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dianahsieh

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  1. From America’s growing political polarization: Unfortunately, both Republicans and Democrats are ardent opponents of individual rights in various domains. That’s why I don’t regard America’s growing political polarization as a good trend. It limits our choices — and many people’s thinking — to “economic freedom (sort-of) plus theocratic social controls” versus “social freedom (sort-of) plus fascist economic controls.” Alas, the statist elements seem to be growing in both parties of late. Instead, people need a clear choice of freedom versus statist controls in all areas of life. Nonetheless, the widening gap is fascinating… and there’s more in the Pew Study too. (The year-by-year animated graph is pretty nifty.) I’d just like to see data for more than 20 years! Link to Original
  2. These confessions of an ex-TSA agent — Dear America, I Saw You Naked — are well worth reading. For example: We knew the full-body scanners didn’t work before they were even installed. Not long after the Underwear Bomber incident, all TSA officers at O’Hare were informed that training for the Rapiscan Systems full-body scanners would soon begin. The machines cost about $150,000 a pop. Our instructor was a balding middle-aged man who shrugged his shoulders after everything he said, as though in apology. At the conclusion of our crash course, one of the officers in our class asked him to tell us, off the record, what he really thought about the machines. “They’re shit,” he said, shrugging. He said we wouldn’t be able to distinguish plastic explosives from body fat and that guns were practically invisible if they were turned sideways in a pocket. We quickly found out the trainer was not kidding: Officers discovered that the machines were good at detecting just about everything besides cleverly hidden explosives and guns. The only thing more absurd than how poorly the full-body scanners performed was the incredible amount of time the machines wasted for everyone. And: But the only people who hated the body-scanners more than the public were TSA employees themselves. Many of my co-workers felt uncomfortable even standing next to the radiation-emitting machines we were forcing members of the public to stand inside. Several told me they submitted formal requests for dosimeters, to measure their exposure to radiation. The agency’s stance was that dosimeters were not necessary—the radiation doses from the machines were perfectly acceptable, they told us. We would just have to take their word for it. When concerned passengers—usually pregnant women—asked how much radiation the machines emitted and whether they were safe, we were instructed by our superiors to assure them everything was fine. “Security Theater” seems like too benign of a term for these absurdities, I think. Now go read the whole article. Link to Original
  3. On the next episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, I'll chat about "Responsibility & Luck, Chapter Three" with listeners. This episode of internet radio airs at 6 pm PT / 7 MT / 8 CT / 9 ET on Thursday, 19 June 2014, in our live studio. If you can't listen live, you'll find the podcast on the episode's archive page. 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 will answer these questions and more in this live discussion of Chapter Three of my book, Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame. To join the live broadcast and its chat, just point your browser to Philosophy in Action's Live Studio a few minutes before the show is scheduled to start. By listening live, you can share your thoughts with other listeners and ask follow-up questions in the text chat. The podcast of this episode will be available shortly after the live broadcast here: Radio Archive: Chat on Responsibility & Luck, Chapter Three. You can automatically download that and other podcasts by subscribing to Philosophy in Action's Podcast RSS Feed: Enhanced M4A Feed: Subscribe via iTunes or another podcast player Standard MP3 Feed: Subscribe via iTunes or another podcast player I hope you join us for the live show or enjoy the podcast later. Also, please share this announcement with any friends interested in this topic! Philosophy in Action Radio applies rational principles to the challenges of real life in live internet radio shows on Sunday mornings and Thursday evenings. For information on upcoming shows, visit the Episodes on Tap. For podcasts of past shows, visit the Show Archives.
  4. On Sunday’s episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, I answered questions on “stand your ground” laws, advice to new Objectivists, and more with Greg Perkins. The podcast of that episode is now available for streaming or downloading. You’ll find it on the episode’s archive page, as well as below. Remember, you can automatically download podcasts of Philosophy in Action Radio by subscribing to Philosophy in Action’s Podcast RSS Feed: Enhanced M4A Feed: Subscribe via iTunes or another podcast player Standard MP3 Feed: Subscribe via iTunes or another podcast player Podcast: Stand Your Ground Laws, New Objectivists, and More Listen or Download: Duration: 4:11 Download: MP3 Segment To comment on these questions or my answers, visit its comment thread. Conclusion (1:02:33) Be sure to check out the topics scheduled for upcoming episodes! Don’t forget to submit and vote on questions for future episodes too! About Philosophy in Action Radio Philosophy in Action Radio applies rational principles to the challenges of real life in live internet radio shows on Sunday mornings and Thursday evenings. For information on upcoming shows, visit the Episodes on Tap. For podcasts of past shows, visit the Show Archives. Remember, with every episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, we show how rational philosophy can help you find joy in your work, model virtue for your kids, pursue your goals effectively, communicate with respect, and advocate for a free society. We can’t do that without your support, so please remember to tip your philosopher! Link to Original
  5. On the next episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, Greg Perkins and I will answer questions on “stand your ground” laws, advice to new Objectivists, dogs versus private property, and more. This episode of internet radio airs at 8 am PT / 9 MT / 10 CT / 11 ET on Sunday, 15 June 2014, in our live studio. If you can’t listen live, you’ll find the podcast on the episode’s archive page. This week’s questions are: Question 1: “Stand Your Ground” Laws: Are “stand your ground” self-defense laws proper? Should a potential crime victim in reasonable fear of of his life be required to attempt to withdraw from a confrontation when possible? Or is it proper to allow him to “stand his ground” and use a firearm to kill the assailant? Question 2: Advice to New Objectivists: 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? Question 3: Dogs Versus Private Property: Do dog owners violate rights by allowing their dogs to poop on others’ lawns? I live in a residential urban area along with many dog owners. On a daily basis, I observe those dog owners allowing their dogs to defecate on other peoples’ lawns. I view this action as a trespass and violation of property rights, whether or not they pick up afterward. (For those who believe that picking up after your dog mitigates the trespass, would you let your child play on that spot afterward?) I don’t believe that property owners should have to create fences, hedges, or other structures to prevent this trespass. On several occasions, I have asked owners not to let their dogs poop on the front lawn of our apartment. I have received various responses from polite acquiescence to incredulousness. Many dog owners seem to feel a sense of entitlement about using others’ property without permission. Isn’t that wrong? Would you agree that it is the sole responsibility of the animal owners to care for their pets without violating the rights of the people around them? What, if any, recourse would property owners have in a free society against blatant repeat offenders of this principle? After that, we’ll tackle some impromptu “Rapid Fire Questions.” To join the live broadcast and its chat, just point your browser to Philosophy in Action’s Live Studio a few minutes before the show is scheduled to start. By listening live, you can share your thoughts with other listeners and ask us follow-up questions in the text chat. The podcast of this episode will be available shortly after the live broadcast here: Radio Archive: Q&A: Stand Your Ground Laws, New Objectivists, Curbing Dogs, and More. You can automatically download that and other podcasts by subscribing to Philosophy in Action’s Podcast RSS Feed: Enhanced M4A Feed: Subscribe via iTunes or another podcast player Standard MP3 Feed: Subscribe via iTunes or another podcast player I hope you join us for the live show or enjoy the podcast later. Also, please share this announcement with any friends interested in these topics! Philosophy in Action Radio applies rational principles to the challenges of real life in live internet radio shows on Sunday mornings and Thursday evenings. For information on upcoming shows, visit the Episodes on Tap. For podcasts of past shows, visit the Show Archives. Link to Original
  6. On the next episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, Greg Perkins and I will answer questions on "stand your ground" laws, advice to new Objectivists, dogs versus private property, and more. This episode of internet radio airs at 8 am PT / 9 MT / 10 CT / 11 ET on Sunday, 15 June 2014, in our live studio. If you can't listen live, you'll find the podcast on the episode's archive page. This week's questions are: Question 1: "Stand Your Ground" Laws: Are "stand your ground" self-defense laws proper? Should a potential crime victim in reasonable fear of of his life be required to attempt to withdraw from a confrontation when possible? Or is it proper to allow him to "stand his ground" and use a firearm to kill the assailant? Question 2: Advice to New Objectivists: 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? Question 3: Dogs Versus Private Property: Do dog owners violate rights by allowing their dogs to poop on others' lawns? I live in a residential urban area along with many dog owners. On a daily basis, I observe those dog owners allowing their dogs to defecate on other peoples' lawns. I view this action as a trespass and violation of property rights, whether or not they pick up afterward. (For those who believe that picking up after your dog mitigates the trespass, would you let your child play on that spot afterward?) I don't believe that property owners should have to create fences, hedges, or other structures to prevent this trespass. On several occasions, I have asked owners not to let their dogs poop on the front lawn of our apartment. I have received various responses from polite acquiescence to incredulousness. Many dog owners seem to feel a sense of entitlement about using others' property without permission. Isn't that wrong? Would you agree that it is thesole responsibility of the animal owners to care for their pets without violating the rights of the people around them? What, if any, recourse would property owners have in a free society against blatant repeat offenders of this principle? After that, we'll tackle some impromptu "Rapid Fire Questions." To join the live broadcast and its chat, just point your browser to Philosophy in Action's Live Studio a few minutes before the show is scheduled to start. By listening live, you can share your thoughts with other listeners and ask us follow-up questions in the text chat. The podcast of this episode will be available shortly after the live broadcast here: Radio Archive: Q&A: Stand Your Ground Laws, New Objectivists, Curbing Dogs, and More. You can automatically download that and other podcasts by subscribing to Philosophy in Action's Podcast RSS Feed: Enhanced M4A Feed: Subscribe via iTunes or another podcast player Standard MP3 Feed: Subscribe via iTunes or another podcast player I hope you join us for the live show or enjoy the podcast later. Also, please share this announcement with any friends interested in these topics! Philosophy in Action Radio applies rational principles to the challenges of real life in live internet radio shows on Sunday mornings and Thursday evenings. For information on upcoming shows, visit the Episodes on Tap. For podcasts of past shows, visit the Show Archives.
