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Free Speech for Corporations, Psychological Egoism, Socialist Professors, and More

Q&A Radio: 6 October 2013

I answered questions on free speech for corporations, psychological egoism, objecting to a professor's views, deduction from axioms, and more for Philosophy in Action Radio on 6 October 2013. Greg Perkins of Objectivist Answers was my co-host. Listen to or download the podcast below.

Remember, Philosophy in Action Radio is available to anyone, free of charge. That's because our goal is to spread rational principles for real life far and wide, as we do every week to thousands of listeners. We love doing that, but each episode requires our time, effort, and money. So if you enjoy and value our work, please contribute to our tip jar. We suggest $5 per episode or $20 per month, but any amount is appreciated. You can send your contribution via Dwolla, PayPal, or US Mail.

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Segments: 6 October 2013


Question 1: Free Speech for Corporations (3:51)

Question: Do corporations have free speech rights? Many leftists (including left-libertarians) are vehemently opposed to the "Citizens United" Supreme Court decision, which recognized that corporations have the right to speak in elections. Do corporations have rights? What would it mean for corporations not to have rights? Should corporations be considered "persons" under the law?

Answer, In Brief: Corporations are just groups of people organized in a corporate form — and they retain all the rights of those people, including the right to free speech.

Tags: Business, Corporations, Law, Politics

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Question 2: Psychological Egoism (17:47)

Question: Isn't every action selfish, ultimately? Unless coerced, people act however they deem best at that moment. Even if that action is harmful to themselves, aren't they acting selfishly, so as to satisfy their own desires? Even paragons of altruism act because they want to help people, please God, or save the environment: that's what makes them happy. So isn't true, deep-down altruism impossible?

Answer, In Brief: Psychological egoism is a form of determinism: a person cannot but act egotistically. It's completely incompatible with ethical egoism – and false.

Tags: Determinism, Egoism, Ethics, Free Will, Psychological Egoism, Self-Interest

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Question 3: Objecting to a Professor's Views (28:32)

Question: How strongly should a student object to a professor's objectionable views? I am a senior undergraduate in a liberal arts major at a public university. I'm currently taking a class with the bleak subject matter of genocide. My blatantly socialist teacher presents her views in discussions of the Armenian genocide, the "genocide" in Soviet Russia, and the Holocaust. Often, she ignores the role of religion and flawed socialist policies. Also, she blames greed and capitalism to an unreasonable degree for the woes of the aforementioned countries. How should I respond to these objectionable claims of hers? How much should I try to undermine her wrongheaded views?

Answer, In Brief: In all likelihood, you can approach this class such that you actually learn something – even if not about the topic, then perhaps about how to better understand and effectively argue against wrong views.

Tags: Academia, Education, Ethics, Respect

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Question 4: Deduction from Axioms (14:55)

Question: Is philosophy deduced from axioms? Often, I hear people claim that philosophy – particularly Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism – is deduced from axioms. Is that right? Personally, I don't see how that can be: How can anything be deduced from "existence exists"? But in that case, what's the purpose of the axioms?

Answer, In Brief: The axioms are not premises for deduction in philosophy. They are fundamental concepts, implicit in all awareness of existence.

Tags: Axioms, Epistemology, Ethics, Metaphysics, Politics, Proof, Religion

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Rapid Fire Questions (58:08)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • Did you correct the otherwise-good professor who mischaracterized the Objectivist ethics as psychological egoism?
  • Should children always be expected to address adults (such as teachers or friends of their parents) in a formal way--Mr., Mrs., etc.? When in doubt, should the default be formal over informal?
  • What is your opinion of punkin' chunkin'?

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Conclusion (1:12:58)

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About Philosophy in Action

I'm Dr. Diana Hsieh. 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, as well as for Kindle and Nook. 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 Sunday mornings and most 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 chat about a topic of interest.

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