The Value of Happiness, Atheist Student, Privacy, and More
Q&A Radio: 3 March 2013
I answered questions on the value of happiness, being an atheist in a religious school, privacy from government intrusion, the wrong of incest between consenting adults, and more on 3 March 2013. Greg Perkins of Objectivist Answers was my co-host. Listen to or download this episode of Philosophy in Action Radio below.
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Segments: 3 March 2013
Question: Is happiness overrated? Recently, I had a conversation in which the other person told me that "happiness is overrated." Basically, the person claimed that people should spend less time thinking about their own personal happiness. Instead, people should focus on acting rightly, and then take whatever pleasure they can in that. Is that view right or wrong?
Answer, In Brief: A person's happiness should be of supreme value, and such happiness can only be achieved within the framework of rational moral principles.
Question: How can an atheist teenager maintain his integrity in a religious school? A few years ago, I read Ayn Rand's novel "Atlas Shrugged" for the first time. After a year of struggling between faith and reason, I chose reason. Unfortunately, I am a teenager, and I am forced to attend church and a religious school. For a time, I was fine coexisting with religious people. However, in the next academic year, I will have to take a class entitled "Christian Apologetics" in which I will have to pretend to be a Christian theologian. Now my integrity is at stake. How should I confront my religious family about my atheism? How can I persuade them to enroll me a different school?
Answer, In Brief: The student should talk to his parents, and then to his teacher, about what's required in the class and whether he can write papers that reflect his actual beliefs.
Question: If a person isn't doing anything wrong, should he care to protect his privacy? Defenders of intrusive government programs (and other forms of meddling) often assume that only guilty people would object to granting others access to their private information. What, after all, does an honest and decent person have to hide? Or these people assume that everyone is guilty, and that's what justifies monitoring everyone. What's wrong with these arguments? Should an honest and innocent person object to government inquiries into his private life?
Answer, In Brief: The government should not monitor or otherwise gather data about people, absent evidence of involvement in criminal activity. For the government to do so exposes innocent people to major risks.
Question: Why is consensual incest between adults morally wrong? In late 2010, David Epstein, a professor of political science at Columbia University, was charged with incest for a consensual sexual relationship with his adult daughter. That case raised uncomfortable questions about the morality and legality of consensual incest. What constitutes incest? Why is it wrong? Should it be outlawed?
Answer, In Brief: The primary evils of incest lie in exploitation and the destruction unleashed on the family – even when done purely by consenting adults. It should not be illegal, however.
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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.
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.
I can be reached via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.