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)

Federal Government, Parenting via Empty Threats, and More

Radio Q&A: 21 October 2012

I answered questions on federal versus state and local government, parenting via empty threats, reasons for everything, and more on 21 October 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 setting up Paul's old MacBookPro after destroying my laptop, and I've been working on repairing the fencing for our horse pastures. I'll be speaking on the conflict between Christianity and capitalism in Boulder on Monday evening.


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Segments: 21 October 2012


Question 1: Federal Versus State and Local Government

Question: Is it proper for state or local government to enact laws that a federal government should not? A proper government is one that fulfills and is limited to the role of protecting citizens from initiations of force by other individuals or other nations. However, in a free and proper society, is it proper for local and state governments to enact laws that go beyond the proper functions of a federal government? For example, in a properly-governed United States, could states enact certain laws that regulate behavior beyond what the federal government could enact, perhaps based on the religious or other values held by most people in that community – on the assumption that any person who disagreed could leave the area?

Answer, In Brief: The primary goal of all levels and branches of government must be to respect and protect rights. To do that, government should be divided into local, state, and national levels, each with different functions. That way, individuals have more political influence, government can be more responsive to local conditions, law can be developed by inductive experimentation, and the power of any one level of government is checked by the others.

Tags: Crime, Free Society, Government, Induction, Law, Politics, Rights, State's Rights

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Question 2: Parenting Via Empty Threats

Question: Should parents make empty threats to their children? At the grocery store last week, I heard a mother threaten to throw away her daughter's favorite toys unless the daughter behaved. That seems to be pretty common: parents make empty threats in an attempt to scare their kids into better behavior. They'll say that it works, and perhaps it does. But what are the consequences? Are such empty threats a valid parenting technique?

Answer, In Brief: For a parent to use empty threats to manipulate his child into obedience means destroying his own credibility – and often doing so is downright malicious.

Tags: Character, Children, Honesty, Manipulation, Obedience, Parenting, Punishment

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Question 3: Reasons for Everything

Question: Does everything happen for a reason? When confronted with some unwelcome turn of events, many people tell themselves that "everything happens for a reason." What does that mean – and is it true? Is it harmless – or does believing that have negative effects on a person's life?

Answer, In Brief: Everything has a cause, but not everything has a reason. The universe is not run by any deity or force with some greater purpose in mind. To believe that it does begets evasion, apathy, and evil.

Tags: Causality, Ethics, Evil, Religion, Responsibility

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Rapid Fire Questions (1:00:36)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • What do you think of Robert Heinlein's advice on voting: There may not be a candidate worth voting for, but there sure is a candidate worth voting against?
  • Do you know if James Taggart's marriage to Cheryl, resulting in her suicide, is a parallel drawn from Dostoevsky's marriage to a peasant girl because he felt sorry for her, resulting in her suicide?

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Conclusion (1:04:30)

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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