  7. On Sunday’s Philosophy in Action Radio, I’ll answer a question on how a disabled person can overcome a toxic childhood. The question that I’ll read on the show is pretty lengthy, but the questioner provided even more details in an email that she’s graciously allowed me to repost here. I have much to say about this, so be sure to join us on Sunday morning for the live show — or listen to the podcast later. What insights does Objectivism provide on the best way for to overcome the consequences of improper, toxic rearing, and to gain — or, if possible, retain from the beginning– a proper sense of life despite it all? I am a fifty-one-year-old woman with several neurological disabilities, and I would have liked to have been reared as a human being. Instead, I was frequently informed (usually by my mother) that I was a “retarded, subhuman spectacle” — a “vegetable,” a “handicapped monstrosity,” a “travesty of a human being.” It was daily made plain to me that I was being reared purely out of my parents’ sense of duty, so as not to burden other people with my existence. It was likewise continually made clear to me that, whenever anyone played with me or tried to become acquainted with me, they did this purely out of an imposed sense of a duty to do so: for instance, because they were following a parent’s or teacher’s commands in order to avoid being punished for avoiding me, My disabilities (dyspraxia, dysgraphia, and severe Asperger’s among some others) are not physically visible. However, their effects on my behavior led to my being perceived as retarded despite a tested IQ above 150. (This tested overall IQ, in turn, was although scores on three of the subtests were in the 80-90 range.) By that standard, at least — the objective standard of lacking some reasoning power — I am a handicapped human being. As you know, Ayn Rand points out that no child ought to be exposed to “the tragic spectacle of a handicapped human being.” How should this principle have been carried out with regard to me, as a child? Further, how best can I undo the damage that has been done to my sense of life by my situation itself (being a handicapped human being, and recognizing this) and by how I was reared (which was at least partly a consequence of what I was and am)? A complicating factor in my childhood — and contributory to much of the abuse I received — was that my parents had decided to send me to a school whose philosophy (insofar as they bothered to inform themselves about it) was one that they themselves deeply opposed and would not tolerate even having discussed in our house. Specifically: my parents, and for the most part my grandparents, were what is known as “non-religious Jews” — even, in most regards, anti-religious Jews — who nonetheless decided to send me to a religious Jewish private school. At home, though, my parents forbade even mentioning religion or anything that had to do with it — which meant that I could be, and was, punished and told I was a bad girl whenever I fully and truthfully answered my mother’s or father’s question: “What did you learn in school today?” (This question was asked of me whenever I came home from school. Silence, incomplete answers, and answered suspected of being incomplete, were punished equally with answers which gave the details for whose existence and mention I’d be punished and told I was lying “because nobody could believe anything so absurd was taught or practiced by anyone.” Although my parents did at times break their own rules about what never to discuss, their exceptions to their own were so unpredictable and unstable that I could never discover what principle governed them. There may well have been no principle, just simple caprice, because my mother was very angry that I should ever want to find an explanation or a principle, let alone even have to look for an explanatory principle when — as she never tired of telling me — other people could simply absorb from the environment, subconsciously and automatically, whatever they needed to know about each other. She thought it was wrong and vicious and unnatural of me to need and want a way to make sense of things, and to have to seek this out, of just understanding naturally and automatically and wordlessly exactly when, and in what ever-changing context, when a family rule either could be broken, or must be broken, or might be broken by the adults although it remained binding on the children. For example, it was all right for my mother or father to ask me to describe a particular belief or practice that I was being taught at school, but it was all wrong for me to answer the question, or to answer it partially (because that was talking about a forbidden subject), or to not answer (because that was disobedience). My parents had chosen this school because the local public school was well known to encourage violence and other damage against anyone who was either smarter or duller than the average … and, as explained above, I am simultaneously BOTH. Further, the administrators of the available private schools had made known that they did not believe their schools to be the right places for children with problems. In any case, they sent me to a religious school (the only school left) without fully understanding that this WAS a religious school, because they were only incompletely aware that Judaism is, well, a RELIGION (among other things). They had assumed, given their own upbringing and acquaintanceships, that the “religion side” of Judaism must be pretty well extinct by now, and that it had left behind only a handful of “harmless cultural stuff” that they themselves knew a very little about: thinking that the “cultural stuff” was all there was. So they were very angry at me for answering — correctly — their inquiries on what I had learned in school that day. They swore I was making it all up. So when I persisted in my “lies and idiocies” (as they called my description of what I was being taught) instead of falsely agreeing under pressure that I had “obviously concocted all this craziness” on my own, they sent me to a therapist (the first of many) who had never heard of any of this stuff either. His job was to cure me of believing that I was being taught such things, although indeed I was being taught them — as I tried to document for him and for my parents, from my schoolbooks and other class materials, which they flatly refused to look at. For instance, my homework assignments in first grade included such tasks as persuading my parents to study and follow the rules of Judaism. (I was five-and-a-half at the time. I wasn’t good at getting my parents to change their way of life just because my teacher said so. For this failure, my teachers and classmates abused me, just as severely as my parents abused me for the mere attempt. This was in addition to my getting a low grade on such assignments, and then being punished at home for the crime of getting less than an “A” grade in anything.) So after two years, my parents took me from that school and enrolled me in one which had been set up for gifted children, and which was (at least in theory) willing to ignore psychological or other problems if the child scored sufficiently high on the IQ test required for admission. The guiding principle of THIS private school, though — insofar as it can be called a “principle” — was that nothing is to be considered definitely right or definitely wrong, or definite in any way, ever. (And they were quite definite on that! They were certainly definite on the “fact” that I was a “problem behavior case” for pointing out that contradiction!) This school (where I was until the end of the ninth grade) was also a place where physical assaults on the persons and property of children were actively encouraged by the teachers, just as long as the attacker was considered (by the teacher or by a majority of classmates) to be a more welcome, likeable, or socially adept person than the target. When fights broke out in the classroom, the teacher would give the attacker some helpful tips on how to win, and the target would be punished far worse than the attacker: punished for fleeing, and also punished for defending him-or herself, and also for being suspected of having wanted to. I was, in every class I attended at both of these schools, the designated target or one of a few designated targets — as if it were an official title. In the second school, and to some extent in the previous school, the teacherly justifications for accepting and encouraging this included assertions that I was ideally fitted to be a target and to thereby raise the self-esteem and leadership motivation of my schoolmates: that I should be happy to provide this service to the majority, and that I was being inconsiderate if I disliked or tried to evade my opportunities to do so. For instance: When, very rarely, I managed to do something RIGHT in gym class, there was disappointment all around — because nobody had planned for this, and because it was called “unkind” of me to put the others in a position where they might have to go through the bother of finding and establishing a new target when the old one had been performing that function so very well already. That was the school where I stayed the longest, and it was also the worst school — so there is no particular reason to discuss the others. The consequences for me, of growing up in this way, can be imagined by anyone with a shred of intelligence. They include an immense fear of other people, and a feeling (which I have been unable to change or vanquish) that I am indeed subhuman and should