On the next Philosophy in Action Radio, I'll answer questions on the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, living joyfully, defending abortion rights, and more. The live broadcast begins at 8 am PT / 9 MT / 10 CT / 11 ET on Sunday, 20 April 2014. If you can't attend live, be sure to listen to the podcast later.


Character

  • Q&A: Buying and Returning Goods: 23 Mar 2014, Question 3
  • Question: Is it wrong to buy goods with the intent to return them? A friend of mine will often buy jewelry from large department stores for events, knowing that she'll likely return the items. (Sometimes, however, she'll keep an item even when she thought she'd return it.) She returns the goods undamaged and soon after buying. She asked me what I thought of the morality of her actions. In my opinion, she's acting morally because she's not committing fraud. The stores in question have liberal return policies ("if you are unhappy for whatever reason..."). They must know that some of their customers might do what she's doing and think that allowing it is good for business. Is that right?

    Tags: Business, Character, Ethics, Fraud, Honesty, Rules, Trader Principle

  • Q&A: Inventing Stories about Yourself: 13 Feb 2014, Question 2
  • Question: Is it wrong to invent stories about yourself to tell to strangers? In the past, I've made up stories about myself (basically assuming a character) and told them to strangers on the bus or in an airport. When I mentioned this to my spouse, I hadn't really thought of this as lying until I saw his horrified reaction. Do you think this is wrong? If so, why? Would it be acceptable in some contexts, such as for an acting class?

    Tags: Benevolence, Character, Communication, Ethics, Honesty, Integrity, Justice, Trader Principle

  • Q&A: Responsibility for Another's Medical Emergencies: 1 Dec 2013, Question 3
  • Question: Is it wrong to walk away from a person who suffers from repeated medical emergencies due to their own irresponsibility? Over a year ago, I was the tenant of a type-1 diabetic who refused to eat properly. As a result, I regularly had to call the ambulance for her, as she would allow her blood-sugar to drop to dangerous levels, such that she couldn't think or move for herself. She never learned anything from these experiences. She never put emergency food within reach, for example. So a few days or weeks later, I would have to call the ambulance again. I believe that I was being forced – literally – to take care of her. I feared that I'd face manslaughter or other criminal charges if I left her alone in that state. Would it have been morally proper for me to leave her in that state without any advance warning? Should that be legally permissible?

    Tags: Altruism, Character, Egoism, Ethics, Health, Independence, Justice, Responsibility

  • Q&A: Identifying Dangerous People: 4 Aug 2013, Question 1
  • Question: How can I better identify dangerous or immoral people in my life? I don't like to be morally judgmental about personality and other optional differences. In fact, I like being friends with a variety of kinds of people: that expands my own horizon. Yet I've been prey to some really awful people in my life. Looking back, I'd have to say that I ignored some signs of trouble – dismissing them as mere optional matters, as opposed to moral failures. How can I better differentiate "interesting" and "quirky" from "crazy" and "dangerous" in people I know?

    Tags: Character, Communication, Ethics, Friendship, Honesty, Integrity, Justice, Moral Wrongs, Personality, Psychology, Relationships, Virtue

  • Q&A: Racism Versus Moral Decency: 14 Jul 2013, Question 3
  • Question: Can a person be a racist yet still a morally decent person? Paula Deen has been in hot water – with her shows and sponsorships cancelled – because of allegedly racist comments that she admitted to making in a deposition. (The lawsuit was brought by Lisa Jackson – a former manager of a restaurant owned by her and her brother. Ms. Jackson alleges sexual harassment and tolerance of racial slurs at the restaurant.) Based on Ms. Deen's admissions in the deposition, is she racist? If so, can she still be a moral person? Do matters of race trump all other moral convictions?

    Tags: Character, Ethics, Justice, Racism

  • Q&A: The Morality of Jailbreaking: 14 Jul 2013, Question 2
  • Question: Is it morally wrong to 'root' or 'jailbreak' your own electronic devices? Maybe I'm just too stupid or lazy to read through all the legal-ese that comes with these devices, so I don't know whether technically a customer is contractually obligated not to do it. But I know that companies try to design their products so that people can't easily "root" or "jailbreak" them, and clever people find ways to do it. Is doing so a theft of intellectual property?

