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)


Independence

  • Q&A: Changing Names with Marriage: 30 Aug 2015, Question 2
  • 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?

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

  • Q&A: Adopting Hobbies Just for Dating: 26 Jul 2015, Question 2
  • Question: Is it wrong to take up a hobby for the sake of dating? I'm single, and I want to meet more women. Is it wrong or unwise to take up hobbies like dancing, acting, painting, singing, or guitar just to have some skill to show and to meet women interested in those activities? I wouldn't take up these hobbies without the dating angle: I'm just not interested in them, at least not right now. Is that wrong?

    Tags: Authenticity, Dating, Hobbies, Honesty, Independence, Integrity, Relationships, Values

  • Q&A: The Major Virtues: 12 Apr 2015, Question 1
  • Question: What's so special about the seven virtues? Ayn Rand identified seven virtues: rationality, honesty, productiveness, independence, justice, integrity, and pride. What's different about those qualities – as compared to other commonly touted virtues like benevolence, creativity, temperance, or courage? Basically, why are those seven the virtues in Objectivism? Is Objectivism right to single them out? Are they exhaustive?

    Tags: Character, Context, Ethics, Honesty, Independence, Integrity, Justice, Major Values, Moral Amplifiers, Objectivism, Pride, Productiveness, Productivity, Purposefulness, Rationalism, Rationality, Virtue

  • Q&A: People Unworthy of the Truth: 8 Mar 2015, Question 2
  • Question: Are some people unworthy of the truth? "Never tell the truth to people who are not worthy of it," said Mark Twain in his Notebooks. Is that true? Does that justify lying or withholding information?

    Tags: Character, Communication, Deception, Ethics, Honesty, Independence, Justice, Moral Judgment, Relationships

  • Q&A: The Importance of Credibility: 11 Jan 2015, Question 1
  • Question: Should a person's credibility matter in judging his empirical claims? Is it rational to use a person's track record – meaning the frequency or consistency of truth in his past statements – in judging the likely truth of his current statements? In Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics, Tara Smith explains that to believe something just because someone said it is a violation of the virtue of independence. Also, to judge an argument based on the speaker is known as the fallacy of "ad hominem." However, doesn't the character of the speaker matter when considering whether to believe his claims? For example, when Thomas Sowell makes an empirical claim, my knowledge that he vigorously tests his hypotheses against the facts makes me more likely to judge his claim as true, even before I've confirmed his statement. Likewise, if a person is frequently wrong in his factual claims, I'd be sure to require lots of evidence before believing him. Is that rational? Or should all factual claims be treated equally regardless of who makes them?

    Tags: Credibility, Epistemology, Ethics, Expertise, Fallacies, Honesty, Independence, Logic, Philosophy, Rationality

  • Q&A: Punishing Yourself: 4 Jan 2015, Question 2
  • Question: Should a person punish herself for wrongdoing by depriving herself of a value? A friend of mine destroyed her phone in a fit of anger over a difficult situation that wasn't her fault. Now my friend feels guilty about her outburst. She thinks that she doesn't deserve to properly replace her phone, as that would reward her irrational outburst. She wants to either buy a cheap phone or go without a phone for a while. That seems needlessly self-destructive. How can I explain to her that she really ought to replace her phone?

    Tags: Ethics, Honesty, Independence, Integrity, Justice, Moral Character, Moral Wrongs, Pride, Punishment, Values

  • Q&A: Managing Differences with Family: 14 Dec 2014, Question 1
  • Question: How should a young adult manage persistent differences with his family? As I grew up, I turned out radically different from what my family expected. They think college is necessary for success in life. I didn't, and I dropped out. They eat the Standard American Diet and hate fat. I eat Paleo, and I glorify fat. And so on. Basically, we diverge on many points. I've never committed the mistake of attempting to preach to my family in order to persuade them, but many of them grew unduly concerned with these differences between us. They would argue with me on the subject for months, if not years, no matter what good results I had to show them. Assuming that the relationship is otherwise worth maintaining, how should an older child or young adult handle such contentious differences with his family? How can he best communicate his point of view to them – for example, on the question of college, after they've saved for two decades for his college education?

