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)

Universalization, Regretful Parents, Online Privacy, and More

Q&A Radio: 10 March 2013

I answered questions on universalization as an ethical test, regretful parents, online privacy, disruptive kids in public school, and more on 10 March 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 planning the last-minute details of SnowCon, plus frantically putting the house in order by Thursday. Then we flew out to attend the wedding of Eric Daniels and Rachael Griffin. It was lovely! Also, this will be my 200th podcast!


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Segments: 10 March 2013


Question 1: Universalization as an Ethical Test

Question: Are arguments of the form "what if everyone did that" valid or not? Often, people will claim that some action is wrong on the grounds that not everyone could or should act that way. For example: it’s wrong for a couple not to have children because if no one had children, civilization would collapse. Or: it’s wrong for you not to donate to charity for the poor because if no one donated, lots of innocent people would suffer. Or: it’s wrong for any doctor to limit his practice to concierge service because if every doctor did that, most people would not have access to medical care. What’s right or wrong with this kind of argument?

Answer, In Brief: While proper ethical principles are universal, universalization is not a valid test of morality. Ethics should be based on the factual requirements of human life and happiness, including the virtues.

Tags: Duty Ethics, Ethics, Immanuel Kant, Justice, Personal Values, Universality

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Question 2: Regretful Parents

Question: What should parents do if they regret ever having children? In 2008, Nebraska permitted parents to abandon children of any age without penalty. As a result, quite a few older children were abandoned before the state changed the law. That shows that some parents deeply regret ever having children, and surely many more parents have major regrets, even though they'd never abandon their children. What should a parent do if he or she realizes that having kids was a mistake? What should prospective parents do to ensure that they'll not regret having kids?

Answer, In Brief: Parents who regret having kids should not force those kids to pay for their mistakes. They are obliged to parent well – or, as a last resort, find a substitute.

Tags: Children, Ethics, Moral Wrongs, Obligation, Parenting, Rights

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Question 3: Online Privacy

Question: What kinds of privacy can people reasonably expect online? Online privacy is an increasing concern in the media and the culture. The FTC is working on redefining what companies are and are not allowed to do with data they collect online. But given that the internet functions by sending your data through lots and lots of different systems, what rights and/or reasonable expectations should people have concerning their privacy online?

Answer, In Brief: Online privacy is partly protected by contractual provisions about privacy. However, a person needs to take responsibility for his own privacy online by not sharing private information on insecure networks and using robust passwords.

Tags: Ethics, Internet, Privacy, Responsibility, Rights, Social Media

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Question 4: Disruptive Kids in Public School

Question: How should a public school teacher discipline unruly students? Since school attendance is mandatory, what is the proper and moral way to handle discipline in class? I'm a Spanish teacher in public school, and I hate to threaten or punish the few unruly kids. But for the sake of students who are truly interested to learn Spanish, I have to resort to methods like assigning detention and taking away phones for students who are not interested in Spanish. They are in my class only because they are pressured by their counselors. How can I deal with disruptive students in a way that respects their rights?

Answer, In Brief: In this case, the problem is not public school, but rather the more general problem of dealing with a bored student. The critical issue is that any disruptive student should not be permitted to slow down or halt the learning of students who do wish to learn.

Tags: Children, Education, Ethics, Government, Rights

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Rapid Fire Questions (50:40)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • Do we see a little bit of the univeralization effect in the used car market? Everyone assumes that the used car salesperson is lying about the condition of the car, so everyone discounts the price.
  • Does the Institute for Justice advocate for any causes that you don't support?
  • Why is belief often treated as a choice? If I'm not convinced by an argument isn't that the end of that?
  • Do you have any advice for advocating gun rights outside the US?
  • What do you think of the Obama Administration's policy of drone killings, including of other Americans?

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Conclusion (1:01:32)

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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