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)


Responsibility

  • Q&A: Responsibility for Stolen Firearms: 21 Jun 2015, Question 3
  • Question: Should a person injured by a stolen gun be permitted to sue the original owner thereof for damages? Imagine that a person's firearm is stolen, then used in a crime to injure an innocent person. Can the crime victim sue the owner of the gun for damages? Would it matter if the gun was left in plain sight or not locked away? Would it matter if the gun was stolen months or years before the crime? Also, what if the gun owner lent his gun to another person who he reasonably thought was honest and law-abiding? If the gun owner is not legally liable, might he be morally culpable?

    Tags: Crime, Ethics, Firearms, Law, Negligence, Responsibility, Theft, Torts

  • Q&A: Responsibility for a Child: 14 Jun 2015, Question 1
  • Question: When is a person responsible for an unexpected and unwanted child? Sex sometimes results in an unexpected and perhaps unwanted pregnancy. What are the moral responsibilities of each party in this situation? Do a person's obligations depend on prior agreements about what would be done in such a case? Do they depend on whether contraception was used or not? If the man said that he didn't want children and used contraception, yet a pregnancy occurs, does he have any moral or legal obligation to pay for an abortion, support the child, or act as a father? Does the answer change if the woman agreed to have an abortion in advance, then changes her mind? Should couples talk explicitly about these matters before sex?

    Tags: Abortion, Children, Communication, Dating, Ethics, Law, Marriage, Parenting, Relationships, Responsibility, Romance, Sex

  • Q&A: John Galt's Motor: 24 May 2015, Question 2
  • Question: Was John Galt evil, wrong, or a jerk for not commercializing his motor? In Atlas Shrugged, John Galt went on strike when the world seemed only a little worse off than today politically in America. Things got really bad so fast because Galt dismantled everything. If, instead of going on strike, he had quit the Twentieth Century Motor Company and started the Galt Motor Company, things seem like they would have gone a very different way. By my reading, Galt's motor was pretty much a free energy miracle – for the same price as a car engine a car could need no fuel and be nearly maintenance free. Electricity would be too cheap to meter and probably within a decade the Galt Motor Company would provide the engines for every plane, train, automobile, and power plant in America. The resulting economic boom from ultra-cheap energy would have probably improved conditions – there'd be fewer calls for controls because everything would be going so swimmingly. Galt could have gone into the other countries and demanded they liberalize their economies if they wanted him to electrify their countries. His wealth and influence would let him meet with titans of industry and convince them of his morality. He could invest in Hollywood and make movies and TV shows that showed his views. He could have met Dagny and fallen in love with her, and I'm sure over months of dating she would have come around to realize that his morality was right. Her resistance was, after all, to the strike, not really the idea that we should be selfish. People seem to get more panicky and politicians more lusting after power when the economy is doing poorly. In huge booms things seem to get better. People who are well off don't cry out for a savior and accept whatever anyone tells them will make things better, because things are going pretty well. If Galt probably could have gotten rich, liberalized the economies of the world, married Dagny, and sparked a moral revolution all without dismantling civilization, shouldn't he have? If his motor really could save everyone (and it seems like it could have), he is at least kind of a jerk to not commercialize it – and probably self-destructive too. So why go on strike at all?

    Tags: Activism, Altruism, Atlas Shrugged, Business, Death Premise, Duty Ethics, Economics, Ethics, Ethics, Law, Literature, Objectivism, Philosophy, Politics, Responsibility

  • Q&A: Euthanizing a Pet: 5 Apr 2015, Question 2
  • Question: When should a person euthanize a pet? Over the years, I've had to decide whether to medically treat my cats or euthanize them when they're seriously ill, and it tends to be a hard choice to make. Concern for the cat's quality of life is a factor, but so is the monetary cost of veterinary procedures and medication, the time required, and the emotional pain of parting from an animal that has been part of my life for many years. In my own decisions, I've come down to, "Am I keeping this cat alive because his life has value to him, or because I don't want to face losing him?" Yet in online discussions, I see comments from other people who strike me as prolonging a pet's life even when the pet is miserable, which seems horrifying to me. What is your approach to these decisions? What do you think is the best way to approach them? Is this a question of ethical principle or purely one of optional values?

