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)

Ultrahazardous Activities, Declining Gift Solicitations, and More

Q&A Radio: 25 January 2015

I answered questions on the regulation of ultrahazardous activities, declining gift solicitations, and more on 25 January 2015. 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've been copyediting Explore Atlas Shrugged one last time and preparing for the trip to Aiken!


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Segments: 25 January 2015


Question 1: The Regulation of Ultrahazardous Activities

Question: Would the government of a free society issue bans or otherwise regulate activities dangerous to bystanders? At the turn of the 20th century it was common to use cyanide gas to fumigate buildings. Although it was well-known that cyanide gas was extremely poisonous and alternatives were available, its use continued and resulted in a number of accidental deaths due to the gas traveling through cracks in walls and even in plumbing. With the development of better toxicology practices, these deaths were more frequently recognized for what they were and at the end of summer in 1825 the NYC government banned its use. In this and other situations, it was recognized that the substance in question was extremely poisonous and could only be handled with the most extreme care – care that was rarely demonstrated. The question is this: Should the government step in and ban the substance from general use or should it simply stand by and wait for people to die and prosecute the users for manslaughter? Or is there another option?

Answer, In Brief: Ultrahazardous activities should be subjected to a standard of strict liability in tort law, rather than the negligence standard used in other cases. If a negligence standard were used, that would allow businesses who engage in ultrahazardous activities to privatize profits and socialize costs.

Tags: Business, Epistemology, Government, Law, Philosophy, Regulation, Rights, Risk, Science, Technology, Torts, Ultrahazardous Activities

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Question 2: Declining Gift Solicitations

Question: How can I refuse solicitations for gifts for co-workers? I work in a department of about thirty people. In the past few months, we have been asked to contribute money to buy gifts for co-workers – for engagements, baby showers, bereavement flowers, and Christmas gifts for the department chair, administrative assistants, housekeeping staff, and lab manager. Generally these requests are made by e-mail, and I can see from the "reply all" messages that everyone else contributes. Often these donations add up to a large amount ($10-20 each time). I do not wish to take part, but am worried that since I am a newer employee my lack of participation will be interpreted negatively. What can I do?

Answer, In Brief: Businesses should not permit their employees to be socially pressured to give money for gifts and celebrations: they should institute policies that protect employees from the cost and distraction of a parade of small parties and gifts. If a business won't do that, an employee can still decide whether and how much to participate in these office social rituals, and hopefully others will be understanding of their reasons.

Tags: Benevolence, Business, Communication, Ethics, Gifts, Relationships

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Rapid Fire Questions (1:06:08)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • Should prisoners have the right to vote?

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Conclusion (1:07:51)

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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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