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)

Veganism and Vegetarianism, Courage, Ungrateful People, and More

Q&A Radio: 23 November 2014

I answered questions on the moral arguments for veganism and vegetarianism, courage as a struggle against fear, ungrateful people, and more on 23 November 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 posted two new podcasts as compensation for Sunday broadcasts that I missed: The Cultivation of Character and Ayn Rand's Philosophy: Myth Versus Reality.


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Segments: 23 November 2014


Question 1: The Moral Arguments for Veganism and Vegetarianism

Question: Are the moral arguments for veganism (and vegetarianism) rational? People often argue for vegetarianism on the grounds that a person can (and perhaps should) regard the lives of animals to be a higher value than the advantages to eating meat such as taste or nutrition. Is this a rational moral outlook, consistent with rational egoism?

Answer, In Brief: If concerned about your health, the environment, and cruelty to animals, don't eat vegan or vegetarian. Don't eat the Standard American Diet either. Instead, be a conscious carnivore: buy humanely-treated and pastured-raised meat and dairy, preferably direct from farmers.

Tags: Animals, Diet, Environment, Ethics, Health, Nutrition, Paleo, Science, Veganism, Vegetarianism

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Question 2: Courage as a Struggle Against Fear

Question: Does the virtue of courage require struggling against the temptation to succumb to fear? In your 16 September 2012 show, you argued that "it is far better for a person to cultivate a virtuous moral character so that right actions are easy for him, rather than constantly struggling against temptation." How does this apply to the virtue of courage? The common understanding of courage is that it requires acting rightly in spite of fear. So the courageous person struggles to do the right thing in face of the temptation to retreat in fear. Is this a correct formulation? If so, wouldn't that mean that a courageous person must constantly struggle against fear, not overcome it? If this view of courage is wrong, how would you define the virtue and its relation to fear?

Answer, In Brief: The virtue of courage is not about struggling against fear, but rather about overcoming fear to act in your own best interests. By doing that, you gain the requisite skills and confidence to move on to new (and often harder) challenges.

Tags: Character, Courage, Emotions, Ethics, Fear, Integrity, Moral Habits, Rationality, Values

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Question 3: Ungrateful People

Question: Why aren't people grateful for what others do for them? I volunteer a lot, and I try to be very generous with my time and efforts in the groups that I'm involved with. Mostly, I just want people to express thanks and gratitude for what I've done for them. Mostly though, they don't thank me – or their thanks just seem perfunctory. Why is that? Am I wrong to want a little gratitude? Right now, I feel taken advantage of, and I want to tell everyone to go to hell. Is that wrong?

Answer, In Brief: When you're volunteering or helping others, you must have self-interested motives – whether learning something new, developing your skills, or accomplishing something meaningful to yourself. Thanks and gratitude from others can only be a bonus. If it's a primary motivation, you'll always feel taken advantage of. If that happens, find something more personally meaningful to do with your time!

Tags: Benevolence, Ethics, Gratitude, Motivation, Self-Interest, Self-Sacrifice

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Rapid Fire Questions (59:30)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • Is foxhunting cruel to the fox? How can you justify doing it given your overall views about how humans should treat animals?
  • What should art-like things that are not, strictly speaking, art (according to Ayn Rand's definition) be called?

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Conclusion (1:10:49)

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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