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)

Sense of Life, Taxing Friendship, Rights-Violators, and More

Q&A Radio: 5 May 2013

I answered questions on personality and sense of life, helping a self-destructive friend, concern for the rights of rights-violators, and more on 5 May 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 delighted to report that last Sunday's episode had over 18,000 listens thank to promotion by BlogTalkRadio. That is made possible by our generous supporters, so thank you! Paul Hsieh has a column in the print edition of Forbes, so pick that up. I've been at my 20th high school reunion, at Garrison Forest School in Maryland. It's been great to see my classmates for the first time in 20 years. Finally, I've been diligently reviewing the galley proofs of my soon-forthcoming book, Responsibility and Luck (a.k.a. my dissertation).


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Segments: 5 May 2013


Question 1: Personality and Sense of Life

Question: What is the relationship between personality and sense of life? What is the difference between them? How does a person's sense of life relate to his personality? Does understanding someone's sense of life help us to understand his personality and vice versa?

Answer, In Brief: Ayn Rand's concept of "sense of life" is difficult to untangle and seems deeply problematic, as becomes evident when attempting to make sense of it in light of what we know about personality.

Tags: Objectivism, Personality, Personal Values, Philosophy, Psychology, Sense of Life

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Question 2: Helping a Self-Destructive Friend

Question: Am I obliged to help a friend in trouble due to her own poor choices? I have a friend who is emotionally draining to me, and she is especially "down on her luck" this month. However, her situation is a direct result of especially poor personal choices over the last year, and there is no good path to get her out of the hole of poverty and depression. We don't have much in common other than similar-aged kids, and active participation in a local moms' group, but because I have come to her aid in the past, I feel an unspoken obligation to continue. (Maybe it's guilt, or pity, or empathy?) What are my obligations in a friendship that has recently become more taxing than beneficial? I don't dislike her, and we have many mutual friends, but I just don't think I can muster the time, financial resources, or energy this time to help bail her out of the latest fiasco. Is it morally acceptable to refuse to help? Should I talk to her about why now – or wait until she's less vulnerable?

Answer, In Brief: Given the distant nature of the friendship and the fact that this person has created her own problems, you're not obliged to help and you probably shouldn't do so. You should only help if you can do so in a way that's of benefit to both of you.

Tags: Benevolence, Charity, Communication, Emotions, Ethics, Friendship, Integrity, Judgment, Justice, Moral Wrongs, Self-Destruction

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Question 3: Concern for the Rights of Rights-Violators

Question: Is it wrong to be indifferent to the rights-violations of people who advocate rights-violations? Some celebrities actively promote the violation of rights by lending their support to political groups. For example, former American Idol contestant Krista Branch has actively campaigned against gay marriage on behalf of Focus on the Family. However, in a recent interview, Branch complained that people were pirating her songs. I know that Branch's intellectual property rights should be respected, and I would never pirate her music. Yet I can't feel any sympathy for her, given that she advocates violating other people's rights. I'm of the opinion that people who advocate for the use of force against others should not be spared from the consequences of the kind of culture that creates. Is that wrong? Am I being malevolent? Should I defend her rights, even though she advocates violating my rights?

Answer, In Brief: Even the rights of people who advocate rights-violations should be respected, but rational people should crusade for the principle and innocent people being harmed by rights-violations, not for those mixed cases.

Tags: Activism, Celebrities, Judgment, Justice, Moral Wrongs, Politics, Rights

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Rapid Fire Questions (54:38)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • What's your opinion of vitamins and other supplements? For everything that's recommended there seems to be someone dismissing it. Do you know of any good sources on the subject? Does Nathaniel Branden really say that he can cure migraines in The Psychology of Self-Esteem? Is forcing a fire code on private city dwellings wrong? What would happen in a free market instead?

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Conclusion (1:07:45)

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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