be rejected by anyone I admire, anyone worth dealing with. This feeling persists despite what I rationally consider to be productive adult achievement in the personal and professional realms. (For instance, although I was unable to write legibly by hand until age 24 when I was in graduate school, at that age I designed and pursued a course of self-remediation which allowed my handwriting to become very legible and rapid — soon thereafter, I founded a handwriting instruction/remediation business which has clients worldwide. Yet, with all that, I have been unable to revise or extinguish the feelings that I felt as a schoolgirl when my mother shouted that I was a disgusting specimen of botched humanity, and when my teachers informed the class that I must be cheating instead of actually trying to learn, because “nobody who writes like that could really have the least spark of” the intelligence or motivation” that I “merely seemed to show” in other ways. (The teacher decided that I must have somehow cheated during the class spelling bee, because nobody who “scribbles like an ape in human form” could possibly have been smart enough to remember how to spell any of the words given, let alone all of them. Therefore, at the suggestion of several of the better-liked children who’d done almost as well, the points I had earned by winning the bee — one point per word — were removed from my record and distributed among those “better-performing” children who’d made the suggestion and had come in second, third, and fourth.) I am certain that events like this — the mindless hell of my childhood — have irremediably excised or stunted a great many of my own potential capacities (such as they are, or ever were). However, I hope I can be proven wrong. And therefore I wonder — and here again, I hope I can be proven wrong — whether indeed, as a result of surviving all this, I have thereby become a mental and emotional monstrosity despite my best efforts to grow into anything else. Have the mental and emotional circumstances described above — the conditions of my existence, when I was growing up — been indeed enough to make me truly what my mother so often called me falsely in her anger: a blot on humankind? A missing link? A failed, degraded not-quite-human? If I was none of those things when I was treated as being all of them — have I unwittingly become those things, against the best of my will and effort, because of such treatment? I was, after all, incompetent to vanquish or prevent such treatment and its consequences — that is likely to say something about me. A better, stronger person could have come out of this better. If I had been more intelligent and otherwise competent, I would simply have succeeded with one or more of my childhood attempts to sneak out of a damaging home or school and locate and enter a non-toxic environment on my own — sneaking into it, and taking whatever consequences came my way. Or, if indeed no better home or school could be found and entered, it is nobody’s fault but my own that I lacked whatever intelligence and other competence would have been adequate to at least persuading my parents, teachers, and other people to treat me at least somewhat more rationally. Since I could not even manage that, if I were indeed an intelligent and adequate human the very least that I should have managed — if not then, then certainly now in adulthood after literally decades of trying — would have been to get my emotions in line with what I know to be true. Since I have signally failed to get my feelings (of intrinsic inferiority, inadequacy, being subhuman, and so forth) into line with the factual data and reasoning which demonstrate that (and how) such feelings are based on errors — that failure itself is adequate proof of my inadequacy. An adequate, competent, intelligent person WOULD have succeeded by now: not merely in refusing to act on feelings which the facts contradict (which is all I have managed so far), but in correcting the erroneous feelings themselves. So — How can I “undamage” myself? And what should I have done (as a child) to prevent being damaged by the actions and events described above? One addendum: “When you do blog it, please make sure to include the statement that Mom has renounced her earlier beliefs about me — but this was just a few years ago, so it does not magically undo what she did on the basis of those beliefs. Even her sincerely held commitment to do better — which she is doing her best to act on — does not remove the effects of her past actions.” Link to Original
  8. On the next episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, Greg Perkins and I will answer questions on parenting a disabled child, Muslim immigrants, correcting a cashier's mistake, and more. This episode of internet radio airs at 8 am PT / 9 MT / 10 CT / 11 ET on Sunday, 8 June 2014, in our live studio. If you can't listen live, you'll find the podcast on the episode's archive page. This week's questions are: Question 1: Parenting a Disabled Child: How can a disabled person overcome a toxic childhood? I am a fifty-one-year-old woman with several neurological disabilities, and I would have liked to have been reared as a human being. Instead, I was frequently informed (usually by my mother) that I was a "retarded, subhuman spectacle" – a "vegetable," a "handicapped monstrosity," a "travesty of a human being." It was daily made plain to me that I was being reared purely out of my parents' sense of duty, so as not to burden other people with my existence. It was likewise continually made clear to me that, whenever anyone played with me or tried to become acquainted with me, they did this purely out of an imposed sense of a duty to do so: for instance, because they were following a parent's or teacher's commands in order to avoid being punished for avoiding me. My disabilities (dyspraxia, dysgraphia, and severe Asperger's among some others) are not physically visible. However, their effects on my behavior led to my being perceived as retarded despite a tested IQ above 150. (This tested overall IQ, in turn, was although scores on three of the subtests were in the 80-90 range.) By that standard, at least – the objective standard of lacking some reasoning power – I am a handicapped human being. As you know, Ayn Rand points out that no child ought to be exposed to "the tragic spectacle of a handicapped human being." How should this principle have been carried out with regard to me, as a child? Further, the consequences for me of growing up in this way include an immense fear of other people, and a feeling (which I have been unable to change or vanquish) that I am indeed subhuman and should be rejected by anyone I admire, anyone worth dealing with. This feeling persists despite what I rationally consider to be productive adult achievement in the personal and professional realms. So how can I best undo the damage that has been done to my sense of life by my situation itself (being a handicapped human being, and recognizing this) and by how I was reared (which was at least partly a consequence of what I was and am)? Question 2: Muslim Immigrants: Does the lack of respect for rights among some Muslim immigrants justify banning all Muslim immigrants? Sometimes, I hear people say that immigrants from Muslim countries are so illiberal (in the classical sense) that they ought to banned from entering the United States and Western Europe. The anti-immigrationists say that when people from Muslim countries are allowed to reside in the West, such immigrants remain committed to political Islam, honor-kill their own daughters, rape native-born women, and plot to impose sharia law on the West through "stealth jihad." Is the illiberalism of some (or even many) Muslim immigrants grounds for limiting immigration from Muslim countries? What is the proper response to this problem? Question 3: Correcting a Cashier's Mistake: Is it wrong to remain silent when a cashier makes a mistake in your favor? At a popular department store, I wanted to buy two items for $2.94 each and condoms for $14.00. The cashier was about my grandmother's age. She scanned the $2.94 items three times and said the total was $8.82. I knew the price wasn't right, but I didn't want to say to the elderly woman, "Excuse me, but you didn't scan my condoms." I got a good deal, but I think that was somewhat immoral on my part. Is that right? What should I have done? After that, we'll tackle some impromptu "Rapid Fire Questions." To join the live broadcast and its chat, just point your browser to Philosophy in Action's Live Studio a few minutes before the show is scheduled to start. By listening live, you can share your thoughts with other listeners and ask us follow-up questions in the text chat. The podcast of this episode will be available shortly after the live broadcast here: Radio Archive: Q&A: Disabled Children, Muslim Immigrants, Cashier's Mistake, and More. You can automatically download that and other podcasts by subscribing to Philosophy in Action's Podcast RSS Feed: Enhanced M4A Feed: Subscribe via iTunes or another podcast player Standard MP3 Feed: Subscribe via iTunes or another podcast player I hope you join us for the live show or enjoy the podcast later. Also, please share this announcement with any friends interested in these topics! Philosophy in Action Radio applies rational principles to the challenges of real life in live internet radio shows on Sunday mornings and Thursday evenings. For information on upcoming shows, visit the Episodes on Tap. For podcasts of past shows, visit the Show Archives.
