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Nihilism, Radical Honesty, Terrible Jobs, and More

Q&A Radio: 9 December 2012

I answered questions on nihilism, radical honesty, poor effort in a terrible job, and more for Philosophy in Action Radio on 9 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've been dealing with the multiple leaks, mold, and rotting wood Chez Hsieh. I've also made some progress on preparing my book Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame (a.k.a. my dissertation) for publication. On Wednesday, I had great interview with Dr. Doug McGuff on Strength Training Using Body by Science!

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Segments: 9 December 2012


Question 1: Nihilism (3:56)

Question: What is philosophic nihilism? Some people seem to be quick to apply the label "nihilistic" to a broad range of phenomena, particularly art and ideas. So how should the term be used? Can a philosophy be very harmful and destructive without it being nihilistic?

Answer, In Brief: Nihilism explicitly embraces misery, futility, and meaninglessness as essential to the human condition. Unlike most destructive ideologies, nihilism doesn't present any positive vision or hope for better, and that makes it much more explicitly evil.

Tags: Ethics, Nihilism, Philosophy, Values

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Question 2: Radical Honesty (18:45)

Question: Should people be 'radically honest'? Psychotherapist Brad Blanton claims that people should be "radically honest" – meaning that they should say what they think all the time. Is that a life-serving policy – or simply an excuse for rudeness? For example, if my friend is telling me a story that I don't care to hear, should I tell her of my disinterest? Would that foster a more authentic and valuable relationship? Should I try to gently signal my disinterest? Or should I try to cultivate some interest in her story? In other words, is tact a value – or a destructive form of pretense?

Answer, In Brief: "Radical Honesty" is not a way to practice the virtue of honesty. It's a destructive rule requiring a person to share every stray thought or feeling – meaning that a person must be a rude, creepy bore without any privacy.

Tags: Communication, Emotions, Ethics, Honesty, Psycho-Epistemology, Relationships

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Question 3: Poor Effort in a Terrible Job (36:03)

Question: Is it wrong for a person to do less than his best at work? At work, I used to go above and beyond my basic obligations routinely. However, I was never recognized or rewarded for my superior performance. Instead, I was paid the same as those who barely functioned in their jobs. To this day, my employer uses only collective or team recognition; he does not appreciate individuals. Also, those who do poorly or make serious mistakes are not being disciplined, while those of us who work hard are given more duties. My response has been to lower my own work output. While I meet the minimum standards of my employment and still do far more than my equally paid coworkers, I am not performing nearly close to the level I could. Is that wrong of me? Should I do my best at work, even though my employer doesn't seem to value that? Should I continue to suggest ideas for improvement – and perhaps work on them on the side, in secret, if ignored?

Answer, In Brief: If your employer does not value your best, then you are not obliged to give it to him. Instead, do the work that you're paid to do, and seek employment elsewhere.

Tags: Ambition, Business, Career, Character, Ethics, Productiveness, Work

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Rapid Fire Questions (51:50)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • How to you stop exchanging presents with people who you don't really like to give to?
  • What do you do when a friend seems to be developing signs of mental illness?
  • What is the relationship between determinism and intrinsicism, particularly religion?
  • Why does America have a government-run postal service?
  • Would someone with super sensitive but unaided hearing have greater leniency in privacy violations?

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Conclusion (1:04:09)

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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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