Impartialist Ethics, Name Changes, and More
Q&A Radio: 30 August 2015
I answered questions on impartialism in ethics, changing names with marriage, and more on 30 August 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: 30 August 2015
Question: Does ethics require impartiality? Critics of egoism, particularly utilitarians, accuse egoists of being biased in favor of oneself without justification. They assert that a scientific ethics must be neutral and impartial: it must take a third-person viewpoint where the self isn't given any special consideration. Are the utilitarians wrong? If so, why should a scientific ethics bias the self over others?
Answer, In Brief: Impartialism in ethics attempts to disconnect the good from the agent, and thereby oblige people to promote everyone's good, not just their own. However, the arguments for that are weak, the results are appalling. Ethics should be partial – in the sense that ethics should promote the good of the agent – but they should be universal and benevolent too.
Question: Should I change my name when I marry? I'm a gay man who is engaged to be married. The question has come up about whether or not either of us would change our last name and historically we've said no. We have thought we would just maintain our given names. My fiance doesn't want to change his name and we both think trying to hyphenate our last names would be unwieldy and fussy. But as we've talked about planning a family in the future, it's occurred to me that I actually like the idea of sharing a name with my husband and my children. So, I've been considering changing my name. Somewhat ironically, however, changing my name means giving up a five-generation-old family name in order to take on the name of our new family. I don't mind this irony very much since my decision would be about taking on a family I choose rather than one I didn't. What do you think? What pros and cons do you see for changing your name at marriage? Do you see any additional pros or cons for gay men considering this question?
Answer, In Brief: If you're thinking of changing your name, be sure to do or not do it for good reasons!
Rapid Fire Questions (45:19)
- On commissioning art, what about the morality of commissioning fanart of work not yet in public domain? Like a drawing of superman or a short story about Ragnar Danneskjold? (This would not be for publication, just for yourself.)
- What is your opinion of the anthropic principle that "observations of the physical universe must be compatible with the conscious life that observes it"? Does it beg the question?
- Are there any normative propositions that are axiomatic? – done?
- What are oaths? Are they just romantic elements for fiction or real things that are useful some way?
- Do you believe there are unconscious parts of the human mind? If so, what implications does this have for free will?
- Are all people interdependent? What does that mean?
- Benjamin Franklin wrote letters to his brother's newspaper posing as a widow named Silence Dogood (the original "sock puppet account"). If you met Franklin in person, would you find him untrustworthy?
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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.