  9. As part of my editing of Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame, I decided to omit the following discussion of Nicholas Rescher’s “identity solution” from Chapter Two. Basically, his proposal was just too silly — particularly in its implications for personal identity — to be worthy of inclusion in my book. However, it’s not too silly to blog! I thought that it might of interest, particularly as I’ll discuss Chapter Two on Thursday’s Philosophy in Action Radio. Without further ado… The Identity Solution The epistemic and equalization solutions are not the only means of denying the dependence of moral desert on luck. Another prominent alternative, most clearly advocated by Nicholas Rescher, is the “identity solution.”[1] On this approach, a person is not judged for his actions and their outcomes but only for his character. Then, the very idea of constitutive moral luck is rejected as logically incoherent on the grounds that a person’s character constitutes part of his identity. As we shall see, this proposed solution to the problem of moral luck is subject to serious objections, particularly for its treatment of constitutive moral luck. The basic starting point of the identity solution is that moral evaluations of persons should concern only qualities of character.[2] Moral character is “the prime consideration from a moral point of view,” so that “the moral significance of acts lies in their serving as evidence” of character of a particular kind.[3] This limitation on the objects of moral judgment is a response to the problem of moral luck itself. Rescher writes, “it is precisely because both one’s opportunities for morally relevant action and … the actual consequences of one’s acts lie beyond one’s control that they are not determinants of one’s position in the eyes of morality.”[4] The only way to eliminate the effects of luck on judgments of actions and their outcomes is to refrain from those judgments entirely. By doing that, the identity solution promises to eliminate resultant moral luck and circumstantial moral luck in two easy strokes. Let us see how. To eliminate resultant moral luck, the identity solution ignores the actual outcome of an action as morally irrelevant due to the potential influence of luck on it.[5] Instead, it holds that moral judgments must be based on the character underlying the action that produced the outcome. So the moral objection to a drunk driver is not that he killed a pedestrian, but that he displayed his reckless disregard for the welfare of others in his choice to drive drunk. Thus Rescher writes, “people who drive their cars home from an office party in a thoroughly intoxicated condition, indifferent to the danger to themselves and heedless of the risks they are creating for others, are equally guilty in the eyes of morality (as opposed to legality) whether they kill someone along the way or not.”[6] By ignoring the actual effects of a person’s actions in any moral judgments of him, the problem of resultant moral luck never arises. The identity solution disposes of circumstantial moral luck by a similar line of argument. A person’s true deserts cannot depend on his chosen actions, as any action may be influenced by circumstances beyond his control.[7] It claims that moral judgments must concern a person’s qualities of character instead; they must identify what a person would do if faced with various opportunities for doing good or evil. Consequently, Rescher states, “from the moral point of view, how people think and how they are decided and determined to act counts every bit as much as what they actually manage to do.”[8] So the person who would have driven drunk if he had not been working that night deserves as much blame as the person who actually drove drunk. However, absent the action of driving drunk, we might not realize that the would-be drunk driver is worthy of that blame. Yet in fact, whether recognized or not, the only difference between the potential and actual drunk drivers is one of “image” or “reputation,” not “moral condition.”[9] So in this approach, the problem of circumstantial moral luck disappears because a person’s deserts depend on what he would do in a variety of circumstances, not just what he actually does in his actual circumstances. Undoubtedly, circumstantial and resultant moral luck cannot taint moral judgments of a person if he is never judged for his actions and their outcomes. However, we have reason to worry that this solution is ad hoc. If not for these troublesome cases of resultant and circumstantial moral luck, would any moral philosopher advocate limiting moral judgments to character? Likely not, as shown by the fact that ordinary moral judgments of persons routinely concern actions and outcomes. Moreover, to solve that problem by wholly rejecting all such judgments seems like overkill — perhaps with costs too high to bear. One significant problem with limiting moral judgments to character is that a person who deliberately chooses to act contrary to his well-established dispositions or acts in the absence of any settled dispositions could not be subject to any kind of moral judgment, no matter how noble or depraved the action. So when a habitually cautious driver impulsively decides to drive home one night despite somewhat too much to drink, he cannot be blamed either for his drunk driving or for the ensuing accident, since he does not possess the reckless character of a habitual drunk driver. Any attempt to argue, as a defender of the identity solution would likely do, that the driver should be blamed for the recklessness motivating that particular act reintroduces the problem of moral luck, as such fleeting impulses may be influenced by luck. In this case, perhaps the driver was diverted from his cautious habits by the death of his overbearing father in a freakish vending machine accident that afternoon. Consistency would require the identity solution to give this drunk driver a free pass by refraining from any blame of him for his short-lived reckless drunk driving. This objection to the identity solution’s approach to moral judgment, while worrisome, is not decisive. The most compelling arguments against this proposed solution concern its approach to claims about luck in character. By its insistence that a person’s moral standing depends solely on his character, the identity solution compresses all moral luck into constitutive moral luck. So its case against moral luck as a whole depends on its arguments against constitutive moral luck. If its distinctive analysis of constitutive moral luck fails, as we will see it does, then the problems of resultant and circumstantial moral luck return in full force. The identity solution’s core case against constitutive moral luck consists of a denial of the logical coherence of luck in character on the grounds that character constitutes a person’s identity. Rescher’s general principle of luck and identity is that a person “cannot meaningfully be said to be lucky in regard to who [he] is, but only with respect to what happens to [him].”[10] Presumably, that is because a person must exist as someone definite in order to be lucky or unlucky. So it is nonsensical, for example, to ask what kind of person you would be if unlucky enough to be born to starving Somali refugees, Russian peasants, or movie stars. In such cases, you would not exist at all; someone else would. Next, the identity solution claims that a person’s moral psychology — his motives, intentions, commitments, inclinations, virtues, and vices — constitutes part of his identity as a person. Consequently, Rescher observes, “it makes no sense to say things like, ‘Wasn’t it just a matter of luck for X to have been born an honest (trustworthy, etc.) person, and for Y to have been born mendacious (avaricious, etc.)?’”[11] That is because “it is just exactly those dispositions, character traits, and inclinations that constitute these individuals as the people they are.”[12] The identity solution’s argument against constitutive moral luck is quite simple: Premise 1: Character is an aspect of a person’s identity. Premise 2: A person’s identity cannot be subject to luck. Conclusion: Character cannot be subject to luck. So the very idea of constitutive moral luck is incoherent because it supposes the impossible, namely that a person’s character can be subject to luck. The identity solution also explicitly denies the relevance of a person’s control (or lack thereof) over his character to moral responsibility for that character on similar grounds.[13] Rescher argues that the attempt to refrain from moral praise for virtues and moral blame for vices based on lack of control “involves a category mistake because the whole control issue is irrelevant here from the angle of moral concern.”[14] Again, that is because “one’s inclinations, disposition, and character … are the crucial part of what constitutes oneself as such.”[15] All that matters from a moral perspective is that a person has a certain virtue or vice. So “the immoralist cannot … plead her natural inclinations and tendencies, and expect her innate cupidity, avarice, or lecherousness, or the like to get her off the moral hook” because “it is exactly her disposition that condemns her.”[16] Merely possessing some virtue or vice is sufficient for moral praise or blame. This identity-based argument against constitutive moral luck suffers from fatal defects from beginning to end. First, the argument wrongly assumes that all of a person’s moral qualities are essential to his personal identity. Second, the argument ignores the fact that luck shapes a person’s moral development. Third, the argument implies that a person can be morally blamed for any deficiency in his nature, including mental and physical birth defects. Let us consider each objection in turn. The first objection, in essence, is that the identity solution presupposes that all of a person’s moral qualities are essential to his personal identity in its analysis of constitutive moral luck. That supposition is necessary to the argument: it is why even imagining a person’s moral qualities to be otherwise would be to imagine a whole new person. Rescher implies it in describing “one’s inclinations, dispositions, and character,” whether within one’s control or not, as “a crucial part of what constitutes oneself as such” — without any qualification or distinction between essential and nonessential traits.[17] Even more telling is his objection to the mere idea of luck in character on the grounds that “it makes no sense to envision a prior feature-less precursor [of a person] who then has the good or bad luck to be fitted out with one particular group of character traits rather than another.”