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Moral Luck, Adult Children, Promised Pensions, and More

Radio Q&A: Sunday, 2 December 2012

I answered questions on moral luck, parental support of adult children, guaranteed pensions for government employees, right to die, and more for Philosophy in Action Radio on Sunday, 2 December 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.

My News of the Week: I'm still working on editing Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame, but it has been hard to carve out the time.

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  • Duration: 1:05:03

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Segments: 2 December 2012


Question 1: Moral Luck (2:17)

Question: Is 'moral luck' a self-contradictory term? What does it mean? Does it exist?

Answer, In Brief: Moral luck is a philosophical puzzle about the extent of a person's responsibility for his actions, their outcomes, and his character--given the pervasive influence of luck. It's a puzzle that can be solved--as I did in my soon-to-be-published book, Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame--with an Aristotelian theory of moral responsibility.

Tags: Ethics, Justice, Luck, Moral Luck, Philosophy

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Question 2: Parental Support of Adult Children (17:19)

Question: When should parents refuse to support their adult children? Some parents continue to support their 30-year-old and even 40-year-old adult children. Usually, these adult children are chronic screw-ups without much interest in improving their lives or even holding down a steady job. Are these parents immoral for helping the child? Are the parents contributing to his or her problems? How can the parents stop in a way that's fair to the dependent child?

Answer, In Brief: The purpose of parenting is to create an independent adult, and parents need to help make that happen by refusing to be the perpetual caretaker of their child.

Tags: Adult Children, Independence, Parenting

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Question 3: Guaranteed Pensions for Government Employees (32:37)

Question: Should pensions to government employees be guaranteed? Many cities and states are running into fiscal trouble and are reneging on promises to pay pensions to retired government employees, such as policemen. Should those promised payments be guaranteed, even if that means raising taxes or cutting back elsewhere? After all, those payments are part of a contract made between the employer and the employee. Or if money is tight for the city/state government, should the retirees have to share the same risk of default as anyone else the government owes money to?

Answer, In Brief: The government's contracts with its employees should be respected, within reasonable limits. Hence, government pensions should be restructured as part of massive cuts in spending.

Tags: Contracts, Ethics, Free Society, Government, Law, Pensions, Retirement, Welfare

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Question 4: Right to Die (48:42)

Question: Is there a right to die and/or a right to be killed? Does a person have a right to die? If so, under what conditions? Moreover, does a person unable to kill himself (due to illness) have a right to be killed by a willing person?

Answer, In Brief: A person has a right to take his own life, but the law should take steps to ensure that any suicide is done voluntarily by a competent person.

Tags: Death, Ethics, Government, Law, Rights, Suicide

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Rapid Fire Questions (1:00:07)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • By what methods should government execute criminals condemned to death?
  • When did you first read Ayn Rand?

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Conclusion (1:04:03)

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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About Philosophy in Action

I'm Dr. Diana Hsieh. I'm a philosopher specializing 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 Wednesday 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 Wednesday evenings, I interview an expert guest about a topic of interest.

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