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)

Free Will, Romance and Religion, and More

Q&A Radio: 13 January 2013

I answered questions on free will and natural law, romance between an atheist and a believer, bringing children into a statist world, and more on 13 January 2013. 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've been SnowCon 2013 and working on the publication of my dssertation. Also, last night I discovered that an awesome picture of me and my shotgun appears in this CNN photoessay (#11).


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Segments: 13 January 2013


Question 1: Free Will and Natural Law

Question: Is free will merely an illusion? While I dislike the idea that we're just puppets of physics and natural law, I wonder whether our seemingly "free" decisions are actually determined by the combination of our biology and our environment. After all, if our brain is merely a physical and chemical system, how could any any decisions be made freely? Wouldn't that violate natural law? In essence, how can our knowledge that the physical universe is deterministic be reconciled with our subjective feeling that we choose our actions?

Answer, In Brief: The evidence for free will is overwhelming, and the attempts to deny that are not scientific but rather based on a dogmatic adherence to reductionistic materialism.

Tags: Causality, Free Will, Introspection, Materialism, Metaphysics, Science

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Question 2: Romance Between an Atheist and a Believer

Question: Can a romance between an atheist and a religious believer work? What are the major obstacles? Should the atheist attend church or church socials with his spouse? Should they have a religious wedding ceremony? Should they send their children to religious schools? Do the particular beliefs – or strength of beliefs – of the religious person matter?

Answer, In Brief: Religion is a fundamental motivator of values, and so romance between an atheist and a religious believer is possible, but fraught with danger.

Tags: Atheism, Character, Children, Compromise, Ethics, Honesty, Integrity, Marriage, Relationships, Religion, Romance

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Question 3: Bringing Children into a Statist World

Question: Is it wrong to have children in an increasingly irrational and statist culture? People should think about the long-range effects of their actions, and act based on principles. So if a person thinks that our culture is in decline – and perhaps even slipping into dictatorship – is it wrong for that person to have children? Is such an assessment accurate? Along similar lines, were people wrong to have children in the Soviet Union and other dictatorships?

Answer, In Brief: If you don't want to have children, that's fine, but don't use the ridiculous dogma of secular apocalypticism to justify that decision. Life, particularly for children, is better than ever before.

Tags: Apocalypticism, Children, Culture, Parenting, Politics

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Rapid Fire Questions (1:00:41)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • Imagine that you were to be able to trace every event in a person's life back to infancy, such that you would be able to predict all their decisions based on their past experiences? What would the technical term for that be?
  • If pedophiles cannot change their sexuality, then is it wrong to simply attempt to suppress that?
  • Is it rational to refrain from flying because you object to the policies and actions of the TSA, even though you'd quite enjoy taking a vacation abroad with friends?

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Conclusion (1:06:29)

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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