[18] While that is certainly true, it is not the model at work in constitutive moral luck. Constitutive moral luck only requires far more modest imaginations, such as, “How would my life be different if I’d been born with more athletic ability, like my sister?” or “What if I were raised to be more even-keeled, like my cousin?” or “Would I trust people more if my mother hadn’t abandoned me when I was twelve years old?” Such questions are perfectly sensible: they do not require imagining a “feature-less precursor” of oneself, nor imagining oneself to be a whole new person. That is because those qualities — and many (if not most) others — are not essential to a person’s identity.[19] So if Joe loses a finger in a boating accident, suddenly develops a taste for scallops, or decides that white lies are morally wrong, he does not become a new person. If all qualities of a person were essential to his identity, then Joe would be a new person in those ordinary cases of personal change. That is absurd. In fact, the inessential qualities of a person can be (and often are) shaped by luck; they can change based on the influence of forces beyond the person’s control without undermining his personal identity. Constitutive moral luck concerns those kinds of qualities, i.e., a person’s potentially variable character traits, not any qualities essential to his personal identity.[20] Consequently, the identity solution’s appeal to identity does not eliminate the problem of constitutive moral luck, not even partially.[21] It only makes the perfectly ordinary phenomena of personal change impossible to fathom. The fact that a person’s moral character can change over time sheds light on the identity solution’s simple deductive argument against constitutive moral luck. In Premise 1 (“character is an aspect of a person’s identity”), “identity” refers broadly to all the various qualities of a person, changeable or not. Yet Premise 2 (“a person’s identity cannot be subject to luck”) only makes sense if “identity” refers to the essential aspects of a person’s identity, such that any change would create a new and different person. Hence, the basic argument of the identity solution is fallacious: it depends on an equivocation in the meaning of “identity.” The second objection is that the identity solution implicitly depends on a highly implausible view of the origin of moral character, namely moral nativism. It ignores the myriad influences of luck in the cultivation of character by presuming (implausibly) that a person’s whole moral psychology is set at birth. Thus Rescher focuses solely on the incoherence of claiming luck in being “born honest” or “born mendacious” without ever considering the far more plausible claim that a person cultivates an honest or mendacious character over the course of his life, partly influenced by luck in his upbringing.[22] That implicit nativism also makes sense of Rescher’s claim that control is wholly irrelevant to character, so that to excuse some vice on the grounds of lack of control “involves a category mistake.”[23] On his view, character is not an aspect of life over which a person might exert control or not, as he does in attending college or bearing children. Instead, character is beyond a person’s control in a deeper sense: when it is created, the person does not exist yet to exert any control over it. In fact, however, most (if not all) of a person’s moral character is gradually cultivated over the course of his life by his thinking, his choices, and his actions.[24] Clearly, that process of moral development can be influenced by luck. It is a matter of luck, for example, whether the class bully happened to pick on you in sixth grade or not, whether your parents emphasized education or not, and whether your kindly grandmother recovered from her heart attack or not. The identity solution accepts that luck can influence a person’s experiences because that is “what happens to one.”[25] The simple fact is that such experiences shape a person’s moral character, meaning that they affect “who one is,” sometimes profoundly.[26] Yet the identity solution’s whole case against constitutive moral luck depends on the claim that such identity is immune to luck, as if the events in a person’s life never affect his moral character. That is clearly false. Even more strangely, the identity solution would require us to suppose that a person’s character is static from birth to death. After all, if character were essential to a person’s identity, then any change to it, whatever the cause, would make that person into someone new. In sum, the identity solution’s denial of constitutive moral luck based on moral nativism crumbles when faced with the obvious fact that a person’s character changes based on his experiences. The third objection is that the identity solution’s approach to moral judgments of character suggests that a person could be morally praised and blamed for any aspect of his identity whatsoever. For Rescher, a person need not control his character to be judged for it. Instead, all that matters is that the person possesses some positive or negative trait. That has unwelcome implications. Most obviously, a person might also be subject to moral judgment for a wide range of qualities beyond his control. For example, a person could be morally praised for a high IQ and morally blamed for a low IQ. Even worse, a person could be blamed for a genetic birth defect such as Down syndrome because it makes him a burden to his parents. Clearly, such judgments would be unjust. Yet the identity solution’s approach to moral judgments of character would sanction them. Ultimately, despite some ingenious twists, the identity solution cannot solve the problem of moral luck. Its limiting of moral judgments to judgments of character in order to solve the problems of resultant and circumstantial moral luck demands a compelling solution to the problem of constitutive moral luck. Yet its proposed solution depends on clearly false assumptions about essential qualities and moral nativism. It also entails absurd views about personal identity and moral responsibility. Consequently, the whole problem of moral luck remains unsolved.[27] Notes [1]  Rescher 1993. Unfortunately, Rescher’s theory is not particularly clear. He does not adequately explain or justify key claims, and he seems to contradict himself at various points. My explication will attempt to offer the most plausible reconstruction of his views. Notably, many commenters on moral luck classify Rescher’s approach as a form of the epistemic solution. While they often make similar arguments, the overall differences between Rescher and Richards, for example, warrant separate consideration. [2]  Rescher 1993, p. 156. [3]  Rescher 1993, p. 157. [4]  Rescher 1993, p. 156. [5]  According to Rescher, the outcomes of actions are often relevant to the substance of proper moral principles, in that people should be praised or blamed based on the expected outcome of their actions in the “ordinary course” of events (Rescher 1993, p. 157). [6]  Later, Rescher explains that the law may consider actual outcomes as “a matter of social policy” (Rescher 1993, p. 159). [7]  Rescher 1993, p. 158. Rescher distinguishes between a person’s “moral record” and his “moral standing.” The former is determined by his actions, whereas the latter is a function of his character. A person’s moral standing is of overriding importance (Rescher 1993, p. 158). [8]  Rescher 1993, p. 155. [9]  Rescher 1993, pp. 154, 157. [10]  Rescher 1993, p. 156. Rescher views luck in a somewhat different way than Nagel. Instead of identifying luck with a lack of control, Rescher understands luck an accidental event of some value significance to a person (Rescher 1993, p. 145). This difference does not affect the argument. [11]  Rescher 1993, p. 155. [12]  Rescher 1993, p. 155. [13]  For a more detailed (but still wrong) defense of the view that control is not relevant to praise and blame for mental states like emotions, see Adams 1985. The next section considers a more plausible argument for the irrelevance of control to judgments of character with “character-based compatibilism.” [14]  Rescher 1993, p. 157. [15]  Rescher 1993, p. 157. [16]  Rescher 1993, p. 155. [17]  Rescher 1993, p. 157. [18] Rescher 1993, p. 155. [19] Latus 2003, p. 471. [20] I am doubtful that any moral qualities could be essential to a person’s identity because such qualities must be cultivated as described in Chapter Nine. [21]  In the attempt to find some aspect of a person wholly immune to luck, Greco (1995, p. 94-5) differentiates between a person’s actual moral worth, based on his actual character, and his essential moral worth, based on whatever his character might have been in various alternative circumstances. However, any such judgments of essential moral worth would be pure guesswork, even about oneself. Consequently, they would provide little if any practical guidance in our dealings with others. Moreover, even Greco admits that essential moral worth would not be wholly immune to luck. [22]  Rescher 1993, p. 155. [23]  Rescher 1993, p. 157. [24]  I would argue that a person’s moral qualities must all be cultivated, even though some basic features of personality might well be innate. The relationship between innate temperament and moral character is discussed in Chapter Nine. [25]  Rescher 1993, p. 156. [26] Rescher 1993, p. 156. [27]  Further criticisms of Rescher’s views can be found in Latus 2003, pp. 470-2 and Latus 2000, pp. 158-60. Link to Original
  10. On the next episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, I'll chat about "Responsibility & Luck, Chapter Two" with listeners. This episode of internet radio airs at 6 pm PT / 7 MT / 8 CT / 9 ET on Thursday, 5 June 2014, in our live studio. If you can't listen live, you'll find the podcast on the episode's archive page. What are some of the common proposed solutions to the problem of moral luck? How and why do they fail? I will answer these questions and more in this live discussion of Chapter Two of my book, Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame. To join the live broadcast and its chat, just point your browser to Philosophy in Action's Live Studio a few minutes before the show is scheduled to start. By listening live, you can share your thoughts with other listeners and ask follow-up questions in the text chat. The podcast of this episode will be available shortly after the live broadcast here: Radio Archive: Chat on Responsibility & Luck, Chapter Two. You can automatically download that and other podcasts by subscribing to Philosophy in Action's Podcast RSS Feed: Enhanced M4A Feed: Subscribe via iTunes or another podcast player Standard MP3 Feed: Subscribe via iTunes or another podcast player I hope you join us for the live show or enjoy the podcast later. Also, please share this announcement with any friends interested in this topic! Philosophy in Action Radio applies rational principles to the challenges of real life in live internet radio shows on Sunday mornings and Thursday evenings. For information on upcoming shows, visit the Episodes on Tap. For podcasts of past shows, visit the Show Archives.
