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Ethical Foundations, Broken Relationships, Sex Scandals, and More

Q&A Radio: 16 June 2013

I answered questions on the meaning of life as the standard of value, broken relationships, the morality of an armed society, the sex scandals of politicians, and more on 16 June 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 extracting myself from WTFery, and Greg and Tammy did the amazingly hard GORUCK Challenge.


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Segments: 16 June 2013


Question 1: The Meaning of Life as the Standard of Value

Question: What does it mean to say that life is the standard of value? In "The Objectivist Ethics," Ayn Rand says that man's life is the standard of value. What does that mean? Does that mean mere physical survival? Is it mere quantity of years – or does the quality of those years matter too? Basically, what is the difference between living and not dying?

Answer, In Brief: While survival and flourishing can be distinguished conceptually, in reality, they are one and the same. Survival in the long term requires flourishing.

Tags: Egoism, Ethics, Flourishing, Life, Meta-Ethics, Objectivism, Philosophy, Self-Interest, Survival, Values

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Question 2: Broken Relationships

Question: When is a relationship broken beyond repair? Relationships can be severely strained, fraught with anger and frustration, and perhaps put on ice for weeks or months or years. Yet in the end, the two people can often reconcile in some way, so that they can enjoy a genuine (even if not deep) relationship again. In some cases, however, that's not possible. Why not? In such cases, must the problem be that one person (or both people) continue to behave badly? Or might reconciliation be impossible between two good people? If so, why?

Answer, In Brief: A relationship is permanently broken when your trust in the person’s rationality, decency, and goodwill has been destroyed. If that trust has merely been damaged, that might be repaired — but be careful.

Tags: Ethics, Friendship, Honesty, Moral Wrongs, Rationality, Relationships, Trust

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Question 3: The Morality of an Armed Society

Question: Is an armed society a polite society – or a violent society? Author Robert Heinlein famously said that "An armed society is a polite society." Many liberals, however, fear an armed society as barbaric and violent. Is widespread ownership and/or carry of arms a positive or a negative feature of a society?

Answer, In Brief: An armed society may be a polite society — or not. Firearms are mere tools, and they take on the moral qualities of the people wielding them. They cannot make thugs in to decent people, nor decent people into thugs.

Tags: Character, Culture, Determinism, Ethics, Firearms, Moral Amplifiers, Rationality, Responsibility

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Question 4: The Sex Scandals of Politicians

Question: Should we stop caring about the sex lives of politicians? In response to the affair and resignation of David Petraeus, many argued that such sex scandals are the absurd consequence of American puritanism. These people claim that sex is easily compartmentalized in a person's life, such that sexual fidelity has no bearing on a person's intelligence, character, or suitability for public office. Is that right?

Answer, In Brief: So long as politicians wield enormous power over our lives and display their marriages as evidence of their good character, people are entitled to judge them for any revelations of marital infidelity. That’s because a politician’s cheating on his or her spouse raises serious doubts about his moral character, invites blackmail, and risks security leaks.

Tags: Celebrities, Character, Marriage, Politics, Privacy, Sex

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Rapid Fire Questions (1:01:52)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • What do you think about the NSA "snooping" scandal?

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Conclusion (1:08:11)

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About Philosophy in Action

I'm Dr. Diana Brickell. I'm a philosopher specializing in the application of rational principles to the challenges of real life. I received my Ph.D in philosophy from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2009. My book, Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame, is available for purchase 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 radio show, Philosophy in Action Radio, broadcasts live over the internet on most Sunday mornings and some Thursday evenings. On Sunday mornings, I answer questions applying rational principles to the challenges of real life in a live hour-long show. Greg Perkins of Objectivist Answers co-hosts the show. On Thursday evenings, I interview an expert guest or discuss a topic of interest.

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