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)

Open Objectivism, Giving Back Gifts, Military Secrets, and More

Q&A Radio: 6 April 2014

I answered questions on the errors of 'Open Objectivism', giving back an engagement ring, buying books with military secrets, and more on 6 April 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: 6 April 2014


Question 1: The Errors of "Open Objectivism"

Question: What is "open Objectivism"? Recently, I checked out the website of "The Atlas Society," the organization run by David Kelley. It advocates for "open Objectivism," which I assume means that each person defines what Objectivism is. Am I interpreting that correctly? What's wrong with that approach? Does regarding Objectivism as "closed" lead to intolerance, insularity, and schisms?

Answer, In Brief: The "closed system" view of Objectivism just asks that people respect Ayn Rand's philosophy as her own creation – and differentiate it from their own or others' ideas. Contrary to the advocates of the "open system," that approach doesn't lead to insularity, dogmatism, or intolerance.

Tags: Ayn Rand, Community, Ethics, Honesty, Justice, Objectivism, Objectivist Movement, Philosophy, Tolerance

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Question 2: Giving Back an Engagement Ring

Question: Should a woman give back her engagement ring if the relationship goes sour? A friend of mine asked his girlfriend to marry him, and she accepted. However, they broke off the engagement – and the relationship – a few months later. Is she morally or legally obliged to give back the ring? Is the answer different if they married, then split?

Answer, In Brief: The law on returning engagement rings varies from state to state. Morally, absent fraud or debts, the ring should be returned to the person who bought it.

Tags: Contracts, Ethics, Law, Marriage, Property, Relationships, Theft

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Question 3: Buying Books with Military Secrets

Question: Is it wrong to buy a book containing sensitive military information? The Pentagon claims that the new book No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission that Killed Bin Laden reveals some potentially sensitive details about the operation. I'd really like to read about the mission, but I'm worried that the Pentagon's concerns are valid, and I'd rather not contribute to a work that that puts our soldiers at risk. However, given that the book has already been released, does it matter whether I buy it or not?

Answer, In Brief: Based on the story about the publication of this book, you can read it without misgivings. In general, you should feel free to read anything on the open market, provided that its very publication isn't morally wrong.

Tags: Crime, Ethics, Free Speech, Law, Military, Secrets

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Rapid Fire Questions (51:11)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • What is the proper response to people who say, "If you take Objectivism to its logical conclusion, it leads to [this specific conclusion"? They believe you must necessarily come to the same conclusion as them, because their conclusion is the consequence of a syllogistic chain of reasoning, making the conclusion "necessary."
  • What is the difference between rationalizing and reasoning poorly? Often times people who make bad arguments are accused of rationalization when it might just be that they are mistaken.
  • In a free society, should political parties which advocate statism be outlawed? Or would outlawing them be statism? How else do we stop people voting for tyrants and destroying the free society?

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Conclusion (59:55)

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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