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)

Government Waivers, Intuition, Overcoming Failures, and More

Q&A Radio: 10 May 2015

I answered questions on waivers to rights-violating laws, the validity of intuition, overcoming past failures, and more on 10 May 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.

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Segments: 10 May 2015


Question 1: Waivers to Rights-Violating Laws

Question: Are waivers to rights-violating laws good or bad? There are many examples of immoral laws in which the government initiates force against individuals. There are also many examples of groups of people being carved out of the application of such laws via waivers. Some waivers are based on rational motivations, such as business exemptions from Obamacare based on economic burdens. Some waivers are based on irrational motivations, such as religious exemptions from anti-discrimination laws or requirements to provide insurance for birth control because compliance would conflict with a "religious conscience." If we begin by agreeing that all initiation of force is immoral, how can we proceed with analyzing whether waivers to immoral laws are good or bad? Are the exceptions good if they're based on rational reasons and bad if based on irrational reasons? Or should we think of the exceptions as either universally good or bad? Philosophically, I'm confused. On one hand, how can I not support all waivers when, in fact, they would result in less initiation of force? On the other hand, I can think of a philosophical argument against all waivers on the following basis: unequal standards for the application of political force implies a variance in the ethical standards which implies a variance in the metaphysical nature of man. If we accept the implication that there are essential differences in our nature as human beings, then we have given up the objective basis for rights and open the door to widespread destruction of freedom. Is that right? How should a person who wants to consistently support individual rights think about this issue of waivers, in principle?

Answer, In Brief: The value of waivers depends on the underlying rationale for them, including whether they promote or undermine basic political principles like rule of law, equality before the law, and the separation of church and state.

Tags: Concealed Carry, Discrimination, Equality before the Law, Ethics, Firearms, Government, Law, Objectivity, Politics, Principles, Rights, Rule of Law, Separation of Church and State

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Question 2: The Validity of Intuition

Question: Does intuition have any validity? Intuition is defined as "the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning." Assuming that we're not talking about mystical insight, is this possible? When, if ever, should a person rely on such intuitions? How should he check them?

Answer, In Brief: In the non-mystical sense, intuitive thinking means that you allow your subconscious to solve some problem, and the answer often seems like a bolt from the blue. Then, if you want to be rational (as you should), you need to engage in some deliberative thinking to check that answer.

Tags: Decision-Making, Epistemology, Ethics, Intuition, Writing

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Question 3: Overcoming Past Failures

Question: How can I overcome my past failure to capitalize on the perfect opportunity? Two years ago, after years of struggling in the post-2008 job market, I had a job opportunity that could have been the best thing that ever happened to me. It was a job that represents my values and could have brought me much-needed financial success if I had pulled it off. But it was also an extremely difficult, demanding, and stressful proposition, and I was uncertain whether I had what it would take to succeed at it. To make matters worse, when it came along, I was depressed to the point of having lost the will to live. In my bad emotional state, I was unable to go through with the job, and I let the opportunity slip. In the two years since then, I have done nothing but hold down a menial job while reflecting on the missed opportunity. I can't move on or get over the fact of what I did and have become almost obsessed with it. I need to approach the employer and ask him for another chance at it. It is doubtful that he would say yes, but I have nothing to lose by trying. However, for all the same reasons I didn't go through with it before, I still cannot work up the will to do it. Every day I wake up wanting to die and I am so depressed that I can't feel the warmth of a great opportunity; everything just seems hopeless and pointless. How can I rehabilitate myself enough to approach the employer for a second chance?

Answer, In Brief: You sound as if you're suffering from serious clinical depression, and so you need to seek out therapy. This job – the lost opportunity – is not really your problem at all: no job is all that.

Tags: Career, Depression, Emotions, Ethics, Motivation, Psychology, Regret, Values, Work

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Rapid Fire Questions (56:16)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • What do you think of Benjamin Franklin's thirteen virtues - Temperance, Silence, Order, Resolution, Frugality, Industry, Sincerity, Justice, Moderation, Cleanliness, Tranquillity, Chastity, and Humility?
  • Ayn Rand adamantly rejected Reagan because of his pro-life stance, stating that he could not defend individual rights. Do you think an Objectivist can rationally justify voting for a pro-lifer today?

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Conclusion (1:01:19)

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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