Competition, Risking Welfare, Trolley Problem, Infatuation, and More
Q&A Radio: 1 September 2013
I answered questions on the value of competition, risking welfare by having children, the trolley problem, romantic infatuation, and more on 1 September 2013. Greg Perkins of Objectivist Answers was my co-host. Listen to or download this episode of Philosophy in Action Radio below.
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Segments: 1 September 2013
Question: What is the value of competition? You recently competed in your first three-phase event on your horse. Why did you bother to do that? How did that affect your mindset and training? What did you learn from the experience? More broadly, what is the value of such competition? Shouldn't people always do their best, even when not being tested against other people?
Answer, In Brief: Competition (and performance) can motivate a person to cultivate his skills more intensively, as well as teach him how to cope with mistakes, provided that the person focus on doing his reasonable best, not just besting others. It's well worth trying!
Question: Should a person forgo having children to avoid the risk of needing welfare? I know that accepting government welfare is wrong: it's a kind of loot stolen from taxpayers. For a person to accept welfare is damaging to his life and happiness. However, I would like children, but in today's economy, particularly with my spouse's frequent job turnover, I'm not sure that's possible without ever relying on welfare. If I had children, I don't know if I would be able to resist becoming a looter to care for them. What if the only alternative is for the state to take charge of them? I couldn't allow that. Wouldn't accepting welfare be better than that?
Answer, In Brief: A person should be capable of honoring his financial obligations before he embarks on them – particularly children. So if you want children, work to make yourself more financially secure.
Question: Does the "trolley problem" have any validity or use? I often come across people who think ethical philosophy consists of asking others what they would do in hypothetical situations in which they are allowed only two options, both terrible. One I keep coming across is that of the Trolley Problem proposed by Philippa Foot and modified by Judith Thomson, in which one must choose whether to kill one person or let five others die. Is it valid for moral philosophers to pose the Trolley Problem to people and to insist that people's answers show that one can only either be a deontologist or a utilitarian?
Answer, In Brief: The trolley problem is neither a valid starting point to ethics, nor signals a divide between deontology and consequentialism. Instead, a person's response often suggests implicit views about responsibility for acts of omission versus commission.
Question: Is it wrong to indulge romantic infatuation? I am infatuated with a young woman for whom I am not a suitable match, including because I am 30 and she is 16. It is strictly a fantasy; I make no effort to pursue or to make my feelings known to her and have no intention to ever do so. However, in private, I am deeply in love with her and practically worship her like a celebrity and collect all her pictures. (I refrain from masturbating to her because doing so makes me feel guilty.) Due to deficiencies in my life that I consider unfixable, I have low self-esteem and have given up on dating for the foreseeable future, if not indefinitely. Do you think my behavior is creepy, immoral, or bad for my own well being?
Answer, In Brief: This infatuation is dangerous to yourself and the girl. You need to stop it, immediately. Please seek professional help.
Rapid Fire Questions (1:04:28)
- Is it irrational to be upset when someone asks you your age?
- This seems to be most common among older women, but one's age is a fact of reality--what's the shame in acknowledging it?
- In "The Machinery of Freedom," David Friedman says: what if an asteroid is heading toward Earth and will kill everyone, unless you use a special machine to destroy it?
- There is only one unit of that machine in existence. And it's owned by a misanthrope who refuses to use it and wants everyone to die. So would you steal it from him and use it? If so, then property rights aren't absolute. What say you?
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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.
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.
I can be reached via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.