Addiction, Government Unions, Materialism, and More

Q&A Radio: 27 January 2013

I answered questions on the nature of addiction, unions for government employees, materialism in marriage, mandatory child support, and more for Philosophy in Action Radio on 27 January 2013. Greg Perkins of Objectivist Answers was my co-host. Listen to or download the podcast below.

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Segments: 27 January 2013


Question 1: The Nature of Addiction (3:09)

Question: Is addiction a genuine phenomena? Can a person become dependent on alcohol or drugs to the point that he cannot prevent himself from consuming it, except perhaps by a supreme effort of will? Is such addiction physiological – or just a matter of bad habits of thought and action? Similarly, can a person be addicted to certain foods (such as sugar or wheat) or certain activities (like gambling or pornography)? If so, what does that mean? If a person is addicted to something, is the cure to abstain from it forever?

Answer, In Brief: Drug and alcohol abuse and dependence are very serious problems, yet the standard disease model whereby a person cannot control his use of drugs or alcohol is wrong.

Tags: Addiction, Alcohol/Drugs, Character, Ethics, Food, Habits, Psychology, Self-Control, Values, Willpower

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Question 2: Unions for Government Employees (33:58)

Question: Should government employees be permitted to unionize? In your 16 December 2012 discussion of "right to work" laws, you said that business owners should have the right to refuse to hire union members (or to fire them). How would that work for government employees? In a free society, could legislators (or departments) forbid government workers from being union members? Could they require union membership?

Answer, In Brief: The role of unions for government employees can and ought to be set by the voters and/or legislators, but a smart policy would permit such unions to exist, but forbid any collective bargaining or any form of closed shop.

Tags: Free Society, Government, Law, Politics, Rights, Unions, Work

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Question 3: Materialism in Marriage (39:31)

Question: Are materialistic couples less likely to have a lasting relationship? A recent study by Brigham Young University claims to show that concern for money causes stress in a relationship and that people who love money tend to be more impersonal and less passionate towards their loved ones. Is that right? Does it reveal some defect with a morality of worldly values?

Answer, In Brief: The study in question was flawed – as is the standard distinction between "materialism" and "non-materialism." People should recognize the importance of both material and spiritual values in their pursuit of the best that this world (i.e. the only world) has to offer.

Tags: Capitalism, Ethics, Finances, Justice, Marriage, Psychology, Romance, Value-Density, Values, Wealth

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Question 4: Mandatory Child Support (53:29)

Question: Isn't mandated child support basically just welfare for needy children? What is the moral difference between compelling parents to support their children and compelling all people to support the needy in society? Many critics of the welfare state believe that parents should be compelled to support their children with basic levels of physical sustenance and education, such that failing to provide these constitutes violating children's rights. But how is that different from compelling people to support other needy or vulnerable people? Is the blood relationship what creates the obligation to support the child – and if so, how?

Answer, In Brief: The obligations of parents to care for their children are not based on need or blood, but rather the voluntary assumption of that responsibility.

Tags: Abortion, Adoption, Children, Child Support, Ethics, Fatherhood, Free Society, Government, Law, Parenting, Pregnancy, Welfare

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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:
  • You said that Ayn Rand got a few things wrong on Aristotle. Which things?
  • Why do many people talk about nihilism as if it's a type of depression?
  • Are there any works you'd recommend that in your opinion proof the legitimacy of transsexuality?
  • Do you consider yourself primarily a philosopher?

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Conclusion (1:06:51)

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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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