Animal Welfare Groups, Unwanted Gifts, and More
Radio Q&A: 5 August 2012
I answered questions on contributing to animal welfare groups, inappropriate gifts from in-laws, sacrifice in war, condemning evil versus praising good, and more on 5 August 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: 5 August 2012
Question: Should a person contribute to animal welfare organizations? Animal shelters find good homes for abandoned and abused pets. They also offer assistance to pet owners during emergencies, such as the recent wildfires in Colorado. That work seems laudable to me – and something that a rational person might support and even contribute to. Yet such groups often advocate wrong views (such as veganism) and support rights-violations (such as animal welfare laws). So are such groups worthy of support or not?
Answer, In Brief: People concerned with the welfare of animals should avoid political advocacy groups, instead donating to their own local shelters and rescues.
Question: How should I respond to an unwanted gift given to me by my in-laws? My in-laws often give me presents that I don't much like – like frumpy boring sweaters and books I'll never read. I thank them kindly for the present, but I'm not effusive in my praise. Recently, they gave me something really pretty inappropriate for me – on par with giving a bacon cookbook to a vegetarian. I wasn't sure whether it was just clueless or hostile. How should I respond?
Answer, In Brief: Don't assume the worst, but instead use your spouse as the intermediary to help clear up any mistake – or manage any malice. If that doesn't work, stay calm and carry on.
Question: Is it a sacrifice for a soldier to fight for his country? Most people regard fighting for one's country to be a glorious sacrifice. The soldier risks life and limb, but gets little in return. Assuming a proper government and a justified war for self-defense, is serving in the military a sacrifice? And if so, is that sacrifice noble?
Answer, In Brief: Soldiers can and ought to be egoists, fighting for their own purposes and goals, not sacrificing themselves for some supposedly glorious cause greater than themselves.
Question: Why do so many cultural commentaries condemn the evil rather than praise the good? The virtue of justice, properly understood, means that praising good is more important than condemning evil. As Leonard Peikoff says in Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand: "The conventional view is that justice consists primarily in punishing the wicked. This view stems from the idea that evil is metaphysically powerful, while virtue is merely 'impractical idealism.' In the Objectivist philosophy, however, vice is the attribute to be scorned as impractical. For [Objectivists], therefore, the order of priority is reversed. Justice consists first not in condemning, but in admiring – and then in expressing one's admiration explicitly and in fighting for those one admires..." (pg 284). Despite that, the majority of cultural commentaries, including those written by Objectivists, focus on exposing and condemning evil, rather than praising the good. Why is that? Is it a mistake?
Answer, In Brief: Although it's easy to focus on all the evil in the world, doing so is emotionally draining, inaccurate, and ineffective.
Rapid Fire Questions (46:34)
- Is it altruistic for a business to be 'socially responsible'?
- What kind of medical care should soldiers get?
- Do you think lucid dreaming is a real phenomenon? If so do you think it would be worthwhile to try and develop the ability?
- In regard to Chick-Fil-A's support of anti-gay marriage activism, people say they can support "traditional marriage" without being homophobic, is this possible?
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About Philosophy in Action
I'm Dr. Diana Brickell. 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 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 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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