    Tags: Boundaries, Communication, Ethics, Family, Independence, Parenting, Personality, Rationality, Relationships, Rhetoric, Values

  • Q&A: Guilt about Refusing Requests: 20 Jul 2014, Question 3
  • Question: How can I overcome feelings of unearned guilt about refusing other people's requests? Too often, I feel guilty when I shouldn't – for example, for rejecting unwanted romantic advances or declining invitations to events with family or coworkers. Even though I know logically that I have the right to pursue my own values rather than satisfy the wishes of others, I feel terrible knowing that my actions will disappoint or upset someone else. Too often I succumb to the guilt: I agree to things I'd rather not because I don't want to let someone else down. What philosophical or psychological strategies might I use for dealing with such unearned guilt?

    Tags: Altruism, Communication, Egoism, Emotions, Ethics, Guilt, Honesty, Independence, Introspection, Relationships, Sacrifice, Self-Sacrifice

  • Q&A: Creating a Stylized Life: 25 May 2014, Question 1
  • Question: Should a person seek to create a stylized life? In "The Romantic Manifesto," Ayn Rand said that "An artist does not fake reality – he stylizes it. He selects those aspects of existence which he regards as metaphysically significant – and by isolating and stressing them, by omitting the insignificant and accidental, he presents his view of existence." Should a person try to stylize his own life, such as by deliberately cultivating a consistent personal aesthetic? Should he aim to make every aspect of his life reflect his values, eliminating the rest? Would that make for a more integrated and meaningful life or might that be dangerous or undesirable in some way?

    Tags: Aesthetics, Art, Honesty, Independence, Integrity, Life, Literature, Objectivism, Values

  • Q&A: The Need for Support from Others: 27 Feb 2014, Question 2
  • Question: Should my romantic partner be interested in and supportive of my accomplishments and pursuits? I have struggled for years in a relationship with someone who shows no interest in or support for my pursuits. I try not to be hurt. I tell myself I just need to do better in order to be worthy of respect and admiration. When I explain to my partner why I'm hurt, he says I am being needy and that I shouldn't need his praise or reinforcement. I don't know how to logically disagree with this, yet I know how good it feels to receive earned praise from friends, and how painful it feels to accomplish something big and not receive any acknowledgement from my partner. What kind of emotional support should be expected from a partner? If a partner is dismissive and neglectful, how can one gain the confidence needed to leave the relationship?

    Tags: Communication, Ethics, Independence, Manipulation, Psychology, Relationships, Romance, Values

  • Q&A: Concern for Others in Egoism: 27 Feb 2014, Question 1
  • Question: Does ethical egoism promote narcissism and insensitivity to others? People often suggest that ethical egoism – such as the Objectivist ethics advocated by Ayn Rand – promotes unfriendly if not hostile behavior toward other people. Ultimately, the egoist cares for himself above everything else, perhaps to the point that the thoughts and feelings of others aren't even noticed or of concern. The problem seems to be exacerbated by a commitment to moral absolutes and moral judgment. So do these ethical principles incline a person to be self-absorbed, insensitive, hostile, unkind, or otherwise unpleasant to others? How can egoists take care not to fall into these traps?

    Tags: Benevolence, Conflicts of Interest, Egoism, Ethics, Honesty, Independence, Justice, Narcissism, Objectivism, Predation, Psychology, Relationships, Values, Virtue

  • Q&A: Gay Pride: 19 Jan 2014, Question 3
  • Question: Are "gay pride" parades good? Sexuality is not chosen, so being gay is not something that a person could be proud of. However, these parades seem like harmless fun, and they might even help alleviate homophobia. (They might perpetuate stereotypes too, however.) So are they, on balance, of benefit? Also, what should be made of the fact that a "straight pride" parade would be seen as homophobic? Isn't the goal here equality? Does that show that gay pride parades are elevating a minority into something special and unequal?

