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)


Psycho-Epistemology

  • Interview: Kelly Elmore on Why Growth Mindsets Matter: 28 Aug 2014
  • Summary: Carol Dweck's book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success offers a new perspective on learning. People with a "fixed mindsets" believe that traits like intelligence or social skills are fixed and cannot be changed much. People with "growth mindsets" believe that humans have the potential to change the traits they possess and constantly learn and improve. As a part of the research for her dissertation, Kelly Elmore has explored the psychological research conducted by Dweck and other cognitive psychologists that led to Dweck's development of the concept of "mindsets." In this interview, Kelly explained what mindsets are, how they impact our lives, and how we can develop growth mindsets in ourselves and encourage them in others.

    Tags: Academia, Education, Ethics, Hobbies, Mindsets, Moral Character, Moral Judgment, Parenting, Psycho-Epistemology, Psychology, Skills, Values

  • Q&A: Agnosticism: 10 Aug 2014, Question 2
  • Question: Can the non-existence of God be proven? I see how a person could believe – purely based on rational argument – that God's existence cannot be proven, thereby becoming an agnostic. On the one hand, many non-theists criticize theists for believing in a deity strictly on faith, claiming that there's no rational reason to believe in a deity. Most theists, however, would probably reject that, saying that they have rational reasons for their beliefs too. On the other hand, atheism seems just as unproveable as theism. Yet atheists claim that their beliefs are based on reason, rather than emotion or faith. As a result, aren't the atheists covertly relying on faith? Or can atheism be proven purely based on reason? Why not just admit that we don't know? Also, practically speaking, isn't the agnostic basically the same as an atheist?

    Tags: Agnosticism, Arbitrary Beliefs, Atheism, Axioms, Epistemology, Ethics, Metaphysics, Problem of Evil, Psycho-Epistemology, Religion

  • Q&A: Enjoying the Moment: 10 Jul 2014, Question 2
  • Question: How can I convince myself that the grass isn't always greener on the other side of the fence? Whatever subject I study, I think about all the other subjects I'm not studying. Whatever work I'm doing, I think about all the other work I'm not getting done. Whatever book I'm reading, I think about all the other books I could be reading. I want to do everything, and I want to do all of it right now. How can I convince myself to be happy with what I'm actually doing and able to do? How can I stop this perpetual cycle of boredom and longing for change?

    Tags: Boredom, Career, Concentration, Emotions, Ethics, GTD, Habits, Happiness, Happiness, Hobbies, Introspection, Personality, Psycho-Epistemology, Psychology, Skills, Values

  • Q&A: One Thought Too Many in Egoism: 22 Jun 2014, Question 1
  • Question: Does egoism suffer from "one thought too many"? Bernard Williams argues that utilitarianism suffers from a problem of inappropriate motivation in which a person has "one thought too many" before acting morally. So, for example, a good utilitarian must calculate whether the general welfare is served by saving a drowning child before jumping into the water. A truly good person, in contrast, simply jumps into the water to save the child without that calculation. Wouldn't this same objection apply to even rational, benevolent egoism? Or are those extra thoughts between situation and action actually rational?

    Tags: Benevolence, Duty Ethics, Egoism, Emotions, Ethics, Friendship, Impartialism, Meta-Ethics, Psycho-Epistemology, Psychology, Utilitarianism

  • 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: 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: Epistemic Effects of Government Controls: 24 Mar 2013, Question 2
  • Question: How do government controls encourage short-range thinking in business? In your discussion of the principle of sustainability in December 2011, you said that government controls encourage people to think short-range – to grab what they can and run with it – including in business. Why is that? What are some examples?

    Tags: Ethics, Government, Psycho-Epistemology, Regulations, Rights

  • Q&A: Radical Honesty: 9 Dec 2012, Question 2
  • Question: Should people be 'radically honest'? Psychotherapist Brad Blanton claims that people should be "radically honest" – meaning that they should say what they think all the time. Is that a life-serving policy – or simply an excuse for rudeness? For example, if my friend is telling me a story that I don't care to hear, should I tell her of my disinterest? Would that foster a more authentic and valuable relationship? Should I try to gently signal my disinterest? Or should I try to cultivate some interest in her story? In other words, is tact a value – or a destructive form of pretense?

    Tags: Communication, Emotions, Ethics, Honesty, Psycho-Epistemology, Relationships

  • 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: The Nature of Mysticism: 4 Nov 2012, Question 1
  • Question: What is mysticism? Is mysticism distinct from religion, faith, and belief in the supernatural? Can a person be non-religious but mystical? Can a person be religious but non-mystical?

