: Literature isn't a value for everyone, but it can be an amazing window into other lives and other worlds, as well as a source of inspiration.

Tags: Art, Literature

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Question 3: Balancing Introspection and Productive Work

Question: How can I achieve a better balance between introspection and productive work? Particularly I've made some mistake, I'll get wrapped up in the process of introspection until I get the problem sorted out. However, that consumes time – and often my projects suffer and I miss deadlines. How can I find a better balance between these two important activities?

Answer, In Brief: You should cultivate the discipline required to do less exciting work, but be sure to take the time to introspect. Also, deal with your mistakes in sensible way, with a focus on fixing any problems caused and preventing repetition.

Tags: Introspection, Moral Wrongs, Productiveness, Psycho-Epistemology

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Question 4: Optimism or Pessimism about the Future

Question: Should we be optimistic or pessimistic about the future of the culture? What do you think will happen to the culture in the next 20 to 50 years? Are you optimistic or pessimistic – and why? What do you think the value and certainty of such predictions based on philosophy are?

Answer, In Brief: I'm pessimistic, because I see the direction in which the world is headed, particularly on economic issues. But not depressed, because I'm doing what I can and enjoying that.

Tags: Activism, Culture, Politics

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Rapid Fire Questions (57:30)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • If our emotions are affected by chemicals and other factors out of our control, does this call into question whether rationality is normal? In other words, do we need to learn how to reason?
  • Why care about the drug war, when just about every politician is bad on that issue?
  • Why worry about the president's view of abortion given that Roe v. Wade is the law of the land?
  • What should one think of a candidate that shifts positions?
  • Do you think that private sector experience is a plus in a politician?
  • Don't you think another four years of Obama would all but guarantee a collapse of the last vestiges of the American republic?
  • Should the US be an ally with Saudi Arabia?
  • What are your thoughts on Chris Hitchens' death?

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Conclusion (1:11:46)

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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