Q&A: The Ethics of Care for the Body: 12 Apr 2015, Question 3
Q&A: Euthanizing a Pet: 5 Apr 2015, Question 2
Question: What is the moral status of actions aimed at tending to one's body? In an egoistic ethics, the ultimate end of moral action is the growth and continuation of one's own life. Ayn Rand discussed many of the kinds of actions required to achieve this goal, but she didn't discuss matters of "bodily care," such as cleaning your teeth, eating well, exercising regularly, tending to a wound, and seeking necessary medical care. These constitute a whole universe of actions necessary for the maintenance of one's body and, hence, one's life. Are such actions moral and virtuous? Should bodily care itself be considered a virtue? Or are these actions already subsumed under the virtues? (If so, I would love to know how to brush my teeth with integrity and pride!)
Tags: Ambition, Body, Character, Diet, Fitness, Health, Integrity, Mind-Body Connection, Mindsets, Pride, Rationalism, Values, Virtue
Q&A: Personality Theory and Ethics: 5 Apr 2015, Question 1
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
Q&A: Claims of Rights to Food and Shelter: 29 Mar 2015, Question 1
Question: How does personality theory affect ethics? In your December 21st, 2014 discussion of the relationship between philosophy and science, you stated that your grasp of personality theory has given you a fresh perspective on ethics and changed your understanding of the requirements of the virtues. How does personality theory inform the field of ethics, in general? How should personality theory inform our moral judgments? How does one avoid slipping into subjectivism when accounting for personality differences? (Presumably, it doesn't matter whether Hitler was a High-D or not before we judge him as evil.) How can we distinguish between making reasonable accommodations for personality differences and appeasing destructive behavior and people? Are virtues other than justice affected by an understanding of personality theory?
Tags: Character, Ethics, Justice, Personality, Personal Values, Values, Virtue
Q&A: Coming Out as an Atheist: 1 Mar 2015, Question 3
Question: Do people have a right to food and shelter? I recently had a conversation with a Facebook friend who stated that food and shelter are more than necessities, they are rights. I posed the question, "How does one exercise their right to food and shelter?" No one answered the question, so I would like to pose it here. Most food in this country is grown by farmers and sold fresh, or processed in a factory for sale. If food is a "right," does anyone without the means to buy these products have an inherent right to take what they need without any remuneration to the farmer or the manufacturer? The same applies to shelter. How does one exercise their "right" to shelter without a means to earn it? We have a right to free speech, and a right to vote. One is exercised by speaking your mind on a subject without fear of government reprisal, and the other is exercised by voting during elections. We have the right to practice whatever religion we want or none at all. The press has the right to print or say whatever they want. Any "right" to food or shelter would have to operate differently. So are food and shelter a "right"? What would that mean in practice?
Tags: Economics, Ethics, Government, Law, Politics, Progressivism, Rights, Three Languages of Politics, Values, Welfare
Q&A: The Nature of Character: 1 Mar 2015, Question 1
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: Spouses Sharing Activities: 15 Feb 2015, Question 3
Question: What is the nature of character? What is meant by a person's "character"? Is that broader than moral character? What is the relationship between character (moral and otherwise) and personality? Are they distinct? Do they overlap?
Tags: Character, Emotions, Ethics, Mind, Moral Character, Personality, Values
Q&A: The Morality of Boycotts: 8 Feb 2015, Question 3
Question: Should spouses always share activities? A friend of mine is loathe to pursue any hobbies or interests that her husband doesn't share. He's not controlling: she's the same way. Although I know that they want to spend time together, that seems really limiting to me. Is that a reasonable policy in a marriage – or does it lead to self-sacrifice and mutual resentment?
Tags: Hobbies, Marriage, Relationships, Sacrifice, Self-Sacrifice, Values
Q&A: Creating Art: 18 Jan 2015, Question 3
Question: It is moral to advocate for the boycott of a business? Over the holidays, my brother and I discussed cases in which businesses are compelled by government to provide services against their will. For example, the Colorado courts demanded that a bakery make cakes for gay couples or face fines. We agreed that the business should be left free to operate as they see fit, absent violating anyone's actual rights, and reap the rewards or penalties from their choice. Where we diverged was on the moral status of the business owner and whether the bakery deserved to be boycotted. In my view, the decision of the owner of the Colorado bakery was immoral: they were being irrational, discriminating by non-essentials. My brother disagreed. Moreover, my brother opposed any advocacy of a boycott, seeing this as a call for force to be applied against the owner. This would be wrong, in his view, but he would be fine with suggesting that people patronize a different store. Ultimately, I found that I could not adequately explain why I think people might actively and openly oppose wrong acts by businesses, even if those acts don't violate rights. So what justifies such boycotts, if anything?
Tags: Boycotts, Business, Defamation, Ethics, Honesty, Law, Politics, Rights, Torts, Values
Q&A: Marriage without Love: 18 Jan 2015, Question 2
Question: Is creating art necessary for a moral life? Since material values are a human need, independence requires that human beings engage in productive activity. Can the same logic be applied to art? Since art is a human need, does independence require human beings to be artistically creative? Would someone who enjoys art without producing any be an "aesthetic moocher"?