    Tags: Aggression, Animals, Euthanasia, Pets, Responsibility, Risk, Suffering, Ultrahazardous, Ultrahazardous Activities, Values

  • Chat: Responsibility & Luck, Chapter Six: 15 Jan 2015
  • Summary: Can an Aristotelian theory of moral responsibility solve the problem of moral luck? In particular, how does the theory of responsibility for actions handle the proposed cases of "circumstantial moral luck"? I answered these questions and more in this discussion of Chapter Six of my book, Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame.

    Tags: Academia, Aristotle, Crime, Epistemology, Ethics, Justice, Law, Luck, Metaphysics, Moral Judgment, Moral Luck, Philosophy, Politics, Responsibility, Responsibility & Luck

  • Q&A: Overcoming Lethargy: 28 Dec 2014, Question 2
  • Question: How can I motivate myself to act to further my goals despite my overwhelming lethargy? I struggle with motivating myself to do what I know I should. I'm not inclined to do wrong, but I just find it hard to act to further my goals in life. I'm 26 and I live with my dad while I (slowly) finish my degree. I want to become financially independent and move out on my own, but I struggle with the normal, necessary daily habits required to get this done. For example, my dad wants me to do more house chores, and I can see how this is a fair thing to ask, given that he works two jobs to support both of us. However, when I think about all the things I should be doing a wave of lethargy overcomes me. It's the same story when I think about the homework I need to do, which isn't even very hard to do. Job searching and trying to build my resume are also on my mind, but I can't seem to get motivated to do that either. I have implemented GTD, but obviously once it comes to actually carrying out all of the plans, I can get a good burst of motivation for a short while, but then something doesn't go my way, and the lethargy hits me again. Both of my parents have clinical depression and anxiety problems, and I have seen first hand how it has affected their lives. I have spent most of my life combating depression and anxiety. I can always summon up a good mood for myself – sometimes by evading the pressure of my responsibilities, which is not good – and when I feel anxiety I am able to calm myself down by introspecting and thinking through it. So I know that I have the tools to solve problems in my life and achieve my goals, but self awareness has only gotten me so far. What can I do to raise my motivation and keep it up? How do I overcome the tendency to procrastinate and ignore my responsibilities? How do I put my philosophy into action?

    Tags: Emotions, Ethics, Mental Health, Motivation, Personality, Productivity, Psychology, Responsibility

  • Q&A: Responsibility for Pets: 7 Dec 2014, Question 2
  • Question: Should I put my cat down rather than leave him in a shelter? After listening to the podcast question about the person who lived in Philadelphia and wanted to get out of the ghetto, I got the motivation to land a great new job in Seattle. I am moving to a new city in a few weeks and will be traveling quite a bit. I will not be able to take care of my cat with all of the traveling. I don't have the money to hire people to watch my pet while I am gone. I have put the cat up on billboards and ebay classifieds with no responses. The cat isn't friendly to anyone but me, so I doubt a prospective adopter would choose to take him after meeting him. As my move date grows closer, I am wondering if it would be better to have my cat put down than to leave him with a shelter. What should I do?

    Tags: Animals, Ethics, Pets, Responsibility, Values

  • Chat: Responsibility & Luck, Chapter Five: 4 Dec 2014
  • Summary: In Chapter Three of the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle develops the outlines of a theory of moral responsibility. He argues that responsibility requires (1) control and (2) knowledge. What is the meaning of those conditions for moral responsibility? What do they require in practice? Are those conditions for moral responsibility sufficient? What gaps did Aristotle leave? What is required for a full and clear defense of moral responsibility for actions? I answered these questions and more in this discussion of Chapter Five of my book, Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame.

