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)

Evolution's Ethical Implications, Body Image, Theology, and More

Q&A Radio: 30 March 2014

I answered questions on evolution's ethical implications, cultivating a healthy body image, the value of studying theology, and more on 30 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.

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Segments: 30 March 2014


Question 1: Evolution's Ethical Implications

Question: Should ethics begin with facts about evolution, including altruism? The ethical egoism advocated by Ayn Rand doesn't seem to incorporate genetics or evolution. Having evolved in tribal and family groups, we are creatures tuned to group behavior more than to individual behavior. Altruism wasn't invented by religion. In a tribe, helping those around you helps you survive too. Helping your kin helps your genes survive. The fact is that feeling good when you help others is built into the core of being human. The fact is that much status seeking and other seemingly irrational actions are techniques to ensure the propagation of our genes. Objectivism starts with "A is A." But, if reality is most important, shouldn't people base their ethics on the facts about humans as they actually are – altruism and all?

Answer, In Brief: This argument might seem sensible on the surface, but it suffers from three fatal defects: (1) biological altruism is very different from ethical altruism, (2) ethics has a biological foundation, but the principles of ethics are not derived from animal behavior, and (3) many actions to benefit others or a group are not altruistic but self-interested.

Tags: Altruism, Animals, Benevolence, Biology, Egoism, Ethics, Groups, Meta-Ethics, Relationships, Sacrifice, Science

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Question 2: Cultivating a Healthy Body Image

Question: How does a person cultivate a healthy body image? Suppose that a woman realizes that she has been unconsciously influenced by unrealistic body images – as portrayed in movies, magazines, and so on? She is basically healthy, and so it would be good for her to feel good about how she looks. But a person can't always change everything about herself: she can't change her height, however much she dislikes it. Even if a person can make changes, most people need to accept that they will never look like movie stars. So how does a person cultivate a healthy body image? How might a person notice and combat an unhealthy obsession with appearance?

Answer, In Brief: If you struggle with an unjustly negative view of your own body, (1) consciously reject the body ideals of our culture, (2) push yourself to look beyond superficials to the deeper values of your body, (3) recognize and accept your physical limits, and (4) make the most of what you have. If you do that, your view of your body will change.

Tags: Body Image, Ethics, Fitness, Health, Self-Esteem

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Question 3: The Value of Studying Theology

Question: Can a rational atheist extract any value from studying theology? Theology includes a mix of arguments for the existence of God, plus views on ethics, and more. It's the earliest form of philosophy. Can a person benefit by cherry picking ideas from theological teachings or does the mysticism and other faults outweigh any benefits?

Answer, In Brief: A rational atheist can extract quite a bit of value from studying the arguments for the existence of God, religious scriptures, and contemporary religious beliefs and practices. He can better his understanding of the culture, become more culturally literate, understand people better, and develop well-justified views on religion.

Tags: Activism, Epistemology, Ethics, Literature, Metaphysics, Philosophy, Relationships, Religion, Society, Theology

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Rapid Fire Questions (1:02:01)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • Does my inability to readily define terms mean that my concepts are unclear?
  • How should you respond to envious people who think that you're 'showing them up' when you work harder than they do?

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Conclusion (1:07:38)

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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