On the next Philosophy in Action Radio, I'll answer questions on psychics in a free society, fear of leading a worthless life, and more. The live broadcast begins at 8 am PT / 9 MT / 10 CT / 11 ET on Sunday, 5 October 2014. If you can't attend live, be sure to listen to the podcast later.


Torts

  • Q&A: Rescuing Other People's Pets: 11 Sep 2014, Question 1
  • Question: Should a person be prosecuted for property damage when committed in order to rescue the property owner's pet from harm or death? Recently, I heard a story about a man who smashed the window of a stranger's car in order to rescue a dog left inside. It was a very hot day, and the dog would have died or suffered brain damage if it had not been rescued. Was it moral for the man to do this? Should he be charged with criminal damages for smashing the window? Should the owner of the dog be charged with leaving the dog to die in the car?

    Tags: Animals, Benevolent, Ethics, Law, Property Rights, Rights, Torts

  • Q&A: Frivolous Lawsuits: 31 Aug 2014, Question 3
  • Question: Should judges refuse to hear cases from lawyers behind frivolous suits? In your 15 May 2014 show, you expressed curiosity about possible improvements to the justice system. I came up with the following idea after sitting on a jury for a civil trial where, after the plaintiff presented his case, the judge dismissed the suit without even having the defendant present his defense. In cases where a judge thinks everyone's time and money were wasted by a pointless case, the judge should refuse to hear any future cases from the lawyer for the losing side. That would cause the lawyer to think twice about representing any frivolous cases, since he would risk being banned from the presiding judge's courtroom henceforth. In addition, judges who know each other could share lawyer blacklists, preventing the lawyer from wasting other judges' time as well. Would this be possible? Would it fix the problem of frivolous lawsuits?

    Tags: Incentives, Justice, Law, Torts

  • Q&A: Drunk Driving in a Free Society: 22 Jun 2014, Question 2
  • Question: Should driving drunk be illegal in a free society? Should the government of a free society forbid and punish people for activities potentially harmful to others when they've impaired their judgment via drugs or alcohol? Basically, should driving or shooting a firearm while drunk be illegal? Or should such decisions be left entirely to the discretion of private property owners? Also, given that the government owns the roads today, are laws against drunk driving unjust?

    Tags: Alcohol/Drugs, Crime, Ethics, Free Society, Government, Law, Negligence, Rights, Risk, Torts

  • Q&A: The Presence of Juries at Trials: 15 May 2014, Question 2
  • Question: Should juries be present at trials? In fictional portrayals of trials, the jury is often told to disregard certain statements. Also, interruptions in the form of objections are common. Wouldn't it be easier for the jury to be absent from the trial itself, then presented with all and only the admissible evidence and testimony afterward? In fact, the jury need not see the parties in question, nor even know their names. Wouldn't that eliminate the possibility of racial discrimination and other irrelevant judgments?

    Tags: Communication, Contracts, Crime, Epistemology, Honesty, Juries, Law, Torts

  • Q&A: Animals as Property: 13 Apr 2014, Question 2
  • Question: Are animals a special kind of property? On your blog NoodleFood, you claimed that "the law should recognize that beloved pets are not mere property, but rather a special kind of property. To wrongfully cause the death of a pet should carry a significantly higher penalty than merely compensating the owner for the replacement cost of that pet. Moreover, police officers and government officials who indulge in this kind of reckless killing without good cause should be disciplined severely, preferably fired." Can you explain this view – the theory and the practice – further? Would this standard be akin to that of hate crimes, on the theory that crime is wrong but a crime motivated by hate is more wrong? Would it apply to other property – like my car (because it adds so much value to my life) or family photographs (which have lots of sentimental values but not monetary value)?

    Tags: Animals, Crime, Empathy, Ethics, Law, Police, Property, Torts, Values

  • Q&A: The Legality of DDoS Attacks: 30 Jun 2013, Question 4
  • Question: Should Distributed Denial of Service (a.k.a. DDoS) attacks be illegal? DDoS computer attacks are illegal in the United Kingdom. Are such attacks analogous to convincing people to send many letters to an organization or to calling on the phone repeatedly, thereby crippling its infrastructure? Or are they more like trespassing on property? How should the law deal with them?

