Atonement, Earning Money, Friendship, and More
Q&A Radio: 17 May 2015
I answered questions on atoning for a past crime, the value of earning money, friendship with a devout theist, and more on 17 May 2015. Greg Perkins of Objectivist Answers was my co-host. Listen to or download this episode of Philosophy in Action Radio below.
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Segments: 17 May 2015
Question: What should a person do to make up for a past unpunished crime? Suppose that a man, say when between 9 to 12 years old, committed a serious offense such as sexual assault or rape. At the time, he did not realize the effect of his actions. Now, as an adult, he is living a decent life – meaning that he's gotten a good education, he has a good job, and he's developed good sense of ethics. He's never told anyone about this incident. It was never reported, and he was never investigated for or convicted of that offense as a juvenile. Legally, he need not report this incident to anyone. But ethically, what should he do about it? Should he disclose it to someone – such as his family, friends, a therapist, or even the police? Should he do anything else?
Answer, In Brief: A person who has committed a crime as a juvenile should make sure that his own character is in order, first and foremost. He should not inflict his presence on his victim, but he should deal with his own feelings about what he did and atone if possible.
Question: Should a person always care to work or earn money? Most people need to work to earn their bread, so to speak. They need to be productive – and be paid for that – to survive. However, that's not true in all cases. Perhaps someone has inherited enough money to provide for his life, or he has won the lottery, or a spouse can provide for the two of them. That person still needs a purpose in life to work toward, but must that purpose be productive, in the strict sense of creating material values? Might the person reasonably choose to spend his time studying subjects of interest to him, without any other goal in mind? Might he choose to spend the rest of his life travelling? Or producing art for his own personal satisfaction? Could such a person live a happy, virtuous, and meaningful life?
Answer, In Brief: A person need not always earn money, but a person should pursue meaningful and challenging goals, not merely engage in activities.
Question: Should I end my friendship with a persistent and devout Christian? I am an atheist who has been befriended by a very devout Christian (read: an ex-missionary). I often find that our philosophical differences prevent me from expressing myself the way I would like. However, this friend has been very devoted to pursuing a deeper friendship with me despite my attempts to keep the relationship very casual. She calls me her "best friend" to others and goes out of her way to forge a deeper bond by regularly telling me how "special" I am to her and reiterating how close to me she feels. She will often say that she regards me as a "sister." I am puzzled by her persistence, given that she has so many friendship options within her Church and the rest of the Christian community. I am also increasingly uncomfortable with our interactions, given their necessarily narrow breadth and depth: we tend to focus our discussions mainly on a shared hobby we enjoy that has nothing to do with religion or philosophy. I really value time spent engaging in philosophical discussions with my other friends, and this is simply not possible with her. The dilemma is that she has been admirably non-judgmental toward my lifestyle, at least outwardly. She does not proselytize or try to "convert" me. (I have made it clear to her that this is not possible.) Still, our friendship feels vacant to me. I have tried to express my concerns to her at various times but her response is always that she loves me and accepts me "no matter what." I think she is being sincere, but it feels like a manipulation or, at least, an evasion of our many differences. Still, I always end up feeling guilty for keeping her at a distance while she works so hard to be my friend. Should I end this friendship once and for all?
Answer, In Brief: Philosophic differences should not be regarded as a barrier to friendship, but each person must respect the other on that and other matters.
Rapid Fire Questions (48:11)
- Do you agree or disagree with Ayn Rand's view that fundamental change in the vanguard of philosophy – particularly morality – is required to have deep positive change in the direction of the culture?
- What are some ways to help a child who is particularly sensitive disregard or put in perspective things that others say which hurt their feelings?
- Do you see any signs that the Republican party is becoming more rational insofar as the social issues and standing up for free markets?
- Overall do you think that the U.S. has had too much military engagement in the Middle East since 9/11, or not enough military engagement?
- Should emotions be subjected to moral judgment?
- In a previous podcast you mentioned that at one point you decided to only date Objectivists. How did you go about this? Not all Objectivists openly broadcast their philosophy to the world, meaning that I could be sitting next to another Objectivist on the bus and not even know it. How did you find enough Objectivists to make a large enough dating pool, and what advice can you give someone also trying to search out Objectivists to date?
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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.
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.
I can be reached via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.