    Tags: Character, Contracts, Ethics, Intellectual Property, Law, Technology

  • Q&A: Marital Infidelity in the Military: 7 Jul 2013, Question 4
  • Question: Should the military ban marital infidelity? On your June 2nd, 2013 radio show, you explained why marital infidelity should not be illegal. I agree with you, but I wonder about other contexts. Might some government groups legitimately ban and even criminalize infidelity for its members? According to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, infidelity is against the law for military members. Might that be proper, particularly given that we have a volunteer army? More generally, might the military want to enforce strict rules of moral conduct on their members, even for seemingly private matters?

    Tags: Business, Character, Ethics, Justice, Law, Military, Prostitution, Rules, Sex

  • Q&A: The Sex Scandals of Politicians: 16 Jun 2013, Question 4
  • Question: Should we stop caring about the sex lives of politicians? In response to the affair and resignation of David Petraeus, many argued that such sex scandals are the absurd consequence of American puritanism. These people claim that sex is easily compartmentalized in a person's life, such that sexual fidelity has no bearing on a person's intelligence, character, or suitability for public office. Is that right?

    Tags: Celebrities, Character, Marriage, Politics, Privacy, Sex

  • Q&A: The Morality of an Armed Society: 16 Jun 2013, Question 3
  • Question: Is an armed society a polite society – or a violent society? Author Robert Heinlein famously said that "An armed society is a polite society." Many liberals, however, fear an armed society as barbaric and violent. Is widespread ownership and/or carry of arms a positive or a negative feature of a society?

    Tags: Character, Culture, Determinism, Ethics, Firearms, Moral Amplifiers, Rationality, Responsibility

  • Q&A: Being Someone's Extramarital Affair: 24 Mar 2013, Question 1
  • Question: Is it wrong to have a romantic relationship with a married person? In Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged, Dagny Taggart had an affair with Hank Rearden, knowing that he was married. How should those actions be judged in real life? Clearly, Hank's cheating was dishonest and wrong. Was Dagny wrong to pursue the affair? What should she have done instead? Or, imagine that Dagny didn't know that Hank was married until after they'd slept together. What should she have done in that case upon finding out the truth? Should she stop the affair? Should she inform the wife about the cheating? Should she apologize to the wife? Also, if your answer is different than Dagny's, how do you reconcile that?

    Tags: Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, Character, Honesty, Infidelity, Integrity, Moral Wrongs, Relationships, Romance, Sex

  • Q&A: The Nature of Addiction: 27 Jan 2013, Question 1
  • Question: Is addiction a genuine phenomena? Can a person become dependent on alcohol or drugs to the point that he cannot prevent himself from consuming it, except perhaps by a supreme effort of will? Is such addiction physiological – or just a matter of bad habits of thought and action? Similarly, can a person be addicted to certain foods (such as sugar or wheat) or certain activities (like gambling or pornography)? If so, what does that mean? If a person is addicted to something, is the cure to abstain from it forever?

    Tags: Addiction, Alcohol/Drugs, Character, Ethics, Food, Habits, Psychology, Self-Control, Values, Willpower

  • Q&A: Romance Between an Atheist and a Believer: 13 Jan 2013, Question 2
  • Question: Can a romance between an atheist and a religious believer work? What are the major obstacles? Should the atheist attend church or church socials with his spouse? Should they have a religious wedding ceremony? Should they send their children to religious schools? Do the particular beliefs – or strength of beliefs – of the religious person matter?

    Tags: Atheism, Character, Children, Compromise, Ethics, Honesty, Integrity, Marriage, Relationships, Religion, Romance

  • Q&A: Deception in a Crisis: 16 Dec 2012, Question 2
  • Question: Is it moral to deceive to someone to help him through a crisis? Imagine that a man is about to break up with his girlfriend (or divorce his wife), but then he discovers that she has a serious disease or she suffers a serious accident. Is it moral for him to help her through the crisis under the false pretense of a stable, loving relationship? (What if that would take months of deception?) Or should the man be frank with the woman as soon as possible about parting ways, perhaps only offering help as a friend, if that? Would that be cruel?

