ATLOSCon 2015

 Posted by on 31 March 2015 at 10:00 am  Announcements, AtlosCon
Mar 312015

I’m delighted to announce that I’ll be speaking at ATLOSCon in Atlanta in late May, over Memorial Day weekend. My talk is titled “Rethinking the Role of Philosophy in Life,” and here’s the abstract:

Philosophy matters but perhaps not quite in the way we often think. Anyone who has spent time around religious people — or even Objectivists — knows that their professed ideology doesn’t always match their statements and actions. Christians embrace wealth and free markets, Muslims eschew violence and repression, and Objectivists demand agreement with and respect for authorities. What accounts for these discrepancies? Is it inconsistency, hypocrisy, or something else? Diana Hsieh will explore these questions, arguing that the standard explanations for how a person’s ideology impacts his thinking and choices are woefully inadequate. She’ll explore the difference between a person’s professed philosophy and his operational philosophy, as well as all the layers of influence between them, including culture, communities, relationships, personality, and experience. Ultimately, this richer understanding of the role of philosophy in life can help us make better use of the philosophy of Objectivism, as well as be more accurate and fair in our assessments of others.

This talk will be bleeding-edge material for me: I’ve been actively stewing on these topics for the past few months, and I have lots more development to do before ATLOSCon rolls around in a few weeks. So expect something interesting!

I’m really looking forward to spending time with old friends — and meeting new ones — at ATLOSCon. Plus, the schedule of classes looks chock full of interesting material!

Mar 312015

Trans woman shows how ‘ridiculous’ bathroom bans are with urinal selfie campaign:

A transgender woman in Canada has launched a social media campaign to show how ‘ridiculous’ bathroom bans are. Brae Carnes, 23, is posting photos of herself in men’s toilets to protest a proposed law that would make it illegal for trans women to use female bathrooms.

‘As a trans woman I’m not even safe from discrimination at the pub or public transit. What’s going to happen if I’m forced into a men’s changeroom?,’ she wrote on Facebook. The Victoria resident said it is uncomfortable for everyone when she enters a men’s bathroom, and she looks completely out of place applying lipstick and posing for mirror selfies while men urinate in the background.

I love this, and better still, she inspired a trans man to do the same in ladies rooms: Trans man takes on selfie campaign to fight ‘ridiculous’ bathroom bans.

As some of you might recall, I answered a question about restrooms for the transgendered in transition on the 30 October 2011 episode of Philosophy in Action Radio. If you’ve not yet heard it, you can listen to or download the relevant segment of the podcast here:

For more details, check out the question’s archive page. The full episode – where I answered questions on the purpose of bankruptcy law, restrooms for the transgendered in transition, private versus state prisons, revealing atheism to religious parents, and more – is available as a podcast too.


 Posted by on 31 March 2015 at 8:00 am  Announcements
Mar 312015

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:

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.

John Allison to Step Down at Cato

 Posted by on 30 March 2015 at 2:00 pm  ARI, Objectivist Movement
Mar 302015

John Allison will retire from his position as president of the Cato Institute on April 1.

Now, one of the promises that he gave at OCON in 2012 to sell Ayn Rand Institute supporters on this radical about-face on libertarianism was that Allison would be succeeded by an Objectivist. He said, in fact, “I’ll stay a couple years at least and try to groom a good O[bjectiv]ist successor while bringing some positive change to the organization.”

As it happens, an investment banker with no known philosophic or political views — Peter Goettler — will take over as president of Cato.

Of course, I didn’t expect an Objectivist to succeed Allison, not after Allison caved so completely under pressure from libertarian intellectuals shortly after taking the job. Then, he said:

In fact, now that I have a deeper understanding about Cato, I believe almost all the name calling between libertarians and objectivists is irrational. I have come to appreciate that all objectivists are libertarians, but not all libertarians are objectivists. I respect this distinction, (although I consider anarchy to be dangerous).

Such a compromise on principles was inevitable, in my view, and why he never should have accepted the position. So, just as expected, Cato didn’t change one iota during Allison’s tenure, not even in its periodic advocacy of anarchism. It certainly didn’t change in the grand way that his most ardent defenders claimed would surely happen.

