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)


Privacy

  • Q&A: Honesty under Professional Confidentiality Standards: 26 Jul 2015, Question 1
  • Question: Do confidentiality standards justify privacy lies? Some professions, like those in clinical psychology, medicine, or law commonly utilize confidentiality standards that apply between professionals and clients due to the sensitive nature of the information shared between them. Generally, such professionals can (and do) have a policy of refusing to answer any questions about their clients and so avoid any supposed need for privacy lies to protect from nosy inquiries. However, these standards also often include the understanding (sometimes explicit) that, if professional and client should ever meet in a social situation, the professional would follow the client's lead about if and how they knew each other. This means that a client could push the professional into a lie. Yet even in the case where both people are basically honest, the mere act of showing recognition of each other could compromise the client's privacy if the professional's job is not a secret. And there are reasonable social situations in which you couldn't hide familiarity without deceit of some kind. So ethically, we seem to be stuck between (1) clients having their privacy perhaps violated if they are unlucky enough to encounter their professional outside the office or (2) professionals having to lie to protect the privacy of their clients. Is there another alternative here? If not, what's the best course?

    Tags: Business, Context, Ethics, Honesty, Law, Privacy, Privacy Lies, Psychology, Therapy

  • Q&A: Coming Out as an Atheist: 1 Mar 2015, Question 3
  • Question: How can I avoid coming out as an atheist to my boyfriend's parents? I'm gay and my long-time, live-in boyfriend recently came out to his parents. They are older and pretty religious, but they are doing their best to be accepting of our relationship. However, my boyfriend says that they believe that I am changing him for the worse in that he has not been as communicative and open with them because he didn't come out to them sooner and has not been sharing the progression of our relationship with them. (The whole concept of being in the closet seems completely alien to them.) But they do know our relationship is serious, so they have invited us to spend the holidays with them in order to get to know me better. My boyfriend says that they will insist that we attend church with them and has asked that I not tell them that I'm an atheist right away. I've explained to him that I am not going to lie about anything, but I am not sure how to remain true to my convictions without making things more difficult for my boyfriend and upsetting his parents. What are your suggestions for making the Christmas holidays pleasant while maintaining my integrity?

    Tags: Adult Children, Atheism, Communication, GLBT, Parenting, Privacy, Religion, Secrets, Values

  • Q&A: Revenge Porn: 1 Mar 2015, Question 2
  • Question: Should revenge porn be illegal? Apparently, it is increasingly common after a break-up for a person to share sexual pictures or videos of his/her former lover that were taken while in the relationship. Some people think that sharing sexual images intended to be kept private should be illegal, while others argue that such "revenge porn" is protected speech. Which view is right? Should the consent of all parties be required for the posting of sexual imagery?

    Tags: Ethics, Law, Pornography, Privacy, Relationships, Rights, Sex, Technology, Torts

  • Interview: Dr. Paul Hsieh on Understanding the Three Languages of Politics: 3 Jul 2014
  • Summary: How many times have you been in political discussions with friends where you find you're talking past one another? You'll make points they consider irrelevant, whereas they'll focus on issues you consider nonessential. Such problems can be overcome, at least in part, using Arnold Kling's concept of the "Three Languages of Politics." Paul Hsieh explained how freedom advocates (e.g., Objectivists and better libertarians), conservatives, and liberals tend to use three vastly different metaphors in political discussions, which can create unintentional misunderstandings and miscommunications. He discussed how to frame discussion points so they better resonate with those speaking the other "languages" without compromising on principles.

    Tags: Activism, Campaign Finance, Civilization, Communication, Compromise, Conservatism, Drug War, Firearms, Free Speech, GLBT, Government, Libertarianism, Medicine, Objectivism, Objectivism, Politics, Privacy, Progressivism, Property Rights, Rights, Three Languages of Politics, Values

  • Q&A: The Sex Scandals of Politicians: 16 Jun 2013, Question 4
  • Question: Should we stop caring about the sex lives of politicians? In response to the affair and resignation of David Petraeus, many argued that such sex scandals are the absurd consequence of American puritanism. These people claim that sex is easily compartmentalized in a person's life, such that sexual fidelity has no bearing on a person's intelligence, character, or suitability for public office. Is that right?

    Tags: Celebrities, Character, Marriage, Politics, Privacy, Sex

  • Interview: Trey Peden on Online Marketing and Privacy: 12 Jun 2013
  • Summary: What do online marketing companies know about you? How do they gather data? Should you be alarmed by that? If so, what tools can help you protect your privacy online?

    Tags: Business, Crime, Government, Law, Marketing, Privacy, Technology

  • Q&A: Replying to Intrusive Inquiries: 31 Mar 2013, Question 1
  • Question: How should a person respond when pressured to reveal private information? Some people think themselves entitled to know about the private lives of their co-workers, acquaintances, family, or friends. They won't take a hint, and they might even demand the information in front of other people or in a public forum. How should a person who wishes to protect his privacy respond to such invasive inquiries? Is lying justifiable?

