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)

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.

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: Last weekend, I participated in really useful workshop on self-improvement in Atlanta. I got lots of ideas to bring to the show, and now there's lots of reading that I want to do.


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Segments: 30 August 2015


Question 1: Impartialism in Ethics

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.

Tags: Academia, Altruism, Ethics, Impartialism, Meta-Ethics, Philosophy, Relationships, Self, Utilitarianism

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Question 2: Changing Names with Marriage

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!

Tags: Ethics, Family, Identity, Independence, Marriage, Relationships, Romance, Sexism, Values

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Rapid Fire Questions (45:19)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • 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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Conclusion (1:02:24)

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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