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: 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: Deep-Down Atheism: 1 Dec 2013, Question 2
  • Question: How can I convince myself, deep-down, that God does not exist? I was raised Catholic, although I was never deeply religious. Now, many years later, a friend is showing me Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism. I can see its benefits, but my religious upbringing still lingers in the back of my head. So part of me still thinks that God exists, even though I don't really believe that any longer. It was just engrained in me from such a young age that I can't seem to let it go. Can I change that? If so, how?

    Tags: Atheism, Christianity, Epistemology, Ethics, Habits, Introspection, Proof, Psycho-Epistemology, Rationality, Religion

  • Q&A: Deduction from Axioms: 6 Oct 2013, Question 4
  • Question: Is philosophy deduced from axioms? Often, I hear people claim that philosophy – particularly Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism – is deduced from axioms. Is that right? Personally, I don't see how that can be: How can anything be deduced from "existence exists"? But in that case, what's the purpose of the axioms?

    Tags: Axioms, Epistemology, Ethics, Metaphysics, Politics, Proof, Religion

  • Q&A: Achieving Practical Certainty: 18 Aug 2013, Question 1
  • Question: What must I do to reach certainty about a course of action? Suppose that I'm being careful in my thinking about a practical matter – perhaps about how to solve a problem at work, whether to move to a new city, whether to marry my girlfriend, or whether to cut contact with a problem friend. When can I say that I'm certain – or at least justified in acting on my conclusions? Given my personality type (INTP), I tend to leave questions open for far too long, when really, at some point, I need to close them. Are there any general guidelines or principles around figuring out what that point of closure should be? Even then, when should I revisit my conclusions, if ever?

    Tags: Aristotle, Deliberation, Epistemology, Ethics, Personality, Planning, Proof, Psycho-Epistemology, Rationality, Values

  • 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

  • Q&A: The Validity of Psychic Powers: 8 Jul 2012, Question 1
  • Question: Are psychic powers bunk? A friend convinced me to join him in visiting a psychic for a tarot card reading. Although I am opposed to mysticism, I didn't mind going and thought it would be funny. I was surprised to find this psychic knew things about me that (while vague) were very accurate descriptors, and could not have been known from my appearance (nor prior knowledge since it was an impromptu visit). It seems highly unlikely they could have guessed (and have guessed so accurately) correct character traits, issues and feelings. Is this evidence in favor of psychic powers? Or have I been misled?

    Tags: Epistemology, Paranormal, Proof, Psychology, Rationality

  • Q&A: Responding to an Unjust Firing: 20 May 2012, Question 2
  • Question: Should an employer have to explain and justify his firing of an employee? Should an employer be able to fire an employee for some alleged misconduct, even though the employer never bothered to verify the misconduct, nor asked the employee for his side of the story? For example, suppose that when the employee shows up for work he is simply told that he's been fired because someone made a complaint about him. The employee could easily prove the complaint to be false but the employer isn't concerned with proof or lack thereof. The employee's reputation in the eyes of possible future employers is damaged, even if the employer never discusses the firing with anyone else. In such a case, should the employee be able to sue for having been fired without proper cause?

    Tags: Business, Career, Defamation, Free Society, Justice, Law, Proof, Reputation, Responsibility, Rights, Torts, Work

  • Q&A: Statutory Rape Laws: 1 Apr 2012, Question 1
  • Question: Are statutory rape laws proper? Statutory rape laws criminalize seemingly consensual sex when at least one party is below the age of consent, but sexually mature, e.g. when an 18 year old has sex with a 15 year old. Are such laws proper? Should the over-age person be convicted if he or she didn't know (or couldn't reasonably know) that the under-age person was under-age? What if the under-age person lied about his or her age? What, if anything, should happen legally when both parties are under-age, e.g. when two 15 year olds have sex?

    Tags: Consent, Crime, Law, Proof, Rape, Relationships, Sex

  • Q&A: Giving the Benefit of the Doubt: 4 Mar 2012, Question 1
  • Question: When should we give another person the benefit of the doubt? Often, people say that public figures facing some scandal should be given the benefit of the doubt? What does that mean in theory and in practice? When ought people give the benefit of the doubt? Is doing so a matter of generosity or justice?

    Tags: Epistemology, Ethics, Judgment, Justice, Proof, Rationality

  • Podcast: Philosophy of Religion: Overview: 11 Sep 2009
  • Summary: Does God exist? Can that be proven? This episode begins a series of podcasts on philosophy of religion surveying the various arguments for the existence of God. Here, I introduce the topic by discussing the importance of those arguments, explain the burden of proof principle, and discuss the nature of God.

    This podcast is part of ReligionCasts – my series of podcasts on the philosophy of religion.

    Tags: Atheism, Christianity, Creationism, Epistemology, Ethics, God, Metaphysics, Philosophy, Proof, Religion, Theology

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