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)

Mindsets, Galt's Motor, Acting Rightly, and More

Q&A Radio: 24 May 2015

I answered questions on philosophical underpinnings of fixed versus growth mindsets, John Galt's motor, acting rightly, and more on 24 May 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: 24 May 2015


Question 1: Philosophical Underpinnings of Fixed Versus Growth Mindsets

Question: What are the philosophical underpinnings of growth versus fixed mindsets? At SnowCon, we discussed the negative impact of the doctrine of Original Sin on Western culture over breakfast one morning. We saw that this idea – which tells people that they are hopelessly flawed by nature – could encourage fixed mindsets. In contrast, an Aristotelian understanding of virtue and vice as dispositions cultivated by repeated action would seem to promote a growth mindset. What other philosophic ideas might tend to promote a fixed versus a growth mindset?

Answer, In Brief: Fixed mindsets can be promoted by bad philosophical ideas such as determinism, intrinsicism, putting wishes over facts, not respecting cause and effect, viewing life as stasis, and fearing the unknown. If you want a growth mindset (and you should!) reject these ideas in all areas of your life for true ones.

Tags: Causality, Epistemology, Ethics, Metaphysics, Mindsets, Philosophy, Primacy of Existence, Values

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Question 2: John Galt's Motor

Question: Was John Galt evil, wrong, or a jerk for not commercializing his motor? In Atlas Shrugged, John Galt went on strike when the world seemed only a little worse off than today politically in America. Things got really bad so fast because Galt dismantled everything. If, instead of going on strike, he had quit the Twentieth Century Motor Company and started the Galt Motor Company, things seem like they would have gone a very different way. By my reading, Galt's motor was pretty much a free energy miracle – for the same price as a car engine a car could need no fuel and be nearly maintenance free. Electricity would be too cheap to meter and probably within a decade the Galt Motor Company would provide the engines for every plane, train, automobile, and power plant in America. The resulting economic boom from ultra-cheap energy would have probably improved conditions – there'd be fewer calls for controls because everything would be going so swimmingly. Galt could have gone into the other countries and demanded they liberalize their economies if they wanted him to electrify their countries. His wealth and influence would let him meet with titans of industry and convince them of his morality. He could invest in Hollywood and make movies and TV shows that showed his views. He could have met Dagny and fallen in love with her, and I'm sure over months of dating she would have come around to realize that his morality was right. Her resistance was, after all, to the strike, not really the idea that we should be selfish. People seem to get more panicky and politicians more lusting after power when the economy is doing poorly. In huge booms things seem to get better. People who are well off don't cry out for a savior and accept whatever anyone tells them will make things better, because things are going pretty well. If Galt probably could have gotten rich, liberalized the economies of the world, married Dagny, and sparked a moral revolution all without dismantling civilization, shouldn't he have? If his motor really could save everyone (and it seems like it could have), he is at least kind of a jerk to not commercialize it – and probably self-destructive too. So why go on strike at all?

Answer, In Brief: John Galt was not evil, wrong, or a jerk for refusing to commercialize his motor. That's because (1) people care about more than just wealth and prosperity, and that's part of point of Atlas Shrugged, (2) JG doesn't have a duty to others to save them, and that's also part of point of Atlas Shrugged. Moreover, (3) while Atlas Shrugged is a great novel, it is not a good blueprint for cultural reform.

Tags: Activism, Altruism, Atlas Shrugged, Business, Death Premise, Duty Ethics, Economics, Ethics, Ethics, Law, Literature, Objectivism, Philosophy, Politics, Responsibility

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Question 3: Acting Rightly

Question: How can I learn to act on principles that I know to be true? I believe in reality, rationality, individualism, self-interest, and self-esteem. Yet I don't act on these beliefs. Right now, I don't have any self-esteem. Once I act upon believing in reality, instead of merely believing in it, I will develop self-esteem. But I'm really lost as to how to apply reality in my life. I don't know what that would mean. How can I act on my beliefs?

Answer, In Brief: You need to develop the knowledge and skills to put your ideas into practice. To do that, focus on developing the mental habits of rational egoism.

Tags: Egoism, Epistemology, Ethics, Integrity, Metaphysics, Philosophy, Rationality, Values

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Rapid Fire Questions (57:40)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Arthur Zey impromptu. The questions were:
  • I am, reluctantly, but strongly considering voting for Hillary Clinton in 2016. Can you think of a better alternative?

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Conclusion (1:01:14)

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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