    Tags: Courage, Culture, Ethics, GLBT, Honesty, Independence, Integrity, Pride, Racism, Sexism

  • 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: Leaving an Inmate Boyfriend: 17 Nov 2013, Question 3
  • Question: Should I leave my inmate boyfriend? I am in a dilemma. My current boyfriend is in prison serving a six year sentence. He has been away for a year and a half. It took over two years for the legal matters to be settled and for him to finally get a sentence. This is also my first ever boyfriend and I am already 26. Is it wrong for me to want to move on with my life? After he gets out (if no appeal is granted) he will be forced into a very limited lifestyle being on a sex offender list. I keep thinking about trying to make new friends and what I should and should not disclose to them. Right now, I live with his parents and work with his mother. I feel like I am cornered and am drowning in this huge mess. I want my own life, but with zero support and friends I am terrified of the risk. Do I stick it out? Or do I suck it up and leave him, my home, and my job?

    Tags: Ethics, Honesty, Independence, Relationships, Romance

  • Q&A: The Value of Competition: 1 Sep 2013, Question 1
  • Question: What is the value of competition? You recently competed in your first three-phase event on your horse. Why did you bother to do that? How did that affect your mindset and training? What did you learn from the experience? More broadly, what is the value of such competition? Shouldn't people always do their best, even when not being tested against other people?

    Tags: Competition, Ethics, Evasion, Habits, Hobbies, Independence, Mistakes, Perfectionism, Pride, Skills, Sports

  • Interview: Cheryl Hein on Parenting a Child with Disabilities: 28 Aug 2013
  • Summary: What are some of the rewards and challenges of parenting a child with disabilities? How should parents navigate family dynamics, education, and social interactions? How can parents do right by their disabled child, as well as themselves and other family members?

    Tags: Abortion, Adult Children, Children, Disability, Disability, Education, Independence, Parenting

  • Q&A: Common Sense Versus Rationality: 7 Jul 2013, Question 1
  • Question: Is "common sense" a form of rationality? Wikipedia defines "common sense" as "sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts." Is that a form of rationality? What's the value of such common sense? Should a rational person rely on common sense in moral decision-making?

    Tags: Common Sense, Culture, Independence, Prudence, Rationality

  • Q&A: People Too Young to Raise Children: 23 Jun 2013, Question 3
  • Question: What's the rationale for declaring some physically mature people too young to have children? Given that nature has dictated that both male and female humans can procreate in their early teens and given that morality is deduced from reality, why would sex and procreation at that young age be immoral? Isn't that what nature intended? More generally, is there a rational basis for moral judgments about the proper age of procreation? Or is it purely subjective?

    Tags: Biology, Children, Ethics, Evolution, Family, Independence, Parenting, Parenting, Rationalism, Young Adults

  • Q&A: Managing Demands for Family Time: 2 Jun 2013, Question 4
  • Question: Should I limit my time away from family in deference to their cultural expectations? My family comes from a conservative Turkish background. They see the amount of independence granted me as a 19-year-old as more than enough. I see it as unsatisfactory. In fact, they feel pushed to their limit by the amount of time I ask to spend away from family on a daily basis. They believe I should not ask for any more independence, as they are already trying their hardest to accept me having even a small amount. However, what I'm allowed is very little compared to most people my age. It affects what I can do or not with my life, not just in the short-term but in the long-term too. Should I respect my family's wishes on this point, given that they are already trying their hardest within the context of their own cultural values? Or should I ask for more independence, even if that violates their beliefs?

    Tags: Adult Children, Children, Culture, Family, Honesty, Independence, Respect

  • Q&A: Arranged Marriages: 19 May 2013, Question 4
  • Question: Are arranged marriages legally and socially valid? A coworker of mine in his early 20s grew up in India. His parents have arranged his marriage to a young woman who also now lives in the US. He appreciates that his parents selected a wife for him: he doesn't want to spend the time or take the risk of finding a wife himself. Should such a marriage be considered legally valid? Is it just a marriage of convenience? Is the practice of arranged marriages immoral and/or impractical?

    Tags: Adult Children, Children, Ethics, Family, Independence, Independence, Marriage, Parenting, Relationships

  • Q&A: Concern for Attractiveness to Others: 17 Feb 2013, Question 3
  • Question: Should you care whether other people find you attractive? I’ve heard some people say they don't care what other people think of their physical appearance: they only care about their own judgment. To care, they say, is second-handed. Is that right? It is wrong to be pleased when someone compliments you on your clothes or hair?

