Voluntary Sacrifices, Agnosticism, Teaching Children Objectivism, and More
Q&A Radio: 10 August 2014
I answered questions on accepting voluntary sacrifices, agnosticism, introducing children to Objectivism, and more on 10 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: 10 August 2014
Question: Is accepting voluntary sacrifices from others moral? Imagine that someone offers you a way to increase your wealth, lengthen your lifespan, or achieve your goals at great personal cost to and even sacrifice of himself. Is it wrong to accept that? What if you've tried setting them straight and telling them to act in their self-interest, but they still insist on trying to be altruistic? Would accepting such a sacrifice be a breach of integrity for an egoist, or would rational egoism urge you to enjoy the proffered benefits, so long as voluntarily bestowed? In other words, is accepting voluntary sacrifices from others different from forcing others to sacrifice to you?
Answer, In Brief: A rational egoist understands that sacrifice is poison to relationships – and that accepting sacrifices soon leads to looking for people to exploit. You're not your brother's keeper – ultimately, each person must look out for his own interests – but you can and should refuse blatant sacrifices from others, for your sake and theirs.
Question: Can the non-existence of God be proven? I see how a person could believe – purely based on rational argument – that God's existence cannot be proven, thereby becoming an agnostic. On the one hand, many non-theists criticize theists for believing in a deity strictly on faith, claiming that there's no rational reason to believe in a deity. Most theists, however, would probably reject that, saying that they have rational reasons for their beliefs too. On the other hand, atheism seems just as unproveable as theism. Yet atheists claim that their beliefs are based on reason, rather than emotion or faith. As a result, aren't the atheists covertly relying on faith? Or can atheism be proven purely based on reason? Why not just admit that we don't know? Also, practically speaking, isn't the agnostic basically the same as an atheist?
Answer, In Brief: Agnosticism – in the philosophical sense of claiming that God's existence or not cannot be known – is not warranted. It violates the burden of proof principle and overlooks the empirical evidence against God's existence.
Question: How should I introduce my teenagers to Atlas Shrugged and Objectivism? I'd like to introduce my teenagers to Ayn Rand's novels, as well as to the principles of her philosophy of Objectivism. How should I do that? My concern is that I'll bungle it up and bore them to death or succeed too well and convert them into Objectivist jerks for the next ten years. What's a rational approach for parents?
Answer, In Brief: If you've been living your philosophy, you've been teaching it to your children as well. You should not take a heavy-handed approach, but instead wait for them to express some interest in the ideas.
Rapid Fire Questions (56:45)
- Does providing voluntary, non-sacrificial help to innocent, unfortunate poor people qualify as virtuous? In a free society, would such charity be a moral obligation?
- Should it be illegal to take pictures of strangers without their permission, such as when creepy men take "up-skirt" pictures of women on a subway?
- Am I too charitable with philosophers? Whenever Rand berates some philosopher for being wrong, I read their work and then think "well, they do kind of have a point; well done to them for having a point."
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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.