    Tags: Academia, Aristotle, Crime, Epistemology, Ethics, Justice, Law, Luck, Metaphysics, Moral Judgment, Moral Luck, Philosophy, Politics, Responsibility, Responsibility & Luck

  • Q&A: Voters' Responsibility for Politicians: 19 Oct 2014, Question 1
  • Question: To what extent are voters responsible for the actions of politicians? Suppose that a candidate announces his plans and actions for next term before the election. Are the people who vote for that candidate morally sanctioning and/or responsible for those actions, for better or worse? For example, you vote for a candidate who supports de-regulation and ending social welfare programs, even though he's completely against abortion in all circumstances, even when that might result in the woman's death. Since you, as a voter, knew his position when you voted for him, aren't you partially responsible for any deaths of women caused by his anti-abortion policies?

    Tags: Activism, Elections, Ethics, Politics, Responsibility, Rights, Voting

  • Q&A: Blaming Crime Victims: 21 Sep 2014, Question 1
  • Question: Is it wrong to suggest that a crime victim should have taken greater precautions? My wife and I were discussing the recent iCloud data breach in which a hacker stole and published nude photos of hundreds of female celebrities. I made the comment that while the hacker's actions were despicable, at the same time I thought the celebrities were stupid to have trusted iCloud to protect the privacy of their photos in the first place. My wife balked at this, saying that this amounts to blaming the victim, and is no better than saying a woman who is raped was stupid for wearing a short skirt, or for drinking alcohol. But I see it as being more akin to saying a person whose bag was stolen from their car was stupid for leaving the door unlocked. Do comments of this sort really amount to 'blaming the victim'? Is it proper or improper to make such comments? Does my level of expertise or the victim's level of expertise make any difference? (As a computer engineer, I am very aware of the dangers of the cloud, whereas your average celebrity would probably be clueless about it.) Intuitively, I feel like the comments would be improper in my wife's example, proper in my example, and I'm unsure about the data breach itself. But I'm struggling to identify what the defining characteristics are for each case. What's the right approach here?

    Tags: Crime, Ethics, Moral Judgment, Negligence, Responsibility, Technology

  • Q&A: Accepting Voluntary Sacrifices: 10 Aug 2014, Question 1
  • Question: Is accepting voluntary sacrifices from others moral? Imagine that someone offers you a way to increase your wealth, lengthen your lifespan, or achieve your goals at great personal cost to and even sacrifice of himself. Is it wrong to accept that? What if you've tried setting them straight and telling them to act in their self-interest, but they still insist on trying to be altruistic? Would accepting such a sacrifice be a breach of integrity for an egoist, or would rational egoism urge you to enjoy the proffered benefits, so long as voluntarily bestowed? In other words, is accepting voluntary sacrifices from others different from forcing others to sacrifice to you?

    Tags: Egoism, Ethics, Predation, Relationships, Responsibility, Sacrifice, Self-Interest, Self-Sacrifice

  • Chat: Responsibility & Luck, Chapter Four: 17 Jul 2014
  • Summary: The purpose of a theory of moral responsibility is to limit moral judgments of persons to their voluntary doings, products, and qualities. However, moral judgments are not the only – or even the most common – judgments of people we commonly make. So what are the various kinds of judgments we make of other people? What are the distinctive purposes and demands of those judgments? What is the relationship between those judgments and a person's voluntary actions, outcomes, and traits? I answered these questions and more in this discussion of Chapter Four of my book, Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame.

    Tags: Academia, Aristotle, Common Sense, Crime, Epistemology, Ethics, Justice, Law, Luck, Metaphysics, Moral Judgment, Moral Luck, Philosophy, Politics, Responsibility, Responsibility & Luck

  • Chat: Responsibility & Luck, Chapter Three: 19 Jun 2014
  • Summary: What does Thomas Nagel's control condition for moral responsibility really mean? Does it set an impossible standard? Have others noticed and capitalized on this problem? I answered these questions and more in this discussion of Chapter Three of my book, Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame.

