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)

Gay Marriage, Is-Ought Gap, Political Disagreements, and More

Q&A Radio: 7 April 2013

I answered questions on the validity of gay marriage, the is-ought gap, the aftermath of a friendship, mixing politics and romance, and more on 7 April 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.

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Segments: 7 April 2013


Question 1: The Validity of Gay Marriage

Question: Is "gay marriage" a valid form of marriage? Many people oppose gay marriage on the grounds that marriage is essentially religious, that procreation is central to marriage, or "traditional marriage" should be respected. Should gay unions be considered a valid form of marriage, legally or socially? Might civil unions be an acceptable alternative?

Answer, In Brief: The various quasi-secular arguments against gay marriage fail, badly. Gay marriage is a matter of rights, and people ought to support it.

Tags: Bible, Christianity, Culture, GLBT, Law, Marriage, Politics, Religion, Romance, Tradition

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Question 2: The Is-Ought Gap

Question: What is the solution to the is-ought problem? David Hume famously claimed that statements about what ought to be cannot be derived from statements about what is the case. Does that mean that ethics is impossible? Can the gap be bridged, and if so, how?

Answer, In Brief: The is-ought problem was solved by Ayn Rand's identification of life as a person's ultimate goal: the facts have normative implications when combined with goals.

Tags: David Hume, Ethics, Meta-Ethics, Objectivism

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Question 3: The Aftermath of a Friendship

Question: What's the proper response to the dissolution of a friendship within a social group? I loved your your May 6th, 2012 discussion of "unforgivable acts," and I have a follow-up question. Now – after cutting my losses with a best friend, after years of giving second chances, talking with him repeatedly, and determining that there's no more basis for a friendship – how do I judge mutual friends of ours? Some of them think that my actions weren't justified. Some resent me for breaking up a group of friends. Many want me to either make up with this person or tolerate him at gatherings. Is this reaction by these mutual friends fair? How should I respond to them?

Answer, In Brief: Often, such problems have no easy solution, but you'll be better off if you explain as much as you can of the facts and your feelings, set reasonable limits as to interaction with this former friend, and work to keep up the friendships.

Tags: Communication, Friendship, Justice, Moral Wrongs, Relationships

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Question 4: Mixing Politics and Romance

Question: Can people with divergent political views enjoy a good romantic relationship? Some of my liberal friends won't date conservatives, and some of my conservative friends are horrified at the thought of dating a liberal. Is that reasonable? Since I'm in favor of free markets, should I only date other advocates of free markets? Can people with very different political views enjoy a good romantic relationship?

Answer, In Brief: A person's politics does not constitute the fundamental values important for a good romance, but often conversations about politics can reveal those values.

Tags: Epistemology, Philosophy, Politics, Relationships, Romance, Values

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Rapid Fire Questions (49:43)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • Who's your favorite psychopath?
  • Why do people still want to be moral when their morality is not in their own interest? Doesn't morality for its own sake turn the concept itself into a hyped up cardboard badge?
  • Is there a philosophical difference between losing and regaining consciousnesses and being taken apart and reconstructed by some scifi teleporter if one existed?

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Conclusion (1:00:40)

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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