    Tags: Crime, Law, Technology, Torts

  • Q&A: Antibiotic Resistance in a Free Society: 17 Feb 2013, Question 2
  • Question: How would antibiotic resistance be handled in a free society? Bacteria acquire resistance to antibiotics by exposure to low doses of antibiotics. Such low doses may come from misuse of antibiotics, for example when taken to combat a cold or flu (which are viral infection against which antibiotics do nothing) or by not completing the full course as prescribed by a doctor. Antibiotics are indeed awesome drugs which have saved millions of lives. But resistant bacteria pose a serious health problem, often causing serious and difficult-to-treat illness in third parties. What would be the proper way to address this problem in a free society?

    Tags: Business, Capitalism, Charity, Free Society, Government, Health, Law, Medicine, Negligence, Rights, Torts

  • Q&A: Gay "Conversion" Therapy: 6 Jan 2013, Question 4
  • Question: Was California right or wrong to ban "gay cure" therapy for minors? Recently, California banned "reparative" or "conversion" therapy – meaning, therapy that aims to make gay teenagers straight. Such therapy is widely regarded as dangerous pseudo-science by mental health professionals. The ban only applies to patients under 18. So adults can still choose such therapy for themselves, but parents cannot foist it on their minor children. Is such therapy a form of child abuse? Or should parents have the power to compel such therapy on their children, even if they're morally wrong to do so?

    Tags: Ethics, GLBT, Law, Parenting, Psychology, Rights, Science, Torts

  • Interview: Dr. Sasha Volokh on Taking Stock of Tort Law: 7 Nov 2012
  • Summary: What is tort law? What are its basic principles? What are some of the most interesting debates in tort law? Do some torts conflict with freedom of speech? What, if any, proposals for tort reform are worthy of support? In this interview, law professor Sasha Volokh discussed the nature, value, and limitations of tort law.

    Tags: Defamation, History, Law, Rights, Torts

  • Q&A: Food Safety in a Free Society: 30 Sep 2012, Question 4
  • Question: How would the government protect the safety of food and drugs in a free society? Would the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) exist in free society? If so, would food or drugs have to gain FDA approval to be sold? Would it have the power to remove food or drugs deemed unsafe from the market? If not, what would protect consumers from harm due to adulterated or otherwise unsafe food or drugs?

    Tags: Ethics, Food, Free Society, Health, Law, Medicine, Torts

  • Q&A: Passing Genetic Diseases to Kids: 23 Sep 2012, Question 2
  • Question: Should people with severe genetic diseases take active measures to prevent passing the disease to their children? Some people have severe hereditary diseases – such as Huntington's or Multiple Sclerosis – that might be passed on to their biological children. If that happens, the child will be burdened with the disease later in life, perhaps suffering for years and dying young. Is it wrong for such people to conceive and merely hope for the best – rather than screening for the disease (and aborting if necessary), using donor eggs or sperm, or adopting? Are the parents who just hope for the best harming their future child? Are they violating their child's rights by refusing to take advantage of available technology for preventing the disease?

    Tags: Adult Children, Character, Children, Ethics, Health, Law, Medicine, Negligence, Non-identity Problem, Parenting, Rights, Torts

  • Q&A: Bans on Smoking: 9 Sep 2012, Question 4
  • Question: Do smoking bans violate rights? Cities are banning smoking in private businesses like bars and even smoke shops. Are these bans immoral – meaning, do they violate rights? Does second-hand smoke violate the rights of non-smoking patrons or employees? What should be the policy for government-owned property like parks, court houses, sidewalks, etc?

    Tags: Ethics, Etiquette, Law, Politics, Rights, Smoking, Torts

  • Q&A: Second-hand Smoke: 1 Jul 2012, Question 2
  • Question: It is wrong to inflict second-hand smoke on other people? Although smoking is detrimental to a person's health, whether or not someone smokes is (or should be) a matter of his personal choice. However, what is the proper moral and legal status of "second-hand smoke"? If second-hand smoke contributes to the development of respiratory diseases or if others simply find it noxious, shouldn't people refrain from smoking in public or smoking around people who haven't consented to it? In a free society, would and should most workplaces ban smoking? Could second-hand smoke be considered a tort, such that the state should forbid smoking around people who object to it?

    Tags: Ethics, Etiquette, Law, Politics, Rights, Smoking, Torts

  • 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


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