    Tags: Communication, Conflict, Ethics, Habits, Honesty, Privacy, Rationality, Relationships

  • Q&A: Online Privacy: 10 Mar 2013, Question 3
  • Question: What kinds of privacy can people reasonably expect online? Online privacy is an increasing concern in the media and the culture. The FTC is working on redefining what companies are and are not allowed to do with data they collect online. But given that the internet functions by sending your data through lots and lots of different systems, what rights and/or reasonable expectations should people have concerning their privacy online?

    Tags: Ethics, Internet, Privacy, Responsibility, Rights, Social Media

  • Q&A: Privacy from Government Intrusion: 3 Mar 2013, Question 3
  • Question: If a person isn't doing anything wrong, should he care to protect his privacy? Defenders of intrusive government programs (and other forms of meddling) often assume that only guilty people would object to granting others access to their private information. What, after all, does an honest and decent person have to hide? Or these people assume that everyone is guilty, and that's what justifies monitoring everyone. What's wrong with these arguments? Should an honest and innocent person object to government inquiries into his private life?

    Tags: Ethics, Free Society, Law, Politics, Privacy, Rights

  • Q&A: Outing Yourself to Bigots: 27 May 2012, Question 2
  • Question: Am I obliged to disclose that I am gay if I know that the person then wouldn't wish to do business with me? Let's say that I have a job that I enjoy, but I find out that my boss does not like gay people and would refuse to hire or would fire anyone that she knew was gay. Somehow, she doesn't know that I am, in fact, gay. Should I tell her knowing that she would want to fire me – a decision that I think is wrong, but nonetheless something she should be free to do? Assume that in every other regard I enjoy my work and job, and sharing her discriminatory view is by no means a requirement for my work.

    Tags: Business, Communication, Ethics, Honesty, Integrity, LGBT, Privacy, Rationality, Religion, Work

  • Q&A: Privacy in a High-Tech Society: 13 May 2012, Question 2
  • Question: Do you have the right to privacy with respect to information that I can gather about you from observation of you while I'm on my own property? For instance, if I have technology that allows me to gather photons or sound waves that you emit from your property while I'm sitting on my property next door, can I post that information on YouTube or Facebook? For example, imagine that I have an infrared video of your activities emitted through your bedroom wall or the audio of your personal phone conversation that can be detected by sensitive microphones from 100 yards away. Have I violated your rights by gathering and publicizing information you've chosen to allow to be broadcast to anyone who can detect it with the right equipment?

    Tags: Law, Privacy, Rights, Technology

  • Chat: Protecting Your Privacy: 2 May 2012
  • Summary: Do you wonder what people are entitled to know about you? Do you want to maintain your privacy without resorting to dishonesty?

    Tags: Children, Communication, Conflict, Ethics, Honesty, Parenting, Privacy, Relationships, Responsibility, Romance, Secrets

  • Q&A: Potential Employers Demanding Facebook Logins: 1 Apr 2012, Question 3
  • Question: Should employers ask applicants for their Facebook logins and passwords? More employers are asking job applicants for their Facebook logins and passwords as part of a background check. Of course, applicants can decline, in which case they might not be considered for the job. Should employers be asking for this information? Is it proper to want to check on the online activities of potential employees? Is that an invasion of privacy? How should someone respond if asked by a potential employer?

    Tags: Career, Contracts, Law, Law, Privacy, Work

  • Q&A: Outing Anti-Gay Politicians as Gay: 1 Apr 2012, Question 2
  • Question: Is it wrong to "out" a hypocritical anti-gay public figure who is secretly gay? Some conservative politicians have taken strongly anti-gay positions, but are secretly gay themselves. If one learns of this, is it wrong for gay activists to publicly "out" them? What if they don't engage in public hypocrisy, but are just quietly "in the closet"? Should activists respect their privacy in that case?

    Tags: Ethics, GLBT, Integrity, Justice, Politics, Privacy

  • Q&A: Moral Standards for Public Figures: 21 Aug 2011, Question 1
  • Question: Should public figures be held to higher moral standards? Public figures – like actors, politicians, and athletes – are often lambasted in the media for committing commonplace wrongs like dishonesty and hypocrisy. Is that fair? If Michelle Obama is an outspoken opponent of childhood obesity and lists the things my children and I shouldn't eat, is she a hypocrite for publicly indulging in junk food? Should I not value Tiger Woods as a professional golfer with exceptional talent because he screwed around on his wife?

    Tags: Ethics, Fame, Judgment, Justice, Moral Wrongs, Politics, Privacy

  • Q&A: Lying to Protect Privacy: 9 Jan 2011, Question 3
  • Question: Is lying to protect one's own privacy moral or not? Many people regard lies to protect their own privacy as justifiable, even necessary. For example, a woman might tell her co-workers that she's not seeing anyone, even though she's dating the boss. She might tell those co-workers that she didn't get a hefty end-of-year bonus, even though she did. She might tell a nosy acquaintance that she didn't want children, rather than reveal her struggles with infertility. Is that wrong – or unwise? How could the woman protect her privacy in those circumstances without lying?

    Tags: Ethics, Honesty, Privacy, Secrets


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