Right to Work, Deception in a Crisis, Gifts, and More

Q&A Radio: 16 December 2012

I answered questions on right to work laws, deception in a crisis, philosophy versus psychology, the value of gift exchanges, and more for Philosophy in Action Radio on 16 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 made good progress on preparing my book Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame (a.k.a. my dissertation) for publication, including getting a proper headshot done. Of course, I'm still dealing with the multiple leaks, mold, and rotting wood Chez Hsieh.

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Segments: 16 December 2012


Question 1: Right to Work Laws (4:15)

Question: Do right-to-work laws violate or protect rights? Some states are attempting to pass "right to work" laws, despite massive union opposition. Under such laws, employers cannot require employees to be a member of a union – as often happens due to federal law. These laws aim to empower employees against unwelcome unions. Are these laws legitimate – perhaps as defense against unjust federal law or a step toward freedom of contract? Or are they indefensible because they violate the rights of employers to dictate the terms of employment?

Answer, In Brief: Right to Work Laws sound like an excellent way to combat the coercive powers granted to unions by federal law. Yet in fact, one rights violation cannot be fixed by another rights violation. Even worse, such laws will help entrench the dangerous principle that employment terms can be overridden by freedom of conscience.

Tags: Activism, Business, Contracts, Ethics, Free Society, Government, History, Law, Rights, Unions, Work

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Question 2: Deception in a Crisis (30:05)

Question: Is it moral to deceive to someone to help him through a crisis? Imagine that a man is about to break up with his girlfriend (or divorce his wife), but then he discovers that she has a serious disease or she suffers a serious accident. Is it moral for him to help her through the crisis under the false pretense of a stable, loving relationship? (What if that would take months of deception?) Or should the man be frank with the woman as soon as possible about parting ways, perhaps only offering help as a friend, if that? Would that be cruel?

Answer, In Brief: A person might reasonably delay a break-up for a week or two during a crisis, but to pretend to be the devoted boyfriend is destructive to him and her.

Tags: Character, Communication, Emergencies, Ethics, Honesty, Relationships, Romance

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Question 3: Philosophy Versus Psychology (39:45)

Question: What's the proper distinction between philosophy and psychology? Given that psychology concerns the mind, I don't see how to clearly distinguish it from philosophy. For example, when would emotions be a philosophic concern versus a psychological concern? In other words, where is the dividing line between philosophy and psychology? Can they be separated?

Answer, In Brief: Philosophy differs from psychology in that philosophy is primarily concerned with the mind's conscious mental processes, while psychology is more focused on subconscious processes and their effect on conscious processes.

Tags: Emotions, Mind, Philosophy, Psychology, Science, Subconscious

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Question 4: The Value of Gift Exchanges (53:42)

Question: What is the purpose of exchanging gifts during the holidays? To me, gift exchanges seem meaningless: they're a waste of time and money. What am I missing?

Answer, In Brief: The practicing of gift exchange can be deeply meaningful, as a way of revealing your knowledge and affection for another person, as well as integrating your lives. If instead you're feeling burdened and unseen, then it's time to change your practices.

Tags: Communication, Family, Gifts, Holidays, Honesty, Psychological Visibility, Relationships

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Rapid Fire Questions (1:05:10)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • What do you think about the debates about gun control spawned by Friday's shooting about the Connecticut elementary school?
  • What do you think about Elf on the Shelf?

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Conclusion (1:09:14)

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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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