Tags: Aesthetics, Art, Business, Economics, Hobbies, Logic, Rationalism, Trader Principle, Values
Q&A: Punishing Yourself: 4 Jan 2015, Question 2
Question: Should people who merely like and respect each other ever marry? Imagine that a person doesn't think that he'll ever find true and deep love – perhaps for good reason. In that case, is it wrong to marry someone you enjoy, value, like, and respect – even if you don't love that person? What factors might make a decision reasonable, if any? Should the other person know about the lack of depth in your feelings?
Tags: Dating, Friendship, Honesty, Lifestyle, Love, Marriage, Personality, Relationships, Romance, Sex, Values
Q&A: Extremism Versus Consistency: 28 Dec 2014, Question 1
Question: Should a person punish herself for wrongdoing by depriving herself of a value? A friend of mine destroyed her phone in a fit of anger over a difficult situation that wasn't her fault. Now my friend feels guilty about her outburst. She thinks that she doesn't deserve to properly replace her phone, as that would reward her irrational outburst. She wants to either buy a cheap phone or go without a phone for a while. That seems needlessly self-destructive. How can I explain to her that she really ought to replace her phone?
Tags: Ethics, Honesty, Independence, Integrity, Justice, Moral Character, Moral Wrongs, Pride, Punishment, Values
Q&A: Worthy Charities: 14 Dec 2014, Question 3
Question: What's the difference between consistency and extremism? I'm often called an "extremist" for my views – in my view, because I'm very consistent and refuse to compromise. Religious people are often called extremists too, yet that's really only consistency with their scripture. So how does "extremism" differ from consistency, if at all?
Tags: Compromise, Culture, Extremism, Ideology, Logic, Philosophy, Values
Q&A: Managing Differences with Family: 14 Dec 2014, Question 1
Question: What kinds of charities are worthy of support? Many people laud donating to charities, but they don't seem particularly concerned with which charities they support. However, I'd like my charitable dollars to do some good in the world – and do me good in return. So when is it proper to donate to charity? What kinds of charities are worthy of support or not? How can I judge the effectiveness of a charity? Are local charities better than national or international charities?
Tags: Altruism, Benevolence, Charity, Finances, Finances, Sacrifice, Values
Q&A: Responsibility for Pets: 7 Dec 2014, Question 2
Question: How should a young adult manage persistent differences with his family? As I grew up, I turned out radically different from what my family expected. They think college is necessary for success in life. I didn't, and I dropped out. They eat the Standard American Diet and hate fat. I eat Paleo, and I glorify fat. And so on. Basically, we diverge on many points. I've never committed the mistake of attempting to preach to my family in order to persuade them, but many of them grew unduly concerned with these differences between us. They would argue with me on the subject for months, if not years, no matter what good results I had to show them. Assuming that the relationship is otherwise worth maintaining, how should an older child or young adult handle such contentious differences with his family? How can he best communicate his point of view to them – for example, on the question of college, after they've saved for two decades for his college education?
Tags: Boundaries, Communication, Ethics, Family, Independence, Parenting, Personality, Rationality, Relationships, Rhetoric, Values
Q&A: Courage as a Struggle Against Fear: 23 Nov 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
Q&A: Sleeping Around: 9 Nov 2014, Question 3
Question: Does the virtue of courage require struggling against the temptation to succumb to fear? In your 16 September 2012 show
, you argued that "it is far better for a person to cultivate a virtuous moral character so that right actions are easy for him, rather than constantly struggling against temptation." How does this apply to the virtue of courage? The common understanding of courage is that it requires acting rightly in spite of fear. So the courageous person struggles to do the right thing in face of the temptation to retreat in fear. Is this a correct formulation? If so, wouldn't that mean that a courageous person must constantly struggle against fear, not overcome it? If this view of courage is wrong, how would you define the virtue and its relation to fear?
Tags: Character, Courage, Emotions, Ethics, Fear, Integrity, Moral Habits, Rationality, Values
Q&A: Increasing Psychological Visibility: 30 Oct 2014, Question 2
Question: Why would anyone even want to sleep around? Ayn Rand used Francisco D'Anconia to describe her view of sexuality in Atlas Shrugged, but while her explanation was easy enough to understand, there were some things she left out. Namely: why would someone, anyone, sleep around? I've met, and read articles by, women who describe their experiences in the "hookup" culture, and across the board they agree that most of the men they slept with were poor lovers who cared little for them once the act was finished. I know men like this in real life who seem surprised at how unfulfilling their sex lives (admittedly much more active than mine) really are. So I have to ask: why would someone choose to have sex with someone when they know, or at least have good reason to believe, that the person has no actual interest in them personally?
