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Nuclear War, Genetic Diseases, Recreation, and More

Radio Q&A: 23 September 2012

I answered questions on the morality of nuclear weapons, passing genetic diseases to kids, calling the police on marijuana smokers, productiveness versus recreation, and more on 23 September 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 was super-busy preparing for the Coalition for Secular Government's trial in federal court against Colorado's anti-free-speech campaign finance laws, but that was delayed, since "personhood" is almost certain not to make the ballot in 2012. Also, next Sunday after the broadcast, I'll be speaking on "Equality: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly" at the Free Minds Film Festival in Colorado Springs.


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Segments: 23 September 2012


Question 1: The Morality of Nuclear Weapons

Question: When should nuclear weapons be used, if ever? Under what circumstances would a free society use nuclear weapons – or chemical or biological weapons? Are they so destructive that their use would never be acceptable? Or might they be used in self-defense to win a war or win a war more quickly?

Answer, In Brief: All wars should be for self-defense, and in that context, nuclear weapons may be the most effective way to bring a speedy end to the conflict with minimal loss to one's own side.

Tags: Egoism, Ethics, Firearms, Foreign Policy, Free Society, Military, Rights, Sacrifice, Self-Defense, Self-Interest, War

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Question 2: Passing Genetic Diseases to Kids

Question: Should people with severe genetic diseases take active measures to prevent passing the disease to their children? Some people have severe hereditary diseases – such as Huntington's or Multiple Sclerosis – that might be passed on to their biological children. If that happens, the child will be burdened with the disease later in life, perhaps suffering for years and dying young. Is it wrong for such people to conceive and merely hope for the best – rather than screening for the disease (and aborting if necessary), using donor eggs or sperm, or adopting? Are the parents who just hope for the best harming their future child? Are they violating their child's rights by refusing to take advantage of available technology for preventing the disease?

Answer, In Brief: To knowingly conceive a child likely to suffer from a serious genetic disorder is a major failure of the basic moral principles and obligations of a parent.

Tags: Adult Children, Character, Children, Ethics, Health, Law, Medicine, Negligence, Non-identity Problem, Parenting, Rights, Torts

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Question 3: Calling the Police on Marijuana Smokers

Question: Is it moral to use the law to force someone to stop doing something that shouldn't be illegal? Is it moral to make use of a law that shouldn't exist? For example, suppose you live in a condo and your next-door neighbor smokes marijuana. You're annoyed by the smell. On the one hand, it shouldn't be illegal for him to smoke up; on the other, the law's existence precludes your finding a condo association with a voluntary agreement not to use pot. Is it morally proper to call the cops or should you let him be?

Answer, In Brief: The person has many other options to pursue in this case to eliminate the nuisance, rather than ruining someone's life via a drug charge.

Tags: Alcohol/Drugs, Ethics, Law, Nuisances

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Question 4: Productiveness Versus Recreation

Question: Is time for recreation compatible with the virtue of productiveness? If productive work is the means by which I achieve my values, how can one justify spending even one minute doing something that doesn't propel me toward some value? I am specifically referring to leisure activities like going to the movies, playing video games, and following sports. I'm not referring to activities that have obvious benefits like sleep, exercise, or cooking healthy food. What about hobbies that are enriching, but ultimately have no productive purpose like dance or guitar lessons (assuming I don't want to perform in either context as a career)? Is pursuing such hobbies wrong?

Answer, In Brief: The question wrongly assumes that work should be a person's highest value. In fact, a person should work to live, not live to work.

Tags: Career, Ethics, Productiveness, Productivity, Values, Work

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Rapid Fire Questions (59:44)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • Do Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all worship the same God?
  • Is there such a thing as indigenous rights? Might a remote tribe have a right to the land they use for hunting?
  • Is it wrong to borrow money from your parents if they're willing to loan it?

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Conclusion (1:06:19)

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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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