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)

Stylized Life, Legal Dueling, Asking Permission, and More

Q&A Radio: 25 May 2014

I answered questions on creating a stylized life, legal dueling, permission versus forgiveness, and more on 25 May 2014. Arthur Zey 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: 25 May 2014


Question 1: Creating a Stylized Life

Question: Should a person seek to create a stylized life? In "The Romantic Manifesto," Ayn Rand said that "An artist does not fake reality – he stylizes it. He selects those aspects of existence which he regards as metaphysically significant – and by isolating and stressing them, by omitting the insignificant and accidental, he presents his view of existence." Should a person try to stylize his own life, such as by deliberately cultivating a consistent personal aesthetic? Should he aim to make every aspect of his life reflect his values, eliminating the rest? Would that make for a more integrated and meaningful life or might that be dangerous or undesirable in some way?

Answer, In Brief: Stylizing your life can be thought of as developing your personal values and style, which is fabulous. However, it might mean seeking an impossibly perfect Platonic ideal – or worse, disowning yourself for sake of living up to image in own mind or to please others. That's a disaster – and reason enough to shy away from thinking about creating a "stylized life."

Tags: Aesthetics, Art, Honesty, Independence, Integrity, Life, Literature, Objectivism, Values

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Question 2: Legal Dueling

Question: Should dueling and other consensual fights be legal? In your September 5th, 2012 interview with Dr. Eric Daniels, you discussed some of America's violent past traditions, including the practice of dueling. While I have no intention of challenging my rivals to mortal combat, I cannot see why this practice should be illegal. The same might be said of less lethal modern variants such as bar fights, schoolyard fights, and other situations where violence is entered into with the mutual consent of both parties. Should such consensual violence be forbidden by law in a free society – not just for children but perhaps for adults too? If so, what justifies allowing more ritualized forms of combat, such as mixed-martial arts fighting, boxing, or even football?

Answer, In Brief: Duelling cannot be completely forbidden or completely permitted because a duel may be fully consensual or not. Instead, measures must be taken to ensure consent, but if that's not clear after the fact, the winner might be justly prosecuted for murder.

Tags: Consent, Contracts, Law, Politics, Rights, Sports, Suicide

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Question 3: Permission Versus Forgiveness

Question: Should people ask for permission or ask for forgiveness when breaking the rules? People often say that "it's better to ask forgiveness than to ask for permission" when excusing their own rule-breaking. I hate the phrase, but I can't put my finger on what's so objectionable about it. So what does the phrase mean? Is it right or wrong? If it's true for some organizations, doesn't that indicate that the organization's rules or policies are somehow bass-ackwards?

Answer, In Brief: You need not slavishly follow irrational rules, but you do need to act in a way that's respectful of others and their property. Too often, asking for forgiveness rather than permission is not that.

Tags: Egoism, Ethics, Honesty, Moral Wrongs, Respect, Rights, Rules, Trader Principle

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Rapid Fire Questions (1:01:15)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Arthur Zey impromptu. The questions were:
  • Have you heard about Harry Binswanger's new treatise on epistemology?
  • How do individual rights apply to conjoined twins? Do they count as separate individuals? Is this similar to how a baby does not count as individual until after it is born?
  • Should it be against the law to incite violence? Given that the incitement itself does not violate anyone's rights, doesn't that assume that the hearers lack free will?
  • Is the placebo effect an incidence of 'useful evasion'? Is it immoral to use placebos?
  • On an earlier show, you professed your love for David Hume. Would you care to elaborate?

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Conclusion (1:11:50)

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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