    Tags: Academia, Aristotle, Common Sense, Crime, Egalitarianism, Epistemology, Ethics, Immanuel Kant, John Rawls, Justice, Law, Luck, Metaphysics, Moral Judgment, Moral Luck, Philosophy, Politics, Responsibility, Responsibility & Luck

  • Chat: Responsibility & Luck, Chapter Two: 5 Jun 2014
  • Summary: What are some of the common proposed solutions to the problem of moral luck? How and why do they fail? I answered these questions and more in this discussion of Chapter Two of my book, Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame.

    Tags: Academia, Compatibilism, Crime, Determinism, Egalitarianism, Ethics, Free Will, John Rawls, Justice, Law, Luck, Moral Judgment, Moral Luck, Philosophy, Politics, Responsibility, Responsibility & Luck

  • Q&A: Moral Judgments of Sexuality: 29 May 2014, Question 2
  • Question: Does the morality of homosexuality depend on it being unchosen? It seems that the advocates of gay rights and gay acceptance are obsessed with proving that homosexuality is never a choice. I find this confusing as it doesn't seem to be the best argument. Even if sexual orientation were chosen, I don't see why there would be anything better or worse about preferences for heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality. Rather, I think that if I were able to pick, I would choose to be bisexual, as being straight limits my expression of admiration towards men who may represent the "highest values one can find in a human being" simply due to their genitals. Is that right? Or does the case for rights for and acceptance of gays depend in some way on sexual orientation being unchosen?

    Tags: Ethics, GLBT, Responsibility, Responsibility, Sex

  • Chat: Responsibility & Luck, Chapter One: 22 May 2014
  • Summary: What is the "problem of moral luck"? Why does it matter to ethics, law, and politics? What is its connection to John Rawls' egalitarianism? Why did I choose to write my doctoral dissertation on the topic? I answered these questions and more in this live discussion of Chapter One of my book, Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame.

    Tags: Academia, Crime, Egalitarianism, Ethics, John Rawls, Justice, Law, Luck, Moral Judgment, Moral Luck, Philosophy, Politics, Responsibility, Responsibility & Luck

  • 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: Responsibility for Another's Medical Emergencies: 1 Dec 2013, Question 3
  • Question: Is it wrong to walk away from a person who suffers from repeated medical emergencies due to their own irresponsibility? Over a year ago, I was the tenant of a type-1 diabetic who refused to eat properly. As a result, I regularly had to call the ambulance for her, as she would allow her blood-sugar to drop to dangerous levels, such that she couldn't think or move for herself. She never learned anything from these experiences. She never put emergency food within reach, for example. So a few days or weeks later, I would have to call the ambulance again. I believe that I was being forced – literally – to take care of her. I feared that I'd face manslaughter or other criminal charges if I left her alone in that state. Would it have been morally proper for me to leave her in that state without any advance warning? Should that be legally permissible?

    Tags: Altruism, Character, Egoism, Ethics, Health, Independence, Justice, Responsibility

  • Q&A: Free Will and Moral Responsibility: 17 Nov 2013, Question 1
  • Question: What is the relationship between free will and moral responsibility? To me, the concept of free will found in debates about determinism seems different from the concept of free will relevant to questions of moral responsibility. The former is a metaphysical concept, and a person either has free will or not. The latter is a psychological concept, and it seems to be a matter of degree based on nature and nurture. However, psychological free will seems to presuppose metaphysical free will. Is that right? What is the relationship between free will and moral responsibility?

    Tags: Ethics, Free Will, Moral Judgment, Moral Luck, Responsibility

  • Podcast: Reading of Responsibility & Luck, Chapter One: 15 Nov 2013
  • Summary: In this podcast, I read Chapter One of my new book, Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame. Chapter One introduces Thomas Nagel's problem of moral luck, then surveys the three major types of moral luck – resultant moral luck, circumstantial moral luck, and constitutive moral luck. The problem of moral luck is not merely some small problem in ethics. It threatens to undermine any and all moral praise and blame of persons. It also provides the foundation for John Rawls' arguments for an egalitarian political order. This chapter concludes by surveying the book as a whole, chapter by chapter. Chapter One is also freely available as a PDF.

