Dec 312013

Before 2013 comes to a close, I want to post a quick year-end report, thank my contributors of 2013, and ask for your support in 2014.

In 2013, I produced 80 episodes of Philosophy in Action Radio. 50 were Q&As, in which I answered 169 questions. 29 were interviews, and just one was a podcast. (Later, I’ll work on compiling a list of some of my favorites.)

As for listening statistics:

  • I had 152,507 listens via BlogTalkRadio, with 6,110 of those being live. That’s an increase of nearly 45% over last year’s total of 105,380.
  • I had 219,114 downloads from my podcast archives. (That’s 152,402 downloads from my old host podbean and 66,712 downloads from my new host libsyn.) That’s an increase of nearly 60% over last year’s total of 137,350.

That’s 371,621 listens from all sources — an increase of over 50% from last year’s total of 242,730. Wowee, that’s even better than I expected! That growth makes me darn happy… and I hope to do even better in 2014!

In addition to those radio shows, I published my first book, Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame. That was far, far more work than I expected, but I’m so glad to have that work out in the world.

I’m particularly grateful to all the people who made that work — and more — possible by their financial support. That’s what makes what I do possible, and it keeps me motivated to work even harder on new projects. Here are some of the comments that I’ve received recently from some of those contributors:

I want to thank you for the great podcasts. I’ve been listening since September of 2009, and they just keep getting better! I’m a monthly contributor, and it’s worth every cent.

Diana, Thanks for your webcast, and all your reasoning analyses! I don’t have a good question to accompany this donation, but I may remind you of it when I do submit a question. -) Have a great new year!

I want to say i love your show. I really do enjoy the works and ideas of Ayn Rand, and I considered myself a total objectivist right up until I came in contact with the objectivist community online. Its refreshing to listen to your show and see that rationality is alive and well somewhere.

I have become a regular weekly listener to your show and I have started a regular $5 a month contribution to your tip jar. I know that this isn’t a huge amount but its all i can do for now. I hope that it does help and will continue to promote the show to my more than 1300 twitter followers just as often as I can.

I really enjoyed your recent podcast. You and Paul managed to convince me that personality theory is not just some foo-foo fluff stuff made up by academics, but can actually be quite valuable when formulated and applied in a certain way. This will be very useful for my career, and I think personal relationships as well. I’d be interested in hearing more about personality theory from you in the future. Keep up the great work, and thanks so much!!!

Oh, I love this comment that I just received on a last-minute order of a signed copy of Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame.

I’ve been listening to your Sunday broadcast for about three years now, and have greatly enjoyed the variety of thought-provoking ideas you touch upon. While I’ve always been interested in ethics, I’ve never had a chance to examine moral luck, and am looking forward to reading your book.

Remember, today is the last day to order a signed copy, at least until April! It’s also the last day to contribute to Philosophy in Action’s Tip Jar in 2013! Remember…

What Do You Go for in a Girl?

 Posted by on 31 December 2013 at 10:00 am  Literature, Love/Sex, Sexism
Dec 312013

This video asks: What do you go for in a girl? The answer might surprise you!

(H/T to Howard)

Years of Work in One Sentence

 Posted by on 30 December 2013 at 2:00 pm  Academia, Funny, Responsibility & Luck
Dec 302013

Paul found this hysterical web site in which people compress their whole thesis or dissertation into a single sentence. Here are a few samples:

I don’t know what genes are responsible for guiding zebrafish embryos to grow into mature fish, but I killed thousands of them to find out. (Biology, Northeastern University)

If you want to get drugs directly into your brain, then drill a hole in your head. (Biomedical Engineering, University of Toronto)

Democracy would work a whole lot better if we weren’t so, you know, human. (Political Science, Rutgers)

You can make spacetime do all kinds of wonderful things, and all you have to do is get rid of the conservation of energy. (Physics, Tufts University)

Trust your gut, except when your gut is being an asshole, which can be really hard to tell, but do your best. (Philosophy, Western University)

Here’s mine, now submitted:

It’s not luck; it’s you.

If you want the details, buy the book!

Dec 302013

On Sunday’s episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, Greg Perkins and I answered questions on progress on long-term goals, claims of white privilege, and more. The podcast of that episode is now available for streaming or downloading.

