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)

Religious Questions, the Power of Fiction, Trusting Therapists, and More

Q&A Radio: 12 July 2015

I answered questions on questions about religious beliefs, the power of fiction, trusting a therapist, and more on 12 July 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 occupied with personal matters this week, except for doing this radio show.


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Segments: 12 July 2015


Question 1: Questions about Religious Beliefs

Question: How should a doctor respond to questions about her religious beliefs? My wife recently told me about a colleague of hers – a physician and an atheist – being caught off guard when asked by the parents of one of her cancer patients in the hospital if she believed in God. These parents wanted their son treated only by a doctor who believes in God, and my wife's friend did not qualify. How should she have answered their question?

Answer, In Brief: The doctor should never lie, but she can choose to either answer the question honestly or refuse to answer it. If a patient wishes to behave irrationally, let him!

Tags: Boundaries, Business, Career, Christianity, Communication, Honesty, Medicine, Openness, Relationships, Religion, Respect

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Question 2: The Power of Fiction

Question: Why does fiction arouse such a powerful emotional response? Why are people moved emotionally by literature and movies, even though they know that they're fictional? Shouldn't people respond emotionally only to real events, not products of imagination? Is there a rational basis for our emotional response to fiction?

Answer, In Brief: People should respond emotionally to products of the imagination — that has major survival value — and fiction is just the result of that capacity taken to the extreme.

Tags: Art, Emotion, Film, Imagination, Life, Literature, Philosophy, Psychology, Values

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Question 3: Trusting a Therapist

Question: How can I trust a therapist to help me? I have psychological problems, and I probably need help. However, I have a negative view of the mental health profession in general due to bad experiences in the past. It bothers me that therapists are educated in modern universities where all forms of leftism and equally irrational psychological theories predominate. In my state, many licensed "counselors" are just social workers (the most leftist whackjob profession of all time) with government licenses to counsel people. I am afraid that they will have me involuntarily committed if I am honest about my thoughts of suicide, which I have ready plans to carry out if I decide to. How can I trust anybody in this [expletive deleted] profession?

Answer, In Brief: You do need the help of a good therapist, and you can find that by exercising your own powers of judgment to differentiate good from bad within the profession. Please do that!

Tags: Academia, Philosophy, Progressivism, Psychology, Suicide, Therapy, Trust, Values

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Rapid Fire Questions (42:13)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • Should I feel empathy for Greeks enduring the financial crisis? Sure many people are innocent, but what of the majority that created this situation?
  • Would it ever be technically possible for a moral dilemma to have no resolution? Can you imagine a problem context for which the better choice could never be deduced?
  • Is there a way to cultivate faith – meaning unfailing trust in oneself and one's decisions in an uncertain world – without accepting religious dogma?
  • What is the response to the anarchist argument that we already have anarchy since different governments are in anarchy with respect to each other?
  • I find most of the government's decisions on how my forcibly-collected tax dollars are spent morally reprehensible. Do I need to leave the US to maintain my integrity?
  • What do you think of the publishing of Rand's "Ideal"? Do you think its publication is motivated by a desire to spread Rand's ideas, or is it merely a publicity stunt?
  • I can understand why there are few Objectivists among businessmen, but why are there so few businessmen among Objectivists?
  • Why is it not acceptable to buy votes at the booth, but it is acceptable to promise financial gain for a class of voters after the politician gets elected?
  • Is it wrong to take apart a device that you've bought just to understand it if the licensing agreement forbids that?

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Conclusion (1:00:24)

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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