Tags: Communication, Honesty, Promiscuity, Romance, Sex, Values
Q&A: Fear of Leading a Worthless Life: 5 Oct 2014, Question 2
Question: How can I achieve greater psychological visibility? Recently, I realized that many of my emotional difficulties in life – such as in maintaining motivation or keeping serene – may be exacerbated by feelings of psychological invisibility. In other words, I feel uncared for and unnoticed, and the deep dissatisfaction stemming from that could be potentially affecting a lot of areas in my life. For instance, I recently spoke to my manager as to my problems at work, and it made me feel so uniquely good that I was able to finish my shift in peace and on-track, in contrast to the bitter, near seething prior hours. That unique feeling indicates that I may have a deep unfulfilled emotional need in this area, hurting other realms of performance. Thus, what is psychological visibility? What does it add to my life? How can I satisfy it?
Tags: Communication, Friendship, Psychological Visibility, Relationships, Romance, Values
Q&A: The Possibility of an Atheistic Afterlife: 28 Sep 2014, Question 1
Question: How can I overcome my fear of leading a value-less life? Ever since I was young, I've had an overwhelming fear of leading a valueless life. I saw my parent and other adult role models live this way. There was nothing in their life: they never strived for anything, never had dreams, and tended to discourage dreams from others. I always thought that I would be different. I always thought that I could live in a fulfilled way. But slowly I noticed that I was falling into their path. I didn't start college till 23 because of student aid issues. Until then I worked minimum wage, and I went without food some days. Now at 26, I have a 2 year degree. Even with my new job I still live in a drug and prostitution infested ghetto in Philadelphia because this is the only place I can afford. After calculating how long it will take me to get my career off the ground, I could graduate with a MS by 30 or 32. But noticing the patterns that I see in other people, I have this overwhelming fear that all attempts at achieving a value will slowly slip my grasp. I constantly needed to push values off till tomorrow until I get today straightened out. I am scared that tomorrow will never come. I have so many goals and dreams and values but I might never get to achieve them. I see it so clearly sometimes: 45, divorced, alone, with nothing to show for my hard work, debt, a giant mortgage or even worse perpetual renting, and my only outlet going to the pub with other Philly white trash middle-agers. How can rational philosophy help me gain perspective on this fear that I have had since a kid?
Tags: Career, Culture, Ethics, Family, Friendship, Life, Moral Judgment, Values
Q&A: Making Hard Choices: 31 Aug 2014, Question 2
Question: Is it wrong for an atheist to believe in some kind of afterlife? I don't believe in God, but I hate to think that this life is all that I have. I can't stand the thought of never again seeing my parents, my children, or my friends again. So is it wrong to think that some kind of afterlife might exist? What's the harm?
Tags: Afterlife, Christianity, Death, Emotions, Ethics, Metaphysics, Relationships, Religion, Values
Q&A: "The Friend Zone": 31 Aug 2014, Question 1
Question: How can a person make better hard choices? How to make hard choices was the subject of a recent TED talk from philosopher Ruth Chang
. Her thesis is that hard choices are not about finding the better option between alternatives. Choices are hard when there is no better option. Hard choices require you to define the kind of person you want to be. You have to take a stand for your choice, and then you can find reasons for being the kind of person who makes that choice. Her views really speak to me. In your view, what makes a choice hard? How should a person make hard choices?
Tags: Decision-Making, Epistemology, Ethics, Psychology, Values
Interview: Kelly Elmore on Why Growth Mindsets Matter: 28 Aug 2014
Question: Is there any validity to the concept of "the friend zone"? The "friend zone" is used to describe the situation of a man who is interested in a woman, but she's not interested in being more than friends with him. Then, he's "in the friend zone," and he can't get out except by her say-so. So "nice guys" in the friend zone often use the concept to describe the frustration of watching the women they desire date "bad boys" while they sit over to the side waiting for their chance to graduate from being just friends to being something more. Feminists suggest that this concept devalues a woman's right to determine the context and standard of their sexual and romantic interests, that it treats a woman's sexual acceptance as something that a man is entitled to by virtue of not being a jerk. Is that right? Or do women harm themselves by making bad choices about the types of men they date versus the types they put in the "friend zone?"
Tags: Assertiveness, Causality, Communication, Dating, Ethics, Friendship, Honesty, Relationships, Romance, Sexism, Values
Q&A: Enjoying the Moment: 10 Jul 2014, Question 2
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
Interview: Dr. Paul Hsieh on Understanding the Three Languages of Politics: 3 Jul 2014
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: Advice to New Objectivists: 15 Jun 2014, Question 2
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: Creating a Stylized Life: 25 May 2014, Question 1
Question: What advice would you give to a new Objectivist? At ATLOSCon, you led a discussion on "What I Wish I'd Known as a New Objectivist." Personally, I wish I could tell younger self that the term "selfish" doesn't mean the "screw everyone else, I'm getting mine" behavior that most people think it means. Other people will use the term that way, and trying to correct them is an uphill battle not worth fighting. I'd tell my younger self to just use a long-winded circumlocution to get the point across. What other kinds of obstacles do people new to Objectivism commonly encounter? What advice would you give to new Objectivists to help them recognize and overcome those obstacles?
