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)


Obligation

  • Q&A: The Obligation to Report a Crime: 3 May 2015, Question 2
  • Question: When is a person obliged to report a crime? About ten years ago, as a nurse, I heard a patient planning to do something illegal – particularly, to lie to an insurance company about the relationship between her injuries and the car accident so that she could keep all the settlement money. At the time, I decided to disengage but not confront or report her. I opted for that due to concerns about patient privacy, the non-violence of the planned crime, and the fact that the insurance company could detect her lie from her medical records. Recently, I've been thinking about the situation again. I'm trying to come up with a principle to apply, and I'm getting all muddled. What is my moral responsibility to intervene or report when I know that another person is planning or has done something illegal – meaning, something that would violate someone's rights? Does my responsibility change if it's a friend (assumed in confidence) or stranger (overheard in public)? Does it matter if the crime has already taken place or is merely in the works? Where is the line regarding severity of the crime? (I'd obviously report if I even heard a stranger plotting murder.) Also, what if you might be harmed if you report, such as in the case of a gang murder? Is there some basic principle that can clarify when a person is obliged to report knowledge of a crime?

    Tags: Crime, Ethics, Fraud, Law, Medicine, Obligation, Police, Rights

  • Q&A: Responsibility for a Sibling: 4 May 2014, Question 3
  • Question: Is a person responsible for his incapable sibling? Imagine that your brother (or sister) is not capable of taking care of himself: he makes poor choices, he has poor work habits, and he is emotionally immature. Are you thereby responsible for him? Should you try to help as much as possible, so long as you don't drag yourself down? Or should you refuse to help on the principle of "tough love," even though that won't help him take care of himself? If you take the latter approach, doesn't that mean that you're foisting the care for your sibling on society? Wouldn't that be shirking your responsibilities as a sibling? Also, does your responsibility depend on whether your brother is incapable due to his own choices, as opposed to merely bad luck?

    Tags: Benevolence, Duty Ethics, Egoism, Ethics, Family, Finances, Obligation, Responsibility, Rights, Sacrifice, Self-Sacrifice, Siblings, Welfare

  • Q&A: Refusing Involvement in a Biological Child's Life: 27 Apr 2014, Question 3
  • Question: It is wrong to refuse any involvement in my biological child's life? Some years back I had a contraceptive malfunction, and a child was conceived as a result. I offered to pay for an abortion but the woman refused. The child was born, and the mother and child moved away. I voluntarily pay child support, but I have no desire to be part of the child's life. I never wanted to be a father nor do I want to now. Am I right – morally and legally – to take this stance?

    Tags: Abortion, Children, Child Support, Duty Ethics, Ethics, Fatherhood, Free Society, Law, Obligation, Parenting, Responsibility, Rights

  • Q&A: The Morality of Elective Abortion: 5 Jan 2014, Question 1
  • Question: Is elective abortion morally wrong? Some people support abortion in the cases of rape or incest, as well as in cases of serious medical problems with the fetus or the pregnancy. However, they regard the termination of a normal, healthy pregnancy as morally wrong, particularly as irresponsible. Are such abortions wrong? Does the judgment change if the couple used birth control or not?

    Tags: Abortion, Adoption, Children, Duty, Ethics, Obligation, Parenting, Responsibility, Sacrifice, Self-Sacrifice, Sex

  • Q&A: The State's Role in Caring for Children of Unfit Parents: 21 Apr 2013, Question 2
  • Question: What should the state's role be in dealing with abused children? The state needs to remove children from homes where they're being abused--where their rights are being violated. But what should it then do with them? Should the state care for them until it can find a new home for them? How should it provide that care? If it cannot find a new home for a child, what happens to that child? Should the state raise the child to adulthood?

    Tags: Children, Ethics, Free Society, Government, Law, Obligation, Parenting, Rights

  • Q&A: Regretful Parents: 10 Mar 2013, Question 2
  • Question: What should parents do if they regret ever having children? In 2008, Nebraska permitted parents to abandon children of any age without penalty. As a result, quite a few older children were abandoned before the state changed the law. That shows that some parents deeply regret ever having children, and surely many more parents have major regrets, even though they'd never abandon their children. What should a parent do if he or she realizes that having kids was a mistake? What should prospective parents do to ensure that they'll not regret having kids?

    Tags: Children, Ethics, Moral Wrongs, Obligation, Parenting, Rights

  • Interview: Craig Biddle on Common Mistakes about Ethics: 10 Oct 2012
  • Summary: What are some of the most common mistakes that people make in thinking about ethics? Craig Biddle explained people's wrong ideas about ethics, including ethics of duty, pragmatism, religious ethics, collectivism, and more.

    Tags: Causality, Collectivism, Duty, Ethics, Objectivism, Obligation, Pragmatism, Religion

  • Q&A: Moral Obligations of Children to Parents: 3 Jul 2011, Question 1
  • Question: Do kids have moral obligations to their parents? If so, what obligations and why?

    Tags: Adult Children, Children, Ethics, Family, Obligation, Parenting, Responsibility

  • Q&A: Obligations to Parents: 10 Apr 2011, Question 3
  • Question: Is it my responsibility to look after my parents in their old age? Should I expect to support my parents financially and/or care for them as they get older? More generally, what responsibilities do adult children have towards their parents, if any?

    Tags: Adult Children, Ethics, Family, Finances, Obligation, Parenting, Responsibility, Sacrifice, Self-Sacrifice


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