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)

Duty, Stockpiling, Poking Fun, Purposefulness, and More

Webcast Q&A: 22 April 2012

I answered questions on obligation, responsibility, and duty, stockpiling medication, poking fun at friends' ideas online, encouraging friends to be more purposeful, and more on 22 April 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: I've been mopping up from NoodleFood's move to Philosophy in Action, and I sent out the first Philosophy in Action Newsletter. This week, I'll be experimenting with Philosophy in Action on BlogTalkRadio! This first radio call-in show will be on Wednesday April 25th at 9 pm ET / 8 pm CT / 7 pm MT / 6 pm PT. Its theme will be "Getting More Done."


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Segments: 22 April 2012


Question 1: Obligation, Responsibility, and Duty

Question: What is the difference between obligation, responsibility, and duty? Often, people use these terms interchangeably. What's difference between them, if any?

Answer, In Brief: Obligations and responsibilities can be valid and powerful – if based on person's own choices. Duties are claims of obligation deriving solely from the say-so of some authority, and that's why they are invalid.

Tags: Duty, Ethics, Philosophy, Responsibility

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Question 2: Stockpiling Medication

Question: Is it wrong to stockpile medication now in the event of an economic crash in the future? We are concerned that increasing economic troubles will raise the prices of some prescription and over-the-counter medications, and make them hard to find in the future. Is it okay to start a stockpile of some medications (most of which have a long shelf-life)? In the case of prescription medications, is it okay to exaggerate to our doctors or play "musical pharmacies" in order to obtain more medication?

Answer, In Brief: Stockpiling medication in case of an emergency is a very good idea, but don't undermine your relationship with your doctor by lying about your medical condition.

Tags: Ethics, Health, Honesty, Medicine

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Question 3: Poking Fun at Friends' Ideas Online

Question: Is poking fun at people's ideas on social media rude, offensive, or otherwise wrong? For example, is it proper to make jokes about Jesus, Obama, or environmentalism on Facebook - knowing that some of your Facebook friends are Christians, Democrats, or environmentalists? Should those people be offended? Should a person limit himself to serious arguments?

Answer, In Brief: Facebook and other online media are like a large cocktail party with everyone talking. Don't rush around seeking out conflict, but rather seek out positive values.

Tags: Communication, Conflict, Ethics, Internet, Relationships, Social Media

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Question 4: Encouraging Friends to Be More Purposeful

Question: How can I encourage my friends to be more purposeful and passionate? I have been certain about my life's purpose – in terms of what career and personal creative works I'd like to pursue – from a young age. I've had friends who are above-average in their academic and career work, and who explore various hobbies, but they do not pursue those activities with eager passion. They say that they "do not know what they want out of life" and have not "found their calling." What is at the root of uncertainty about one's purpose? Is there a moral breach involved? How can I motivate, encourage, and inspire my friends?

Answer, In Brief: Be sure that your advice would be welcome to your friends – and that you don't fall into the trap of assuming that everyone should be like you.

Tags: Career, Communication, Conflict, Ethics, Friendship, Productiveness, Purpose, Relationships

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Rapid Fire Questions (48:08)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • What do you think of Earth Day?
  • Is it moral to use a program that blocks website advertisements?
  • Please clarify your position on the morality of using the goods and services stolen from Canadian taxpayers.
  • Is it irrational to feel worse about a disaster if there are people of your own nationality among the victims (assuming they're all strangers)?
  • Do you think that the government will attempt to crack down on free speech on the internet anytime soon - and if so, how?

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Conclusion (1:02:06)

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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