Tags: Aesthetics, Art, Ayn Rand, Communication, Epistemology, Ethics, Music, Objectivism, Personality, Philosophy, Psychology, Rationalism, Relationships, Values
Q&A: Philosophy in Romance: 15 May 2014, Question 3
Question: Should a person seek to create a stylized life? In "The Romantic Manifesto," Ayn Rand said that "An artist does not fake reality – he stylizes it. He selects those aspects of existence which he regards as metaphysically significant – and by isolating and stressing them, by omitting the insignificant and accidental, he presents his view of existence." Should a person try to stylize his own life, such as by deliberately cultivating a consistent personal aesthetic? Should he aim to make every aspect of his life reflect his values, eliminating the rest? Would that make for a more integrated and meaningful life or might that be dangerous or undesirable in some way?
Tags: Aesthetics, Art, Honesty, Independence, Integrity, Life, Literature, Objectivism, Values
Q&A: Happiness without Close Friends: 27 Apr 2014, Question 2
Question: Is sharing an interest in philosophy necessary for a good romance? I am extremely interested in philosophy. I'm studying it and planning to make it my career. My girlfriend is not. She wants nothing to do with philosophy, although she is perfectly happy with me doing it. However, I find that I am missing that intellectual engagement with her. I've asked a number of times if she would try to talk to me about any sort of philosophical issue – really just anything deeper than day to day happenings – and she just can't do it. She becomes uninterested or even begins to get overwhelmed and frustrated to the point of tears. Is it necessary for us to engage in this activity together to be happy? Is there any way that I can help her to engage in rational inquiry without it being forced on her, if at all?
Tags: Academia, Philosophy, Romance, Values
Q&A: Being Virtuous But Not Happy: 20 Apr 2014, Question 2
Question: How can I maintain my sense of self when surrounded by people I don't relate to deeply? At places like work I have trouble relating to my coworkers on a significantly deep level. For the most part, we just don't share the deepest or most important aspects of life, such as a genuine interests in ideas, various nuances of the culinary arts, and so on. However, I enjoy interacting with these people, but I'm not likely to engage in frequent outings and whatnot. Yet, in other aspects of life – for the time – I don't have the ability to deal with people I share a "like soul" with, to use Aristotelian terms. Thus, how can I truthfully express my personality and values while maintaining, or even deepening, my friendship with these people? I feel like I'm "faking" myself too often.
Tags: Ethics, Friendship, Honesty, Personality, Psychology, Relationships, Romance, Values
Q&A: The Problem of Overwork: 13 Apr 2014, Question 3
Question: How can I live more joyfully? I believe that the world is a wonderful place full of opportunity, great things, and lovely people. I also believe that I am an efficacious person, and therefore capable of flourishing and achieving happiness. So why do my emotions not match my convictions? I want to live more joyfully. I adhere to the cardinal virtues to the best of my ability. I've tried mental exercises, such as listing all my personal values and thinking about how important and good they are for me, but it still doesn't make me feel happy. What am I doing wrong? What can I do instead?
Tags: Emotions, Emotions, Ethics, Happiness, Life, Personal Values, Psychology, Rationalism, Values
Q&A: Animals as Property: 13 Apr 2014, Question 2
Question: Does the example set by Ayn Rand's heroes encourage overwork? The heroes of Atlas Shrugged
and The Fountainhead
seem to have a nearly unlimited well of energy. They work long hours, and they don't have many interests outside work. However, isn't that dangerous? Does this approach to work risk exhaustion and burnout? More generally, what's the rational approach to balancing work and self-care?
Tags: Atlas Shrugged, Business, Ethics, Life, Literature, Productiveness, The Fountainhead, Values
Q&A: Concern for Future Generations: 23 Mar 2014, Question 1
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 Need for Support from Others: 27 Feb 2014, Question 2
Question: Should I care about future generations? People often claim that we should act for the sake of future generations, particularly regarding environmental concerns. Is that rational? Why should I care what happens to people after I am dead? Why should I work for the benefit of people who cannot possibly benefit my life and who aren't even known, let alone of value, to me?
Tags: Environmentalism, Epistemology, Ethics, Future, History, Rights, Sacrifice, Science, Technology, Values
Q&A: Concern for Others in Egoism: 27 Feb 2014, Question 1
Question: Should my romantic partner be interested in and supportive of my accomplishments and pursuits? I have struggled for years in a relationship with someone who shows no interest in or support for my pursuits. I try not to be hurt. I tell myself I just need to do better in order to be worthy of respect and admiration. When I explain to my partner why I'm hurt, he says I am being needy and that I shouldn't need his praise or reinforcement. I don't know how to logically disagree with this, yet I know how good it feels to receive earned praise from friends, and how painful it feels to accomplish something big and not receive any acknowledgement from my partner. What kind of emotional support should be expected from a partner? If a partner is dismissive and neglectful, how can one gain the confidence needed to leave the relationship?