You can automatically download podcasts of Philosophy in Action Radio by subscribing to Philosophy in Action’s Podcast RSS Feed:

Whole Podcast: 29 December 2013

Listen or Download:

Remember the Tip Jar!

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.

Podcast Segments: 29 December 2013

You can download or listen to my answers to individual questions from this episode below.


My News of the Week: I enjoyed Christmas with my parents and husband in Breckenridge. Also, if you want a signed copy of my new book, Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame, be sure to order that before the end of December! They won’t be available again until April.

Question 1: Progress on Long-Term Goals

Question: How can I make better progress on my long-term goals? I have the curious affliction of stagnating, often for very long periods of time, on long term goals. That happens even when those goals pertain to pursuits I enjoy. This pattern has me confused and somewhat alarmed, because I know that these long term goals I have set for myself will be the most meaningful for me to accomplish. Although I see the great value in skill-building for a new career, learning to play the piano, learning a new language, and so on, I cannot seem to get myself to take the daily, repeated action required for more than a week or two. That happens, despite my applying GTD and breaking down the larger task into manageable pieces. My neophile personality simply takes interest in something else, and I miss a day (then two, then three) of taking action, preventing me from ever establishing an activity as a habit. How can I break this cycle of mediocrity, so that I can really start making progress on long term goals?

My Answer, In Brief: You can get more done if you (1) know the real-life purpose of your endeavor, (2) track your progress in objective way, (3) respect the major effort required to concentrate, (4) are realistic about what’s possible to you, and (5) monitor yourself as you work.

Listen or Download:


To comment on this question or my answer, visit its comment thread.

Question 2: Claims of White Privilege

Question: What is the individualist response to claims about “white privilege”? In May 2013, you published a blog post entitled “Personal Motives for Benevolence” where you introduced the idea that prejudice is often formed by favoritism and not overt bigotry. Clearly, such favoritism can be based on race too. So what is the proper and just response to claims of “white privilege” – such as found in the article “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh?

My Answer, In Brief: Talk of “white privilege” is often saturated with collectivism and other false assumptions. However, the phenomena of in-group privilege is a very real and important influence on social behavior, due to our natural affinity for people similar to us. However, we must ensure that such doesn’t render our actions – and particularly not the criminal justice system – unjust.

Listen or Download:


To comment on this question or my answer, visit its comment thread.

Rapid Fire Questions


  • If the universe has always existed, does that make it an actual infinity?
  • Why do the philosophical skeptics, who claim that even skepticism could be wrong, seem to be the ones least willing to entertain any argument that concludes that such is the case?

Listen or Download:

  • Start Time: 1:08:31
  • Duration: 7:53
  • Download: MP3 Segment

To comment on these questions or my answers, visit its comment thread.


Be sure to check out the topics scheduled for upcoming episodes! Don’t forget to submit and vote on questions for future episodes too!

  • Start Time: 1:16:24

About Philosophy in Action Radio

Philosophy in Action Radio focuses on the application of rational principles to the challenges of real life. It broadcasts live on most Sunday mornings and many Thursday evenings over the internet. For information on upcoming shows, visit the Episodes on Tap. For podcasts of past shows, visit the Show Archives.

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Activism Recap

 Posted by on 29 December 2013 at 4:00 pm  Activism Recap
Dec 292013

This week on We Stand FIRM, the blog of FIRM (Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine):

Follow FIRM on Facebook and Twitter.

This week on The Blog of The Objective Standard:

Follow The Objective Standard on Facebook and Twitter.

This week on The Blog of Modern Paleo:

Follow Modern Paleo on Facebook and Twitter.


 Posted by on 27 December 2013 at 1:00 pm  Link-O-Rama
Dec 272013

New Questions in the Queue

 Posted by on 27 December 2013 at 8:00 am  Question Queue
Dec 272013

As you know, on Sunday morning’s Philosophy in Action Radio, I answer four questions chosen in advance from the Question Queue. Here are the most recent additions to that queue. Please vote for the ones that you’re most interested in hearing me answer! You can also review and vote on all pending questions sorted by date or sorted by popularity.

