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)

Moral Saints, Inventing Stories, and More

Q&A Radio: 13 February 2014

I answered questions on moral saints, inventing stories about yourself, and more on 13 February 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: We've been enduring a major ice storm and its aftermath in Aiken, South Carolina. We lost power on Wednesday morning, and so we have no water, no heat, and no electric. We're camping out, relying on the generator periodically to heat the apartment and charge our devices. We've not ridden for three days, but our lessons resume tomorrow. Also, regular pricing ends for SnowCon 2014 on February 16th. Be sure to check out the six lectures just announced!


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Segments: 13 February 2014


Question 1: Moral Saints

Question: Should a person want to be a "moral saint"? In her classic article "Moral Saints," Susan Wolf argues that a person should not wish to be morally perfect, i.e. a moral saint. What is her basic argument? What's right or wrong about it? Does it apply to rational egoism?

Answer, In Brief: In Susan Wolf's fascinating article "Moral Saints," a moral saint is a model of perfect altruism. Wolf persuasively argues that the lives of such people are "too good for their own good" – and ultimately, literally selfless.

Tags: Altruism, Christianity, Duty Ethics, Egoism, Ethics, Immanuel Kant, Moral Saints, Perfection, Philosophy, Pride, Sacrifice, Susan Wolf, Utilitarianism

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Question 2: Inventing Stories about Yourself

Question: Is it wrong to invent stories about yourself to tell to strangers? In the past, I've made up stories about myself (basically assuming a character) and told them to strangers on the bus or in an airport. When I mentioned this to my spouse, I hadn't really thought of this as lying until I saw his horrified reaction. Do you think this is wrong? If so, why? Would it be acceptable in some contexts, such as for an acting class?

Answer, In Brief: To entertain yourself by lying to strangers about yourself is not moral: you're treating another person with contempt without any just cause. Moreover, you risk incurring the justified wrath and distrust of those people, as well as others.

Tags: Benevolence, Character, Communication, Ethics, Honesty, Integrity, Justice, Trader Principle

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Rapid Fire Questions (43:56)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • Do you know ways to measure and improve your "focus"?
  • Are tears of happiness really a sign of the malevolent universe premise? It seems to me that tears are just a way of releasing strong emotion, whether positive or negative.
  • What is the difference between truth and fact?
  • Who are your biggest heroes?

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Conclusion (1:04:50)

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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