    Tags: Egalitarianism, Ethics, John Rawls, Luck, Moral Judgment, Moral Luck, Responsibility, Thomas Nagel

  • Q&A: Risking Welfare by Having Children: 1 Sep 2013, Question 2
  • Question: Should a person forgo having children to avoid the risk of needing welfare? I know that accepting government welfare is wrong: it's a kind of loot stolen from taxpayers. For a person to accept welfare is damaging to his life and happiness. However, I would like children, but in today's economy, particularly with my spouse's frequent job turnover, I'm not sure that's possible without ever relying on welfare. If I had children, I don't know if I would be able to resist becoming a looter to care for them. What if the only alternative is for the state to take charge of them? I couldn't allow that. Wouldn't accepting welfare be better than that?

    Tags: Children, Ethics, Parenting, Responsibility, Welfare

  • Interview: Fran Santagata on Preparing for Wildfires and Evacuations: 2 Jul 2013
  • Summary: Colorado is experiencing yet another very destructive – even deadly – fire season. What can people do to prepare for that? How can they mitigate the risk to their property? How can they make sure that people and animals are evacuated safely?

    Tags: Emergencies, Government, Planning, Responsibility, Values

  • Q&A: Cultivating Powers of Self-Control: 23 Jun 2013, Question 1
  • Question: Should a person cultivate his powers of self-control? What is self-control? Is strong capacity for self-control of value? Does self-control have a downside or limits? How can a person develop more self-control?

    Tags: Aristotle, Ethics, Moral Amplifiers, Psychology, Rationality, Responsibility, Self-Control, Temptation, Virtue, Willpower

  • Q&A: The Morality of an Armed Society: 16 Jun 2013, Question 3
  • Question: Is an armed society a polite society – or a violent society? Author Robert Heinlein famously said that "An armed society is a polite society." Many liberals, however, fear an armed society as barbaric and violent. Is widespread ownership and/or carry of arms a positive or a negative feature of a society?

    Tags: Character, Culture, Determinism, Ethics, Firearms, Moral Amplifiers, Rationality, Responsibility

  • 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: Sharing Lecture Notes: 18 Nov 2012, Question 4
  • Question: Is it wrong to refuse to share lecture notes with a lazy student? A classmate of mine is nice enough but a bit odd. She's always at least 30 minutes late for lecture, and she doesn't come to lab sometimes. In lecture, she does not take notes but instead usually draws the whole class period. Today, she asked to borrow some of my lecture notes. I told her that I noticed that she was always late and that she didn't take notes, and she denied that. Still, I told her that lending her my notes would be inconvenient, then I suggested that she ask someone else. Normally, I'd be happy to share my notes, but in this case, I didn't want to share the results of my efforts in attending this class on time, every day, and paying attention. Was that wrong?

    Tags: Communication, Culture, Education, Ethics, Free Society, Generosity, Honesty, Moral Wrongs, Responsibility

  • Q&A: Choosing to Live in a Socialist Country: 4 Nov 2012, Question 3
  • Question: Is it moral to choose to live in a socialist country? A person might move to England to study at a conservatory or move to China for a job. Would it be moral to do that – meaning, to move to a socialist country and make use their government institutions? Would there be some kind of obligation to "pay back" what the person gains from that country's taxpayers, such as by donating to organizations that promote capitalism in that country? Or would it be immoral altogether, such that a person should pursue whatever opportunities he can in America (or where he is)?

    Tags: Ethics, Free Society, Government, Life, Mixed Economy, Personal Values, Politics, Responsibility

  • Q&A: Reasons for Everything: 21 Oct 2012, Question 3
  • Question: Does everything happen for a reason? When confronted with some unwelcome turn of events, many people tell themselves that "everything happens for a reason." What does that mean – and is it true? Is it harmless – or does believing that have negative effects on a person's life?