Also, I’m perfectly willing to be bribed to answer a question of particular interest to you pronto. So if you’re a regular contributor to Philosophy in Action’s Tip Jar, I can answer your desired question as soon as possible. The question must already be in the queue, so if you’ve not done so already, please submit it. Then just e-mail me at [email protected] to make your request.

Now, without further ado, the most recent questions added to The Queue:

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?

Should the government of a free society be permitted to do more than just protect rights?

If the proper purpose of government is to protect individual rights, why shouldn’t a government of a free society do other, additional things as long as it does them without violating anyone’s rights? If courts, police, and military could be publicly financed without the use of force, couldn’t roads and schools? Is there some reason besides reliance on taxation why these sorts of government programs are bad?

Should voters attempt to “buy time” for liberty by voting for Republican candidates?

Often, supporters of capitalism are told that they need to “buy time” in order to advocate for liberty – meaning: they should vote for Republicans to stave off disaster and allow time to persuade the public of the nature and value of freedom. Does the debacle with the rollout of ObamaCare contradict this claim? ObamaCare has suffered from widespread attacks, not just from the right wing, but also from many mainstream media outlets and average citizens. These backlashes have forced the administration to issue substantive revisions of the law, and its political backers appear to be running scared. In this case, a statist policy has gone into effect, the public has felt its harmful effects, and that public has turned against the statist policy and its supporting politicians. After this, I am more optimistic about Americans, as well as less inclined to support Republicans at the federal level. Given the utter failure of free market advocates to turn back the regulatory state, might the public need to learn more lessons like that of ObamaCare, just as much as they need to be educated about abstract philosophy? Does support for Republicans in the federal government, who will at best maintain the mixed economy – where the positives caused by freedom can cloud the negatives caused by controls – actually result in a perpetual solidification of the status quo? If so – and combined with some of the GOP’s irrational theocratic tendencies – should people actively (or passively) support keeping the Republican Party as the minority party in the near future by refusing to vote for or support its candidates?

Should I pursue justice against a wrongdoer at great personal expense?

I am trying to decide if I should file an ethics complaint against my former property manager for a rental property. Basically, she managed the property for me for several years until I visited the property and found it in a state of disrepair that annoyed and concerned me. So, I wanted to fire her. But before she would release me from our agreement, she charged me $1,200 for repairs and maintenance that she had done to the house between tenants. She never asked me if I wanted the work done and when pressed she told me it was a matter of routine and our contract granted her the power to make decisions like that. Upon inspection, I discovered that not only were some of the prices she paid were above market rate, it was her husband’s company doing the work. (I found out the rates because in getting the repairs done, I got quotes from other companies in the area.) I’ve reviewed some of the past records and she did this about 50% of the time. The Association of Realtors’ code of ethics in my state specifically notes that she has to disclose relationships like that, but she didn’t. So, I think whether she was in violation is pretty clear cut; however, some have argued that our contract supersedes the code of ethics. (If the board agrees with that argument, then this becomes a contract dispute and not an ethics concern.) If I file the complaint and the board decides to hear the case, I will have to hire a lawyer, make trips to the area, and basically shovel out even more money. The board could take her license or fine her, but in talking to a lawyer, and a couple of officers on the board it’s more likely that they will push for some sort of education rather than taking her license. And none of that would do anything to get my money back. To get my money back, I’d probably have to go through an even more costly process of mediation, then arbitration, then suing her in small claims court where I would never recoup all of my costs. I think it’s pretty obvious she’s in the wrong and I think I can make the case strong enough to bring some measure of justice on her, but it would be expensive and stressful. On the other hand, she was very unpleasant to me and I hate to see her get away with being a horrible person and a corrupt professional. What should I do? How do I decide whether pursuing justice is worth my time and effort?

Is “body acceptance” rational and healthy – or dangerous?

People seem to be divided on the issue of “body acceptance.” Some think that a person should be proud to be “healthy at any size” (or even just a larger-than-average size). Others say that such views perpetuate unhealthy lifestyles, as well as destroy standards of beauty and health, perhaps out of envy. What is a rational view of body acceptance? Is fat shaming or fit shaming ever acceptable? More generally, what are the boundaries of morally acceptable comments on such matters between acquaintances, friends, and strangers?

Should children star in films not suitable for children?