    Tags: Character, Communication, Emergencies, Ethics, Honesty, Relationships, Romance

  • Q&A: Poor Effort in a Terrible Job: 9 Dec 2012, Question 3
  • Question: Is it wrong for a person to do less than his best at work? At work, I used to go above and beyond my basic obligations routinely. However, I was never recognized or rewarded for my superior performance. Instead, I was paid the same as those who barely functioned in their jobs. To this day, my employer uses only collective or team recognition; he does not appreciate individuals. Also, those who do poorly or make serious mistakes are not being disciplined, while those of us who work hard are given more duties. My response has been to lower my own work output. While I meet the minimum standards of my employment and still do far more than my equally paid coworkers, I am not performing nearly close to the level I could. Is that wrong of me? Should I do my best at work, even though my employer doesn't seem to value that? Should I continue to suggest ideas for improvement – and perhaps work on them on the side, in secret, if ignored?

    Tags: Ambition, Business, Career, Character, Ethics, Productiveness, Work

  • Q&A: Rooting for Antiheroes: 25 Nov 2012, Question 2
  • Question: Is it wrong to root for antiheroes in movies? I often root for characters like Daniel Ocean (of Ocean's 11, 12, etc.), Erik Draven (of The Crow), Harry Callahan (a.k.a. Dirty Harry), and "Mad" Max. Should I instead seek out movies with more consistently good heroes?

    Tags: Aesthetics, Character, Culture, Ethics, Film, Judgment, Justice, Literature, Personality, Progress, Psychology, Respect

  • Q&A: Parenting Via Empty Threats: 21 Oct 2012, Question 2
  • Question: Should parents make empty threats to their children? At the grocery store last week, I heard a mother threaten to throw away her daughter's favorite toys unless the daughter behaved. That seems to be pretty common: parents make empty threats in an attempt to scare their kids into better behavior. They'll say that it works, and perhaps it does. But what are the consequences? Are such empty threats a valid parenting technique?

    Tags: Character, Children, Honesty, Manipulation, Obedience, Parenting, Punishment

  • Q&A: Being Like Hank Rearden: 14 Oct 2012, Question 4
  • Question: Should I try to be more like Hank Rearden? After reading Ayn Rand's novel "Atlas Shrugged," I've come to an important conclusion: I want to be more like Hank Rearden. What tips would you offer to someone desiring to be so awesome?

    Tags: Atlas Shrugged, Character, Ethics, Independence, Personality, Personal Values, Psychology, Values

  • Q&A: Passing Genetic Diseases to Kids: 23 Sep 2012, Question 2
  • Question: Should people with severe genetic diseases take active measures to prevent passing the disease to their children? Some people have severe hereditary diseases – such as Huntington's or Multiple Sclerosis – that might be passed on to their biological children. If that happens, the child will be burdened with the disease later in life, perhaps suffering for years and dying young. Is it wrong for such people to conceive and merely hope for the best – rather than screening for the disease (and aborting if necessary), using donor eggs or sperm, or adopting? Are the parents who just hope for the best harming their future child? Are they violating their child's rights by refusing to take advantage of available technology for preventing the disease?

    Tags: Adult Children, Character, Children, Ethics, Health, Law, Medicine, Negligence, Non-identity Problem, Parenting, Rights, Torts

  • Q&A: Judging Others When I'm Flawed: 16 Sep 2012, Question 2
  • Question: It is wrong to judge others when I'm still flawed? Given that I have various inconsistencies and unresolved contradictions, for me to morally judge others seems like self-righteousness. Does a person need to be morally good (or even perfect) to justly judge others?

    Tags: Character, Christianity, Ethics, Honesty, Hypocrisy, Independence, Integrity, Justice, Moral Wrongs

  • Q&A: Judging People Struggling with Temptations: 16 Sep 2012, Question 1
  • Question: Does a person deserve extra moral praise for acting rightly despite strong contrary emotions? How does overcoming strong emotions in order to do the right thing (or refrain from doing the wrong thing) factor into morally judging a person? If person A has no emotional conflict and thus does the right thing more or less "effortlessly," while person B takes the same correct action despite strong emotional motivation to act otherwise, does person B deserve any extra moral credit for the amount of emotional or mental effort he made? Or is moral judgment to be made solely on the basis of actions, with internal mental effort being irrelevant?

