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)

The Future of America, Vulnerability, Cheating, and More

Q&A Radio: 27 September 2015

I answered questions on the future of the United States, the value of vulnerability, cheating to get a job back, and more on 27 September 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 getting my life in order and preparing for the closure of Philosophy in Action.


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Segments: 27 September 2015


Question 1: The Future of the United States

Question: Is the United States finished as a free country? Lately, I have seen a lot of people in my circles claim that the United States as a free country is dead and done, that tyranny advances each day and it's not isolated, it's everywhere. These are mostly reactions to articles reporting seeming home invasions by police, the FBI's forensic hair match scandal, and other government abuses. The common claim is that the United States now has an inherently corrupt justice system where policemen can end the lives of citizens with impunity and get away with it. My inner skeptic makes me feel that, while this is evidence of a lot of bad things that shouldn't be tolerated, the reaction itself seems disproportionate. While there are systemic problems, I have the impression that it is not all-pervasive and not hopeless. Then again, that could be also my inner optimist trying to tell myself that things are not as bad as they first appear. What is your take on the current climate of the United States? Do you think it is as finished as others claim it is? What kind of tools could you recommend for someone to use in gauging the state of the country more accurately?

Answer, In Brief: America is not going to hell in a handbasket, and people who predict that based on philosophy are blowing smoke. To combat this view in yourself, stop consuming negative news and seek out the positive.

Tags: Activism, America, Apocalypticism, Business, Culture, Epistemology, History, Law, Philosophy, Politics, Politics, Rights, Rule of Law, Technology

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Question 2: The Value of Vulnerability

Question: Is vulnerability of value? In a recent blog post, you stated "...I'm opting for a 'vulnerability through strength' and 'strength through vulnerability' route..." Could you please explain this idea? Why is vulnerability something that should be cultivated in the first place? It doesn't seem compatible with rational egoism, given that "vulnerability" and "weakness" are often used interchangeably.

Answer, In Brief: The capacity and willingness to be vulnerable is a moral amplifier, not a virtue. It's extremely important to deep and meaningful relationships, and it's not mere weakness.

Tags: Communication, Egoism, Ethics, Psychology, Relationships, Resilience, Romance, Visibility, Vulnerability

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Question 3: Cheating to Get a Job Back

Question: Should I cheat the system to get my job back? For my main source of income, I work as a virtual call center agent through a freelance company that hires people as independent contractors rather than employees. I don't love the job, but the flexibility it provides is vital to my way of life and pursuit of my central purpose. The arrangement is totally impersonal; nobody at the company that provides the work knows any of the workers; one pretty much just signs up, submits to a background check, and starts working. I recently got fired from the job for violating a company policy that I thought was unimportant. One you get fired, you can't work through them again. However, there are several ways I could do the job again. One is to create an account using my dad's identity with his permission and have him pay me the wages. The other is to get a new social security number by faking the theft of my own identity, (which I would do without stealing any money from anyone). Once I get a new social security number, I could create a new account and continue undetected. I don't want to be dishonest, but I don't want to change my way of life either. What are the moral and practical implications of what I'm considering?

Answer, In Brief: It would be morally wrong and practically dangerous to attempt to regain your job by "cheating the system." Instead, accept that you screwed up and find a new job.

Tags: Business, Character, Ethics, Honesty, Reputation, Work

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Rapid Fire Questions (51:44)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • What key qualities should a job seeker search for in prospective employers?
  • Why are zombie apocalypse movies and television shows so popular? Does the trend have any philosophical significance?
  • Is a person morally responsible for the actions that he performs under duress?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years, Diana?

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Conclusion (1:07:25)

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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