    Tags: Aesthetics, Beauty, Communication, Fashion, Friendship, Independence, Relationships, Respect, Romance, Style, Work

  • Q&A: Parental Support of Adult Children: 2 Dec 2012, Question 2
  • Question: When should parents refuse to support their adult children? Some parents continue to support their 30-year-old and even 40-year-old adult children. Usually, these adult children are chronic screw-ups without much interest in improving their lives or even holding down a steady job. Are these parents immoral for helping the child? Are the parents contributing to his or her problems? How can the parents stop in a way that's fair to the dependent child?

    Tags: Adult Children, Independence, Parenting

  • Q&A: Child Beauty Pageants: 25 Nov 2012, Question 3
  • Question: Are child beauty pageants wrong? The TLC show Toddlers and Tiaras is a reality show that follows child beauty pageant contestants and their parents. Putting aside the often-questionable behavior of the people on this show who may not represent typical pageant contestants or parents, these events ask children to compete based on beauty and talent. So are child beauty pageants immoral?

    Tags: Children, Ethics, Hobbies, Independence, Parenting, Sex

  • Q&A: Adopting Ideas by Default: 18 Nov 2012, Question 1
  • Question: Should a person allow his ideology to set his default positions? When people adopt a religion, philosophy, or politics as their own, they often don't think through every issue - or they've not done so yet. Does accepting the various positions of that ideology as a kind of default amount to accepting them on faith? What should a person do when he hasn't thought through the issue for himself?

    Tags: Conservatism, Epistemology, Ethics, Honesty, Independence, Paleo, Philosophy, Psycho-Epistemology, Rationalism, Rationality

  • Q&A: Cleaning the House for Guests: 4 Nov 2012, Question 4
  • Question: Is is second-handed to work hard to clean and repair your house before company arrives? I'm constantly fighting a battle to get my house looking reasonable. Then, right before company arrives from out-of-town, I make an extra big push to get it as clean and tidy as possible. I'd like it to always be that way, but I'll work a lot harder when I know that someone else will be in the space. So is it second-handed to want to present a better home than I normally maintain? Or is putting in that effort that a matter of respecting and providing for people that I value?

    Tags: Benevolence, Honesty, Independence, Introspection, Personal Values, Pride, Productivity, Relationships, Relationships

  • 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: A Religious Wedding for an Atheist Groom: 30 Sep 2012, Question 2
  • Question: Should an atheist refuse to have a religious wedding? I'm an atheist, but my fiancée is a not-terribly-devout Christian. My parents – and her parents too – are Christian. Everyone wants and expects us to have a religious wedding, but I don't want that. My future wife would be willing to have a secular wedding, but she prefers a religious one. Mostly, she doesn't want to argue with her parents over it. Should I insist on a secular wedding? Or should I just let this one go? What's the harm, either way?

    Tags: Atheism, Communication, Compromise, Family, Honesty, Independence, In-Laws, Integrity, Marriage, Religion, Weddings

  • Interview: Robert Garmong on Teaching in China: 19 Sep 2012
  • Summary: What can we learn about modern Chinese culture from the experience of an American teaching university students in China? A whole lot! Professor Robert Garmong has a unique perspective on China and Chinese education, as an American teaching English language and Western culture at the Dongbei University of Finance and Economics, in Dalian, China.

    Tags: Academia, Anthem, China, Communism, Culture, Education, Independence, Individualism, Parenting, Young Adults

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

  • Q&A: Corporal Punishment of Kids: 24 Jun 2012, Question 1
  • Question: Is corporal punishment of children ever proper? The 2011 video of Judge William Adams beating his daughter raises the question of whether it's ever necessary or proper to physically discipline children. Does the age of the child matter, particularly given that you can't reason with younger children? Does the amount of force used matter? When does physical punishment violate the child's rights?