Tags: Communication, Ethics, Independence, Manipulation, Psychology, Relationships, Romance, Values
Q&A: Avoiding Regret over Having Children: 20 Feb 2014, Question 2
Question: Does ethical egoism promote narcissism and insensitivity to others? People often suggest that ethical egoism – such as the Objectivist ethics advocated by Ayn Rand – promotes unfriendly if not hostile behavior toward other people. Ultimately, the egoist cares for himself above everything else, perhaps to the point that the thoughts and feelings of others aren't even noticed or of concern. The problem seems to be exacerbated by a commitment to moral absolutes and moral judgment. So do these ethical principles incline a person to be self-absorbed, insensitive, hostile, unkind, or otherwise unpleasant to others? How can egoists take care not to fall into these traps?
Tags: Benevolence, Conflicts of Interest, Egoism, Ethics, Honesty, Independence, Justice, Narcissism, Objectivism, Predation, Psychology, Relationships, Values, Virtue
Q&A: The Value of Horror Movies: 6 Feb 2014, Question 2
Question: What should prospective parents do to ensure they won't regret having children? In your 10 March 2013 show, you discussed what parents should do if they regret having children. But what can potential parents do to ensure that won't happen? How can a person know what being a parent is like – for better or worse – before actually becoming a parent? Is a rational decision on this issue possible?
Tags: Children, Emotions, Ethics, Life, Parenting, Sacrifice, Values
Q&A: Feeling Unproductive: 6 Feb 2014, Question 1
Question: Do horror movies or books have any redeeming value? In The Romantic Manifesto
, Ayn Rand argued that horror was the worst genre of art, "belonging more to psychopathology than to esthetics." Is that right? Might a rational person find some value in a horror film or book? Don't some horror movies have heroic characters – such as Arnold Schwarzenegger in Predator
Tags: Aesthetics, Art, Emotions, Ethics, Film, Psychology, Psychology, Values
Q&A: Overcoming Paralyzing Indecision: 28 Jan 2014, Question 2
Question: How can I overcome feeling like a slacker? I am a very productive person, with multiple projects going on simultaneously, both personal and professional. Generally, I handle juggling things pretty well, and accomplish quite a bit. I can usually attain most of my goals, and I like that about myself. (I'm also a pretty ambitious person so I have many big goals.) However, I also often feel like a complete slacker. I can see all of the things I accomplish, but I often feel like I could be doing more – one more thing, one more project. Sometimes, when I look at the things I've accomplished, all I can see are the things I wasn't able to do and it can be easy to feel defeated and negative about that. How can I reconcile the gap here? How can I get better at feeling the sense of accomplishment I think I should – and deserve – to feel? Do you have any ideas for getting rid of this mantle of slackerness I've saddled myself with – unfairly, I think? I've been making some changes that have helped, such as writing down my accomplishments each day, but I'm looking for more ideas.
Tags: Emotions, Introspection, Objectivity, Productiveness, Productivity, Psychology, Values
Q&A: Thinking of Virtues as Duties: 28 Jan 2014, Question 1
Question: How can I overcome my paralyzing indecision? I am caught amid some difficult circumstances at present. To make matters worse, I suffer from almost paralyzing indecision about major life decisions, especially with respect to my career. As a result of my failure to act decisively, I have stagnated painfully for years, missing many opportunities. How can I break out of this horrible pattern?
Tags: Decision-Making, Deliberation, Ethics, Personality, Psychology, Values
Q&A: Photography as Art: 15 Dec 2013, Question 3
Question: What's wrong with thinking about the virtues as duties? My parents taught me ethics in terms of "duties." So being honest and just was a duty, along with "sharing" and "selflessness." They were simply "the right way to be," period. Now, I tend to think of the Objectivist virtues – rationality, productiveness, honesty, justice, independence, integrity, and pride – as duties. I have a duty to myself to act in these ways. Is that right or is that a mistake?
Tags: Context, Duty, Duty Ethics, Emotions, Ethics, Meta-Ethics, Motivation, Psychology, Purpose, Values, Virtue
Q&A: Choosing an Ultimate End: 29 Sep 2013, Question 2
Question: Does photography qualify as art? I've always viewed photography as a legitimate form of art. However, many people I disagree: Ayn Rand argued that it's a technical rather than a creative skill. However, I regard photography as a technical and creative skill, just like painting. So does photography qualify as art? If not, does that mean that photography doesn't have value – or has less value than proper art forms like painting? If photography has value nonetheless, what is the source of that value?
Tags: Aesthetics, Art, Painting, Photography, Spiritual Values, Values
Q&A: Achieving Practical Certainty: 18 Aug 2013, Question 1
Question: Can a person choose an ultimate value other than his own life? Ayn Rand claims that each person's life is his own ultimate value. Similarly, Aristotle says that each person's final end is his own flourishing or well-being. Does that mean that a person cannot have a different ultimate value or final end? Or just that they should not?
Tags: Aristotle, Ethics, Life, Meta-Ethics, Objectivism, Values
Interview: Fran Santagata on Preparing for Wildfires and Evacuations: 2 Jul 2013
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: The Meaning of Life as the Standard of Value: 16 Jun 2013, Question 1
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
Interview: Dr. Doug McGuff on Avoiding the Emergency Room: 8 May 2013
Question: What does it mean to say that life is the standard of value? In "The Objectivist Ethics," Ayn Rand says that man's life is the standard of value. What does that mean? Does that mean mere physical survival? Is it mere quantity of years – or does the quality of those years matter too? Basically, what is the difference between living and not dying?
