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)


History

  • Q&A: The Future of the United States: 27 Sep 2015, Question 1
  • 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?

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

  • Q&A: Displaying the Confederate Flag: 15 Mar 2015, Question 2
  • Question: Is displaying the Confederate flag racist? I've been told by southerners that displaying the flag of the Confederate States amounts to a display of "southern pride." I think it amounts to a display of racism, given the history of the south. That flag was used in a time when the agricultural economy of the southern states relied on slave labor. Many southern states seceded from the Union, largely because of their nefarious interests in preserving slavery. The Confederate flag represents these states and their ideology. Hence, I think it's morally questionable (at least) to display it. I don't think the south should take pride in or honor the Confederacy. Am I right or wrong in my thinking? What should I think of people who choose to display the Confederate flag?

    Tags: America, Civil War, Culture, History, Moral Judgment, Pride, Slavery

  • Q&A: The Philosophy of Immanuel Kant: 20 Apr 2014, Question 1
  • Question: What's so bad about the philosophy of Immanuel Kant? In academic philosophy, Kant is often regarded as the culmination of the Enlightenment. According to this standard view, Kant sought to save reason from skeptics such as Hume, he aimed to ground ethics in reason, and he defended human autonomy and liberty. In contrast, Ayn Rand famously regarded Kant as "the most evil man in mankind's history." She rejected his metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics, saying that "the philosophy of Kant is a systematic rationalization of every major psychological vice." Who is right here? What's right or wrong with his philosophy?

    Tags: Epistemology, Ethics, History, Honesty, Immanuel Kant, Metaphysics, Philosophy, Universality

  • Q&A: Concern for Future Generations: 23 Mar 2014, Question 1
  • Question: Should I care about future generations? People often claim that we should act for the sake of future generations, particularly regarding environmental concerns. Is that rational? Why should I care what happens to people after I am dead? Why should I work for the benefit of people who cannot possibly benefit my life and who aren't even known, let alone of value, to me?

    Tags: Environmentalism, Epistemology, Ethics, Future, History, Rights, Sacrifice, Science, Technology, Values

  • Q&A: Moral Judgment of European Colonizers: 8 Dec 2013, Question 2
  • Question: How should European colonizers be judged for their treatment of Native Americans? Some people, especially conservatives, give blanket praise to Columbus and European colonizers, notwithstanding their conquest and displacement of native populations. Those Native Americans are sometimes denigrated as ignorant, brutal, and/or lacking any concept of property – and hence, as unworthy of the protection of rights. Many others consider the Native Americans either noble savages or at least the rightful owners of the land. They condemn European colonization as unethical conquest or even genocide. Are either of those approaches correct? What counts as a fair judgment of European colonizers in their behavior toward Native Americans? How should European colonizers have treated native persons?

    Tags: Colonization, Culture, Ethics, Government, Government, History, Homesteading, Politics, Property Rights, Rights, United States

  • Interview: Timothy Sandefur on Occupational Licensing Versus the Right to Earn a Living: 2 Oct 2013
  • Summary: Many states require licenses to practice certain professions – from medicine to styling hair. What are the practical effects of such licensing requirements? Do they protect the public from quacks, as their defenders claim? Or do they violate a person's right to earn a living, discourage entrepreneurs, promote poverty? How have the courts ruled on cases challenging licensing requirements?

    Tags: Business, Constitution, History, Law, Politics, Regulations, Work

  • Q&A: Studying History: 29 Sep 2013, Question 3
  • Question: How should a person approach the study of history? I've always prided myself on being a "student of history" – meaning that I read and think a great deal about the past and try to apply its lessons to the future. Is this a valid approach? Am I missing a bigger picture? Do you have any tips on being a better "student of history"?

    Tags: Education, Epistemology, History, Philosophy

  • Interview: Robert Garmong on Censorship in China: 18 Sep 2013
  • Summary: How does censorship work in China? What can ordinary people access or not? What is the Chinese government most concerned to conceal? What are the consequences of speaking out? What do ordinary people think of the censorship? Robert Garmong, an American living and working in China, answered these questions and more.

    Tags: Academia, Censorship, China, Culture, Education, Free Speech, Government, History, Rights, Technology

  • Interview: Eric Daniels on Why Small Government Isn't the Answer: 31 Jul 2013
  • Summary: Is "big government" the fundamental problem of American politics? Historian Eric Daniels will explain why this common formulation is misleading, wrong, and even dangerous to liberty.

    Tags: Activism, America, Anarchism, Crime, Culture, Epistemology, Government, History, Law, Libertarianism, Politics, Racism, Rights, Self-Defense, Sexism

  • Q&A: Romanticizing Historical Figures in Art: 28 Jul 2013, Question 2
  • Question: Are there moral limits to romanticizing historical figures in art? For example, a writer might romanticize Robin Hood as the Ragnar Danneskjöld of the Middle Ages. If this is proper, is there an ethical limit as to what kinds of persons one may or may not romanticize, or as to how far one may stretch the historic truth? For example, does it matter if there are still contemporaries of that historic person alive who suffered unjustly because of him? Would it be wrong to ignore some unpleasant facts in order to present a fictionalized heroic character?