    Tags: Adult Children, Children, Corporal Punishment, Ethics, Honesty, Independence, Parenting, Punishment, Rights, Violence

  • Q&A: Padding Your Application: 29 Apr 2012, Question 4
  • Question: Is doing activities just to pad you application or resumé dishonest? Some people work on mastering playing the violin, competing in tennis tournaments, learning calculus, and other activities – not because they have any interest in them or because they think they might develop an interest once tried, but rather because they think these activities will look good on an application or resumé. Is that dishonest? Is it unwise?

    Tags: College, Education, Ethics, Honesty, Independence, Integrity, Work

  • Q&A: Ayn Rand's View of Women: 11 Mar 2012, Question 1
  • Question: Did Ayn Rand regard women as inferior to men? I admire Ayn Rand, and I've used her philosophy in my business and personal life, but I disagree with her view of women. In her article "About a Woman President," Ayn Rand said that "For a woman qua woman, the essence of femininity is hero-worship – the desire to look up to man. 'To look up' does not mean dependence, obedience or anything implying inferiority." Yet her view seems to imply inferiority in practice: Rand says that no woman should aspire to be U.S. President because that would put her in the psychologically unbearable position of not having any man to look up to. So, does Rand's view imply that women are inferior to men? What is the factual basis of her view, if any? Do you agree with her?

    Tags: Ayn Rand, Career, Ethics, Gender, Government, Independence, Objectivism, Psychology, Rationality, Sex

  • Q&A: Possessiveness in Romance: 5 Feb 2012, Question 3
  • Question: Is possessiveness wrong in a romantic relationship? I have a drawback: I'm extremely possessive. I expect that the person who loves and understands me – he being the only one who understands me – should be mine and only mine. I can accept other women in his life and contain my jealousy on the condition that he reveals to me every single of them who was, is, or will be. But he should love me the most. And I expect that he should stay with me till the end and that we spend the last days together reflecting on the past and life. Am I wrong in expecting all that from my partner? If so, what can I do to change?

    Tags: Conflict, Dating, Emotions, Independence, Jealousy, Psychology, Rationality, Relationships, Romance

  • 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: Proper Reliance on Experts: 12 Jun 2011, Question 1
  • Question: What role should experts play in our decision-making? Specifically, should a person defer to experts in fields where he's not well-informed? What if he's only partially knowledgeable? Should experts expect such deference? Does it matter whether the field is philosophy, plumbing, diet, or something else?

    Tags: Epistemology, Expertise, Independence

  • Q&A: Moral Advice: 13 Feb 2011, Question 6
  • Question: Why do so many Objectivists persist in asking for concrete moral advice? I'm not knocking anybody for asking questions about moral choices, but after listening to Peikoff's and Diana's podcast, and browsing the questions on this forum, I'm struck by how often people ask "is it moral [insert action or life choice]?" I might be wrong, but it seems that the frequency these questions arise, and the eagerness to answer them feeds into the "cultish" accusers source of ammunition since, it smacks of someone seeking a religious authority's proscriptions, instead of using an individual's reason and principles applied in context?

    Tags: Ethics, Expertise, Independence, Life

  • Q&A: Unequal Incomes in Marriage: 30 Jan 2011, Question 1
  • Question: Is it moral to have a sugarmomma or sugardaddy? My fiancee and I both have demanding careers, but she earns several times more than I. How should a married couple with very different incomes share income and/or expenses? If we agree to split household expenses evenly, my lower income is a significant constraint on her enjoyment, e.g., she can't buy an expensive house because I can't afford half of it. On the other hand, if we split expenses unevenly or if we treat all income as pooled, it seems that I'm benefiting lavishly from things I didn't produce. Is it moral for me to enjoy an expensive hobby which I couldn't have afforded on my own? I'd love to hear more about how you and Paul manage income and expenses, and especially what ethical principles apply.

    Tags: Ethics, Finances, Independence, Marriage, Values

  • Q&A: Seeking Popularity: 16 Jan 2011, Question 4
  • Question: Is it always wrong to seek popularity? Because of the character Peater Keating I can't figure out in what context it would be right for an Objectivist to value or desire popularity, if at all.

    Tags: Ethics, Fame, Independence


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