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)

Moral Luck, Adult Children, Promised Pensions, and More

Radio Q&A: 2 December 2012

I answered questions on moral luck, parental support of adult children, guaranteed pensions for government employees, right to die, and more on 2 December 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'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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Segments: 2 December 2012


Question 1: Moral Luck

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

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

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

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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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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