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)


Humor

  • Q&A: Participating in Superstitious Rituals: 4 Jan 2015, Question 1
  • Question: Is it wrong to participate in superstitious rituals without taking them seriously? If I make some perfunctory observance or participation in some superstitious ritual, and do not believe the superstitious ritual is of any literal importance, am I still promoting irrationality? If I regularly read the horoscope in the newspaper, but do not believe astrology has any real impact on my life, does reading the horoscope promote irrationality? Likewise, in Hawaii, almost all retail establishments possess what are called "good-luck cats." A good-luck cat is a relatively inexpensive Asian figurine depicting a cat with one paw raised. Having this figurine is supposed to bring good luck to your business. You can commonly see such good-luck cat figurines in doctor's offices in Honolulu, and for your retail establishment not to have such a figurine would easily strike people as strange. If I spent just a little money on such a good-luck cat to decorate my business, and I didn't literally believe the figurine itself affected my fortunes, would the purchase be a concession to irrational thinking? Would such a gesture be "social proof" that would help other people rationalize more obviously pathological forms of irrationality, such as wasting hundreds of dollars on fortune tellers and psychic hotlines?

    Tags: Business, Communication, Ethics, Holidays, Humor, Rationality, Religion, Sanction, Science, Superstition

  • Q&A: Poking Fun at Values: 6 Jan 2013, Question 3
  • Question: When does humor work against my values? Sometimes, I wonder whether my jokes undermine what I value. Is it wrong to poke fun at my friends or myself? Is it wrong to joke about principles that I hold dear? How do I draw the line?

    Tags: Benevolence, Communication, Ethics, Friendship, Fun, Humor, Introspection, Relationships, Values

  • Q&A: The Health of Cynicism and Sarcasm: 11 Mar 2012, Question 3
  • Question: Are cynicism and sarcasm unhealthy? I know some very bright people who also frequently express cynicism and sarcasm towards world events, public figures, etc. Their remarks can often be quite witty and insightful. But is there something unhealthy about looking at the world in this way, or can that be an appropriate response to all the many real negative facts of reality?

    Tags: Benevolence, Benevolent Universe Premise, Communication, Humor, Malevolent Universe Premise, Philosophy, Psychology, Relationships

  • Q&A: Convincing Kids That Ewoks Are Real: 4 Dec 2011, Question 2
  • Question: Should parents convince their kids that fictional creatures, such as Ewoks, are real for the sake of fun? As recounted in Wired, a father told his kids that Ewoks from Star Wars lived in the Sequoia National Forest. On their recent family vacation, they made a game of looking for these imaginary Ewoks. Afterwards, the father photoshopped a few Ewoks into the family vacation pictures. Are these kinds of deceptions harmless or are they bad parenting? The father said: "Maybe I'm a little wrong for lying to her and falsifying the pictures, but I don't care. She'll never forget the time she spent in the big woods with Ewoks."

    Tags: Children, Ethics, Honesty, Humor, Parenting

  • Q&A: Making Fun of Others: 6 Mar 2011, Question 4
  • Question: Is it moral to make fun of others? Can mocking, or making fun of others ever be good? For instance, many people use it as a way of showing that they dislike someone without having to be direct about it.

    Tags: Ethics, Humor


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