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)

Obesity, Parental Consent, Negative Terms, and More

Q&A Radio: 14 April 2013

I answered questions on moral judgments of obese people, parental consent for abortion, atheist as a negative term, living longer, and more on 14 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.

My News of the Week: I've been distracted this week, but I got two broadcasts done, so that's okay!


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Segments: 14 April 2013


Question 1: Moral Judgments of Obese People

Question: Is it right or wrong to condemn people for being obese? Obviously, obese and morbidly obese people have made mistakes in their lives. Are they morally culpable for those mistakes? How should other people judge their characters? If I see an obese person on the street, should I infer that he is lazy and unmotivated? Should I refuse to hire an obese person because I suspect he won't work as hard as a non-obese person? Is obesity a moral failing – or are there other considerations?

Answer, In Brief: Given that weight is not a good metric for health and that obesity has many causes, for a person to assume that obese people must be morally or psychologically weak is empirically false and morally unjust. If you notice that in yourself, fight it!

Tags: Culture, Discrimination, Ethics, Food, Health, Judgment, Justice, Medicine, Nutrition, Obesity

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Question 2: Parental Consent for Abortion

Question: Should minor girls be required by law to obtain parental consent for an abortion? Normally, parents are legally empowered to make medical decisions for their minor children, and minors cannot obtain medical procedures without parental consent. How should that apply in the case of pregnancy? Should pregnancy and abortion be treated differently from other medical conditions? Should parents be allowed by law to force a daughter under 18 to carry a pregnancy to term or to abort against her will?

Answer, In Brief: Parents should never be able to force a minor child to bear the burden and risk of carrying a pregnancy to term and giving birth. Hence, parental consent should not be required for abortion. However, a minor child cannot impose the burden of caring for another child on her parents, and so she might need to emancipate herself if she does not wish to terminate the pregnancy but her parents do.

Tags: Abortion, Ethics, Health, Law, Parenting, Pregnancy, Religion, Rights, Sex, Young Adults

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Question 3: Atheist as a Negative Term

Question: Should people define themselves using the negative term "atheist"? To me, a rational person sells himself short when he calls himself an "atheist": he's only saying what he doesn't stand for, not what he does stand for. Plus, to use the term "atheist" seems to be accepting the religious frame of reference. A rational person values individual healthy human life, and everything else he believes follows from that, such as respect for reality, reason, and rights. When a person defines himself in those positive terms, what he's against follows. So, can a person be more clear and persuasive when he focuses on what he's for rather than what he's against? If so, what terms might he use to describe himself?

Answer, In Brief: The term "atheist" is a precise and economical way of designating lack of belief in god and the supernatural, yet it doesn't indicate what a person is for. That requires further explanation – and that's what really important.

Tags: Atheism, Communication, Epistemology, Relationships

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Question 4: Living Longer

Question: Should a life-loving person always wish to live longer? Suppose that a person was offered some medical therapy that would extend his life by 10 or 20 years, while preserving or even improving health. Would a life-loving person always choose to do that, assuming that he could afford it? Would refusing that therapy constitute a kind of passive suicide, perhaps even on par with that of a drug addict? In other words, assuming good health and no personal tragedies, might a life-loving person not wish to live any longer?

Answer, In Brief: A person who truly loves life and lives well continues to discover and explore new values, decade after decade, for as long as he can. He does not stagnate and thereby destroy his will to live.

Tags: Death, Ethics, Life, Meta-Ethics, Motivation, Values

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Rapid Fire Questions (1:01:56)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • Could the bleeding heart libertarians serve as a useful opportunity to teach good economic principles?
  • Are stolen concepts analogous to time travel paradoxes? In a time-travel paradox, someone goes back in time to destroy his ancestor. With stolen concepts, the hierarchically antecedent concept is destroyed by the later one.

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Conclusion (1:04:36)

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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