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)

Open Relationships, Innate Personality, Alimony, and More

Q&A Radio: 26 May 2013

I answered questions on the ethics of open relationships, innate personality, conceiving again to save a child, the justice of alimony payments, and more on 26 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 with Greg, live before an audience at ATLOSCon! It's historic!


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Segments: 26 May 2013


Question 1: The Ethics of Open Relationships

Question: Can open relationships be moral? Can it ever be moral to have sex with someone else while in a relationship, assuming that you're honest with everyone involved? If not, why not? If so, what might be some of the pitfalls to be aware of? For example, should the criteria for selecting sexual partners be stricter than if you were single? How should you navigate the tricky territory of opening a previously closed relationship?

Answer, In Brief: Open relationships can be beneficial for certain people in certain contexts. Yet they have major pitfalls, and people need to be very aware of those dangers before opening their relationship to multiple partners.

Tags: Communication, Ethics, Honesty, Love, Polyamory, Respect, Romance, Sex

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Question 2: Innate Personality

Question: Can personality be innate? In past shows, you've indicated that you think that some aspects of personality are innate, rather than acquired by experience. What does that mean? What is the evidence for that view? Moreover, wouldn't that be a form of determinism? Wouldn't that violate the principle that every person is born a "blank slate"?

Answer, In Brief: We have good reason to think that some personality is innate, and that doesn't conflict with free will or tabula rasa.

Tags: Determinism, Free Will, Personality, Psychology, Tabula Rasa

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Question 3: Conceiving Again to Save a Child

Question: Is it wrong for parents to have another baby to save the life of their sick child? In 1990, Marissa Ayala was born in the hope that she might be able to save her 16-year-old sister Anissa from a rare form of leukemia. (The parents went to extraordinary lengths to conceive.) Happily, Marissa was a suitable bone marrow donor, and Anissa's life was saved. At the time, many people criticized the decision as "baby farming" and treating the new baby as a "biological resupply vehicle." Yet today, the Ayalas are a close family, Anissa is alive and well, and Marissa is happy to have been born. Were the Ayalas wrong to attempt to save the life of one child by having another? What moral premises would lead a person to condemn this act?

Answer, In Brief: Other things being equal, for parents to save the life of one child by conceiving another, in the hopes of that new child being a bone marrow match, is perfectly moral and proper.

Tags: Abortion, Children, Ethics, Health, Medicine, Parenting

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Question 4: The Justice of Alimony Payments

Question: Should alimony payments upon divorce be abolished? Traditionally, a man was obliged to financially support his ex-wife upon divorce. Recent reforms have decreased the amount and duration of alimony in some states, as well as made it gender neutral (in theory). But are such payments ever justifiable? If so, under what conditions?

Answer, In Brief: When a couple divorces, alimony should be paid if required by contract. If no such contract exists, then the courts should award alimony in the rare cases of an unequal investment during the marriage.

Tags: Alimony, Divorce, Ethics, Law, Marriage, Romance

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Rapid Fire Questions (1:00:27)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • How does personality relate to psychoepistemology?
  • Given the anti-gay bigots use the term "homosexual" as a means of denigration, should non-bigoted people refrain from using the term?
  • When, if ever, are deductive applications of Objectivist principles part of Objectivism? In particular, what's the status of arguments on current events, such as the controversy over the NYC Mosque? If they're not part of the philosophy, then are they nothing more than personal opinions?

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Conclusion (1:12:59)

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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