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)

Future Generations, Privatizing Prisons, Returning Goods, and More

Q&A Radio: 23 March 2014

I answered questions on concern for future generations, privatizing prisons, buying and returning goods, and more on 23 March 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: My life has returned to normal – finally! I've been busy working on various projects for Philosophy in Action. Greg is on vacation, so he's only here virtually. He and Tammy will return next Sunday.


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Segments: 23 March 2014


Question 1: Concern for Future Generations

Question: Should I care about future generations? People often claim that we should act for the sake of future generations, particularly regarding environmental concerns. Is that rational? Why should I care what happens to people after I am dead? Why should I work for the benefit of people who cannot possibly benefit my life and who aren't even known, let alone of value, to me?

Answer, In Brief: The interests of future generations do not conflict with our interests. That's because the requirements of human flourishing – particularly freedom and technology – are the same throughout time. Benefit yourself by securing those values now, and you'll benefit future generations too – without any sacrifice by anyone.

Tags: Environmentalism, Epistemology, Ethics, Future, History, Rights, Sacrifice, Science, Technology, Values

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Question 2: Privatizing Prisons

Question: Is running prisons a legitimate function of government or should they be privatized? Private prisons are a billion dollar industry here in the United States, but should they be left to private companies or should the government handle them instead?

Answer, In Brief: Privately-run prisons may be more effective and cheaper than government-run prisons – or not. Prisons aren't inherently a function of government, although the government must oversee them and set standards, at the very least.

Tags: Business, Crime, Government, Law, Politics, Punishment, Rights

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Question 3: Buying and Returning Goods

Question: Is it wrong to buy goods with the intent to return them? A friend of mine will often buy jewelry from large department stores for events, knowing that she'll likely return the items. (Sometimes, however, she'll keep an item even when she thought she'd return it.) She returns the goods undamaged and soon after buying. She asked me what I thought of the morality of her actions. In my opinion, she's acting morally because she's not committing fraud. The stores in question have liberal return policies ("if you are unhappy for whatever reason..."). They must know that some of their customers might do what she's doing and think that allowing it is good for business. Is that right?

Answer, In Brief: Your friend is abusing generous return policies. She's not acting as an honest trader, but as a devious exploiter. That embodies a wholly wrong approach to morality that I hope she rethinks her actions.

Tags: Business, Character, Ethics, Fraud, Honesty, Rules, Trader Principle

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Rapid Fire Questions (42:18)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • Why do people differ so much in their taste in movies?
  • If a person stumbles upon data (say, logins and passwords) without hacking, it is morally and legally wrong to use that data?
  • Is it morally worse for a mother to abandon her child than for a father to do the same?
  • Why did you choose philosophy over programming?
  • Should college athletes be paid? Doesn't the current system exploit them?
  • My mother believes she is clairvoyant, and she laughs when I try to explain away her 'premonitions.' How can I convince her she is not psychic?
  • My significant other is generally uninterested and/or easily frustrated by philosophy. Is there any way to help a person engage in rational inquiry? Is it necessary for a happy relationship?

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Conclusion (59:57)

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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