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)

Credibility, Third Party Payments, Racial Insults, and More

Q&A Radio: 11 January 2015

I answered questions on the importance of credibility, third party payments in medicine, insulting with racial epithets, and more on 11 January 2015. Arthur Zey 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.

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Segments: 11 January 2015


Question 1: The Importance of Credibility

Question: Should a person's credibility matter in judging his empirical claims? Is it rational to use a person's track record – meaning the frequency or consistency of truth in his past statements – in judging the likely truth of his current statements? In Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics, Tara Smith explains that to believe something just because someone said it is a violation of the virtue of independence. Also, to judge an argument based on the speaker is known as the fallacy of "ad hominem." However, doesn't the character of the speaker matter when considering whether to believe his claims? For example, when Thomas Sowell makes an empirical claim, my knowledge that he vigorously tests his hypotheses against the facts makes me more likely to judge his claim as true, even before I've confirmed his statement. Likewise, if a person is frequently wrong in his factual claims, I'd be sure to require lots of evidence before believing him. Is that rational? Or should all factual claims be treated equally regardless of who makes them?

Answer, In Brief: The credibility and track-record of the person who asserts a claim matters. Along with many other factors, it's not proof or evidence of truth, but it's can be reason to take an idea seriously or regard it as plausible.

Tags: Credibility, Epistemology, Ethics, Expertise, Fallacies, Honesty, Independence, Logic, Philosophy, Rationality

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Question 2: Third Party Payments in Medicine

Question: What should be done about third party payments in medicine? I was fascinated by your statement in your November 7th, 2012 discussion of the election that the real need in medicine was to do away with third party payments. It's quite a radical proposal, one of the most radical I've heard from you. How would you think such a thing might be implemented through ethically proper means – as opposed to measures such as legally prohibiting third party payments? Are there types of medical care – perhaps for catastrophic illness or injury – where third party payment would need to be kept in place, or where people in a free economy would likely still choose to keep them in place?

Answer, In Brief: Medicine is rife with third-party payments, largely thanks to government interference in the economy. A free market, however, would allow consumers far more control over their health care spending, and incentivize them to use that more wisely.

Tags: Business, Contracts, Free Society, Government, Innovation, Insurance, Medicine, Regulation

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Question 3: Insulting with Racial Epithets

Question: Is it wrong to use racist epithets to insult the truly evil? A now-former Facebook friend used a racist epithet in reference to Islamic terrorists. I asked him if he understood that it was a racist term and he said he did and said that he used it on purpose to insult those evil-doers because they are so evilly evil that they deserve not even a little respect. I told him he was wrong because race is not the same as ideology and that I can't find any justification for racism, so I un-friended him. I agree that Islamic terrorists are evil, but is it morally okay to be a racist toward evil people?

Answer, In Brief: Racially-based insults are never warranted, even if the target of them is the scum of the earth. Don't sanction racism, but condemn that person for his actual wrongs.

Tags: Communication, Communication, Culture, Ethics, Islam, Objectivity, Race, Racism, Religion, Terrorism

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Rapid Fire Questions (1:09:57)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Arthur Zey impromptu. The questions were:
  • Should divorce be no-fault? Or should some wrongdoing be required for divorce?
  • If a pregnant woman uses drugs or drinks heavily during pregnancy – thereby damaging her fetus – should the law do anything about that?

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Conclusion (1:20:01)

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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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