    Tags: Character, Christianity, Emotions, Ethics, Judgment, Justice, Moral Wrongs, Pleasure, Pride, Psycho-Epistemology, Psychology, Self-Control, Temptation, Willpower

  • Q&A: Compartmentalized Cheating: 24 Jun 2012, Question 3
  • Question: Is it true that, "if you cheat on your wife, you'll cheat on your business partner"? A few months ago, a Republican presidential candidate said of Newt Gingrich, "if you cheat on your wife, you'll cheat on your business partner." Leaving aside the specifics of any particular politician's personal life, is the broader principle accurate? If you knew that someone cheated on his wife, does that mean he should be regarded as an untrustworthy for a business partnership? Or as morally unfit to be your doctor? Or as unfit to be an elected official?

    Tags: Business, Character, Compartmentalization, Ethics, Honesty, Marriage

  • Q&A: Objectively Assessing Yourself: 17 Jun 2012, Question 1
  • Question: How can a person objectively assess his own character? If a person has a good character, then he'll recognize that fact. But if a person has a bad character, then he'll probably deceive himself into thinking himself good. So it seems likely that every person will think that he has a good character, even when that's not true. So, is objective assessment of one's own character possible? If so, how?

    Tags: Character, Ethics, Introspection, Judgment, Justice, Objectivity

  • Q&A: Tenacity in Pursuit of Goals: 8 Jan 2012, Question 1
  • Question: How can I become more tenacious in pursuit of my goals? I find that I give up too easily on some of my goals, particularly when success is far away and much effort is required now. What can I do to make myself more tenacious?

    Tags: Aristotle, Character, Ethics, Objectivism, Productivity, Psycho-Epistemology, Psychology, Tenacity, Virtue

  • Q&A: Rationality in Face of Overwhelming Emotions: 18 Dec 2011, Question 1
  • Question: How can a person regain his rationality in the face of overwhelming emotions? On occasion, I find my rational judgment swamped by strong emotions like anger and anxiety. In such cases, my thinking seems distorted by my emotions. While in the grip of such emotions, what can I do to re-establish my powers of rational thought? Also, how can I prevent myself from saying or doing things that I'll later regret?

    Tags: Character, Emotions, Introspection, Psycho-Epistemology, Psychology, Rationality, Self-Control, Willpower

  • Q&A: Admitting Mistakes at Work: 13 Nov 2011, Question 1
  • Question: Should you always own up to your mistakes? Recently, I made a huge mistake at work, accidentally discarding some very important files. When inquiry was made, I denied knowing anything about it. Should I have fessed up?

    Tags: Business, Character, Ethics, Honesty, Moral Wrongs, Responsibility, Work

  • Q&A: Extroversion Versus Second-Handedness: 18 Sep 2011, Question 4
  • Question: What's the difference between extroversion and second-handedness? According to Wikipedia, extroversion is "the act, state, or habit of being predominantly concerned with and obtaining gratification from what is outside the self." A key distinction between introverts and extroverts is that extroverts mentally "recharge" by interacting with other people, while introverts do that by being alone. Does being an extrovert mean that you're second-handed? Is it a moral failing of any kind?

    Tags: Character, Ethics, Extroversion, Independence, Introversion, Personality, Psychology

  • Q&A: The Virtue of Pride: 19 Jun 2011, Question 1
  • Question: What is the virtue of pride? To me, pride just seems like a feeling – a sense of satisfaction with oneself. So it seems bizarre to speak of pride as a virtue, as if it's something that you do. So what does it mean to say that pride is a virtue – and how is that different from self-esteem?

    Tags: Character, Emotions, Ethics, Pride, Self-Esteem

  • Q&A: Love at First Sight: 1 May 2011, Question 4
  • Question: Do you believe in love at first sight? Why or why not?

