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)

Utilitarianism, Government Jobs, Planning, and More

Webcast Q&A: 29 April 2012

I answered questions on the wrong of utilitarianism, the morality of working a government job, optimal planning, padding your application, and more on 29 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.

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Segments: 29 April 2012


Question 1: The Wrong of Utilitarianism

Question: What's wrong with utilitarianism? The basic principle of utilitarianism is "the greatest happiness for the greatest number." What's wrong with that as a moral standard? Shouldn't a person act for the good of society?

Answer, In Brief: Utilitarianism claims that every person obliged to promote greatest happiness for the greater number. It's an utterly wrong moral theory based on unjustified hedonism, egalitarianism, and collectivism. When put into practice, the result is massive injustice and misery.

Tags: Collectivism, Egalitarianism, Ethics, Hedonism, Philosophy, Utilitarianism

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Question 2: The Morality of Working a Government Job

Question: Is it moral to work for the IRS? Is it morally wrong to work for government agencies like the IRS (or equivalent tax bureaus), IAS (Indian Administrative Services), or the EPA? I'm an advocate of free markets. Would I be a hypocrite to work for such illegitimate government agencies?

Answer, In Brief: The morality of working for an illegitimate government agency depends on the kind of work that you’ll be done. In many cases, far better to be on welfare.

Tags: Career, Ethics, Government, Integrity, Work

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Question 3: Optimal Planning

Question: How much advance planning is optimal? Some people like to plan everything well in advance, while others prefer to allow events to unfold and make decisions on the fly. Is one approach better than the other? How much does it depend on the circumstances? How can people with different preferences coordinate comfortably?

Answer, In Brief: There is a reasonable range of preferences for planning based on personality differences and circumstances, with pathology on both extremes.

Tags: Ethics, Personality, Planning, Psychology

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Question 4: Padding Your Application

Question: Is doing activities just to pad you application or resumé dishonest? Some people work on mastering playing the violin, competing in tennis tournaments, learning calculus, and other activities – not because they have any interest in them or because they think they might develop an interest once tried, but rather because they think these activities will look good on an application or resumé. Is that dishonest? Is it unwise?

Answer, In Brief: A person can make himself a better applicant by various means, and so long as he’s not claiming to have interests or qualities that he doesn’t have, that’s not a moral problem.

Tags: College, Education, Ethics, Honesty, Independence, Integrity, Work

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Rapid Fire Questions (51:43)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • Who owns the moon?
  • How should I respond to a friend always giving me unsolicited advice?
  • Is respecting the rights of others an unchosen obligation?
  • Where's the line between being sensitive to the feelings of others and being second-handed?
  • What do you think of the idea of "guilty pleasures"?

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Conclusion (1:01:34)

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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