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)

SOPA, Unprovable Accusations, Temperamental People, and More

Webcast Q&A: 15 January 2012

I answered questions on SOPA and online piracy, mutual unprovable accusations of wrongdoing, dealing with temperamental people, judging young adults fairly, and more on 15 January 2012. 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: Paul and I spent last week having fun in the snow at Beaver Creek, and now... back to work!


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Segments: 15 January 2012


Question 1: SOPA and Online Piracy

Question: Should SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) be supported or opposed? SOPA was recently introduced to the US House of Representatives, then shelved temporarily, and many people are urging businesses and their representatives to oppose it. Would the bill promote prosperity and creativity by protecting copyright? Or does it justify internet censorship and cripple free access of information through online media?

Answer, In Brief: SOPA and PIPA claim to protect copyright, but in fact, they'd break the fundamental architecture of the internet, subject innocent people to major legal battles, destroy large internet sites, and establish government control over the internet. To top it off, these laws would not stop pirates. They should be opposed.

Tags: Ethics, Free Speech, Internet, Law, Politics, Technology

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Question 2: Mutual Unprovable Accusations of Wrongdoing

Question: How should a rational person evaluate unproven accusations of serious wrongdoing about people he deals with? I recently heard some information about a business associate's dealings with another of his associates that, if true, would make me reconsider doing business with him. However, his side of the story is that the other person is the one who acted wrongly. This is a serious matter, and it's clear that one or both of them acted very badly, but since I was not personally involved and the only information I have is of a "he said/she said" nature, I am not sure how to decide what I should do. Am I right to consider the information I heard at all, since I can't confirm it?

Answer, In Brief: Such dilemmas of moral judgment are difficult to navigate, and ideally, you either know enough about the characters of people in question or you can gather that information in order to come to an informed judgment. If you must choose between the two people now, then you should do so provisionally, as best as you can.

Tags: Business, Conflict, Epistemology, Ethics, Judgment, Justice, Rationality, Relationships

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Question 3: Dealing with Temperamental People

Question: Should people be willing to "walk on eggshells" around temperamental people? Some people – often very talented – are known to be highly temperamental. They'll explode in anger if others disagree with them, make innocent mistakes, or just act differently than they'd prefer. Is that a moral failing, and if so, what is its source? How should people around them act? When and how much should others try to placate them?

Answer, In Brief: Temperamental people indulge their emotions when they don't get their way because they don't respect and value other people as autonomous individuals. If that irrationality is entrenched, then the best course is likely to refuse to deal with the person.

Tags: Business, Conflict, Emotions, Ethics, Judgment, Justice, Psychology, Rationality, Rationality, Relationships

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Question 4: Judging Young Adults Fairly

Question: Is it fair to judge a person's intellect or other qualities of character purely based on his age? I am 16 and am facing problems with some people who seem to think that my views aren't clear even to me just because "I am a lazy teen with no experience in life." Is that unjust? Should I try to show them they are wrong about me or is it not worth it? If I should try, how might I be effective?

Answer, In Brief: It's wrong to make moral judgments based on statistics, and young adults deserve to be treated with respect, even if adults know that they have much to learn.

Tags: Ethics, Intelligence, Judgment, Justice, Young Adults

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Rapid Fire Questions (54:46)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • Do you think that the patent lawsuits are getting a little out of hand?
  • Could Obama be effectively neutralized by gridlock?
  • What do you think of Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow's outspoken love for Jesus?
  • Is it ever moral to wish that someone were dead (assuming you don't actually plan on acting on that wish or otherwise violating someone's rights)?
  • Ayn Rand said she didn't have much of an opinion on certain topics such as evolution or gun control. Does that mean that there is no Objectivist position on theses issues?

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Conclusion (1:06:02)

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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