Compulsory Vaccination, Requiting Evil, and More
Q&A Radio: 3 August 2014
I answered questions on compulsory vaccination, requiting evil with good, and more on 3 August 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: 3 August 2014
Question: Should the government mandate vaccination? Advocates of free markets often disagree about whether vaccines are safe, effective, and necessary – and whether they could be justly mandated by law. One problem is that the refusal to vaccinate oneself might put others at risk. Not everyone can be vaccinated, and some people who are vaccinated don't develop immunity. However, when the vast majority of people are vaccinated, that provides "herd immunity" to people who don't have immunity. People who choose not to be vaccinated degrade that herd immunity and thereby put others at risk. Moreover, parents have to choose whether to vaccinate their children or not, and the failure to vaccinate is regarded as neglect by many people – on par with Christian Science parents refusing to give a sick child antibiotics. Given that, should vaccinations be mandated by the government? If so, under what circumstances? Or might people be held civilly liable for transmitting diseases? Or should vaccination be considered a purely private matter between individuals (and institutions)?
Answer, In Brief: Vaccines are neither saviors nor devils: they are medical technology with benefits and risks. The government would violate rights by forcing people to vaccinate themselves or their children. However, the government can quarantine potential and actual carriers in an outbreak, including the unvaccinated.
Question: Can evil be requited with good? Christians claim that evil can and ought to be requited with good. So in "Les Miserables", the Bishop inspired Jean Valjean to reform by telling the police that he willingly gave Jean the silver plate (and added the candlesticks) even though Jean stole the silver. Does this strategy ever work to reform an evildoer? Or is it merely a license to further evil? In some cases, might it be useful to "heap burning coals on [an evildoer's] head"? If so, when and why?
Answer, In Brief: A person’s moral nature is a matter of his choice, and that must be respected. Evil is only strengthened by taking advantage of good, but people struggling to do right will be helped by generosity, kindness, and respect.
Rapid Fire Questions (52:37)
- Greg is a CrossFit athlete, a martial artist, a philosophy expert, a computer whiz, and a jazz sax player. How can one find the time and energy to be/do so many awesome things?
- If psychology can prove that human beings are not born tabula rasa, what effects would this have on our view of human nature and ethics?
- Would you ever participate in a formal debate and if so who/what might be some of your preferred opponents & topics?
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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 email@example.com.