Biological Parents, Rational Animals, and More
Radio Q&A: 1 July 2012
I answered questions on knowing your biological parents, second-hand smoke, changing core beliefs with age, man the rational animal, and more on 1 July 2012. Greg Perkins of Objectivist Answers was my co-host. Listen to or download this episode of Philosophy in Action Radio below.
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Segments: 1 July 2012
Question: Do adopted people have a right to know who their biological parents are? Some adopted people want to know their biological parents, and knowing one's family medical history could be important to a person. So does a person have a right to know his biological parents? If so, does that apply to children conceived with sperm or egg donors? Do parents giving children up for adoption or donating reproductive tissue have a right to privacy?
Answer, In Brief: An adopted person does not have a right to know his biological parents against their wishes. The terms of the adoption should only be altered by mutual consent.
Question: It is wrong to inflict second-hand smoke on other people? Although smoking is detrimental to a person's health, whether or not someone smokes is (or should be) a matter of his personal choice. However, what is the proper moral and legal status of "second-hand smoke"? If second-hand smoke contributes to the development of respiratory diseases or if others simply find it noxious, shouldn't people refrain from smoking in public or smoking around people who haven't consented to it? In a free society, would and should most workplaces ban smoking? Could second-hand smoke be considered a tort, such that the state should forbid smoking around people who object to it?
Answer, In Brief: Although cigarette smoke is often annoying and unpleasant to bystanders, it's not a violation of their rights. The rights of property owners to allow smoking or not should be respected, smokers should be polite and considerate, and people sensitive to smoke should avoid areas where that's permitted.
Question: Why are older people less likely to change their core beliefs? Recently, I had a conversation with a long-time committed leftist who changed his views when confronted with the fact that collectivism always fails, and it fails because the underlying theory is wrong in principle. Many people, particularly older people, are unwilling to reconsider their core views, however. As to the reason why, my hypothesis is that older people have significant sunk costs in their philosophy, such that they could not psychologically survive the realization that they were so wrong for so many decades. Is that right? If so, what can be done to help them change for the better, if anything?
Answer, In Brief: A person's fundamental philosophy, if entrenched, cannot be easily changed due its influence over a person's whole life. However, change is possible, and that can be supported in a friendly and low-key way.
Question: What does it mean to say that "man is a rational animal"? The fact that man is a rational animal distinguishes him from all other living entities and makes the whole of philosophy possible and necessary. But, taking a step back, what does it mean to say that man is a (or the) rational animal? What is rationality, not as a virtue, but as the essential characteristic of man?
Answer, In Brief: That "man is the rational animal" means that reason is the essential characteristic of human beings.
Rapid Fire Questions (51:21)
- Why is Colorado on fire this year? What should be done to prevent it?
- How do we respond to the Supreme Court ruling on ObamaCare? Do we need to support Romney now?
- Is there a moral difference between just voting for a libertarian candidate and working/supporting an explicit libertarian organization (such as Institute for Justice, Cato, or the like)?
- Should former porn stars be hired as teachers?
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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.
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.
I can be reached via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.