    Tags: Epistemology, Faith, Mysticism, Psycho-Epistemology, Rationality, Religion

  • Q&A: Judging People Struggling with Temptations: 16 Sep 2012, Question 1
  • Question: Does a person deserve extra moral praise for acting rightly despite strong contrary emotions? How does overcoming strong emotions in order to do the right thing (or refrain from doing the wrong thing) factor into morally judging a person? If person A has no emotional conflict and thus does the right thing more or less "effortlessly," while person B takes the same correct action despite strong emotional motivation to act otherwise, does person B deserve any extra moral credit for the amount of emotional or mental effort he made? Or is moral judgment to be made solely on the basis of actions, with internal mental effort being irrelevant?

    Tags: Character, Christianity, Emotions, Ethics, Judgment, Justice, Moral Wrongs, Pleasure, Pride, Psycho-Epistemology, Psychology, Self-Control, Temptation, Willpower

  • Q&A: Prayers of Atheists: 9 Sep 2012, Question 3
  • Question: Is it wrong for an atheist to pray? I used to be a Christian, but I've not believed in God for many years. However, I still pray when I'm under stress, even though I know that it doesn't accomplish anything. What's the harm in praying to a non-existent being?

    Tags: Atheism, Epistemology, Integrity, Prayer, Psycho-Epistemology

  • Q&A: Overcoming Weakness of Will: 12 Aug 2012, Question 1
  • Question: What are the best strategies for dealing with weakness of will? I want to go to sleep earlier and wake up earlier, and I know it would be a good thing to do, for reasons both of health and productivity. Yet I often have a problem with actually going to sleep before midnight. Things tempt me to stay awake, like the internet, video games, or just having a bit of "me time" after a day at the university. Occasionally, I have similar problems in regard to work. Are there general strategies to deal with temptation and overcoming weakness of will?

    Tags: Ethics, Psycho-Epistemology, Psychology, Self-Control, Temptation, Willpower

  • Q&A: Mulling Over Memories: 8 Apr 2012, Question 4
  • Question: Should I mull over my memories less frequently? Is it unhealthy for a person to continuously mull over previous events and specific memories? I go over past events in my mind on a constant basis. I try to recall specific details (i.e., things I was thinking at the time, etc.) and keep a perfect "image" of the memory/event in my mind as long as possible. Is this strange, unhealthy, or counterproductive?

    Tags: Emotions, Ethics, Memory, Psycho-Epistemology, Psychology

  • Q&A: Tenacity in Pursuit of Goals: 8 Jan 2012, Question 1
  • Question: How can I become more tenacious in pursuit of my goals? I find that I give up too easily on some of my goals, particularly when success is far away and much effort is required now. What can I do to make myself more tenacious?

    Tags: Aristotle, Character, Ethics, Objectivism, Productivity, Psycho-Epistemology, Psychology, Tenacity, Virtue

  • Q&A: Balancing Introspection and Productive Work: 18 Dec 2011, Question 3
  • Question: How can I achieve a better balance between introspection and productive work? Particularly I've made some mistake, I'll get wrapped up in the process of introspection until I get the problem sorted out. However, that consumes time – and often my projects suffer and I miss deadlines. How can I find a better balance between these two important activities?

    Tags: Introspection, Moral Wrongs, Productiveness, Psycho-Epistemology

  • Q&A: Rationality in Face of Overwhelming Emotions: 18 Dec 2011, Question 1
  • Question: How can a person regain his rationality in the face of overwhelming emotions? On occasion, I find my rational judgment swamped by strong emotions like anger and anxiety. In such cases, my thinking seems distorted by my emotions. While in the grip of such emotions, what can I do to re-establish my powers of rational thought? Also, how can I prevent myself from saying or doing things that I'll later regret?

    Tags: Character, Emotions, Introspection, Psycho-Epistemology, Psychology, Rationality, Self-Control, Willpower

  • Q&A: Reasoning by Facts Rather than Emotions: 20 Nov 2011, Question 4
  • Question: How do I know that I'm reasoning based on facts, rather than just being driven by my emotions? Often, I feel strong emotions on some personal or political issue. How do I know that I'm not rationalizing what I want to be true?

    Tags: Emotions, Epistemology, Introspection, Psycho-Epistemology, Psychology, Rationality

  • Q&A: Forcing Religious Fanaticism on Others: 20 Nov 2011, Question 3
  • Question: Why do religious fanatics seek to impose their beliefs on others? Most religious fanatics aren't content to practice their religion for themselves: they seek to impose it on others by law. Why is that? Why is that wrong? What can be done to combat it?

    Tags: Christianity, Epistemology, Ethics, Ethics, Government, Politics, Psycho-Epistemology, Psychology, Religion

  • Q&A: Evasion Versus Rationalization Versus Context-Dropping: 13 Nov 2011, Question 3
  • Question: How are evasion, rationalization, and context-dropping similar and different? When thinking over a problem I notice that these terms can often be applied simultaneously. So what do they mean – and how are they similar and different?

    Tags: Abortion, Emotions, Epistemology, Ethics, Infidelity, Marriage, Politics, Psycho-Epistemology, Psychology

  • Q&A: Feeling Guilty for Emotions: 18 Sep 2011, Question 2
  • Question: Should a person feel guilty about his emotions? Sometimes I feel emotions that I know are misplaced, such as envy at a co-worker's promotion or anger at a friend's mistake. What should my response be to these emotions? Should I feel guilty about them? Should I change them – and if so, how?

    Tags: Emotions, Ethics, Introspection, Psycho-Epistemology, Psychology

  • Q&A: Introspection: 7 Aug 2011, Question 1
  • Question: What is introspection? Why should a person introspect? What should a person introspect about – or not? How can a person introspect effectively?

    Tags: Emotions, Ethics, Introspection, Psycho-Epistemology, Psychology

  • Q&A: Open Minds: 1 May 2011, Question 1
  • Question: When should a rational person be open-minded? Many people seem to have a mistaken idea of what it means to have an open mind. Where should a person draw the line between (a) listening to an opinion/idea and considering its value and (b) writing off the idea/opinion as hogwash?

    Tags: Epistemology, Ethics, Philosophy, Psycho-Epistemology

  • Q&A: Indulging Emotions: 3 Apr 2011, Question 6
  • Question: How do you change from being an emotionalist to being rational? I have the tendency to reminisce on fantasies and memories of martyrdom. I do it because it gives me a emotional surge of ecstasy and heartache. For example, I fantasize about telling the people who mistreated me so badly in Army Basic Training about what that was like for me. This indulgence is costing me my mind. I want to be emotionally competent. Any advice on how to be level-headed lucid/rational thinker, and stop the habit of indulging my emotions?

    Tags: Emotions, Ethics, Habits, Introspection, Psycho-Epistemology, Psychology, Rationality

  • Q&A: Relying on Gut Feelings: 6 Feb 2011, Question 1
  • Question: Is it ever rational to rely on a "gut" feeling? More than once I have dismissed feelings that a person is not trustworthy, if I couldn't find a rational basis for them. Every time my initial instinct was proven to be accurate. Is it possible that I'm picking up on something that I can't consciously identify?

    Tags: Emotions, Epistemology, Introspection, Psycho-Epistemology, Rationality

  • Q&A: Thinking Too Much: 19 Dec 2010, Question 1
  • Question: Is it possible to think too much? And where does one draw the line between necessary thinking and overthinking? Objectivists are people who take ideas seriously; they are intellectually inclined (as far as I can discern) and spend a lot of time "inside the mind." With all this emphasis on rationality, thinking, introspection, analysis, judgment, reading, etc., how does one avoid the frustration or sense of "analysis paralysis" and ultimately depression that ensues from all this deep thinking and focus on ideas. For example, I've heard numerous people in forums or in letters to Dr. Peikoff state that they are depressed about the state of current politics, our culture, etc. What principles or general rules does one use to put the breaks on all the deep thinking and just chill out, "live and let live," and stop one from becoming crazy. Meditation? Get drunk? (Kidding). On a personal note, I've found that it is necessary for me to literally suppress my thinking and let myself drift into an out of focus state in order to maintain a sense of serenity necessary to get through the day.

    Tags: Ethics, Introspection, Psycho-Epistemology, Psychology, Rationality

  • Q&A: The Problem of Procrastination: 5 Dec 2010, Question 3
  • Question: How can I procrastinate less? Often, I avoid doing unpleasant tasks for days or weeks, and I feel terrible about those delays. How can I motivate myself to just get those dreaded chores out of the way?

    Tags: Emotions, Procrastination, Productivity, Psycho-Epistemology, Psychology

  • Q&A: Fighting Apathy: 28 Nov 2010, Question 5
  • Question: How do I fight apathy? How should one go about controlling their emotional response to things better? I have found that a lot of things in life have made me far more apathetic towards life; how should I go about turning this around?

    Tags: Character, Emotions, Introspection, Psycho-Epistemology

  • Podcast: Cultivating Concentration: 14 Oct 2009
  • Summary: The power to concentrate is not a natural talent: it's a skill that people need to cultivate. Here, I discuss methods for cultivating your power to concentrate.

    Tags: Concentration, Focus, Free Will, Habits, Psycho-Epistemology


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