  11. My second Forbes piece in two days again discusses the VA health scandal: “Three Factors That Corrupted VA Health Care And Threaten The Rest of American Medicine“. Here is the opening: Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki has resigned in the wake of the waiting times scandal. But the problems at the VA go much deeper than a single man. His eventual successor will have his hands full dealing with the toxic combination of problems that fueled the crisis: a shortage of doctors, perverse incentives, and a widespread culture of dishonesty. And these problems could affect the rest of America under ObamaCare… The first two of the three factors are already in play under the Affordable Care Act (aka “ObamaCare”) and there are troubling early indicators that the third may take root as well. If this happens, Americans had better watch out. Link to Original
  12. On the next episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, Greg Perkins and I will answer questions on jury nullification, the morality of homosexuality, dishonesty in a manager, and more. This episode of internet radio airs at 6 pm PT / 7 MT / 8 CT / 9 ET on Thursday, 29 May 2014, in our live studio. If you can't listen live, you'll find the podcast on the episode's archive page. This week's questions are: Question 1: Jury Nullification: Should juries nullify bad laws by refusing to convict? Imagine a criminal case of drug possession, tax evasion, or prostitution – meaning, where the law is wrong because the outlawed activity doesn't violate rights. Should (or might) a juror concerned with individual rights refuse to find the defendant guilty? Does a juror exercise a rightful check on government power by refusing to convict? Or would acquitting the defendant be contrary to the rule of law and even anarchistic? Basically, should the juror use his own mind not merely to judge the evidence, but also to judge the morality of the law? Question 2: The Morality of Homosexuality: Does the morality of homosexuality depend on it being unchosen? It seems that the advocates of gay rights and 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? Question 3: Dishonesty in a Manager: What should I do about the dishonesty of my new project manager? One of the project managers at my job recently lied when evaluating my co-worker. We are evaluated yearly, but aren't supposed to share the results of the reviews with others. However, my co-worker shared her review with me. It painted her in an extremely negative light via false accusations, and her yearly raise was affected by it. She wasn't given any warning about the accusations either. I've taken over her duties, which include working under the accuser. I'm afraid my review next year will be unjustly and perhaps even dishonestly negative, but I wasn't supposed to see her review in the first place. What should I do? Is there something I should do about my co-worker's false negative review? How can I protect myself from this dishonest project manager? After that, we'll tackle some impromptu "Rapid Fire Questions." To join the live broadcast and its chat, just point your browser to Philosophy in Action's Live Studio a few minutes before the show is scheduled to start. By listening live, you can share your thoughts with other listeners and ask us follow-up questions in the text chat. The podcast of this episode will be available shortly after the live broadcast here: Radio Archive: Q&A: Jury Nullification, the Morality of Homosexuality, Dishonesty, and More. You can automatically download that and other podcasts by subscribing to Philosophy in Action's Podcast RSS Feed: Enhanced M4A Feed: Subscribe via iTunes or another podcast player Standard MP3 Feed: Subscribe via iTunes or another podcast player I hope you join us for the live show or enjoy the podcast later. Also, please share this announcement with any friends interested in these topics! Philosophy in Action Radio applies rational principles to the challenges of real life in live internet radio shows on Sunday mornings and Thursday evenings. For information on upcoming shows, visit the Episodes on Tap. For podcasts of past shows, visit the Show Archives.
  13. On the next episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, Greg Perkins and I will answer questions on creating a stylized life, legal dueling, permission versus forgiveness, and more. This episode of internet radio airs at 8 am PT / 9 MT / 10 CT / 11 ET on Sunday, 25 May 2014, in our live studio. If you can't listen live, you'll find the podcast on the episode's archive page. This week's questions are: Question 1: Creating a Stylized Life: 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? Question 2: Legal Dueling: Should dueling and other consensual fights be legal? In your September 5th, 2012 interview with Dr. Eric Daniels, you discussed some of America's violent past traditions, including the practice of dueling. While I have no intention of challenging my rivals to mortal combat, I cannot see why this practice should be illegal. The same might be said of less lethal modern variants such as bar fights, schoolyard fights, and other situations where violence is entered into with the mutual consent of both parties. Should such consensual violence be forbidden by law in a free society – not just for children but perhaps for adults too? If so, what justifies allowing more ritualized forms of combat, such as mixed-martial arts fighting, boxing, or even football? Question 3: Permission Versus Forgiveness: Should people ask for permission or ask for forgiveness when breaking the rules? People often say that "it's better to ask forgiveness than to ask for permission" when excusing their own rule-breaking. I hate the phrase, but I can't put my finger on what's so objectionable about it. So what does the phrase mean? Is it right or wrong? If it's true for some organizations, doesn't that indicate that the organization's rules or policies are somehow bass-ackwards? After that, we'll tackle some impromptu "Rapid Fire Questions." To join the live broadcast and its chat, just point your browser to Philosophy in Action's Live Studio a few minutes before the show is scheduled to start. By listening live, you can share your thoughts with other listeners and ask us follow-up questions in the text chat. The podcast of this episode will be available shortly after the live broadcast here: Radio Archive: Q&A: Stylized Life, Legal Dueling, Asking Permission, and More. You can automatically download that and other podcasts by subscribing to Philosophy in Action's Podcast RSS Feed: Enhanced M4A Feed: Subscribe via iTunes or another podcast player Standard MP3 Feed: Subscribe via iTunes or another podcast player I hope you join us for the live show or enjoy the podcast later. Also, please share this announcement with any friends interested in these topics! Philosophy in Action Radio applies rational principles to the challenges of real life in live internet radio shows on Sunday mornings and Thursday evenings. For information on upcoming shows, visit the Episodes on Tap. For podcasts of past shows, visit the Show Archives.
  14. On Sunday's episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, I will answer questions on creating a stylized life, legal dueling, permission versus forgiveness, and more... live from ATLOSCon. This episode of internet radio airs at 8 am PT / 9 MT / 10 CT / 11 ET on Sunday, 25 May 2014, in our live studio. If you can't listen live, you'll find the podcast on the episode's archive page. This week's questions are: Question 1: Creating a Stylized Life: 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? Question 2: Legal Dueling: Should dueling and other consensual fights be legal? In your September 5th, 2012 interview with Dr. Eric Daniels, you discussed some of America's violent past traditions, including the practice of dueling. While I have no intention of challenging my rivals to mortal combat, I cannot see why this practice should be illegal. The same might be said of less lethal modern variants such as bar fights, schoolyard fights, and other situations where violence is entered into with the mutual consent of both parties. Should such consensual violence be forbidden by law in a free society – not just for children but perhaps for adults too? If so, what justifies allowing more ritualized forms of combat, such as mixed-martial arts fighting, boxing, or even football? Question 3: Permission Versus Forgiveness: Should people ask for permission or ask for forgiveness when breaking the rules? People often say that "it's better to ask forgiveness than to ask for permission" when excusing their own rule-breaking. I hate the phrase, but I can't put my finger on what's so objectionable about it. So what does the phrase mean? Is it right or wrong? If it's true for some organizations, doesn't that indicate that the organization's rules or policies are somehow bass-ackwards? After that, we'll tackle some impromptu "Rapid Fire Questions." To join the live broadcast and its chat, just point your browser to Philosophy in Action's Live Studio a few minutes before the show is scheduled to start. By listening live, you can share your thoughts with other listeners and ask us follow-up questions in the text chat. The podcast of this episode will be available shortly after the live broadcast here: Radio Archive: Q&A: Stylized Life, Legal Dueling, Asking Permission, and More. You can automatically download that and other podcasts by subscribing to Philosophy in Action's Podcast RSS Feed: Enhanced M4A Feed: Subscribe via iTunes or another podcast player Standard MP3 Feed: Subscribe via iTunes or another podcast player I hope you join us for the live show or enjoy the podcast later. Also, please share this announcement with any friends interested in these topics! Philosophy in Action Radio applies rational principles to the challenges of real life in live internet radio shows on Sunday mornings and Thursday evenings. For information on upcoming shows, visit the Episodes on Tap. For podcasts of past shows, visit the Show Archives.
  15. On the next episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, I'll chat about Chapter One of my book "Responsibility & Luck." This episode of internet radio airs at 6 pm PT / 7 MT / 8 CT / 9 ET on Thursday, 22 May 2014, in our live studio. If you can't listen live, you'll find the podcast on the episode's archive page. 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 will answer these questions and more in this live discussion of Chapter One of my book, Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame. To join the live broadcast and its chat, just point your browser to Philosophy in Action's Live Studio a few minutes before the show is scheduled to start. By listening live, you can share your thoughts with other listeners and ask follow-up questions in the text chat. The podcast of this episode will be available shortly after the live broadcast here: Radio Archive: Chat on Responsibility & Luck, Chapter One. You can automatically download that and other podcasts by subscribing to Philosophy in Action's Podcast RSS Feed: Enhanced M4A Feed: Subscribe via iTunes or another podcast player Standard MP3 Feed: Subscribe via iTunes or another podcast player I hope you join us for the live show or enjoy the podcast later. Also, please share this announcement with any friends interested in this topic! Philosophy in Action Radio applies rational principles to the challenges of real life in live internet radio shows on Sunday mornings and Thursday evenings. For information on upcoming shows, visit the Episodes on Tap. For podcasts of past shows, visit the Show Archives.
  16. I wish that the divorce rate were higher. I know some people who’ve been married for decades, and they’ll likely never divorce. Yet life in that marriage is miserable due to ongoing dishonesty, manipulation, malevolence, and even physical abuse. Divorce requires courage, and many people don’t have enough of that. Those who do — and who’ve seen their way to independence — are so much better off as a result, in every possible way. Hence, the divorce rate should be higher. Link to Original
  17. On the next episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, Greg Perkins and I will answer questions on egoism and harm to others, the presence of juries at trials, philosophy in romance, and more. This episode of internet radio airs at 8 am PT / 9 MT / 10 CT / 11 ET on Thursday, 15 May 2014, in our live studio. If you can’t listen live, you’ll find the podcast on the episode’s archive page. This week’s questions are: Question 1: Egoism and Harm to Others: Should an egoist be willing to torture millions to benefit himself? In your discussion of explaining egoistic benevolence on December 22, 2013, you indicated that you regarded such a scenario as absurd. Could you explain why that is? Why wouldn’t such torture be not merely permitted but rather obligatory under an egoistic ethics? Why should an egoist even care about what happens to strangers? Question 2: The Presence of Juries at Trials: 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? Question 3: Philosophy in Romance: 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? After that, we’ll tackle some impromptu “Rapid Fire Questions.” To join the live broadcast and its chat, just point your browser to Philosophy in Action’s Live Studio a few minutes before the show is scheduled to start. By listening live, you can share your thoughts with other listeners and ask us follow-up questions in the text chat. The podcast of this episode will be available shortly after the live broadcast here: Radio Archive: Q&A: Egoism, Juries, Philosophy in Romance, and More. You can automatically download that and other podcasts by subscribing to Philosophy in Action’s Podcast RSS Feed: Enhanced M4A Feed: Subscribe via iTunes or another podcast player Standard MP3 Feed: Subscribe via iTunes or another podcast player I hope you join us for the live show or enjoy the podcast later. Also, please share this announcement with any friends interested in these topics! Philosophy in Action Radio applies rational principles to the challenges of real life in live internet radio shows on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. For information on upcoming shows, visit the Episodes on Tap. For podcasts of past shows, visit the Show Archives. Link to Original
  18. Judge denies Gmail search warrant, notes “Technorati are … everywhere”: A federal judge in Silicon Valley took the unusual step last week of rejecting a routine email search request, and suggested that Google and the government take steps to halt the now-routine practice in which tech companies hand over the entirety of their customer’s cloud-based computer accounts. “The Technorati are … everywhere,” wrote U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Grewal. “And yet too few understand, or even suspect, the essential role played by many of these workers and their employers in facilitating most government access to private citizen’s data.” … Grewal’s ruling also includes a discreet swipe at Google: “While Google has publicly declared that it challenges overbroad warrants, in three-plus years on the bench in the federal courthouse serving its headquarters, the undersigned has yet to see any such motion.” Hear, hear! This is a tiny step, but I hope it leads to much more. Thank you, Judge Paul Grewal. Link to Original
  19. On the next episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, Greg Perkins and I will answer questions on egoism and harm to others, the presence of juries at trials, philosophy in romance, and more. This episode of internet radio airs at 6 pm PT / 7 MT / 8 CT / 9 ET on Thursday, 15 May 2014, in our live studio. If you can't listen live, you'll find the podcast on the episode's archive page. This week's questions are: Question 1: Egoism and Harm to Others: Should an egoist be willing to torture millions to benefit himself? In your discussion of explaining egoistic benevolence on December 22, 2013, you indicated that you regarded such a scenario as absurd. Could you explain why that is? Why wouldn't such torture be not merely permitted but rather obligatory under an egoistic ethics? Why should an egoist even care about what happens to strangers? Question 2: The Presence of Juries at Trials: 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? Question 3: Philosophy in Romance: 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? After that, we'll tackle some impromptu "Rapid Fire Questions." To join the live broadcast and its chat, just point your browser to Philosophy in Action's Live Studio a few minutes before the show is scheduled to start. By listening live, you can share your thoughts with other listeners and ask us follow-up questions in the text chat. The podcast of this episode will be available shortly after the live broadcast here: Radio Archive: Q&A: Egoism, Juries, Philosophy in Romance, and More. You can automatically download that and other podcasts by subscribing to Philosophy in Action's Podcast RSS Feed: Enhanced M4A Feed: Subscribe via iTunes or another podcast player Standard MP3 Feed: Subscribe via iTunes or another podcast player I hope you join us for the live show or enjoy the podcast later. Also, please share this announcement with any friends interested in these topics! Philosophy in Action Radio applies rational principles to the challenges of real life in live internet radio shows on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. For information on upcoming shows, visit the Episodes on Tap. For podcasts of past shows, visit the Show Archives.
  20. Starting today, I’m running “Kindle Countdown Deal” on the Kindle edition of my book, Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame. The price starts super-low: $3.99. Then, day by day, the price will slowly rise, until the book reaches its regular price of $9.99 by next weekend. Basically, if you want the best deal, buy your copy now! I’m running this sale because I’ll start my chapter-by-chapter podcast series on the book on Thursday, May 22nd. So if you have any questions or comments as you read, please email them to me. You can learn more about the book here: Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame. Chapter One and Chapter Three are available as free PDFs, and you can listen to me read the text of Chapter One in this podcast. But now… go buy the kindle edition! Link to Original
  21. On the next episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, Greg Perkins and I will answer questions on weak versus strong atheism, dating people with psychological problems, the presence of juries at trials, and more. This episode of internet radio airs at 8 am PT / 9 MT / 10 CT / 11 ET on Sunday, 11 May 2014, in our live studio. If you can't listen live, you'll find the podcast on the episode's archive page. This week's questions are: Question 1: Weak Versus Strong Atheism: Should a rational person's atheism be weak or strong? People often distinguish between "weak atheism" and "strong atheism." The weak atheist regards the arguments for the existence of God as invalid, such that God's existence has not been proven. The strong atheist positively asserts that God does not exist. Which of these views is correct? Question 2: Dating People with Psychological Problems: Is it a mistake to enter into a serious relationship with a person with serious psychological problems? Recently, my wife took her own life after a long struggle with major depression and other psychological issues. When we started dating, I saw clearly that she had issues although they were not as bad at the time. She was also intelligent, beautiful, and ambitious – among other good qualities. At the time, I thought she could work through her psychological issues with support, and she did improve for a while. However, after her loss, I've decided that, when and if I'm to the point where I'm interested in dating again, I will avoid becoming involved with women who display clear psychological problems. This decision has forced me to wonder if it was a mistake to become involved with my wife in the first place. So is it a mistake to enter into a serious relationship, knowing that the person has serious psychological struggles? Question 3: The Presence of Juries at Trials: 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? After that, we'll tackle some impromptu "Rapid Fire Questions." To join the live broadcast and its chat, just point your browser to Philosophy in Action's Live Studio a few minutes before the show is scheduled to start. By listening live, you can share your thoughts with other listeners and ask us follow-up questions in the text chat. The podcast of this episode will be available shortly after the live broadcast here: Radio Archive: Q&A: Varieties of Atheism, Psychological Struggles, Juries, and More. You can automatically download that and other podcasts by subscribing to Philosophy in Action's Podcast RSS Feed: Enhanced M4A Feed: Subscribe via iTunes or another podcast player Standard MP3 Feed: Subscribe via iTunes or another podcast player I hope you join us for the live show or enjoy the podcast later. Also, please share this announcement with any friends interested in these topics! Philosophy in Action Radio applies rational principles to the challenges of real life in live internet radio shows on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. For information on upcoming shows, visit the Episodes on Tap. For podcasts of past shows, visit the Show Archives.
  22. Just a few reminders here about how to keep up with our work. First, you can subscribe to this blog or my podcast using these links: NoodleFood Posts (or via email) NoodleFood Comments (or via email) Enhanced M4A Podcasts (or via iTunes or email) Standard MP3 Podcasts (or iTunes or email) If you subscribe using the email links, you’ll receive an email once per day with any new content. As for the comments, remember that you can view all recent comments. Also, if you register with Disqus and post with that account, you can edit your comments — and thereby fix any formatting problems, typos, or other minor errors. Also, if you want a once-per-week round-up of my work, subscribe to Philosophy in Action’s Newsletter. Here are more ways to keep up, including the Calendar of Events, Facebook: PhilosophyInAction, and Twitter: @Philo_Action. Also… If you’re a fan of Philosophy in Action Radio, please help spread the word by rating and reviewing them in iTunes! Please do so for both the enhanced M4A feed and standard MP3 feed. (The content is the same: the only difference is the file type.) That’s much appreciated! Link to Original
  23. On the next episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, Greg Perkins and I will answer questions on public displays of body dysmorphia, licensing parents, responsibility for a sibling, the presence of juries at trials, and more. This episode of internet radio airs at 8 am PT / 9 MT / 10 CT / 11 ET on Sunday, 4 May 2014, in our live studio. If you can't listen live, you'll find the podcast on the episode's archive page. This week's questions are: Question 1: Public Displays of Body Dysmorphia: What should I do when a friend exhibits severe body dysmorphia on social media? At several points in my life, I had a valued friend who seemed otherwise rational and grounded, but who also exhibited dangerous body dysmorphia on social media. In these cases, the friend would first go through a several-month phase of confessing to several psychological problems, such as fantasizing about suicide and of cutting herself with a blade. This friend would then sternly add that she has since recovered, but would admit to still feeling that her natural physical features are ugly and deformed. Then, months later, the friend would go into another phase. On social media, in front of many other people, she would make brazen gestures indicating body dysmorphia, such as uploading photoshopped pictures of herself as a corpse ready for burial or saying that she planned to starve herself to achieve her ideal of being skeletally thin. A major problem was the reaction from our online mutual acquaintances. Some admitted that they saw these problems, yet they acted like the friend was behaving normally. Others outright complimented the dysmorphic imagery and statements. In these cases, I think that my friend knew that her body dysmorphia was dangerous. She put it on display so that others would normalize her pathology, because then she could more easily rationalize her behavior as harmless. That seems really dangerous, but what is the proper alternative? How should people respond when a person puts his pathological self-destruction on display? Question 2: Licensing Parents: Should parents be licensed? Given the cost to society of parents shirking their obligations to their children, to entrust children to just anyone able to bear that child seems negligent. The state does, after all, forbid chronic drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel again. On the other hand, to give discretionary power to the state over such a personal matter seems very dangerous. Is there any middle ground that would better protect kids from abusive or neglectful parents and protect society from the growing scourge of poor parenting? Question 3: Responsibility for a Sibling: 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? Question 4: The Presence of Juries at Trials: 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? After that, we'll tackle some impromptu "Rapid Fire Questions." To join the live broadcast and its chat, just point your browser to Philosophy in Action's Live Studio a few minutes before the show is scheduled to start. By listening live, you can share your thoughts with other listeners and ask us follow-up questions in the text chat. The podcast of this episode will be available shortly after the live broadcast here: Radio Archive: Q&A: Body Dysmorphia, Licensing Parents, Irresponsible Siblings, and More. You can automatically download that and other podcasts by subscribing to Philosophy in Action's Podcast RSS Feed: Enhanced M4A Feed: Subscribe via iTunes or another podcast player Standard MP3 Feed: Subscribe via iTunes or another podcast player I hope you join us for the live show or enjoy the podcast later. Also, please share this announcement with any friends interested in these topics! Philosophy in Action Radio applies rational principles to the challenges of real life in live internet radio shows on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. For information on upcoming shows, visit the Episodes on Tap. For podcasts of past shows, visit the Show Archives.
  24. On the next episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, Greg Perkins and I will answer questions on ambition as a virtue, happiness without close friends, refusing involvement in a biological child's life, responsibility for a sibling, and more. This episode of internet radio airs at 8 am PT / 9 MT / 10 CT / 11 ET on Sunday, 27 April 2014, in our live studio. If you can't listen live, you'll find the podcast on the episode's archive page. This week's questions are: Question 1: Ambition as a Virtue: Is ambition a virtue? Is ambition properly regarded as a virtue? Ayn Rand defined ambition as "the systematic pursuit of achievement and of constant improvement in respect to one's goal." If we apply ambition only to rational goals – as happens with the virtue of integrity, where loyalty to values only constitutes integrity if those values are rational – then could ambition be considered a virtue? Or at least, could ambition be an aspect of a virtue like productiveness? Question 2: Happiness without Close Friends: 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, in Aristotle paraphrased 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. Question 3: Refusing Involvement in a Biological Child's Life: 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? Question 4: Responsibility for a Sibling: 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? After that, we'll tackle some impromptu "Rapid Fire Questions." To join the live broadcast and its chat, just point your browser to Philosophy in Action's Live Studio a few minutes before the show is scheduled to start. By listening live, you can share your thoughts with other listeners and ask us follow-up questions in the text chat. The podcast of this episode will be available shortly after the live broadcast here: Radio Archive: Q&A: Ambition, Lacking Friends, Absent Fathers, and More. You can automatically download that and other podcasts by subscribing to Philosophy in Action's Podcast RSS Feed: Enhanced M4A Feed: Subscribe via iTunes or another podcast player Standard MP3 Feed: Subscribe via iTunes or another podcast player I hope you join us for the live show or enjoy the podcast later. Also, please share this announcement with any friends interested in these topics! Philosophy in Action Radio applies rational principles to the challenges of real life in live internet radio shows on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. For information on upcoming shows, visit the Episodes on Tap. For podcasts of past shows, visit the Show Archives.
  25. My latest Forbes piece is now up: “Should Doctors Limit Medical Care To Save Money For ‘Society’?” Here is the opening: Can your doctor serve two masters at once? That’s the question American physicians are grappling with. The New York Times recently reported on a growing debate within the medical profession as to whether doctors should make treatment decisions in the best interests of their individual patients — or if they should limit care to save money for “society.” This would represent a seismic shift in standard medical ethics. Traditionally, a doctor’s primary ethical duty is to the patient. Patients literally put their lives in our hands, trusting that their physician will always act as their advocate. But with health care costs currently consuming 18% of the US economy (and an enlarging share of government budgets), some doctors are openly calling for fellow physicians to limit their use of more expensive tests and therapies to save money for “the larger society.” As Dr. Martin Samuels (chairman of neurology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston) warned in the Times piece, doctors risk losing patients’ trust if they say, “I’m not going to do what I think is best for you because I think it’s bad for the health care budget in Massachusetts.” We don’t expect our lawyer to balance our legal interests against saving money for “the court system” or our real estate agent to balance our housing preferences against what’s best for “the regional housing market.” Shouldn’t our doctors adhere to the same code of ethics?… I also discuss how this conflict of interest will worsen under ObamaCare as well as how adapting an idea by UCLA law professor Russell Korobkin may help avoid this problem and protect the doctor-patient relationship. For more details, read the full text of “Should Doctors Limit Medical Care To Save Money For ‘Society’?“ Link to Original
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