    Tags: Character, Dating, Emotions, Love, Relationships, Romance, Values

  • Q&A: Immoral Means to Great Values: 27 Mar 2011, Question 1
  • Question: Is it ever acceptable to act immorally if one is willing to accept the consequences? This question was sparked by a statement in the 9 January 2011 webcast that it would be wrong to deceive a partner in order to save a relationship. Are there ever cases where one cares so much about a particular value that it can be legitimate to act immorally (and thus, in all probability, hurt one's own life) in order to gain or keep that value? For example, what if life were not worth living without that value?

    Tags: Character, Ethics, Relationships, Romance, Values, Work

  • Q&A: Overstating Character: 13 Mar 2011, Question 5
  • Question: Do you think people overstate their character? My personal experience is that many, but not all, people seem to overstate their positive character traits. The most stressed character traits seems to be the weakest. For example, a person who stresses their integrity often turns out to be anywhere from slightly less than totally dependable to absolutely worthless (in regards to keeping commitments). A person proclaiming to be good at introspection may end up actually being an emotionalist. Have you noticed this in people and, if so, what do you think explains this phenomenon?

    Tags: Character, Ethics, Introspection

  • Q&A: Online Jerks: 16 Jan 2011, Question 3
  • Question: Why are some people such jerks on the internet? Some seemingly decent people become downright malicious bastards on the internet, particularly when posting anonymously. Why is that? What does such behavior say about a person's moral character? How can a person keep his manners, his benevolence, and his cool in full force when online?

    Tags: Character, Communication, Conflict, Ethics, Internet, Judgment, Justice, Relationships, Social Media

  • Q&A: Women Versus Nice Men: 9 Jan 2011, Question 1
  • Question: Why do you think most women typically have disdain for men who are 'too nice'?

    Tags: Character, Dating, Ethics, Personality, Psychology, Relationships, Romance

  • Q&A: Fighting Apathy: 28 Nov 2010, Question 5
  • Question: How do I fight apathy? How should one go about controlling their emotional response to things better? I have found that a lot of things in life have made me far more apathetic towards life; how should I go about turning this around?

    Tags: Character, Emotions, Introspection, Psycho-Epistemology

  • Q&A: The Redemption of Michael Vick: 28 Nov 2010, Question 3
  • Question: How should we judge NFL quarterback Michael Vick? As an animal lover, I was appalled when the NFL allowed Michael Vick to play pro football again after his dog-fighting episodes. But now that he's doing well, part of me wants to cheer for him, telling myself that he's a "reformed man who deserves a second chance". Is that rational of me? How do we know if someone has truly turned over a new leaf morally after prior bad acts?

    Tags: Animals, Character, Ethics, Football, Judgment, Justice, Moral Wrongs, Redemption, Sports

  • : 10 Jun 2010
  • Summary: Many people lament the difficulty of finding good prospects for a lasting, deep, and happy romance. Others have trouble finding worthwhile friends. Yet most people who bemoan the lack of prospects could be doing much more than they are to increase their odds of success. Too many people don't adopt a purposeful approach but instead wait passively... and complain.

    This 90-minute podcast discusses how to make yourself a good prospect – and how to find good prospects – for romance and friendship.

    Below, you can preview over 30 minutes of the podcast. Then, purchase access to the full 90-minute podcast for just $15.

    Tags: Character, Communication, Ethics, Friendship, Lifestyle, Luck, Marriage, Mental Illness, Opportunities, Personality, Psychological Visibility, Psychology, Romance, Skills, Values

  • Podcast: Friendship after Romance, Philosophy in Romance, and Finances in Marriage: 21 Oct 2009
  • Summary: I answer three questions on romantic relationships concerning (1) friendship after a failed romance, (2) romance between people of very different philosophies, and (3) managing finances in marriage.

    Tags: Aristotle, Character, Ethics, Finances, Friendship, Marriage, Objectivism, Personality, Philosophy, Relationships, Romance, Values

  • Podcast: Accepting an Inheritance and Objectionable Work: 15 Sep 2009
  • Summary: I answer two questions – one on the morality of accepting an inheritance and another on a moral conflict about doing agreed-upon work when that promotes Islam on the anniversary of 9/11.

    Tags: 9/11, Character, Ethics, Evil, Family, Inheritance, Introspection, Islam, Justice, Law, Money, Productiveness, Promises, Rights, Sanction, Terrorism, Wealth


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