It is immoral to put a child actor in an adult-level movie, such as horror movies that involve lots of murder? Consider the R-rated horror movie “Child’s Play,” starring a child actor battling a homicidal doll. Is it wrong to expose the child actor to that kind of horror, or is there a potentially proper way to handle it? Additionally, isn’t it a double-standard to have it a practice of having young actors starring in these movies, yet to consider these same movies unfit for children to watch?

How can I overcome feeling like a slacker?

I am a very productive person, with multiple projects going on simultaneously, both personal and professional. Generally, I handle juggling things pretty well, and accomplish quite a bit. I can usually attain most of my goals, and I like that about myself. (I’m also a pretty ambitious person so I have many big goals.) However, I also often feel like a complete slacker. I can see all of the things I accomplish, but I often feel like I could be doing more–one more thing, one more project. Sometimes, when I look at the things I’ve accomplished, all I can see are the things I wasn’t able to do and it can be easy to feel defeated and negative about that. How can I reconcile the gap here? How can I get better at feeling the sense of accomplishment I think I should–and deserve–to feel? Do you have any ideas for getting rid of this mantle of slackerness I’ve saddled myself with – unfairly, I think? I’ve been making some changes that have helped, such as writing down my accomplishments each day, but I’m looking for more ideas.

Should an egoist refuse an overly generous, altruistic tip?

Recently, I read a news story about the former president of PayPal leaving huge tips for servers at restaurants around the country. On the receipt, he would write “TipsForJesus,” and the tip was often exorbitant. For example, on a bill of $88.78 the tip was $3000. It is wrong to accept these tips – particularly given that the customer is motivated by altruism and religion?

How can I defend gay rights as individual rights?

Recently, a Colorado court issued a cease and desist order to a local bakeshop which refused to bake a cake for a gay couple’s wedding. Being a gay person myself, I find the refusal of the bakeshop to be annoying and idiotic, but I vehemently disagree with the court’s decision: I believe the owner of the bakeshop has a right to his own property. However, I have a few gay friends and a few liberal friends who think this Colorado court ruling was a step in the right direction for gay rights. I think the opposite, but I support “gay rights” in a way that’s consistent with the concept of individual rights. How can that be explained and defended in a rational way? In other words, how can I defend the rights of gays to marry without suggesting that the government should force people to associate or conduct business with gay people?

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?

What is the nature of character?

What is meant by a person’s “character”? Is that broader than moral character? What is the relationship between character, personality, and sense of life?

How can I protect myself from moral degradation during prolonged contact with destructive people?

In your 1 December 2003 discussion of the morality and legality of abandoning a roommate during a diabetic emergency, you recommend that a person extract himself from that situation as soon as possible – and that a failure to do so might result in developing undesirable character traits, such as becoming callous to other people’s suffering. However, what if a person finds himself in situations in which many people are untrustworthy, immoral, and/or unhealthy – and that fully extracting himself may require some years? I’m worried about ruining my prospects for making an ideal self because I’ve had to deal with terrible family, dishonest and unjust employers, abusive coworkers, bad landlords, and so on. It seems like it’s going to take a long time for me to get out of this situation. That’s a lot of stress and negativity to endure in the medium-term. So how can I protect my psyche – and prevent myself from becoming callous, indifferent, rude, and so forth?

What should I do if I think someone I know is a potential murderer?

With the mass shootings that gained great news coverage, I was intrigued to read upon the visible psychological warning signs of such personalities, and it disturbed me to remember that I once lived with a person who casted off these signs. He was a roommate who started off extremely friendly, but mentally deteriorated rapidly. Whereas he started warm, he was soon walking around the house with a paranoia-stricken face, and threatened me with a stiletto knife in asking whether I had been snooping in his room. (I hadn’t, and he had no reason to think I was.) Through his own admission, I learned he regularly likes to bare-fist fight people on the streets in illegal fighting contests, and, by searching an address from his mail, learned he served time for a violent assault on a landlord, where he attacked a man with a tire chain and struck his wife. Altogether the picture is of a man struggling with severe mental issues who feeds them with his fighting habits, and has factually caved into violent urges. There’s the potential that someday he could literally commit murder. I no longer deal with this person, but wonder what I could have done. How should I respond when I think someone has the capability to literally commit murder, as backed up by his violent crime history, his fighting habit, and his visible mental deterioration?

What are the major branches of philosophy?

Ayn Rand claimed that philosophy consisted of five major branches – metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, politics, and esthetics. Is that right? If so, why are those the five major branches? Are they comprehensive in some way? Why not include philosophy of science, logic, philosophy of mind, and so on?

Does ethical egoism promote narcissism and insensitivity to others?

People often suggest that ethical egoism – such as that advocated by Ayn Rand – promotes unfriendly if not hostile behavior toward other people. Ultimately, the egoist cares for himself above everything else, perhaps to the point that the thoughts and feelings of others aren’t even noticed or of concern. The problem seems to be exacerbated by a commitment to moral absolutes and moral judgment. Do such philosophic principles incline a person to be self-absorbed, insensitive, hostile, unkind, or otherwise unpleasant to others? How can egoists take care not to fall into these traps?

To submit a question, use this form. I prefer questions focused on some concrete real-life problem, as opposed to merely theoretical or political questions. I review and edit all questions before they’re posted. (Alas, IdeaInformer doesn’t display any kind of confirmation page when you submit a question.)


December 2013 is almost gone… and with it, my special offer of a signed copy of my new book Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame for $25. I’ll probably offer this again in 2014, but not for a few months. So take advantage of it while you can! (Also, if you see me in person, such as at SnowCon 2014, I’m perfectly happy to sign your copy of the book — or sell and sign a copy for $20.)

Currently, Amazon sells the paperback of Responsibility & Luck for $17.52. Or you can always opt for the Kindle or Nook versions for $9.99. If you buy the paperback from Amazon, you can purchase the Kindle version from Amazon for just $1 more.

But… if you’d like something a bit more special than an ordinary paperback, I’ll send you a signed paperback of Responsibility & Luck, inscribed however you please, for just $25. With that, you’ll get access to the ebook versions for free. (That price of $25 only applies to shipping within the US. I’m willing and able to ship overseas, but I’ll have to charge more for the postage. Email me to determine that before you pay.)

You must order and pay by midnight on December 31st. To order, fill out the form below. Then, pay me $25 using one of the following methods: PayPal, Dwolla, Chase QuickPay, or US Mail (Diana Hsieh; P.O. Box 851; Sedalia, CO 80135). If you have any problems, questions, or special requests, please email me!

About Responsibility & Luck

Does the pervasive influence of luck in life mean that people cannot be held responsible for their choices? Do people lack the control required to justify moral praise and blame?

In his famous article “Moral Luck,” philosopher Thomas Nagel casts doubt on our ordinary moral judgments of persons. He claims that we intuitively accept that moral responsibility requires control, yet we praise and blame people for their actions, the outcomes of those actions, and their characters — even though shaped by forces beyond their control, i.e., by luck. This is the “problem of moral luck.”

Philosopher Diana Hsieh argues that this attack on moral judgment rests on a faulty view of control, as well as other errors. By developing Aristotle’s theory of moral responsibility, Hsieh explains the sources and limits of a person’s responsibility for what he does, what he produces, and who he is. Ultimately, she shows that moral judgments are not undermined by luck.

In addition, this book explores the nature of moral agency and free will, the purpose of moral judgment, causation in tort and criminal law, the process of character development, and more.


Forbes has just published my latest column: “Obamacare Spends ‘Other People’s Money’ To Make Healthcare Expensive And Scarce“.

I discuss 4 dangers of a health system based on spending ‘Other People’s Money’.  In other words, it’s not just that the money will run out some day!

Those dangers include:

1) Doctors will be increasingly expected to save money “for the system”

2) This will further fuel the nanny state

3) Health benefits will become increasingly politicized

4) Sooner or later, government spending Other People’s Money means the government taking your money

I also discuss how to avoid these problems.

(And many thanks to Ray Niles for finding that great Walter Williams quote.)

Newscasters Repeat Themselves, Again and Again

 Posted by on 23 December 2013 at 12:00 pm  Media, WTF
Dec 232013

This is just creepy:

I wonder whether that’s just an accident, or whether that phrase was just “in the air,” whether the same story was used by multiple news outlets… or what!

Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha