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)

Responsibility for a Child, Career without Aptitude, and More

Q&A Radio: 14 June 2015

I answered questions on responsibility for a child, career without aptitude, and more on 14 June 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 working on personal projects, and I had my first krav maga class this week!


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Segments: 14 June 2015


Question 1: Responsibility for a Child

Question: When is a person responsible for an unexpected and unwanted child? Sex sometimes results in an unexpected and perhaps unwanted pregnancy. What are the moral responsibilities of each party in this situation? Do a person's obligations depend on prior agreements about what would be done in such a case? Do they depend on whether contraception was used or not? If the man said that he didn't want children and used contraception, yet a pregnancy occurs, does he have any moral or legal obligation to pay for an abortion, support the child, or act as a father? Does the answer change if the woman agreed to have an abortion in advance, then changes her mind? Should couples talk explicitly about these matters before sex?

Answer, In Brief: Morally and legally, the fundamental principle is that neither men nor women should be compelled to become parents against their will.

Tags: Abortion, Children, Communication, Dating, Ethics, Law, Marriage, Parenting, Relationships, Responsibility, Romance, Sex

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Question 2: Career without Aptitude

Question: Should I pursue a career that interests me even if I don't have much aptitude for it? I have a strong interest in the field of bioengineering for what it can potentially accomplish. However, in my own estimation, I have little aptitude for hard science and seriously doubt whether I can succeed academically in the areas necessary to enter the field. This self-assessment is based on my academic history, life accomplishments, and aptitude test results. Should I try to pursue this career against the odds anyway, or should I accept that I don't have the intellectual capability to do so?

Answer, In Brief: Your interest in bioengineering sounds like an interest in what it produces, not in the day-to-day process of creating that. To make a career in something, you need to love the process. So seek a career where you love the work itself.

Tags: Career, Causality, Education, Hobbies, Motivation, Science, Skills, Talent, Technology, Values

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Rapid Fire Questions (25:36)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • If an infant is born with an incurable disease that will kill it after weeks of suffering, should it be permissible to simply euthanise the infant?
  • How is weed legalization going in Colorado from your observations? Do you notice people casually smoking in public? Does the public there have an overall positive or negative view of it so far?
  • Scanning the internet is shortening my attention span considerably. I feel impatient urges to move on whenever I start reading anything. Any advice for how to lessen the urges and retrain focus?
  • How does a person stop himself from obsessing about a difficult conversation they are planning to have with someone? What are some signs that he has moved beyond reasonable planning to obsessing?
  • A while ago I asked you about the moral considerations involved in having to revive my landlord, who didn't take care of her type-1 diabetes properly and had me and other people calling an ambulance for her regularly, nearly a dozen times within a year. (She ate irregularly, or skipped meals altogether, causing her to pass out, get very weak, or lose most of her cognitive ability.) My concern was whether it was ethical to just leave her in a catatonic state, and you stated that there's "duty to rescue" laws, where, given my relationship with my landlord, I was legally obligated to tend to her emergencies, regardless if they were honest or not. However, couldn't it be said that the landlord was literally forcing me to take care of her, violating my rights, since her diabetic emergencies were due to her irresponsibility? Shouldn't there be a limit to how many times or in what ways a duty to rescue law can apply? Shouldn't I be able to press charges, sue, or be relieved of obligations, such as being able to move out without illegally breaking the renter's contract?
  • Isn't it true that, if the universe has always existed then that, in and of itself, is the strongest argument against design by God? In other words, for argument's sake, doesn't just the possibility of the universe being the metaphysical given render design arguments moot?
  • Did Ayn Rand have a sense of humor? Is there room for humor in Objectivism?
  • Could you give a brief overview of Stoicism and its good versus bad points?
  • Was Oskar Schindler an altruist?
  • Would you agree that musical theatre is the only art form that has always remained romantic? I have never heard or a realist musical or a stream of consciousness musical.
  • Why do people describe John Rawls as an 'individualist' when his ideas seem to underly all of modern statism?
  • Do you prefer the original Star Trek or The Next Generation?

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Conclusion (1:02:49)

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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