    Tags: Art, Ethics, History, Honesty, Justice, Literature

  • Interview: Scott Powell on History is Dead, Long Live History: 17 Jul 2013
  • Summary: Why is knowledge of history important? How have historians failed to teach it? What's the proper approach? How can adults educate themselves about history?

    Tags: Academia, America, American Revolution, Children, Economics, Education, Epistemology, Great Depression, Herodotus, History, Thucydides

  • Q&A: Today's Feminist Movement: 14 Jul 2013, Question 1
  • Question: How should the feminist movement be judged? Do today's feminist causes have any merit? Or is the feminist movement merely seeking special favors for women at the expense of men – perhaps even via violations of the rights of men? If the movement is mixed, how should it be judged, overall? Should better feminists eschew the movement due to its flaws – or attempt to change it from within? Can advocates of reason, egoism, and capitalism ally themselves with selected feminist causes without promoting the worse elements thereof?

    Tags: Activism, Culture, Feminism, History, Law, Politics, Politics, Rights, Sexism

  • Q&A: Taxes Versus Slavery: 12 May 2013, Question 1
  • Question: Are high taxes comparable to slavery? On Facebook, some friends suggest that America is becoming more like Nazi Germany. Others share images comparing Americans workers to slaves picking cotton in the antebellum south due to our ever-higher taxes. I think these comparisons go way too far: Americans are still some of the freest people the world has ever known. No doubt, our freedom is being chipped away, but are we really like slaves?

    Tags: Activism, Apocalypticism, Epistemology, Government, History, Language, Politics, Slavery, Taxes

  • Interview: John P. McCaskey on Libertarianism's Moral Shift: 10 Apr 2013
  • Summary: As the libertarian movement has become more mainstream in recent decades, its justification for liberty has changed. How so – and is that change for the better? Is the libertarian movement today capable of offering a vigorous and compelling defense of liberty?

    Tags: America, Conflicts of Interest, Egalitarianism, Ethics, Friedrich Hayek, History, John Rawls, Libertarianism, Objectivism, Politics, Rights

  • Q&A: Solutions to Widespread Racism: 20 Jan 2013, Question 1
  • Question: Should the government intervene when widespread racism makes life impossible for some people? Given that the effect of strictly respecting the rights of private property owners in the South was that blacks could not find accommodations, health care, transportation, food, and other basic necessities of life, shouldn't the government have intervened? Didn't civil rights legislation help eliminate racism – and wasn't that a good thing – even if that meant violating the right to property of racists?

    Tags: Activism, Capitalism, Culture, Discrimination, Economics, Ethics, Free Society, History, Law, Race, Racism

  • Q&A: Right to Work Laws: 16 Dec 2012, Question 1
  • Question: Do right-to-work laws violate or protect rights? Some states are attempting to pass "right to work" laws, despite massive union opposition. Under such laws, employers cannot require employees to be a member of a union – as often happens due to federal law. These laws aim to empower employees against unwelcome unions. Are these laws legitimate – perhaps as defense against unjust federal law or a step toward freedom of contract? Or are they indefensible because they violate the rights of employers to dictate the terms of employment?

    Tags: Activism, Business, Contracts, Ethics, Free Society, Government, History, Law, Rights, Unions, Work

  • Interview: Dr. Sasha Volokh on Taking Stock of Tort Law: 7 Nov 2012
  • Summary: What is tort law? What are its basic principles? What are some of the most interesting debates in tort law? Do some torts conflict with freedom of speech? What, if any, proposals for tort reform are worthy of support? In this interview, law professor Sasha Volokh discussed the nature, value, and limitations of tort law.

    Tags: Defamation, History, Law, Rights, Torts

  • Q&A: Chivalry as a Virtue: 16 Sep 2012, Question 3
  • Question: Is chivalry virtuous? In the Aurora Masacre, three men died in the process of physically shielding their girlfriends from the gunfire. Is that kind of sacrifice noble? More generally, does chivalry have any place in an ethic of rational egoism?

    Tags: Chivalry, Emergencies, Ethics, History, Integrity, Religion, Sacrifice, Self-Interest, Self-Sacrifice, Sexism, Virtue

  • Interview: Alex Epstein on How Coal and Oil Improve Our Lives: 12 Sep 2012
  • Summary: Does the energy industry – particularly coal and oil – harm humans and destroy the environment? Are they necessary evils? Or are they positive goods?

    Tags: Activism, Business, Energy, Environmentalism, Ethics, History, Philosophy, Pollution, Progress, Rights

  • Interview: Dr. Eric Daniels on Progress in American History: 5 Sep 2012
  • Summary: Many people on the political right regard America as steadily decaying since the founding era. Yet in fact, America has improved in many ways – not just in technology, but also in its culture, economy, and laws.

    Tags: America, Culture, Elections, Ethics, History, Honor Ethics, Law, Politics, Progress, Regulations, Rights

  • Q&A: United States as a Christian Nation: 3 Jun 2012, Question 4
  • Question: Is the United States a Christian nation? People often claim that the United States is "a Christian nation." What do people mean by that? Why does it matter? Is it true or not?

    Tags: Bible, Capitalism, Christianity, Culture, History, Law, Politics, Religion, Separation of Church and State, United States


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