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)

Mental Illness, Abused Children, Resisting Police, and More

Q&A Radio: 21 April 2013

I answered questions on the reality of mental illness, the state's role in caring for children of unfit parents, resisting illegitimate police action, and more on 21 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'm broadcasting from Tuscon today! I've been working on the final layout of Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame, plus editing show notes from past Q&As into book form!


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Segments: 21 April 2013


Question 1: The Reality of Mental Illness

Question: Is mental illness nothing more than a myth? It seems that many members of the free-market movement are enthused about the theory, promulgated by the likes of Thomas Szasz and Jeffrey A. Schaler, that there is no such thing as mental illness. They say that if one cannot pinpoint a direct physiological cause for behavior considered "mentally ill," there are no grounds for referring to that behavior as a symptom of some "illness." Furthermore, they argue that the concept of "mental illness" is simply a term that the social establishment uses to stigmatize nonconformist behavior of which it does not approve. Is there anything to these claims? If not, what's the proper understanding of the basic nature of mental illness?

Answer, In Brief: Thomas Szasz's arguments against mental illness are based on deep-rooted philosophical subjectivism. In fact, mental health can be an objective, fact-based, normative concept.

Tags: Ethics, Health, Mental Health, Mental Illness, Meta-Ethics, Philosophy, Psychology, Relativism, Subconscious, Subjectivism

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Question 2: The State's Role in Caring for Children of Unfit Parents

Question: What should the state's role be in dealing with abused children? The state needs to remove children from homes where they're being abused--where their rights are being violated. But what should it then do with them? Should the state care for them until it can find a new home for them? How should it provide that care? If it cannot find a new home for a child, what happens to that child? Should the state raise the child to adulthood?

Answer, In Brief: As a matter of protecting the rights of children, the state must assume the costs of care for children if unfit parents refuse to pay, as they ought. It's bad debt, not welfare.

Tags: Children, Ethics, Free Society, Government, Law, Obligation, Parenting, Rights

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Question 3: Resisting Illegitimate Police Action

Question: When is it moral to resist police action? Last year, the governor of Indiana signed a bill into law granting protection to citizens that resist the unlawful actions of a public servant. If a police officer enters your home without your knowledge or consent – legally or illegally – and you have no way of knowing whether he is an unlawful intruder, are you morally justified in taking violent action against him? When is it moral to forcibly resist police actions?

Answer, In Brief: When being invaded or brutalized by the police, a person has the moral and legal right to resist, yet doing so might result in worse injury or death. To better protect innocent people, systemic changes are required of the criminal justice system.

Tags: Crime, Ethics, Firearms, Justice, Law, Police, Self-Defense

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Rapid Fire Questions (58:05)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • Between the Boston Marathon Bombing and the explosion in Texas, this week has sucked. Any thoughts?
  • What is an artists moral obligation to show reality of life, such as wars?
  • Should women serve in combat in the military?
  • What is the single most important value for securing a meaningful relationship either romantic or friendship?

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Conclusion (1:06:59)

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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