Marginal Humans, Wanting Sex, Polite Homophobes, and More
Q&A Radio: Sunday, 21 July 2013
I answered questions on the 'marginal humans' argument, sex when not in the mood, responding to polite homophobes, and more on Philosophy in Action Radio on Sunday, 21 July 2013. Greg Perkins of Objectivist Answers was my co-host. You can listen to or download the podcast below.Remember, Philosophy in Action Radio is available to anyone, free of charge. That's because our goal is to spread rational principles for real life far and wide, as we do every week to thousands of listeners. We love doing that, but each episode requires our time, effort, and money. So if you enjoy and value our work, please contribute to our tip jar. We suggest $5 per episode or $20 per month, but any amount is appreciated. You can send your contribution via Dwolla, PayPal, or US Mail.
My News of the Week: I've been working on some programming projects for Philosophy in Action. Yesterday, my horse Lila and I won two first place and one second place ribbon doing the three "training level" tests in a dressage schooling show.
- Duration: 1:07:03
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Segments: 21 July 2013
Question: What's wrong with the "marginal humans" argument against uniquely human rights? Ayn Rand, following Aristotle, defined man as the rational animal – meaning that man's essential quality is that he possesses the faculty of reason, while other animals do not. Such is the basis for rights, in her view. Opponents of animal rights often appeal to this gap between humans and other animals to justify raising animals to be killed and eaten. They claim that animals can't have rights because they're not rational. Advocates of animal rights, however, often attempt to refute this claim via the "marginal humans" argument. They observe that human infants lack the faculty of reason, and hence, we should not use rationality as the moral criterion for rights. What is wrong with this argument? Do opponents of animal rights conflate potential with actual rationality, in that the infant seems potentially but not actually capable of reason?
Answer, In Brief: The "marginal humans" arguments helps clarify the nature and limits of rights, but it does not undermine the view that rights are limited to humans or based on the capacity to reason.
Question: Is it wrong to have sex when you're not in the mood? Assume that you're in a long-term romantic relationship with another person. You are not always going to feel the desire to have sex. If your lover wants sex, is it wrong to have sex? Might you have sex anyway, perhaps because you want to do something nice for your lover - perhaps in the hope that your lover might do the same for you later? Many people seem uncomfortable with sex under those circumstances, i.e. absent a strong physical desire. Some think that having sex even if not in the mood isn't right: it's degrading and might lead to resentment. Others claim that if you're truly in love, then your physical desires will fall into line. Hence, if you don't want to have sex, you might not really be in love - or you might have other philosophical or psychological problems. Which of these views is right?
Answer, In Brief: Sex should never be a sacrifice, but that doesn't mean that both people have to be desperately wanting it to have great sex.
Question: How should I respond to people who think that homosexuality is an immoral or neurotic choice? I'm straight, but I have many gay friends. From years of experience, I know that they're virtuous and rational people. Moreover, their romantic relationships are not fundamentally different from mine. Also, I'm a strong believer in gay rights, including gay marriage. So what should I do when confronted with seemingly decent people who think that homosexuality is an immoral choice, based in neurosis, or otherwise unhealthy? These people often present their ideas in polite and seemingly respectable ways; they're not just flaming bigots. Yet still I find them appalling, particularly when used to justify denying rights to gays. Should I be more tolerant of such views? How should I express my disagreement?
Answer, In Brief: Given today's cultural context, hatred of or bias against gays is not an excusable position for most people: it's too obviously wrong. A person deeply committed to that – meaning, a person who publicly condemns gays or treats them unjustly – deserves to be ostracized by decent people.
Rapid Fire Questions (59:02)
- What are you thoughts on the outcome of the Zimmerman trial? Was justice served or not?
- How much time do you spend each week preparing for this show? What are the perks and drawbacks of being a full-time philosopher?
- Is there any point saying 'bless you' when someone sneezes?
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About Philosophy in Action Radio
I'm Dr. Diana Hsieh. I'm a philosopher specializing the application of rational principles to the challenges of real life. I received my Ph.D in philosophy from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2009. My dissertation defended moral responsibility and moral judgment against the doubts raised by Thomas Nagel's "problem of moral luck."
My radio show, Philosophy in Action Radio, broadcasts live over the internet on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. On Sunday mornings, I answer four meaty questions applying rational principles to the challenges of real life in a live hour-long show. Greg Perkins of Objectivist Answers co-hosts the show. On Wednesday evenings, I interview an expert guest about a topic of practical importance.
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I can be reached via e-mail to [email protected].