Ambition, Lacking Friends, Absent Fathers, and More
Q&A Radio: 27 April 2014
I answered questions on ambition as a virtue, happiness without close friends, refusing involvement in a biological child's life, and more on 27 April 2014. Greg Perkins of Objectivist Answers was my co-host. Listen to or download this episode of Philosophy in Action Radio below.
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Segments: 27 April 2014
Question: Is ambition a virtue? Ayn Rand defined ambition as "the systematic pursuit of achievement and of constant improvement in respect to one's goal." If we apply ambition only to rational goals – as happens with the virtue of integrity, where loyalty to values only constitutes integrity if those values are rational – then could ambition be considered a virtue? Or at least, could ambition be an aspect of a virtue like productiveness?
Answer, In Brief: Ambition is not a virtue: it doesn't share the core qualities of the virtues. However, ambition is morally significant: it's a moral amplifier. So ambition is a quality of character that makes a good person better and a bad person worse. It's a quality that you should cultivate in yourself – and then deploy selectively, based on the context.
Question: How can I maintain my sense of self when surrounded by people I don't relate to deeply? At places like work I have trouble relating to my coworkers on a significantly deep level. For the most part, we just don't share the deepest or most important aspects of life, such as a genuine interests in ideas, various nuances of the culinary arts, and so on. However, I enjoy interacting with these people, but I'm not likely to engage in frequent outings and whatnot. Yet, in other aspects of life – for the time – I don't have the ability to deal with people I share a "like soul" with, to use Aristotelian terms. Thus, how can I truthfully express my personality and values while maintaining, or even deepening, my friendship with these people? I feel like I'm "faking" myself too often.
Answer, In Brief: Intimate friends are often few and far between, but you can manage and arrange your life to give yourself a greater chance to find such people. Appreciate and cultivate your lesser friends, expand your social network, develop yourself without compromise or concealment, and don't give up!
Question: It is wrong to refuse any involvement in my biological child's life? Some years back I had a contraceptive malfunction, and a child was conceived as a result. I offered to pay for an abortion but the woman refused. The child was born, and the mother and child moved away. I voluntarily pay child support, but I have no desire to be part of the child's life. I never wanted to be a father nor do I want to now. Am I right – morally and legally – to take this stance?
Answer, In Brief: A man doesn't have any moral obligation to play the role of a father to a child, simply because he contributed his sperm. Being a parent is a very serious obligation, and it should not be undertaken lightly by either men or women.
Rapid Fire Questions (52:42)
- Are all people really created equal?
- What is your opinion of camp as an aesthetic style? Is it in any way nihilistic?
- Wouldn't the principles (or maxim) of ones action's be universally applicable according to Objectivism - just as for Kantian ethics?
- Sometimes when people talk openly about sex or their sex life, I just think 'Eeek! How tasteless and vulgar. Keep it to yourself!' Am I too prudish?
- What does it really mean to be a 'nice person'? Can someone be too nice?
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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.
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.
I can be reached via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.