Tags: Egoism, Ethics, Flourishing, Life, Meta-Ethics, Objectivism, Philosophy, Self-Interest, Survival, Values
Q&A: Living Longer: 14 Apr 2013, Question 4
Summary: People often think of major medical disasters as unpredictable "black swan" events. In fact, emergency physicians see the same injuries from the same causes time and again, and ordinary people can lessen those risks by their own choices. Dr. McGuff explained the risks, how to mitigate them, and how to best cope if you or a loved one lands in the emergency room.
Tags: Crime, Ethics, Health, Medicine, Persistence, Relationships, Risk, Sports, Stress, Values
Q&A: Mixing Politics and Romance: 7 Apr 2013, Question 4
Question: Should a life-loving person always wish to live longer? Suppose that a person was offered some medical therapy that would extend his life by 10 or 20 years, while preserving or even improving health. Would a life-loving person always choose to do that, assuming that he could afford it? Would refusing that therapy constitute a kind of passive suicide, perhaps even on par with that of a drug addict? In other words, assuming good health and no personal tragedies, might a life-loving person not wish to live any longer?
Tags: Death, Ethics, Life, Meta-Ethics, Motivation, Values
Q&A: The Value of Happiness: 3 Mar 2013, Question 1
Question: Can people with divergent political views enjoy a good romantic relationship? Some of my liberal friends won't date conservatives, and some of my conservative friends are horrified at the thought of dating a liberal. Is that reasonable? Since I'm in favor of free markets, should I only date other advocates of free markets? Can people with very different political views enjoy a good romantic relationship?
Tags: Epistemology, Philosophy, Politics, Relationships, Romance, Values
Q&A: Spiritual Values: 24 Feb 2013, Question 1
Question: Is happiness overrated? Recently, I had a conversation in which the other person told me that "happiness is overrated." Basically, the person claimed that people should spend less time thinking about their own personal happiness. Instead, people should focus on acting rightly, and then take whatever pleasure they can in that. Is that view right or wrong?
Tags: Duty Ethics, Egoism, Ethics, Happiness, Life, Religion, Self-Interest, Values
Q&A: Materialism in Marriage: 27 Jan 2013, Question 3
Question: What are "spiritual" values? In your recent discussion of "Materialism in Marriage," you talked about the importance of "spiritual values." However, I found that confusing, since I've always associated "spirituality" with religion, often of the woozy variety. So what are spiritual values? How are they different from material values? Why are they important?
Tags: Art, Ethics, Friendship, Introspection, Pleasure, Spiritual Values, Values
Q&A: The Nature of Addiction: 27 Jan 2013, Question 1
Question: Are materialistic couples less likely to have a lasting relationship? A recent study by Brigham Young University claims to show that concern for money causes stress in a relationship and that people who love money tend to be more impersonal and less passionate towards their loved ones. Is that right? Does it reveal some defect with a morality of worldly values?
Tags: Capitalism, Ethics, Finances, Justice, Marriage, Psychology, Romance, Value-Density, Values, Wealth
Q&A: Poking Fun at Values: 6 Jan 2013, Question 3
Question: Is addiction a genuine phenomena? Can a person become dependent on alcohol or drugs to the point that he cannot prevent himself from consuming it, except perhaps by a supreme effort of will? Is such addiction physiological – or just a matter of bad habits of thought and action? Similarly, can a person be addicted to certain foods (such as sugar or wheat) or certain activities (like gambling or pornography)? If so, what does that mean? If a person is addicted to something, is the cure to abstain from it forever?
Tags: Addiction, Alcohol/Drugs, Character, Ethics, Food, Habits, Psychology, Self-Control, Values, Willpower
Q&A: Nihilism: 9 Dec 2012, Question 1
Question: When does humor work against my values? Sometimes, I wonder whether my jokes undermine what I value. Is it wrong to poke fun at my friends or myself? Is it wrong to joke about principles that I hold dear? How do I draw the line?
Tags: Benevolence, Communication, Ethics, Friendship, Fun, Humor, Introspection, Relationships, Values
Interview: Dr. William Dale on End-Of-Life Medical Choices: 28 Nov 2012
Question: What is philosophic nihilism? Some people seem to be quick to apply the label "nihilistic" to a broad range of phenomena, particularly art and ideas. So how should the term be used? Can a philosophy be very harmful and destructive without it being nihilistic?
Tags: Ethics, Nihilism, Philosophy, Values
Q&A: Being Like Hank Rearden: 14 Oct 2012, Question 4
Summary: Many people struggle with difficult decisions about complex medical problems as they near the end of their lives. That time is wrenching for family too. How can people make good decisions about medical care? What mistakes should they try to avoid? How can people prepare for that future now?
