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The Role of Women, Cynicism, Prayers, and More

Webcast Q&A: 11 March 2012

I answered questions on Ayn Rand's view of women, the proper place of women, the health of cynicism and sarcasm, offers of prayers for atheists, and more on 11 March 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: My "Think!" lecture on moral perfection went quite well! Next week, I'll be busy with SnowCon 2012!


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Segments: 11 March 2012


Question 1: Ayn Rand's View of Women

Question: Did Ayn Rand regard women as inferior to men? I admire Ayn Rand, and I've used her philosophy in my business and personal life, but I disagree with her view of women. In her article "About a Woman President," Ayn Rand said that "For a woman qua woman, the essence of femininity is hero-worship – the desire to look up to man. 'To look up' does not mean dependence, obedience or anything implying inferiority." Yet her view seems to imply inferiority in practice: Rand says that no woman should aspire to be U.S. President because that would put her in the psychologically unbearable position of not having any man to look up to. So, does Rand's view imply that women are inferior to men? What is the factual basis of her view, if any? Do you agree with her?

Answer, In Brief: Ayn Rand's arguments against a woman president are puzzling and wrong, but they're no reason to think that she regarded women as inferior to men.

Tags: Ayn Rand, Career, Ethics, Gender, Government, Independence, Objectivism, Psychology, Rationality, Sex

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Question 2: The Proper Place of Women

Question: Are women subservient to men in Objectivism like in Christianity? The Bible and Christians teach that God made women to be subservient to men and not to be their leader. Ayn Rand seems to think that women are naturally subservient to men and should not be their leader. Aside from the appeal to God, what's the difference?

Answer, In Brief: Ayn Rand's views on sexual psychology, even if wrong, are not merely asserted without reason, as in Christianity, but rather are based on biological facts.

Tags: Ayn Rand, Christianity, Ethics, Gender, Masculinity/Femininity, Objectivism, Psychology, Religion, Sex

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Question 3: The Health of Cynicism and Sarcasm

Question: Are cynicism and sarcasm unhealthy? I know some very bright people who also frequently express cynicism and sarcasm towards world events, public figures, etc. Their remarks can often be quite witty and insightful. But is there something unhealthy about looking at the world in this way, or can that be an appropriate response to all the many real negative facts of reality?

Answer, In Brief: Sarcasm is morally neutral as a form of humor, but cynicism is psychologically unhealthy and philosophically wrong.

Tags: Benevolence, Benevolent Universe Premise, Communication, Humor, Malevolent Universe Premise, Philosophy, Psychology, Relationships

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Question 4: Offers of Prayers for Atheists

Question: What should I do when other people offer to pray for me? Sometimes my friends and family members offer to pray for me – whether because I've got some problem in my life or because they know that I'm an atheist. How should I respond?

Answer, In Brief: You should tailor your response to the context, but in most cases, you should be clear, firm, and kind in refusing the prayers of others.

Tags: Atheism, Communication, Conflict, Ethics, Family, Friendship, Honesty, Integrity, Relationships, Religion

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Rapid Fire Questions (1:13:22)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • Do Ayn Rand's views on homosexuality constitute an error of morality? If so, are there any implications as to her moral perfection?
  • Ayn Rand called her philosophy Objectivism, does that mean that every philosopher's ideas should have a name and a set of authorized texts? Should your philosophy have its own name?

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Conclusion (1:18:03)

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 Hsieh. I'm a philosopher specializing in 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 most Sunday mornings and some 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 discuss a topic of interest.

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