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)

Morality of Abortion, Injuries on the Job, Self-Sacrifice, and More

Q&A Radio: 5 January 2014

I answered questions on the morality of elective abortion, liability for injuries on the job, guilt over self-sacrifice, and more on 5 January 2014. 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'm on my way to visit Paul's family, and I've started eating Whole30 for January!


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Segments: 5 January 2014


Question 1: The Morality of Elective Abortion

Question: Is elective abortion morally wrong? Some people support abortion in the cases of rape or incest, as well as in cases of serious medical problems with the fetus or the pregnancy. However, they regard the termination of a normal, healthy pregnancy as morally wrong, particularly as irresponsible. Are such abortions wrong? Does the judgment change if the couple used birth control or not?

Answer, In Brief: Abortion is a moral choice for a woman whenever a pregnancy – let alone raising a child – would be a sacrifice of herself, her goals, and her happiness. For many unwanted pregnancies, an early-term abortion is a far, far better option than adoption or becoming a parent.

Tags: Abortion, Adoption, Children, Duty, Ethics, Obligation, Parenting, Responsibility, Sacrifice, Self-Sacrifice, Sex

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Question 2: Liability for Injuries on the Job

Question: Should employers be required to warn employees of possible harms on the job? Discovery Channel's TV show Gold Rush depicted a South American gold miner using mercury in the mining process because mercury binds to gold and makes extraction from a "sluice." Mercury, being heavier, falls below the surface and is collected at the bottom of a "sluice box." The episode (titled "The Jungle") depicts workers using their bare hands in the sluice where I'm assuming they are in direct physical contact with the toxic mercury. In a free society, should employers be allowed to expose their employees to such dangers? Should employers be obliged to warn employees of those dangers or to take precautions? Or are workers responsible for the risks of their job?

Answer, In Brief: In a free society, people would be entitled to take whatever risks they deem fit. However, when those risks are taken on behalf of another, such as for a job, they must be disclosed, understood, and consented to.

Tags: Business, Capitalism, Capitalism, Contracts, Ethics, Law, Rights, Risk, Work

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Question 3: Guilt over Self-Sacrifice

Question: Should a person feel guilty for not acting selfishly enough? According to rational egoism, a person ought to act selfishly – not in the sense of hurting others, but in the sense of pursuing his own good. If a person fails to do that, should he feel guilty for failing to act morally?

Answer, In Brief: An egoist can and should feel guilty when he harms himself – if that harm is serious and the product of a willful failure of morality, as opposed to a mere mistake.

Tags: Egoism, Emotions, Ethics, Forgiveness, Guilt, Justice, Moral Wrongs, Sacrifice, Self-Sacrifice

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Rapid Fire Questions (1:00:52)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • What place does Ayn Rand deserve in the history of philosophy? Is she one of the "big ones," like Kant and Descartes, or is her philosophy just a minor variation on Aristotle's?
  • How do I keep myself from just coming off as a contrarian when I disagree with something that's more ingrained than just mainstream?

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Conclusion (1:08:35)

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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