Tags: Adult Children, Communication, Conflict, Death, Emotions, Family, Health, Introspection, Law, Medicine, Rationality, Values
Q&A: Pursuing Personal Values in an Imperfect World: 14 Oct 2012, Question 1
Question: Should I try to be more like Hank Rearden? After reading Ayn Rand's novel "Atlas Shrugged," I've come to an important conclusion: I want to be more like Hank Rearden. What tips would you offer to someone desiring to be so awesome?
Tags: Atlas Shrugged, Character, Ethics, Independence, Personality, Personal Values, Psychology, Values
Q&A: Productiveness Versus Recreation: 23 Sep 2012, Question 4
Question: Given the terrible state of the economy and culture, is it wrong to pursue your own personal values? Shouldn't we all be working full time at counteracting the terrible ideas that run rampant in our culture? Is time taken away from "the good fight" in pursuit of other activities merely a useless distraction, counterproductive, and possibly immoral – as some people claim? Or is the pursuit of your own values a moral way to enjoy one's life in spite of the grim state of the culture, politics, and the economy?
Tags: Activism, Apocalypticism, Duty, Ethics, Personal Values, Politics, Religion, Sacrifice, Values
Q&A: Liking But Not Loving Your Career: 12 Feb 2012, Question 1
Question: Is time for recreation compatible with the virtue of productiveness? If productive work is the means by which I achieve my values, how can one justify spending even one minute doing something that doesn't propel me toward some value? I am specifically referring to leisure activities like going to the movies, playing video games, and following sports. I'm not referring to activities that have obvious benefits like sleep, exercise, or cooking healthy food. What about hobbies that are enriching, but ultimately have no productive purpose like dance or guitar lessons (assuming I don't want to perform in either context as a career)? Is pursuing such hobbies wrong?
Tags: Career, Ethics, Productiveness, Productivity, Values, Work
Q&A: Choosing a Place to Live: 22 Jan 2012, Question 4
Question: What should I do if I have a good job but not burning professional ambition? I have a good job that pays well. I perform my job well to the best of my ability. But I don't feel about it the same way that Howard Roark felt about the field of architecture in The Fountainhead
or that Dagny felt about the railroad business in Atlas Shrugged
. I don't hate my job – I do enjoy the work and the people I work with. But it's not my burning passion. On a scale of 1-to-10, my paying job (and the overall field) is a 7, but I also have various non-paying outside hobbies and activities that are more of a 8 or 9 for me. Should I try to cultivate a strong passion for my paying job? Or look for a different line of work? Or ramp up my pursuit of various hobbies and outside activities that give me greater satisfaction on the side?
Tags: Career, Emotions, Hobbies, Productiveness, Values, Work
Q&A: Alternatives to America: 22 Jan 2012, Question 3
Question: Is it rational to value good weather over good politics when choosing a place to live? I currently live in a state with fairly good politics, with respect to taxes, gun rights, and so on. However, I have friends who live in California who say that the weather there is so good, that it's worth it to them even if the taxes are high, the gun laws are terrible, and the overall political climate is abysmal. Is it rational to value something like good weather over good politics in choosing a place to live?
Tags: Politics, Values
Q&A: Genetic Influences on Thinking: 2 Oct 2011, Question 3
Question: What other countries besides America have a relatively healthy sense of life? Suppose America takes a bad turn politically and I need to relocate to another country. What other countries still have a relatively healthy "sense of life" and decent culture – in that they respect reason, accomplishment, and productiveness – even if their politics are left-leaning? Over the past few months, I've heard various people discuss Canada, New Zealand, Costa Rica, China, and India as possible places to relocate to. What do you think of the cultures of those countries?
Tags: Culture, Politics, United States, Values
Q&A: Friendships with People of Opposite Philosophy: 21 Aug 2011, Question 2
Question: Do our genes affect our reasoning? Evolution makes fruit taste sweet and burning human flesh smell awful. Presumably, evolution can hard wire pleasures and pains because interaction with that thing has caused our ancestors to live longer or die earlier. Wouldn't this same process make certain actions easier or more difficult, such as sacrificing yourself to save your child versus watching your child die? Couldn't evolution affect that decision by making focus more difficult, so that a person is easier impelled by his immediate emotions?
Tags: Evolution, Free Will, Psychology, Rationality, Science, Values
Q&A: The Effects of Immortality on Ethics: 24 Jul 2011, Question 1
Question: How can I maintain my integrity in friendships with people of opposite philosophic views? I struggle to keep good relations with family and friends who support our current political system in which some people are helped at the expense of others, which I regard as slavery. They support ObamaCare, EPA restrictions, and welfare programs. Through years of caring discussions, I realize that they do not hold the individual as sacred but instead focus on what's best for "the group." At this point, I often feel more pain than pleasure being with them, even though we have many other values in common, yet I hate to cut them off. How can I maintain good relationships with them – or should I stop trying?
Tags: Communication, Compartmentalization, Conflict, Family, Friendship, Justice, Philosophy, Relationships, Values
Q&A: Morality and Living Well: 26 Jun 2011, Question 1
Question: If science can someday secure immortality, would that affect a person's values and morals? Imagine that scientists discover how to keep our bodies forever young, that all diseases were prevented or cured by nanotechnology, and that we could withstand massive amounts of physical force, virtually all extremes of temperature, and all forms of radiation due to robotic and genetic enhancements. Imagine, in short, that a person could only die by being sucked into a black hole, but that would never happen because we know where all of them are and could easily avoid them. Would this change anything fundamental about human life, particularly about ethics? Given that the Objectivist ethics is founded on the conditionality of life, would and should virtually immortal people still pursue their happiness and other values? Would ethics have to be redefined or put on a new foundation?
Tags: Ethics, Life Extension, Values
Q&A: Love at First Sight: 1 May 2011, Question 4
Question: What makes some action or choice of ethical concern? In your description of this webcast, you say that you answer questions on "practical ethics and the principles of living well." What's the line between those categories? When does a person acting unwisely cross the line into immorality? When does a person deserve moral praise for acting wisely? I'd appreciate a few examples, such as career choices, family relationships, eating habits, interacting with strangers, etc.
Tags: Ethics, Life, Personal Values, Philosophy, Values
Q&A: Immoral Means to Great Values: 27 Mar 2011, Question 1
Question: Do you believe in love at first sight? Why or why not?
Tags: Character, Dating, Emotions, Love, Relationships, Romance, Values
Q&A: Living a Value-Dense Life: 27 Feb 2011, Question 1
Question: Is it ever acceptable to act immorally if one is willing to accept the consequences? This question was sparked by a statement in the 9 January 2011 webcast
that it would be wrong to deceive a partner in order to save a relationship. Are there ever cases where one cares so much about a particular value that it can be legitimate to act immorally (and thus, in all probability, hurt one's own life) in order to gain or keep that value? For example, what if life were not worth living without that value?
Tags: Character, Ethics, Relationships, Romance, Values, Work
Podcast: Preview of Luc Travers Webcast on Appreciating Art: 9 Feb 2011
Question: What does it mean to live a "value-dense" life? What is value density? How can we make our lives more value dense? How might the concept apply to productivity, vacations, education, and social events, for example?
Tags: Ethics, Value-Density, Values
Q&A: Unequal Incomes in Marriage: 30 Jan 2011, Question 1
Summary: This podcast is the teaser for Luc Travers' webcast on the art. (That webcast is no longer available for sale.)
Tags: Aesthetics, Art, Painting, Values
Q&A: Values After Death: 5 Dec 2010, Question 2
Question: Is it moral to have a sugarmomma or sugardaddy? My fiancee and I both have demanding careers, but she earns several times more than I. How should a married couple with very different incomes share income and/or expenses? If we agree to split household expenses evenly, my lower income is a significant constraint on her enjoyment, e.g., she can't buy an expensive house because I can't afford half of it. On the other hand, if we split expenses unevenly or if we treat all income as pooled, it seems that I'm benefiting lavishly from things I didn't produce. Is it moral for me to enjoy an expensive hobby which I couldn't have afforded on my own? I'd love to hear more about how you and Paul manage income and expenses, and especially what ethical principles apply.
Tags: Ethics, Finances, Independence, Marriage, Values
Q&A: Applying Value Density to Life: 14 Nov 2010, Question 5
Question: Should I care what happens to the world after I die? Should I care about my friends and projects after I die? What about caring about humanity long after my death? Should that affect my actions today?
Tags: Afterlife, Atheism, Death, Ethics, Values
Podcast: Preview of Finding Good Prospects for Romance and Friendship: 10 Jun 2010
Question: A topic that has come up off and on over the past several months in the Objectivist blogosphere is the concept of "Value Density." Can you suggest how one would go about applying this concept to a specific event or area of life, such as a vacation?
Tags: Ethics, Value-Density, Values
Podcast: Friendship after Romance, Philosophy in Romance, and Finances in Marriage: 21 Oct 2009
Many people lament the difficulty of finding good prospects for a lasting, deep, and happy romance. Others have trouble finding worthwhile friends. Yet most people who bemoan the lack of prospects could be doing much more than they are to increase their odds of success. Too many people don't adopt a purposeful approach but instead wait passively... and complain.
This 90-minute podcast discusses how to make yourself a good prospect – and how to find good prospects – for romance and friendship.
Tags: Character, Communication, Ethics, Friendship, Lifestyle, Luck, Marriage, Mental Illness, Opportunities, Personality, Psychological Visibility, Psychology, Romance, Skills, Values
Podcast: Choosing a Career: 22 Sep 2009
Summary: I answer three questions on romantic relationships concerning (1) friendship after a failed romance, (2) romance between people of very different philosophies, and (3) managing finances in marriage.
Tags: Aristotle, Character, Ethics, Finances, Friendship, Marriage, Objectivism, Personality, Philosophy, Relationships, Romance, Values
Summary: I answer two similar questions from college students on how to choose a career from amongst their wide variety of interests.
Tags: Career, Introspection, Productiveness, Skills, Values