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)

Individualism, Disabled Children, Arranged Marriages, and More

Q&A Radio: 19 May 2013

I answered questions on individualism versus anti-social atomism, poor communication from the boss, visibility of disabled children, arranged marriages, and more on 19 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've been preparing the index for my soon-forthcoming book, Responsibility and Luck (a.k.a. my dissertation). I've also been preparing my talk on moral amplifiers for ATLOSCon next weekend!


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Segments: 19 May 2013


Question 1: Individualism Versus Anti-Social Atomism

Question: Does individualism imply social isolation and atomism? Many critics of Ayn Rand argue that her individualism is hostile to love, concern, and respect for other people. They claim that her "atomistic individualism" doesn't permit, let alone support, groups or community. Are these criticisms true? What is the right view of human society and sociability?

Answer, In Brief: Individualism does not mean eschewing society or groups. It means respecting the rights, lives, and minds of individuals in society and groups. It's the basic moral foundation of healthy social relations.

Tags: Collectivism, Collectivism, Epistemology, Ethics, Individualism, Metaphysics, Objectivism, Politics, Relationships, Rights, Sacrifice, Society

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Question 2: Poor Communication from the Boss

Question: How can I make my boss more communicative? My boss hardly ever tells me company news affecting my projects, even when critical. As a result, I've wasted days and weeks on useless work, and I've gotten into needless conflicts with co-workers. I'm always guessing at what I should be doing, and I just hate that. What can I do to make my boss to be more communicative with me?

Answer, In Brief: You cannot manage your boss, but you can request more channels of communication, protect yourself from blame for his screw-ups, and if necessary, find a new boss.

Tags: Business, Career, Communication, Personality, Psychology, Work

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Question 3: Visibility of Disabled Children

Question: Should disabled kids be kept out of the public eye? Recently, a waiter at a restaurant refused to serve one party after hearing them make fun of a child with Down's Syndrome sitting with his family in a nearby booth. Both parties were regulars to the restaurant. Some people have praised the waiter's actions because he took offense at overhearing the first party say "special needs kids should be kept in special places." He called them on their rudeness and refused to serve them. Others think he was wrong: his catering to the party with the disabled kid is indicative of a culture that embraces mediocrity and disability. What is the proper assessment of the remark made and the waiter's response? Should people with disabilities be kept from public view?

Answer, In Brief: Disabled people have every right to be out in the world, pursuing their values – so long as they respect rights and act decently – just as do normal people. To suggest that disabled people should be locked away, as the people at this table did, is morally monstrous.

Tags: Ayn Rand, Benevolence, Children, Disability, Egoism, Ethics, Individualism, Parenting, Respect, Rights, Self-Interest

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Question 4: Arranged Marriages

Question: Are arranged marriages legally and socially valid? A coworker of mine in his early 20s grew up in India. His parents have arranged his marriage to a young woman who also now lives in the US. He appreciates that his parents selected a wife for him: he doesn't want to spend the time or take the risk of finding a wife himself. Should such a marriage be considered legally valid? Is it just a marriage of convenience? Is the practice of arranged marriages immoral and/or impractical?

Answer, In Brief: Arranged marriages are legally and socially valid marriages. However, the institution of arranged marriages is a deeply immoral one: the choice of a spouse is too important to leave to others, and if a person isn't competent or interested to decide for himself, then he shouldn't marry.

Tags: Adult Children, Children, Ethics, Family, Independence, Independence, Marriage, Parenting, Relationships

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Rapid Fire Questions (55:59)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • Given that socialists call profits greed, why don't they call reported losses generosity?
  • How do you pick the questions that you'll answer each week? Are you worried about running out of topics?

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Conclusion (1:00:59)

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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