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)

Objectivity, Unhealthy Choices, Celebrity, Marxism, and More

Radio Q&A: 10 June 2012

I answered questions on staying objective, deliberately unhealthy choices, consuming celebrity news, refuting Marxist arguments, and more on 10 June 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 busy programming, and I'm considering running an online reading group on personality theory. Let me know if you're interested!


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Segments: 10 June 2012


Question 1: Staying Objective

Question: How can a person be certain of his own objectivity? It's often difficult to stick to the facts in reasoning, and it's even harder to make sure that you're focused on all and only the relevant facts. How can a person know that he's being objective – as opposed to relying on unwarranted assumptions, ignoring relevant facts, or rationalizing what he wants to be true?

Answer, In Brief: Objectivity is not easy, but a person can keep his thinking tethered to reality by carefully monitoring and directing his mental processes.

Tags: Emotions, Epistemology, Ethics, Introspection, Objectivity, Rationality

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Question 2: Deliberately Unhealthy Choices

Question: Is it moral to smoke, drink, or eat unhealthy foods if one recognizes the costs of doing so? Suppose a friend makes a deliberate decision to eat foods he know to be unhealthy (such as frequent sugary desserts). He knows that it might harm his health, but he says that the personal enjoyment and satisfaction outweigh the risk of shortened lifespan and possible future harmful health effects. In other words, he claims he is making a rational choice to maximize his overall happiness. Is that moral?

Answer, In Brief: Risks and trade-offs are inherent in life, and a person is not obliged to maximize lifespan. However, in this case, the person is likely discounting the troubles and pains of future health problems, as well as indulging in compulsions rather than genuine pleasures.

Tags: Diet, Ethics, Health, Nutrition, Nutrition, Paleo, Pleasure, Risk

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Question 3: Consuming Celebrity News

Question: Is consuming celebrity news self-destructive? Is there anything wrong with being interested in celebrities and entertainment news? Does "celebrity culture" foster destructive values in people?

Answer, In Brief: There's nothing wrong with seeking to know and admire people for their achievements or learn from their failures, but "celebrity news" per se mostly ranges from time-wasting to nihilistic.

Tags: Celebrities, Ethics, Hobbies

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Question 4: Refuting Marxist Arguments

Question: How can I effectively counter Marxist economic arguments? My family and friends often advocate Marxist economic ideas – for example, that wealth should be redistributed according to need, that corporations and corporate profits are evil, and that rich people have too much money. How can I best respond to these arguments?

Answer, In Brief: If a person is open to argument, you need to focus on his underlying moral premises. Be friendly, speak to his context, and address his concerns.

Tags: Altruism, Collectivism, Communication, Economics, Ethics, Politics

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Rapid Fire Questions (58:29)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • Is environmental racism – the claim that minority groups are subject to greater pollution – a genuine problem?
  • Is the the race between Obama and Romney comparable between a hypothetical one between Toohey and Thompson?

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Conclusion (1:02:14)

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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