I’m so glad that these Objectivist leaders and luminaries are doing such a great job of transforming the culture. After all, if they don’t succeed, we’re toast!


Update on Explore Atlas Shrugged

 Posted by on 30 March 2015 at 11:00 am  Atlas Shrugged, Explore Ayn Rand
Mar 302015

I want to give y’all a quick progress report on the book version of my course Explore Atlas Shrugged.

This book is a study guide to Ayn Rand’s epic novel. It consists of the study questions for each session (over 1400 in total), plus the plot outline, character inventory, questions for a three-session book club, and FAQ on running an Atlas Shrugged Reading Group. (Yes, turning the podcasts into a book is on my agenda, but that will be a huge project.)

Earlier this week, I finalized the PDF of the print-on-demand version of the the book. (It’s 187 pages!) I’ve uploaded that to Amazon’s CreateSpace, and they’ve approved it. A proof copy is on the way, and once I approve that, the book will be available in print and kindle formats.

Notably, the online version of Explore Atlas Shrugged is fully up-to-date with all my expansions and revisions, and you can purchase access to that for $20. That includes the 22 hours of awesome podcasts, plus everything else in this forthcoming book.

To promote the course, I plan to run weekly trivia contests on Atlas Shrugged, with prizes. I’ve been busy writing up questions, and MWHAHAHAHA, I’m going to have fun with this. :-)


On Sunday’s episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, Greg Perkins and I answered questions on claims of rights to food and shelter, extreme cases, being helpful to a disliked co-worker, 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 March 2015

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 March 2015

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


My News of the Week: I’ve been very productive since SnowCon, particularly in getting the book version of Explore Atlas Shrugged ready for publication.

Question 1: Claims of Rights to Food and Shelter

Question: Do people have a right to food and shelter? I recently had a conversation with a Facebook friend who stated that food and shelter are more than necessities, they are rights. I posed the question, “How does one exercise their right to food and shelter?” No one answered the question, so I would like to pose it here. Most food in this country is grown by farmers and sold fresh, or processed in a factory for sale. If food is a “right,” does anyone without the means to buy these products have an inherent right to take what they need without any remuneration to the farmer or the manufacturer? The same applies to shelter. How does one exercise their “right” to shelter without a means to earn it? We have a right to free speech, and a right to vote. One is exercised by speaking your mind on a subject without fear of government reprisal, and the other is exercised by voting during elections. We have the right to practice whatever religion we want or none at all. The press has the right to print or say whatever they want. Any “right” to food or shelter would have to operate differently. So are food and shelter a “right”? What would that mean in practice?

My Answer, In Brief: The only “right to food and shelter” that people have is a right to pursue that, by their own efforts and voluntary trade with others. Government welfare programs violate those rights, and worse, do serious harm to the poor.

Listen or Download:


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

Question 2: Extreme Cases

Question: Do moral principles break down in extreme cases? When faced with bizarre hypotheticals, advocates of rational egoism often assert that such scenarios would never happen. This seems to be dodging the question. It’s said that conventional understandings of physics break down at microscopic and extremely grand-scale levels. Does morality follow a similar pattern? For example, what if a small society of people stranded on an island faced a shortage of clean water, and a single individual who owned all access to clean water refused to sell it? Is that really impossible? Doesn’t that show that the principle of individual rights breaks down in extreme cases?

My Answer, In Brief: Lifeboat scenarios are not particularly relevant to the core of ethics, yet many of the basic principles of ethics still apply, even in desperate circumstances.

Listen or Download:


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

Question 3: Being Helpful to a Disliked Co-Worker

Question: Should I do something nice for a coworker I dislike? There’s a lady at work that I dislike. My conflict with her is primarily merely a conflict of personality. I find her defensive, passive-aggressive, and awkward to the point of rudeness. I am also not very impressed with her work products, but that rarely has a direct impact on me – except when I’m asked to review them – as is the fact that she only seems to work for about six hours every day. Indirectly, of course, her eccentricities and poor work quality cast our team in a very poor light and could eventually serve as a reason to dissolve or lay off our team. It’s a mystery as to why she hasn’t been fired. But I’m not her manager. In a meeting earlier today, she made a remark that she thought she was being excluded from important meetings that are relevant to her work. The truth is that she’s not being actively excluded from these meetings, but rather everything is happening so fast and the meetings aren’t always planned, so it’s really just not possible to include her in those meetings. She would probably be heartened to understand better how these events take place in our company. (She’s rather new, and I am very tenured.) She might feel better about her position and she might become less defensive about things if she had a better understanding of the organizational mechanics here. But I strongly dislike her and would prefer that she seek other employment. Should I be kind and explain those mechanics or not?

