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Our Imperfect World, Work Versus Welfare, and More

Radio Q&A: 14 October 2012

I answered questions on pursuing personal values in an imperfect world, working for the IRS versus collecting welfare, upselling to unwary customers, being like Hank Rearden, and more for Philosophy in Action Radio on 14 October 2012. Greg Perkins of Objectivist Answers was my co-host. Listen to or download the podcast below.

Remember, Philosophy in Action Radio is available to anyone, free of charge. That's because our goal is to spread rational principles for real life far and wide, as we do every week to thousands of listeners. We love doing that, but each episode requires our time, effort, and money. So if you enjoy and value our work, please contribute to our tip jar. We suggest $5 per episode or $20 per month, but any amount is appreciated. You can send your contribution via Dwolla, PayPal, or US Mail.

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Segments: 14 October 2012


Question 1: Pursuing Personal Values in an Imperfect World (3:28)

Question: Given the terrible state of the economy and culture, is it wrong to pursue your own personal values? Shouldn't we all be working full time at counteracting the terrible ideas that run rampant in our culture? Is time taken away from "the good fight" in pursuit of other activities merely a useless distraction, counterproductive, and possibly immoral – as some people claim? Or is the pursuit of your own values a moral way to enjoy one's life in spite of the grim state of the culture, politics, and the economy?

Answer, In Brief: Don't play the martyr and sacrifice yourself to save the world. Pursue your values, and reject secular apocalypticism.

Tags: Activism, Apocalypticism, Duty, Ethics, Personal Values, Politics, Religion, Sacrifice, Values

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Question 2: Working for the IRS Versus Collecting Welfare (23:31)

Question: Is it wrong to accept Social Security disability benefits when I could work? I'm blind. Although I can work, my recent job at the IRS seemed to be so soul-draining and vexing that I determined to look elsewhere for employment. However, jobs are limited right now, and I am not sure what else I want to do at this point. Was it right for me to quit my job before having the next one lined up? In the meantime, is it moral for me to receive Social Security? Have I gone from being a maker to a taker?

Answer, In Brief: Working for the IRS isn't being a producer, but helping the looters. You should find a productive job, and use disability benefits if you must.

Tags: Career, Disability, Ethics, Government, Integrity, Welfare, Work

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Question 3: Upselling to Unwary Customers (30:37)

Question: Should a waitress upsell a customer without warning when given an ambiguous order? At the restaurant where I work, we sell wine. Customers often ask for "just a red/white wine, whatever." Many servers take that as an opportunity to sell them the most expensive wine. Is that moral and/or wise? (Personally, if the customer gives me an order like that, I suggest a few options, usually the house wine and some more mid-range brands.) Should we tell the customer what wine we're selling them and its price? Should we give them the cheapest or house wine? Or should we sell them the most expensive wine, since that will generate the largest tip?

Answer, In Brief: It's moral and practical to upsell honestly: but a person should never upsell by sneaking.

Tags: Business, Ethics, Work

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Question 4: Being Like Hank Rearden (37:38)

Question: Should I try to be more like Hank Rearden? After reading Ayn Rand's novel "Atlas Shrugged," I've come to an important conclusion: I want to be more like Hank Rearden. What tips would you offer to someone desiring to be so awesome?

Answer, In Brief: A person might be inspired to be like Hank Rearden in his character, but a person should not seek to imitate the concretes of a person's lifestyle or personality.

Tags: Atlas Shrugged, Character, Ethics, Independence, Personality, Personal Values, Psychology, Values

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Rapid Fire Questions (44:03)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • What did you think of the movie "Atlas Shrugged, Part 2"?
  • If Romney and Ryan win the election, what kind of activism would be most useful for promoting free markets?
  • Who do you think will win the 2012 presidential election?
  • What did you think of the vice-presidential debate?
  • What is the significance of the date September 2 in the novel "Atlas Shrugged"?
  • Considering current technology, is "cogito ergo sum" still considered satisfactory evidence of one's existence?
  • What's right or wrong with the common principles of "honoring your parents"?
  • Does the pragmatist "whatever works" default to "whatever hasn't killed me yet"?

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Conclusion (58:54)

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About Philosophy in Action

I'm Dr. Diana Hsieh. 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, as well as for Kindle and Nook. 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 Sunday mornings and most 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 chat about a topic of interest.

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