Feminism, Jailbreaking, Racism, Color, and More

Q&A Radio: 14 July 2013

I answered questions on today's feminist movement, the morality of jailbreaking, racism versus moral decency, the objectivity of color concepts, and more on 14 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: 14 July 2013

Question 1: Today's Feminist Movement

Question: How should the feminist movement be judged? Do today's feminist causes have any merit? Or is the feminist movement merely seeking special favors for women at the expense of men – perhaps even via violations of the rights of men? If the movement is mixed, how should it be judged, overall? Should better feminists eschew the movement due to its flaws – or attempt to change it from within? Can advocates of reason, egoism, and capitalism ally themselves with selected feminist causes without promoting the worse elements thereof?

Answer, In Brief: Despite its many problems, feminism has been a major force for political, economic, and social change for the better. Today, just as with any other ideologically mixed movement, alliances with feminists should be made in a careful and ad-hoc way.

Tags: Activism, Culture, Feminism, History, Law, Politics, Politics, Rights, Sexism

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Question 2: The Morality of Jailbreaking

Question: Is it morally wrong to 'root' or 'jailbreak' your own electronic devices? Maybe I'm just too stupid or lazy to read through all the legal-ese that comes with these devices, so I don't know whether technically a customer is contractually obligated not to do it. But I know that companies try to design their products so that people can't easily "root" or "jailbreak" them, and clever people find ways to do it. Is doing so a theft of intellectual property?

Answer, In Brief: Whatever the legalities of jailbreaking, the morality depends on your reasons and goals. Jailbreaking for your own education and amusement is not wrong, but jailbreaking in order to cheat a company by obtaining a paid service for free is.

Tags: Character, Contracts, Ethics, Intellectual Property, Law, Technology

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Question 3: Racism Versus Moral Decency

Question: Can a person be a racist yet still a morally decent person? Paula Deen has been in hot water – with her shows and sponsorships cancelled – because of allegedly racist comments that she admitted to making in a deposition. (The lawsuit was brought by Lisa Jackson – a former manager of a restaurant owned by her and her brother. Ms. Jackson alleges sexual harassment and tolerance of racial slurs at the restaurant.) Based on Ms. Deen's admissions in the deposition, is she racist? If so, can she still be a moral person? Do matters of race trump all other moral convictions?

Answer, In Brief: Based on what she said in her deposition, Paula Deen is racist. In a multi-racial society like contemporary America, when she's running a southern cooking business empire, that's not merely inexcusable, but entails her behaving unjustly toward many people.

Tags: Character, Ethics, Justice, Racism

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Question 4: The Objectivity of Color Concepts

Question: Are concepts of color objective? Given that people from different cultures conceptualize colors differently, I don't see how concepts of color – or at least the demarcation of colors – can be objective. For example, in English, the colors "green" and "blue" have different names because they refer to different concepts. In Japanese, however, the word "aoi" can refer to either light green or blue: they don't draw a distinction between them. Similarly, English speakers refer to both the sky and a sapphire as "blue." But in Italian this is not the case: the word "blu" only refers to dark blue, and the sky is the distinct color of "azzuro." Do such cultural differences cast doubt on the claim that concepts of color are objective?

Answer, In Brief: Colors exist on a spectrum, so they can be divided up "at the joints" in many ways. That cultures differ in some of those dividing lines does not mean that color concepts are less than objective.

Tags: Color, Concepts, Epistemology, Objectivity, Perception

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Rapid Fire Questions (57:29)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • Are divorce laws still skewed against men? Is it a vestige of patriarchy or is it active discrimination against men?
  • Are there instances of legitimate, ad-hoc alliances with environmentalists?
  • Do you see the 20 week abortion bans passed in certain states as a major threat to abortion rights overall? What is wrong with "pain felt by the fetus" as the demarcation point for abortion rights?

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Conclusion (1:04:37)

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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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