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)


  • Q&A: Ideological Consistency: 5 Jul 2015, Question 3
  • Question: Does ideological consistency lead to absurdities and wrongs? Under "zero tolerance" policies, children have been suspended or expelled from schools for innocuous actions like drawing a picture of a gun. Advocates of free markets claim that a business owner has the right to discriminate against customers for any trivial or irrational reason, including skin color or hair color. In both the cases, the problem seems to be taking some idea to its utmost extreme, to the point of absurdity. Shouldn't we be more moderate and flexible in our views?

    Tags: Business, Capitalism, Consistency, Epistemology, Ethics, Logic, Principles, Rights

  • Q&A: Respect without Agreement: 21 Jun 2015, Question 1
  • Question: How can I help my father understand that I respect him, even when I disagree with him? I generally value experience for its ability to provide helpful insights, but I am suspicious of people who fall back on appeals to authority in an attempt to win arguments. My father often does that during our debates on various subjects, as we do not see eye-to-eye on many important issues. When I reject his appeals on the grounds that they are logically fallacious, he takes personal offense and accuses me of disrespecting him. I respect my father, and I try to convey my appreciation for his experience in other ways. But I want to have civil discourse with him that doesn't dead-end in this uncomfortable way someday. My father and I have been estranged for the last five years, in large part due to his tendency toward communicating in this and other manipulative ways, and my current attempt at reconciliation is failing again because of these communication issues. This is a shame because I truly feel that the makings of a good father-daughter relationship are in place, but my father cannot seem to stop predicating our ability to love and respect each other on my willingness to constantly agree with him simply because he is my father. What advice can you give on how best to halt this unhealthy pattern, so that I can save my relationship with my dad?

    Tags: Authority, Boundaries, Communication, Epistemology, Logic, Parenting, Relationships, Respect, Rhetoric, Values

  • Q&A: Creating Art: 18 Jan 2015, Question 3
  • Question: Is creating art necessary for a moral life? Since material values are a human need, independence requires that human beings engage in productive activity. Can the same logic be applied to art? Since art is a human need, does independence require human beings to be artistically creative? Would someone who enjoys art without producing any be an "aesthetic moocher"?

    Tags: Aesthetics, Art, Business, Economics, Hobbies, Logic, Rationalism, Trader Principle, Values

  • 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: Extremism Versus Consistency: 28 Dec 2014, Question 1
  • Question: What's the difference between consistency and extremism? I'm often called an "extremist" for my views – in my view, because I'm very consistent and refuse to compromise. Religious people are often called extremists too, yet that's really only consistency with their scripture. So how does "extremism" differ from consistency, if at all?

    Tags: Compromise, Culture, Extremism, Ideology, Logic, Philosophy, Values

  • Q&A: Faith in Reason: 19 Jan 2014, Question 1
  • Question: Does being rational mean having faith in reason? I'm a high school student in a religious school. Many of my classmates claim that my belief in a knowable reality, science, and reason is merely a form of faith. So how can a person validate his own reason and senses? How can a person know that they are reliable means of knowing reality – unless he uses them and thereby engages in circular reasoning? My classmates claim that God is the only way out of this puzzle: God checks our reasoning by verifying and opposing our various conclusions. How can I respond to their arguments effectively?

    Tags: Atheism, Axioms, Epistemology, Faith, Foundationalism, Logic, Metaphysics, Perception, Proof, Rationality, Reason, Reason

  • Q&A: Evolution and Objectivism: 4 Aug 2013, Question 2
  • Question: Does evolutionary theory contradict the principles of Objectivism? I am new to atheism and Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism, and I embrace both wholeheartedly. However, I take issue with the theory of evolution. Atheism seems to imply evolution, but evolution seems to clash with Objectivism. Evolution holds that man is an insignificant piece of the larger, grander picture of the randomness that is life, that man is just one small insignificant step in the collective evolution of the earth, and that man is one with Mother Earth, not superior to it. In contrast, Objectivism holds that man has a purpose and that man is the most significant being, supreme over all other life. Also, Objectivism holds that "A is A" and that "Existence exists." Evolution, in contrast, claims that life came from non-life, fish came from non-fish, and man came from non-man – meaning that A came from non-A. Am I correct in my criticisms? Might some theory other than evolution be more compatible with Objectivism?

    Tags: Egoism, Epistemology, Ethics, Evolution, Human Nature, Logic, Meaning, Metaphysics, Objectivism, Rationalism, Science

  • Q&A: Teaching Children Philosophy: 25 Nov 2012, Question 4
  • Question: Why isn't philosophy taught to young children? It seems that teaching philosophy to young children – as young as kindergarten – might result in much better reasoning skills, as well as greater willingness to think independently and question what they've been taught. So is philosophy not taught to the young just because some parents and politicians might not like those good results?

    Tags: Children, Education, Induction, Logic, Parenting, Philosophy, Religion

  • Q&A: Deductive Reasoning: 12 Aug 2012, Question 2
  • Question: What is the proper role of deductive reasoning? Is it proper, for example, to deduce the principles of intellectual property from the more general principles of individual rights? Or is that rationalism? More generally, when and how should a person use deduction as opposed to induction?

    Tags: Deduction, Epistemology, Induction, Logic, Proof, Rationality

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