My Answer, In Brief: While you have no duty to help this co-worker, you might err on the side of benevolence. Don’t speak to her directly, but instead speak to your manager (and hers, if necessary).

Listen or Download:

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

Rapid Fire Questions


  • Is it ever the case that someone who’s being really annoying just deserves to be socked in the face?

Listen or Download:

  • Start Time: 59:42
  • Duration: 3:04
  • 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: 1:02:46

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.

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

Activism Recap

 Posted by on 29 March 2015 at 2:00 pm  Activism Recap
Mar 292015

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.

Bjorn Lomborg on Earth Hour

 Posted by on 28 March 2015 at 3:00 pm  Energy, Environmentalism
Mar 282015

Hear, hear — Earth Hour Is a Colossal Waste of Time—and Energy by Bjørn Lomborg:

The organizers say that they are providing a way to demonstrate one’s desire to “do something” about global warming. But the reality is that Earth Hour teaches all the wrong lessens, and it actually increases CO2 emissions. Its vain symbolism reveals exactly what is wrong with today’s feel-good environmentalism.


Electricity has given humanity huge benefits. Almost 3 billion people still burn dung, twigs, and other traditional fuels indoors to cook and keep warm, generating noxious fumes that kill an estimated 2 million people each year, mostly women and children. Likewise, just 100 years ago, the average American family spent six hours each week during cold months shoveling six tons of coal into the furnace (not to mention cleaning the coal dust from carpets, furniture, curtains, and bedclothes). In the developed world today, electric stoves and heaters have banished indoor air pollution.

Similarly, electricity has allowed us to mechanize much of our world, ending most backbreaking work. The washing machine liberated women from spending endless hours carrying water and beating clothing on scrub boards. The refrigerator made it possible for almost everyone to eat more fruits and vegetables, and to stop eating rotten food, which is the main reason why the most prevalent cancer for men in the United States in 1930, stomach cancer, is the least prevalent now.

Electricity has allowed us to irrigate fields and synthesize fertilizer from air. The light that it powers has enabled us to have active, productive lives past sunset. The electricity that people in rich countries consume is, on average, equivalent to the energy of 56 servants helping them. Even people in Sub-Saharan Africa have electricity equivalent to about three servants. They need more of it, not less.

Belief in Karma in Action

 Posted by on 27 March 2015 at 10:00 am  Ethics, Luck, Medicine
Mar 272015

Back in December, I answered a question about the reality of karma on Philosophy in Action Radio. If you’ve not yet heard it, you can listen to or download the relevant segment of the podcast here:

Then, some weeks ago, Robert Garmong sent me a tidbit from this article — Shock and Anger in Cambodian Village Struck With H.I.V. — relevant to karma:

The villagers’ affection for the doctor does not blunt their pain and bewilderment over the mass infection. Prum Em, Ms. Yao’s 84-year-old husband, stares with blank incomprehension when asked about the infections, which struck across three generations.

“I have done only good deeds my whole life,” he said. “It’s inconceivable that the family could have this much bad luck.”

Robert Garmong added:

There’s no specific evidence that this is what happened, but it could easily have been the case that this man’s family members intentionally took risky injections because “my family has only done good deeds, so surely the downside risk won’t happen to me.” I doubt that’s what happened, because there’s no evidence that the people even knew they were taking a risk. But the point remains. By messing with people’s rational calculations, the concept of “karma” leads in principle to self-destructive thinking.

Excellent example!


 Posted by on 27 March 2015 at 8:00 am  Link-O-Rama
Mar 272015

Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha