Friends and Fans — I have retired from my work as a public intellectual, so Philosophy in Action is on indefinite hiatus. Please check out the voluminous archive of free podcasts, as well as the premium audio content still available for sale. My two books — Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame and Explore Atlas Shrugged — are available for purchase too. Best wishes! — Diana Brickell (Hsieh)

Experts, Immanuel Kant, Insulting Terms, and More

Webcast Q&A: 12 June 2011

I answered questions on proper reliance on experts, the evil of immanuel kant, responding to expressions of hatred for work, the morality of exploiting flaws in government lotteries, appropriating insulting terms, dismissing arguments with pejorative language, and more on 12 June 2011. Greg Perkins of Objectivist Answers was my co-host. Listen to or download this episode of Philosophy in Action Radio below.

The mission of Philosophy in Action is to spread rational principles for real life... far and wide. That's why the vast majority of my work is available to anyone, free of charge. I love doing the radio show, but each episode requires an investment of time, effort, and money to produce. So if you enjoy and value that work of mine, please contribute to the tip jar. I suggest $5 per episode or $20 per month, but any amount is appreciated. In return, contributors can request that I answer questions from the queue pronto, and regular contributors enjoy free access to premium content and other goodies.

My News of the Week: I've working on upgrades to the webcast, getting my health in order, and reading the wonderfully absorbing dystopia The Hunger Games.

Listen or Download

You can automatically download that and other podcasts by subscribing to Philosophy in Action's Podcast RSS Feed:

Share This Episode

Segments: 12 June 2011

Question 1: Proper Reliance on Experts

Question: What role should experts play in our decision-making? Specifically, should a person defer to experts in fields where he's not well-informed? What if he's only partially knowledgeable? Should experts expect such deference? Does it matter whether the field is philosophy, plumbing, diet, or something else?

Answer, In Brief: We can and ought to make use of experts when our own knowledge is lacking. However, we shouldn't ever defer to them but rather keep an active mind, acting as traders in knowledge.

Tags: Epistemology, Expertise, Independence

Listen or Download


Question 2: The Evil of Immanuel Kant

Question: Was Immanuel Kant evil rather than just wrong – and if so, why and how? I understand that Kant's ideas are very wrong, even evil. But couldn't he have been honestly mistaken, perhaps not taking his own work seriously? Given that he never advocated or did anything even remotely comparable to Hitler's genocide, why should he be regarded as evil, if at all?

Answer, In Brief: Kant's philosophy cannot be the result of honest errors, and he did know, or ought to have known, of its destructive power. Hence, he should be regarded as evil, not merely mistaken.

Tags: Ethics, Immanuel Kant, Judgment, Justice, Metaphysics, Philosophy

Listen or Download

Relevant Links


Question 3: Responding to Expressions of Hatred for Work

Question: How should I respond when people disparage their work? Often, people make comments about the great burden that work is – not in the sense that they're unhappy with some problem in their current job, but that they resent the need to work at all. These are the kinds of people who live for weekends and vacations. I don't feel that way about my work, and I think these people are missing so much in life. How can I respond to such casual remarks in a way that might make the person re-think their attitude?

Answer, In Brief: People often adopt such an attitude toward their work without thinking, and often just stating your own disagreement can shock people into rethinking what work might and ought to be.

Tags: Communication, Emotions, Ethics, Moral Wrongs, Productiveness, Work

Listen or Download


Question 4: The Morality of Exploiting Flaws in Government Lotteries

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

Answer, In Brief: So long as you're playing by the rules, you're not cheating. However, you don't want to adopt the mindset of a cheater, nor harm yourself in some other way by exploiting this weakness.

Tags: Arbitrage, Ethics, Honesty, Integrity, Responsibility

Listen or Download


Question 5: Appropriating Insulting Terms

Question: What do you think of people using pejorative terms for themselves, such as gays referring to themselves as "faggots" or Objectivists calling themselves "Randroids"? The term "Randroid" is supposed to imply that Objectivists are unthinking, mindless drones. However, I happily use this term to describe myself – after first calling myself an Objectivist, of course – because I think it squashes a lot of the negativity behind the pejorative when I adopt it willingly. Do you think it's for good Objectivists to adopt this term – and more generally, for people to use insults as badges of honor?

Answer, In Brief: To use insults ironically among people who understand the joke is unproblematic, but to simply describe oneself in insulting terms does not combat the insult but sanctions it – or demands a double standard.

Tags: Communication, Culture, Epistemology, GLBT, Justice, Language, Race

Listen or Download


Question 6: Dismissing Arguments with Pejorative Language

Question: Is pejorative rhetoric useful? When should you or when may you describe someone's argument or analysis in pejorative terms, because you don't consider them intellectually honest or educable, and you just want to make it clear to the wider audience that you don't accept them as a worthwhile opponent? Is it acceptable to just vent in such cases?

Answer, In Brief: A person should never just vent, and if you do, you're likely to look like the dishonest jerk unworthy of civilized discussion.

Tags: Communication, Epistemology, Ethics, Language

Listen or Download


Conclusion (1:00:11)

Thank you for joining us for this episode of Philosophy in Action Radio! If you enjoyed this episode, please contribute to contribute to our tip jar.

Support Philosophy in Action

The vast majority of Philosophy in Action Radio – the live show and the podcast – is available to anyone, free of charge. That's because my mission is to spread rational principles for real life far and wide, as I do every week to thousands of listeners. I love producing the show, but each episode requires requires the investment of time, effort, and money. So if you enjoy and value my work, please contribute to the tip jar. I suggest $5 per episode or $20 per month, but any amount is appreciated. In return, regular contributors enjoy free access to my premium content.


Once you submit this form, you'll be automatically redirected to a page for payment. If you have any questions or further comments, please email me at [email protected].

Thank you for contributing to Philosophy in Action! You make our work possible every week, and we're so grateful for that!

If you enjoy Philosophy in Action, please help us spread the word about it! Tell your friends about upcoming broadcasts by forwarding our newsletter. Link to episodes or segments from our topics archive. Share our blog posts, podcasts, and events on Facebook and Twitter. Rate and review the podcast in iTunes (M4A and MP3). We appreciate any and all of that!

About Philosophy in Action

I'm Dr. Diana Brickell. I'm a philosopher specializing in 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 book, Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame, is available for purchase in paperback and Kindle. The book defends the justice of moral praise and blame of persons using an Aristotelian theory of moral responsibility, thereby refuting Thomas Nagel's "problem of moral luck."

My radio show, Philosophy in Action Radio, broadcasts live over the internet on most Sunday mornings and some Thursday evenings. On Sunday mornings, I answer 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 Thursday evenings, I interview an expert guest or discuss a topic of interest.

If you join us for the live broadcasts, you can ask follow-up questions and make comments in the text-based chat. Otherwise, you can listen to the podcast by subscribing to our Podcast RSS Feed. You can also peruse the podcast archive, where episodes and questions are sorted by date and by topic.

For regular commentary, announcement, and humor, read my blog NoodleFood and subscribe to its Blog RSS Feed. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter and connect on social media too.

I can be reached via e-mail to [email protected].

Philosophy in Action's NewsletterPhilosophy in Action's Facebook PagePhilosophy in Action's Twitter StreamPhilosophy in Action's RSS FeedsPhilosophy in Action's Calendar