    Tags: Causality, Ethics, Evil, Religion, Responsibility

  • Chat: Anything Under the Sun: 29 Aug 2012
  • Q&A: Hypocritical Allies: 29 Jul 2012, Question 2
  • Question: What should you do when your allies are exposed as hypocrites? Just because a person advocates good ideas doesn't mean that he practices them. For example, a defender of free markets might use zoning laws to prevent the construction of a new building on land adjacent to his home to preserve his view. Or an advocate of justice and independence as virtues might condemn and ostracize people who disagree with him on trivial matters. Or an advocate of productive work might sponge off friends and relatives. When you discover such behavior in your allies, what should you do? Should you attempt to defend them? Should you try to keep the hypocrisy quiet? Should you condemn them? Should you say that "nobody's perfect"? What's fair – and what's best for your cause?

    Tags: Activism, Ethics, Honesty, Hypocrisy, Integrity, Moral Wrongs, Responsibility

  • Interview: Dr. Paul Hsieh on Surviving Socialized Medicine: 25 Jul 2012
  • Summary: With ObamaCare confirmed by the Supreme Court, what can a person do to preserve his health under America's increasingly socialized system of medical care?

    Tags: Ethics, Health, Medicine, Politics, Responsibility

  • 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

  • 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: Obligation, Responsibility, and Duty: 22 Apr 2012, Question 1
  • Question: What is the difference between obligation, responsibility, and duty? Often, people use these terms interchangeably. What's difference between them, if any?

    Tags: Duty, Ethics, Philosophy, Responsibility

  • Q&A: Donating Sperm or Eggs Anonymously: 4 Dec 2011, Question 3
  • Question: Is it moral to anonymously donate sperm or eggs, not knowing how the resulting children will be raised? Is the answer the same for donating fertilized embryos left over from an in vitro fertilization procedure, where the DNA is both yours and your spouse's?

    Tags: Children, Ethics, Parenting, Responsibility

  • Q&A: Admitting Mistakes at Work: 13 Nov 2011, Question 1
  • Question: Should you always own up to your mistakes? Recently, I made a huge mistake at work, accidentally discarding some very important files. When inquiry was made, I denied knowing anything about it. Should I have fessed up?

    Tags: Business, Character, Ethics, Honesty, Moral Wrongs, Responsibility, Work

  • Q&A: Giving Away Unhealthy Food: 6 Nov 2011, Question 2
  • Question: Is it immoral to give away food that you regard as unhealthy? Assuming that one believes (as I do) that candy and sweets are harmful to health (especially in quantity), is it immoral to participate in trick-or-treat by giving children candy when they come to your door? Or, is it immoral to "dispose" of an unwanted gift of, say, a rich chocolate cake by leaving it by the coffee machine at work to be quickly scarfed up by one's co-workers (as an alternative to simply discarding it)? Is the morality of these two cases different because in one case the recipients are children while in the other case they are adults?

    Tags: Diet, Ethics, Health, Integrity, Nutrition, Paleo, Responsibility

  • Q&A: The Purpose of Bankruptcy Law: 30 Oct 2011, Question 1
  • Question: What is the proper purpose of bankruptcy laws? When should a person renegotiate his debt with lenders, if ever? Should a person be able to wipe his debt clean by going into bankruptcy? In your 10 July 2011 webcast discussion of strategic default on mortgages, you suggested that a person shouldn't be able to do that, but shouldn't lenders be responsible for who they lend money to?

    Tags: Bankruptcy, Business, Ethics, Finances, Honesty, Law, Politics, Responsibility

  • Q&A: Teaching Young People to Use Credit Cards Wisely: 9 Oct 2011, Question 4
  • Question: How can young adults learn to use credit cards responsibly? Some young adults (usually college students) seem to make terrible financial decisions, often getting themselves into serious and overwhelming credit card debt. Others seem to handle their new financial responsibilities just fine. How would you recommend that parents teach their teenage children to use credit cards wisely? What advice would you give to young people headed to college about managing their finances well?

    Tags: Children, Ethics, Finances, Parenting, Responsibility, Young Adults

  • Q&A: Filial Responsibility Laws: 4 Sep 2011, Question 4
  • Question: How should a person deal with filial responsibility laws? In your April 10th webcast, you discussed the morality of taking care of elderly parents. Some states have filial responsibility laws, which would force people to take care of indigent elderly parents. How should a person would cope with such laws in practice?

    Tags: Adult Children, Ethics, Family, Family, Finances, Law, Responsibility, Welfare

  • Q&A: The Morality of Strategic Default: 10 Jul 2011, Question 2
  • Question: Is it moral to strategically default on your mortgage? Suppose that you could continue to pay your mortgage, but you're underwater: you owe more than the house is worth. You realize that you'd save tens of thousands of dollars by defaulting. Would it be morally wrong to default, assuming that you don't engage in any fraud or other dishonesty in doing so? Would it make a difference if you do that in today's highly regulated market versus in a fully free market?

    Tags: Bankruptcy, Business, Ethics, Finances, Honesty, Integrity, Law, Responsibility

  • 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: The Morality of Exploiting Flaws in Government Lotteries: 12 Jun 2011, Question 4
  • Question: Is it moral to exploit a design flaw in a government or private lottery? An article in Wired describes how a statistician noticed a design flaw in the Ontario government lottery "scratchers" game which would allow people to consistently win money. He was described as being "ethical" because he alerted the authorities rather than taking advantage of it for personal gain, and they fixed the problem. Would it be moral to exploit a mathematical flaw in a government lottery without alerting anyone? Would it make a difference if the game was the work of a private casino rather than the government (e.g., exploiting a bias in a casino's roulette wheel)?

    Tags: Arbitrage, Ethics, Honesty, Integrity, Responsibility

  • Q&A: Wealth and Social Responsibility: 22 May 2011, Question 6
  • Question: Doesn't greater wealth entail greater responsibility? If you have amassed a great fortune, don't you also have to shoulder a greater responsibility to society and your fellow man than others? After all, success in business doesn't occur in a vacuum: it always depends on the community to some extent. People like Michael Bloomberg or George Lucas know that they would not be where they are today without some pretty significant assistance from others. So shouldn't they assume more responsibility for their fellow man than others?

    Tags: Altruism, Business, Politics, Responsibility, Wealth

  • Q&A: Responsibility for Siblings: 17 Apr 2011, Question 5
  • Question: Do I have any responsibility towards my younger brother? My parents constantly ask me to help my brother with his studies, homework, etc, and look after him when they're out and do things for him at the expense of my own studies and time. But I don't find any value in helping my brother. Should I refuse to help my parents in this way?

    Tags: Ethics, Family, Family, Parenting, Responsibility, Siblings

  • 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

  • Q&A: The Excuse of "I'm Only Human": 27 Mar 2011, Question 4
  • Question: What do you think of the oft-quoted bromide "I'm only human"? I have heard that phrase often, and it seems there are several uses to which it is applied, some legitimate and some seem nefarious and ugly.

    Tags: Ethics, Language, Responsibility

  • Q&A: Obligation to Engage in Activism: 13 Mar 2011, Question 2
  • Question: Is it morally obligatory to engage in activism? I want to fight for a better, more rational culture. But I know that I'm not a good writer or speaker. If I instead give my money to those who are, isn't that a good division of labor? Is it obligatory that I myself attempt to engage in such activism or can I pay others who are better at it (and would like to earn money doing so)?

    Tags: Activism, Culture, Politics, Responsibility

  • Q&A: When to Speak Out: 2 Jan 2011, Question 6
  • Question: Under what circumstances does it become incumbent to challenge another's beliefs, especially in a religious context?

    Tags: Communication, Integrity, Responsibility, Sanction

  • Q&A: Irresponsible Adult Children: 31 Oct 2010, Question 5
  • Question: How would you treat an adult child who wishes to move back home after a history of poor self-control and irresponsible choices?

    Tags: Adult Children, Ethics, Family, Family, Judgment, Justice, Parenting, Rationality, Responsibility, Self-Control


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