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)

Suicide, Atheism, Irrational People, Rational Education, and More

Q&A Radio: 1 December 2013

I answered questions on rational suicide, deep-down atheism, responsibility for another's medical emergencies, education in a free society, and more on 1 December 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: Happy Thanksgiving! I've been busy updating the sessions of Explore Atlas Shrugged, fixing the authors on NoodleFood posts with regex magic, and adding Chase QuickPay and Square options for Tip Jar. I'll make a special announcement later today or tomorrow about special signed copies of my new book, Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame, which will be available only in December.


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Segments: 1 December 2013


Question 1: Rational Suicide

Question: When would suicide be rational? What conditions make suicide a proper choice? Are there situations other than a terminal illness or living in a dictatorship – such as the inability to achieve sufficient values to lead a happy life – that justify the act of suicide?

Answer, In Brief: In some cases – when life has become intolerable suffering – suicide can be a rational choice. Evil and mistake is possible, however – and that's tragic for everyone, although in different ways.

Tags: Error, Evil, Health, Life, Moral Wrongs, Rationality, Suicide

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Question 2: Deep-Down Atheism

Question: How can I convince myself, deep-down, that God does not exist? I was raised Catholic, although I was never deeply religious. Now, many years later, a friend is showing me Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism. I can see its benefits, but my religious upbringing still lingers in the back of my head. So part of me still thinks that God exists, even though I don't really believe that any longer. It was just engrained in me from such a young age that I can't seem to let it go. Can I change that? If so, how?

Answer, In Brief: As with any other leftover emotional or cognitive habit, you need to resolve any lingering doubts, remind yourself of the relevant facts, and never act in ways that you know to be wrong. With time, you'll find that your mind fully embraces your conscious convictions.

Tags: Atheism, Christianity, Epistemology, Ethics, Habits, Introspection, Proof, Psycho-Epistemology, Rationality, Religion

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Question 3: Responsibility for Another's Medical Emergencies

Question: Is it wrong to walk away from a person who suffers from repeated medical emergencies due to their own irresponsibility? Over a year ago, I was the tenant of a type-1 diabetic who refused to eat properly. As a result, I regularly had to call the ambulance for her, as she would allow her blood-sugar to drop to dangerous levels, such that she couldn't think or move for herself. She never learned anything from these experiences. She never put emergency food within reach, for example. So a few days or weeks later, I would have to call the ambulance again. I believe that I was being forced – literally – to take care of her. I feared that I'd face manslaughter or other criminal charges if I left her alone in that state. Would it have been morally proper for me to leave her in that state without any advance warning? Should that be legally permissible?

Answer, In Brief: Your roommate is absolutely wrong to be so irresponsible, yet while you are her roommate, you cannot simply ignore her medical emergencies. You might have a "duty to rescue" in criminal and/or tort law, and you do have a moral obligation to render basic assistance. You should do the minimum required – and find a new place to live, pronto!

Tags: Altruism, Character, Egoism, Ethics, Health, Independence, Justice, Responsibility

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Question 4: Education in a Free Society

Question: What would a rational educational system look like in a free society? Everyone knows that government education is flawed in many ways. Many private schools aren't terribly different from public schools in their basic format and teachings. How might a school based on rational principles function? What would it teach - and by what style? Apart from questions of funding, how would it differ from current government schools?

Answer, In Brief: Free-market education would result in far more options in format, curriculum, teaching methods, and price for education, far more concern for offering value to parents and students, and hopefully, more respect for the individuality of children.

Tags: Academia, Business, Capitalism, Education, Free Society

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Rapid Fire Questions (1:04:27)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • Do you think it's very backward that the Religious Right admires it when someone suffering who wants to die but instead struggles to live, whereas people who are happy and healthy are expected to sacrifice?
  • Is it wrong to give copies of Ayn Rand's novels as gifts to my nephews and nieces, when their parents haven't read her books and would likely object to her anti-religious views?
  • If you were in the Matrix, would you have taken the blue pill or the red pill?
  • Are there any ethical problems with the Hippocratic Oath? Did Paul have any worries taking it?

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Conclusion (1:11:07)

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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