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)

Philosophy, Confederate Flags, Abortion Funding, and More

Q&A Radio: 15 March 2015

I answered questions on major branches of philosophy, displaying the confederate flag, taxpayer-funded abortions, and more on 15 March 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 recovering and unpacking from my trip home from Aiken, plus preparing for SnowCon!


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Segments: 15 March 2015


Question 1: Major Branches of Philosophy

Question: What are the major branches of philosophy? Ayn Rand claimed that philosophy consisted of five major branches – metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, politics, and esthetics. Is that right? If so, why are those the five major branches? Are they comprehensive in some way? Why not include philosophy of science, logic, philosophy of mind, and so on?

Answer, In Brief: The four major branches of philosophy are metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and politics. Those branches are central to the discipline and fundamental to human life.

Tags: Academia, Aesthetics, Epistemology, Ethics, Metaphysics, Objectivism, Philosophy, Politics

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Question 2: Displaying the Confederate Flag

Question: Is displaying the Confederate flag racist? I've been told by southerners that displaying the flag of the Confederate States amounts to a display of "southern pride." I think it amounts to a display of racism, given the history of the south. That flag was used in a time when the agricultural economy of the southern states relied on slave labor. Many southern states seceded from the Union, largely because of their nefarious interests in preserving slavery. The Confederate flag represents these states and their ideology. Hence, I think it's morally questionable (at least) to display it. I don't think the south should take pride in or honor the Confederacy. Am I right or wrong in my thinking? What should I think of people who choose to display the Confederate flag?

Answer, In Brief: While a person can take pleasure and pride in the distinctive culture of the south, the Confederate flag is a symbol of the worst era of the south, and that deeply racist meaning cannot be reclaimed or reformed. However, people can embrace the Confederate flag for more benign reasons too. Ultimately, you have to talk to a person to find out what that symbol means to him in order to judge him fairly.

Tags: America, Civil War, Culture, History, Moral Judgment, Pride, Slavery

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Question 3: Taxpayer-Funded Abortions

Question: Should taxpayer-funded abortions be opposed? In Victoria, Australia, we have fairly good laws on abortion and there are almost no legal or social barriers to access. However, we also have a very generous public health care system which means that most if not all of the costs of an abortion will be covered by the public. Is there something especially wrong with publicly funded abortion that advocates of individual rights should be concerned with or is it morally equivalent to the immorality of forcing others to pay for less controversial treatment such as dental surgery? Does the cultural context influence how a free-market advocate should approach this topic? While the majority of the community supports the current laws, there seem to be signs of an anti-abortion faction developing in the Liberal Party (the conservatives). I wouldn't want to have opposition to publicly-funded abortions result in any kind of ban on abortions. So should publicly funded abortions be opposed or not?

Answer, In Brief: In this second-best scenario, the primary question is whether you’re helping or harming the cause of liberty by advocating against taxpayer-funded abortions. Here, you would make yourself an ally of anti-abortion activists and their disastrous agenda.

Tags: Abortion, Government, Laws, Medicine, Politics, Welfare

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Rapid Fire Questions (48:01)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • What is your opinion of people who "baby" their pets?
  • Japanese culture highly values humility. Should an egoist travelling to Japan respect this, or act just as proudly as he would in his native country?
  • Now that the church is slowly losing its power and significance, where are all the "witch-doctors" flocking to?
  • There's a field called "philosophy of mind," so why is there no "philosophy of body"?

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Conclusion (59:48)

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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