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)

Psychics in a Free Society, Fear of a Worthless Life, and More

Q&A Radio: 5 October 2014

I answered questions on psychics in a free society, fear of leading a worthless life, and more on 5 October 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: Friday's trial in federal court – where the Coalition for Secular Government challenged Colorado's campaign finance laws thanks to the fine attorneys of the Center for Competitive Politics – went very well. Also, I've been extremely busy updating Ari Armstrong's and my paper on abortion rights, which will be published early next week.


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Segments: 5 October 2014


Question 1: Psychics in a Free Society

Question: In a free society, would psychics be prosecuted for fraud? How would the government in a rational, free-market system handle people and businesses, such as the Psychic Friends Network, which claim to have psychic powers (such as being able to talk to the dead) and charge the gullible hundreds of dollars in fees for "spiritual consultations"? Would the government prosecute such people for fraud? Or would the government have a "caveat emptor" attitude and say, "If people want to waste their money on that nonsense, that's their rightful prerogative"?

Answer, In Brief: For psychics to peddle goofy metaphysics, plus worthless goods and services, is not fraud. It’s your job as a human to grasp that. It’s only fraud when they’re knowingly and deliberately lying to con you of your money. Ultimately, the government should probably only prosecute psychics for very prosaic cases of clear fraud in money-dealings, such as unauthorized billing.

Tags: Business, Crime, Fraud, Free Society, Honesty, Law, Mysticism, Rights

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Question 2: Fear of Leading a Worthless Life

Question: How can I overcome my fear of leading a value-less life? Ever since I was young, I've had an overwhelming fear of leading a valueless life. I saw my parent and other adult role models live this way. There was nothing in their life: they never strived for anything, never had dreams, and tended to discourage dreams from others. I always thought that I would be different. I always thought that I could live in a fulfilled way. But slowly I noticed that I was falling into their path. I didn't start college till 23 because of student aid issues. Until then I worked minimum wage, and I went without food some days. Now at 26, I have a 2 year degree. Even with my new job I still live in a drug and prostitution infested ghetto in Philadelphia because this is the only place I can afford. After calculating how long it will take me to get my career off the ground, I could graduate with a MS by 30 or 32. But noticing the patterns that I see in other people, I have this overwhelming fear that all attempts at achieving a value will slowly slip my grasp. I constantly needed to push values off till tomorrow until I get today straightened out. I am scared that tomorrow will never come. I have so many goals and dreams and values but I might never get to achieve them. I see it so clearly sometimes: 45, divorced, alone, with nothing to show for my hard work, debt, a giant mortgage or even worse perpetual renting, and my only outlet going to the pub with other Philly white trash middle-agers. How can rational philosophy help me gain perspective on this fear that I have had since a kid?

Answer, In Brief: If you want a different life than the path of the people around you, then you need to make that happen. I recommend that you (1) move to a new city, (2) surround yourself with better people, (3) make a meaningful life for yourself now, (4) be disciplined about spending, and (5) seek out therapy if needed. You can do it!

Tags: Career, Culture, Ethics, Family, Friendship, Life, Moral Judgment, Values

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Rapid Fire Questions (52:05)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • What does your political/intellectual donations portfolio look like, in approximate percentages for the major organizations you support? Would you keep the same percentages if expanded to $100,000 per year?
  • Is the Prime Directive a rational rule in its context?
  • Is it possible that human beings have a hard wired soft spot for altruism? It would make sense from a genetic point of view; many altruistic behaviors are evolutionarily advantageous.
  • Can you name a minor virtue apart from courage?

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Conclusion (1:06:02)

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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