Checkered Pasts, Racist Names, Gun Rights, and More
Q&A Radio: 27 October 2013
I answered questions on revealing a checkered past, racist names of sports teams, property owners prohibiting firearms, explaining Facebook unfriendings, and more on 27 October 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: 27 October 2013
Question: How forthcoming should I be with new people I meet about my checkered past? My past is not a source of pride for me. Over four years ago, I read "Atlas Shrugged." That book altered the radical change I was already bringing into my life for the better. I've recently begun meeting other fans of Ayn Rand in real life, and I dislike discussing my white-trash, moocher-esque history with these new acquaintances. (At the time, I was between 17 and 20 years old.) If I shared my past with these people, I think they might judge me harshly and cut ties with me, given that they don't know me well. However, given my past, I have a clearer understanding of the irrational, twisted, cruel, and nasty nature of people who choose to live like leeches off of other human beings. I think that sharing these experiences with others can be a source of strength to them. (I don't want others to stumble into these poor decisions when they could do better!) So how much of my past should I share with other people, and how should I share it?
Answer, In Brief: A person should be proud of overcoming past mistakes, particularly the moral growing pains of late teens and early 20s, not ashamed. Share that history selectively and discreetly with other people. Good people will value you more for what you've made of yourself today.
Question: Should sports teams with racist names change them? Dan Snyder, the owner of the Washington Redskins has vowed never to the team's name, insisting that it stands for bravery. I've read conflicting reports about polls of Native Americans. Some are offended, and some don't care. It appears that D.C. area politicians and various academics looking to make names for themselves are leading the charge to change the name, and they seem to have much to gain thereby. Personally, I am not offended by the name, but I wouldn't go onto a reservation and address the people there as "redskins." While the name may be racist and offensive to some, is that a sufficient reason to change it?
Answer, In Brief: The term "redskin" is a racial epithet, yet it's not used in an offensive way by the Washington Redskins. Given that team's use of the name doesn't promote racism or bullying, the name shouldn't be changed as any kind of moral imperative. However, that doesn't mean that the name should be staunchly defended either. Moral fervor on this issue is seriously misplaced.
Question: Should a person respect signs prohibiting guns in certain areas? Some businesses and government offices announce that firearms are prohibited in the building, yet no screening is conducted to ensure that firearms are excluded. In such "pretend gun-free zones," law-abiding people will disarm, while criminals and other dangerous or careless people will not. Is this a violation of a person's right to self-defense? Should people refuse to disarm in face of such signs?
Answer, In Brief: A person's right to self-defense is not violated when a property owner forbids guns on his property. The property owner is entitled to set the terms for his property, and if others don't approve, they can stay away.
Question: Does a person owe others an explanation for unfriending them on Facebook? I'm "friends" with many people on Facebook who I can't stand and with whom I would never willingly spend time in real life. I've purged many Facebook friends I didn't really know and/or who've contributed nothing of value to my life, all for the better. Now I am considering whether to unfriend former lovers and one-time real life friends from my youth for a host of insurmountable reasons – for example, our politics don't jive, I'm annoyed by seeing endless photos of their pets, and so on. Odds are I will never have any dealings with these people again, mostly because I don't want to. Do I owe them an explanation for the unfriending?
Answer, In Brief: It's perfectly fine to unfriend people on Facebook when you're not interested in keeping up with them, yet you need not and should not be mean about it.
Rapid Fire Questions (51:11)
- Don't Americans have the right and the obligation to limit immigration to protect our political values from corruption?
- What's wrong with the nihilistic argument that life is meaningless because death is inevitable?
- Emotions are rooted in prior value judgments. So could the Myers-Briggs Thinking versus Feeling axis be analogous to compiled vs interpreted programing?
- On an earlier show, you said that Daniel Dennett was evil and dishonest. Could you elaborate?
- Skulls on clothes and accessories are fun motifs to wear. But isn't wearing them stating that you value death instead of life? Why would I like them?
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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 email@example.com.