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)

Virtues as Duties, Indecision, Sharia Finance, and More

Q&A Radio: 28 January 2014

I answered questions on thinking of virtues as duties, overcoming paralyzing indecision, sharia finance, and more on 28 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.

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Segments: 28 January 2014


Question 1: Thinking of Virtues as Duties

Question: What's wrong with thinking about the virtues as duties? My parents taught me ethics in terms of "duties." So being honest and just was a duty, along with "sharing" and "selflessness." They were simply "the right way to be," period. Now, I tend to think of the Objectivist virtues – rationality, productiveness, honesty, justice, independence, integrity, and pride – as duties. I have a duty to myself to act in these ways. Is that right or is that a mistake?

Answer, In Brief: A person who thinks of virtue as duties – as obligations, come what may, disconnected from his life and values – invites serious emotional and cognitive problems.

Tags: Context, Duty, Duty Ethics, Emotions, Ethics, Meta-Ethics, Motivation, Psychology, Purpose, Values, Virtue

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Question 2: Overcoming Paralyzing Indecision

Question: How can I overcome my paralyzing indecision? I am caught amid some difficult circumstances at present. To make matters worse, I suffer from almost paralyzing indecision about major life decisions, especially with respect to my career. As a result of my failure to act decisively, I have stagnated painfully for years, missing many opportunities. How can I break out of this horrible pattern?

Answer, In Brief: Paralyzing indecision is a serious problem. You can do various things to help yourself overcome that – such as setting deadlines, practicing being decisive, and considering the consequences of failing to make decisions. But if your problem is interfering with your life, you should see a therapist.

Tags: Decision-Making, Deliberation, Ethics, Personality, Psychology, Values

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Question 3: Sharia Finance

Question: Should financial companies be permitted to offer financial products consistent with sharia law? Sharia Finance – meaning, investments that specifically conform with Islamic law – are growing in popularity and have been adopted by major financial companies like Citi. Should these private businesses be legally permitted to offer whatever their clients want to buy? Or should these investments be banned due to their connection with funding terror, oppressing women, and violating rights in other ways? Morally, should companies offer these investments? Should people protest or boycott companies offering them?

Answer, In Brief: Sharia finance is economically backwards, but not a violation of rights. Companies should be allowed to offer it – and it's moral for them to do so or refuse, as they see fit.

Tags: Business, Ethics, Finance, Islam, Law, Religion

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Rapid Fire Questions (47:01)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • What bedtime stories would you recommend for children?
  • What explains the early Church Fathers' denunciations of human sexuality? Is it altruism, misogyny, or something else?
  • After recently experiencing a loss, I feel as though grief is the most selfish of all emotions. Is this true? Are some emotions more selfish than others?
  • Is it moral to avoid marriage simply to gain financial aid while in college?
  • Would you recommend Stephen Molyneux's videos?
  • If morality is not primarily social, and flourishing can be achieved on one's own, could a flourishing person be morally condemned if they are also a hermit?
  • Would it be wrong for a person to murder a serial killer who framed him for his own murders, and thereby ruined his life completely?
  • What are the ground rules for getting intimate with pets around? How close can they be before it's creepy?

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Conclusion (1:01:38)

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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