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)

Common Sense, Jealousy, Applying Philosophy, and More

Q&A Radio: 7 July 2013

I answered questions on common sense versus rationality, jealousy over love lost, applying philosophy to new domains, marital infidelity in the military, and more on 7 July 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.

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Segments: 7 July 2013


Question 1: Common Sense Versus Rationality

Question: Is "common sense" a form of rationality? Wikipedia defines "common sense" as "sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts." Is that a form of rationality? What's the value of such common sense? Should a rational person rely on common sense in moral decision-making?

Answer, In Brief: Common sense is not an expression or type of rationality. It's relative to a culture – meaning that it's value depends on the rationality of that culture.

Tags: Common Sense, Culture, Independence, Prudence, Rationality

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Question 2: Jealousy over Love Lost

Question: Was Francisco's lack of jealousy in Atlas Shrugged rational or realistic? In Part 3, Chapter 2 of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, Francisco tells Dagny, "...No matter what you feel for [Hank Rearden], it will not change what you feel for me, and it won't be treason to either, because it comes from the same root, it's the same payment in answer to the same values..." Is that a rational and realistic response? Given their love for Dagny, shouldn't Francisco and Hank have been more disappointed in their loss of Dagny to John Galt, and perhaps even jealous of him? Is a person wrong to feel bitter disappointment or jealousy over a lost love?

Answer, In Brief: Hank Rearden and Francisco d'Anconia were not automatically or easily accepting of Dagny Taggart's choice of John Galt. They had to endure painful feelings of loss, then come to a rational acceptance. That's possible and realistic – and it's the self-interested course too.

Tags: Atlas Shrugged, Conflict, Emotions, Ethics, Friendship, Jealousy, Romance, Virtue

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Question 3: Applying Philosophy to New Domains

Question: Can rational philosophic principles solve problems in philosophy and other disciplines? Many advocates of Ayn Rand's philosophy hope to see its principles applied to solve philosophy's tough problems, such as the mind-body relation and the validity of induction. Moreover, they hope to apply the philosophy to other disciplines, such as psychology and education, to advance those fields. Is that possible? If so, what might be a fruitful method of approach? What might be some likely pitfalls?

Answer, In Brief: To speak in terms of "application" of philosophy to solve new problems is deeply misleading. Any interesting, innovative, substantive intellectual work must be based on, informed by, and integrated with already-known rational principles – not merely "derived" or "deduced" from them.

Tags: Objectivism, Philosophy

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Question 4: Marital Infidelity in the Military

Question: Should the military ban marital infidelity? On your June 2nd, 2013 radio show, you explained why marital infidelity should not be illegal. I agree with you, but I wonder about other contexts. Might some government groups legitimately ban and even criminalize infidelity for its members? According to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, infidelity is against the law for military members. Might that be proper, particularly given that we have a volunteer army? More generally, might the military want to enforce strict rules of moral conduct on their members, even for seemingly private matters?

Answer, In Brief: The military does not have a blanket ban on adultery, which would be irrational and counterproductive. Instead, the rule requires that such negative impact the military in some fashion. That's reasonable in theory, although the practice may leave something to be desired.

Tags: Business, Character, Ethics, Justice, Law, Military, Prostitution, Rules, Sex

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Rapid Fire Questions (52:04)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • Regarding the third question, do you mean that one must apply Ayn Rand's inductive approach to check Objectivist conclusions on things like ethics and human sexuality, or can even rational epistemology be rethought and re-examined?
  • What skills and qualities, in short, does it take to be a great programmer? Is it more like math or just plain logic to make code do things you want it to do? What factors should one consider if one wants to write code?
  • Who is the better man? Howard Roark or John Galt? Who would you rather spend a day or evening with?
  • If Dexter Morgan was your brother, and you just discovered he was a serial killer, what would you do next?
  • Would you prefer to live in a world of deeply corrupt morality, but with modern technology, coasting on a past rational era, or a completely undeveloped frontier with rational people?

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Conclusion (1:09:00)

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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