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)

Social Influence, Accepting Welfare, Government Scientists, and More

Q&A Radio: 10 November 2013

I answered questions on winning friends and influencing people, accepting government welfare, mercenary essay contest writing, government scientists in a free society, and more on 10 November 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.

My News of the Week: I've been busy recording a reading of Chapter One of my new book Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame, which has been remarkably painful. I've also been re-listening to all of Jane Austen's novels at a rapid pace!


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Segments: 10 November 2013


Question 1: Winning Friends and Influencing People

Question: Should a person try to "win friends and influence people"? In the classic book How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie offers a wide range of advice on how to get what you want from other people. Some of this seems manipulative or second-handed, but is that right? Is the advice in the book of genuine value to a rational egoist seeking honest trade with others?

Answer, In Brief: How to Win Friends and Influence People is a mixed work in so many ways. Yet its basic advice on treating other people with genuine interest and respect can be of great value for people concerned to work and play well with others.

Tags: Communication, Egoism, Ethics, Relationships, Respect, Self-Interest

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Question 2: Accepting Government Welfare

Question: Should a person without other options accept welfare from the government? I've had generalized anxiety disorder for as long as I can remember. I live in Sweden, and my government has so many labor regulations that no business can hire me, and charities don't exist to help me. Is it wrong, in such a case, to accept government assistance? I don't have any savings, and it seems like my only other options are criminal activity and suicide.

Answer, In Brief: A moral person without the ability to support himself can accept government welfare in the short term, but the long-term goal must be to create a meaningful, purposeful, and self-sufficient (as much as possible) life for oneself.

Tags: Career, Ethics, Meaning, Mental Health, Purpose, Welfare

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Question 3: Mercenary Essay Contest Writing

Question: Is it wrong to write essays I don't believe to win contest money? I am a current university student with severe financial limitations. I've found that one of my best assets is my knack for writing a solid, persuasive essay. Recently, I've come across a trove of very generous scholarship essay contests. I feel confident that I could write a solid essay for most of them. The problem is that the majority are funded by organizations whose values I don't support. Specifically, I'd have to write essays in favor of social and political policies with which I disagree. Would it be moral for me to enter these writing competitions? If I did, would I just be demonstrating my writing ability - or misleading the sponsor into thinking that I agree with what I've written?

Answer, In Brief: Writing false essays for contest money means promoting wrong ideas, plus eroding your own character and reputation. No amount of cash is worth that!

Tags: Ethics, Honesty, Integrity, Moral Amplifiers, Skills

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Question 4: Government Scientists in a Free Society

Question: Would the government of a free society employ scientists? In a fully free society, would there be any scientists employed full-time by the government for police, legislative, or judicial services? If not, how would judges obtain the necessary scientific knowledge to make proper rulings in the court cases that would replace today's environmental and other regulations? Might scientists be hired by the government of a free society for the military or other purposes?

Answer, In Brief: In a free society, the government's sole function would be to protect rights. In some few areas, that would require employing scientists, but most science should be privatized,

Tags: Crime, Law, Military, Politics, Rights, Science

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Rapid Fire Questions (59:25)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • Does the credible testimonies of pilots, military personnel, and other non-yahoos about UFO encounters justify not dismissing the subject?
  • Would it be good for public health if people could be held civilly liable for transmitting their serious diseases? For instance, if I gave someone an STD, what if that person could sue me for transmitting that STD?
  • Is knowledge power?

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Conclusion (1:08:19)

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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