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)

Conservative Allies, Grading Fairly, Unearned Guilt, and More

Q&A Radio: 20 July 2014

I answered questions on conservative allies in politics, flunking a student, guilt about refusing requests, and more on 20 July 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've been busy finalizing the proofs for Explore Atlas Shrugged this week. I had a great clinic with Eric Horgan last weekend, and I got second in my division at the event at Aspen Ridge yesterday. Paul and I are belatedly celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary with a few days of vacation next week.


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Segments: 20 July 2014


Question 1: Conservative Allies in Politics

Question: Aren't politicians like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul allies in the struggle for liberty? Although I'm an atheist and a novice Objectivist, I've always wondered why so many advocates of individual rights oppose candidates and movements that seem to agree with us on a great many issues. Despite their other warts, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz are the most likely men to promote our causes. The notion that they evangelize is dubious. And even if true, are there better alternatives today? I've also seen this attitude towards Libertarian candidates and their party. Ronald Reagan was the only President who advanced the ball towards free markets in the last fifty years, and yet people condemn him because of his position on abortion and because of his religious/political partnerships. I've never understood this. Shouldn't we embrace the advocates of free markets out there today, even if not perfect?

Answer, In Brief: The Republicans – including "better" Republicans like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul – are a dangerous mixture of some economic liberty, nationalism, and theocracy. Instead of discrediting liberty by supporting them, focus on the issues.

Tags: Abortion, Activism, Conservatism, Elections, Free Society, GLBT, Immigration, Politics, Progressivism, Three Languages of Politics, Voting

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Question 2: Flunking a Student

Question: Should a professor pass a student who deserved to flunk for fear of reprisals? Because you've taught at the university level, I want to ask you about integrity in grading as a professor. Suppose you flunked a student who never showed up to class and didn't complete the assigned work adequately. However, this student was well-connected to university donors and administrators. After you flunked this student, suppose that a high-ranking administrator threatened reprisals against you if you didn't give this student a passing grade. What should you do? Would it be corrupt to comply with the administrator's demand? What might you (or another professor) do instead?

Answer, In Brief: The professor should not degrade his integrity by passing the student. He should document everything and enlist the resources available at any respectable university to eliminate the problem.

Tags: Academia, Ethics, Integrity

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Question 3: Guilt about Refusing Requests

Question: How can I overcome feelings of unearned guilt about refusing other people's requests? Too often, I feel guilty when I shouldn't – for example, for rejecting unwanted romantic advances or declining invitations to events with family or coworkers. Even though I know logically that I have the right to pursue my own values rather than satisfy the wishes of others, I feel terrible knowing that my actions will disappoint or upset someone else. Too often I succumb to the guilt: I agree to things I'd rather not because I don't want to let someone else down. What philosophical or psychological strategies might I use for dealing with such unearned guilt?

Answer, In Brief: To overcome feelings of unwarranted guilt at refusing requests from others, you need to retrain your emotions by always acting on your best rational judgment and reminding yourself of the relevant facts when you feel that guilt.

Tags: Altruism, Communication, Egoism, Emotions, Ethics, Guilt, Honesty, Independence, Introspection, Relationships, Sacrifice, Self-Sacrifice

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Rapid Fire Questions (54:41)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • Should customers who break something in a store be forced to pay for it?
  • What is the rational response to Heraclitus' claim that 'you never step in the same river twice'?
  • Is playing peek-a-boo with a baby who has yet to develop sufficient concept-awareness moral? What if it stresses the baby? How do you determine morality in interactions with less developed humans?
  • How much effort should be put into improving physical fitness beyond the point of mere healthiness?
  • Are Objectivists unique in their fondness for acronyms when discussing philosophy?

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Conclusion (1:07:18)

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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