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)

Egoism, Juries, Philosophy in Romance, and More

Q&A Radio: 15 May 2014

I answered questions on egoism and harm to others, the presence of juries at trials, philosophy in romance, and more on 15 May 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: I finalized the text for Explore Atlas Shrugged. The updated and revised questions, podcasts, and other resources, are available for purchase for $20. Alas, I'm not the owner of a new horse, as I'd hoped to be today.


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Segments: 15 May 2014


Question 1: Egoism and Harm to Others

Question: Should an egoist be willing to torture millions to benefit himself? In your discussion of explaining egoistic benevolence on December 22, 2013, you indicated that you regarded such a scenario as absurd. Could you explain why that is? Why wouldn't such torture be not merely permitted but rather obligatory under an egoistic ethics? Why should an egoist even care about what happens to strangers?

Answer, In Brief: To benefit himself most, the egoist must value other people, trading with them to mutual benefit. Harming other people doesn't produce any genuine or lasting benefits but risks destroying everything of value in life.

Tags: Altruism, Benevolence, Conflicts of Interest, Egoism, Ethics, Justice, Meta-Ethics, Predation, Prudent Predator, Relationships, Rights, Sacrifice, Self-Sacrifice, Strangers, Trader Principle

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Question 2: The Presence of Juries at Trials

Question: Should juries be present at trials? In fictional portrayals of trials, the jury is often told to disregard certain statements. Also, interruptions in the form of objections are common. Wouldn't it be easier for the jury to be absent from the trial itself, then presented with all and only the admissible evidence and testimony afterward? In fact, the jury need not see the parties in question, nor even know their names. Wouldn't that eliminate the possibility of racial discrimination and other irrelevant judgments?

Answer, In Brief: In most cases, the tone, demeanor, and body language of a witness are very important for a jury to witness first-hand. That's not merely critical for judging the honesty of the witness, but also for understanding the meaning of the testimony.

Tags: Communication, Contracts, Crime, Epistemology, Honesty, Juries, Law, Torts

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Question 3: Philosophy in Romance

Question: Is sharing an interest in philosophy necessary for a good romance? I am extremely interested in philosophy. I'm studying it and planning to make it my career. My girlfriend is not. She wants nothing to do with philosophy, although she is perfectly happy with me doing it. However, I find that I am missing that intellectual engagement with her. I've asked a number of times if she would try to talk to me about any sort of philosophical issue – really just anything deeper than day to day happenings – and she just can't do it. She becomes uninterested or even begins to get overwhelmed and frustrated to the point of tears. Is it necessary for us to engage in this activity together to be happy? Is there any way that I can help her to engage in rational inquiry without it being forced on her, if at all?

Answer, In Brief: The conflict in this relationship might be that the girlfriend has no interest in even very practical philosophy or that the boyfriend is forcing unwelcome conversations about academic philosophy on her – or somewhere in between. Either case would be a serious problem, but the relationship might be worth saving – or not.

Tags: Academia, Philosophy, Romance, Values

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Rapid Fire Questions (1:08:15)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • Do you have an opinion on the recent armed standoff between the Bureau of Land Management and Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy?
  • Should the CDC exist? How should sudden outbreaks of a new and infectious disease be controlled?
  • After reading Nietzsche, and then looking at the evidence all around me, I'm starting to think that democracy was a bad idea. What do you say to this?

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Conclusion (1:17:45)

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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