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)

Mysticism, Breast Implants, Choosing Socialism, and More

Radio Q&A: 4 November 2012

I answered questions on the nature of mysticism, breast implants, choosing to live in a socialist country, cleaning the house for guests, and more on 4 November 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.

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Segments: 4 November 2012


Question 1: The Nature of Mysticism

Question: What is mysticism? Is mysticism distinct from religion, faith, and belief in the supernatural? Can a person be non-religious but mystical? Can a person be religious but non-mystical?

Answer, In Brief: Theological mysticism is related to, but not the same as, philosophical mysticism. Most religious people are not theological mystics, and many are not philosophic mystics.

Tags: Epistemology, Faith, Mysticism, Psycho-Epistemology, Rationality, Religion

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Question 2: Breast Implants

Question: What advice should I give to a friend considering breast implants? A friend of mine is considering breast implants, purely for cosmetic reasons. In other words, she's not having reconstructive surgery after a mastectomy: she just wants larger breasts. Do you think that purely cosmetic breast implant surgery is moral? Is it wise? What advice should I give her, if any?

Answer, In Brief: You should recognize that breast implant surgery is not necessarily moral or immoral. It can be immoral if the woman evades the risks, spends money that she can't afford, acts on a second-handed desire to please someone else, or otherwise sacrifices greater values. But it can be moral for a woman of healthy self-esteem who has been bothered by the size or shape of breasts, provided that she understands the risks of surgery and can afford the surgery.

Tags: Body Image, Ethics, Medicine, Personal Values, Self-Esteem, Vanity

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Question 3: Choosing to Live in a Socialist Country

Question: Is it moral to choose to live in a socialist country? A person might move to England to study at a conservatory or move to China for a job. Would it be moral to do that – meaning, to move to a socialist country and make use their government institutions? Would there be some kind of obligation to "pay back" what the person gains from that country's taxpayers, such as by donating to organizations that promote capitalism in that country? Or would it be immoral altogether, such that a person should pursue whatever opportunities he can in America (or where he is)?

Answer, In Brief: You're not obliged to suffer in the country of your birth, nor responsible for other people's use of force against you, nor blamed for moving into yet another mixed economy.

Tags: Ethics, Free Society, Government, Life, Mixed Economy, Personal Values, Politics, Responsibility

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Question 4: Cleaning the House for Guests

Question: Is is second-handed to work hard to clean and repair your house before company arrives? I'm constantly fighting a battle to get my house looking reasonable. Then, right before company arrives from out-of-town, I make an extra big push to get it as clean and tidy as possible. I'd like it to always be that way, but I'll work a lot harder when I know that someone else will be in the space. So is it second-handed to want to present a better home than I normally maintain? Or is putting in that effort that a matter of respecting and providing for people that I value?

Answer, In Brief: Putting an extra effort into cleaning and repairing your house for guests need not be second-handed or dishonest. It can and should serve to provide a warm welcome to your guests, as well as taking pride in your home.

Tags: Benevolence, Honesty, Independence, Introspection, Personal Values, Pride, Productivity, Relationships, Relationships

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Rapid Fire Questions (54:14)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • With regard to doctors suggesting a pinprick as an alternative to female genital mutilation, is your view that preventing the actual harm to the child is more important than making stand against the religious dogma?
  • Isn't the idea "indigenous property rights" wrong because it assumes collective ownership?
  • Is first-sale copyright a violation of the rights of consumers?
  • What are some (if any) better alternatives for criminal punishment than prison?
  • Isn't it better to act calmly during a discussion and try to keep your opponent calm as well?

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Conclusion (1:03:44)

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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