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)

Criminal Convictions, Death Penalty, America, and More

Webcast Q&A: 22 January 2012

I answered questions on acquittals of the guilty versus convictions of the innocent, the morality of the death penalty, alternatives to America, choosing a place to live, and more on 22 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.

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Segments: 22 January 2012


Question 1: Acquittals of the Guilty Versus Convictions of the Innocent

Question: Why is punishing an innocent man worse than failing to punish a guilty man? English jurist William Blackstone said that "better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer." What does this mean, and is it true? Is some higher ratio of wrongly-punished to wrongly-released acceptable?

Answer, In Brief: Tto convict an innocent person involves the same wrongs as acquitting guilty person, plus more. That’s why proper justice system presumes innocence, as well as limits and corrects errors of by scrupulous objectivity.

Tags: Crime, Death Penality, Justice, Law, Punishment

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Question 2: The Morality of the Death Penalty

Question: Is the death penalty moral? I understand why people are opposed to the death penalty when there might be genuine doubt as to whether the accused person really committed the crime. Certainly, we've seen cases where DNA evidence has exonerated someone who was convicted several years ago for a crime they didn't actually commit. But if someone confesses to first degree murder and if there's incontrovertible physical evidence to confirm their guilt, is the death penalty then appropriate?

Answer, In Brief: To impose the death penalty for murder (and perhaps other heinous crimes) is morally proper, if the possibility of error in the criminal conviction can be eliminated. To eliminate not just "reasonable doubt" but also any "residual doubt" can be used to distinguish cases in which such errors have been excluded.

Tags: Certainty, Crime, Death Penality, Epistemology, Ethics, Justice, Law, Punishment, Rights

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Question 3: Alternatives to America

Question: What other countries besides America have a relatively healthy sense of life? Suppose America takes a bad turn politically and I need to relocate to another country. What other countries still have a relatively healthy "sense of life" and decent culture – in that they respect reason, accomplishment, and productiveness – even if their politics are left-leaning? Over the past few months, I've heard various people discuss Canada, New Zealand, Costa Rica, China, and India as possible places to relocate to. What do you think of the cultures of those countries?

Answer, In Brief: I'm not the right person to answer that question. However, I'm committed to staying in the United States, absent some disaster, because I regard America as the best hope for reason and freedom. Fight for it!

Tags: Culture, Politics, United States, Values

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Question 4: Choosing a Place to Live

Question: Is it rational to value good weather over good politics when choosing a place to live? I currently live in a state with fairly good politics, with respect to taxes, gun rights, and so on. However, I have friends who live in California who say that the weather there is so good, that it's worth it to them even if the taxes are high, the gun laws are terrible, and the overall political climate is abysmal. Is it rational to value something like good weather over good politics in choosing a place to live?

Answer, In Brief: A person should judge where to live in the United States based on his whole range of values, not solely on the differences of degree between state governments.

Tags: Politics, Values

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Rapid Fire Questions (58:32)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • What is the mistaken assumption in the question, "What is the purpose of life?" Is, "Does life have a purpose?" or "Can life have a purpose?" better?
  • Where should a person interested in learning about Objectivism start?
  • What do you think of what happened when the Costa Concordia ran aground?
  • What do you think of Chris Christie?
  • What does it mean to "assume positive intent"?

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Conclusion (1:10:28)

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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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