New Questions in the Queue

 Posted by on 20 March 2013 at 8:00 am  Question Queue
Mar 202013

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:

Is Aristotle’s argument for flourishing as the final end valid?

In the “Nicomachean Ethics,” Aristotle argues that flourishing (or happiness) is the proper final end. What is that argument? Does it have merit? How does it differ from Ayn Rand’s argument for life as the standard of value?

What’s the difference between the standard and the purpose in ethics?

In “The Objectivist Ethics,” Ayn Rand claims that life is the proper standard of value, but each person’s own life and happiness is his own proper purpose. I find this distinction baffling. Why isn’t the standard the same as the purpose? Does distinguishing between the standard and the purpose of ethics provide any real-life practical benefit?

Should a person respect signs prohibiting guns in certain areas?

Some businesses and government offices announce that firearms are prohibited in the building, yet no screening is conducted to ensure that firearms are excluded. In such “pretend gun-free zones,” law-abiding people will disarm, while criminals and other dangerous or careless people will not. Is this a violation of a person’s right to self-defense? Should people refuse disarm in face of such signs?

What should prospective parents do to ensure they won’t regret having children?

In your 10 March 2013 show, you discussed what parents should do if they regret having children. But what can potential parents do to ensure that won’t happen? How can a person know what being a parent is like – for better or worse – before actually becoming a parent? Is a rational decision on this issue possible?

How might social conservatives be convinced to support gay marriage?

Rob Portman, a Republican Senator from Ohio, recently decided to openly support gay marriage after his son came out to him and his wife. What can be done to help other conservatives see gay marriage in a new light – as a matter of liberty and individual identity? (See this article.)

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?

What are the rights involved in surrogacy of a deformed fetus?

Recently, a married couple contracted with a surrogate to carry a child to term. In the middle of the pregnancy, the fetus was diagnosed with serious developmental deformities. The parents attempted to invoke the abortion clause in their surrogacy contract, and they offered the surrogate an extra $10,000 to abort. However, the surrogate fled to another state so that she would be considered the child’s mother at birth, and she arranged to have the baby adopted. In this case, there seems to be a conflict between a woman’s right to control her own body, the right of the parents’ to control what happens to their baby, and the contractual rights in the surrogacy agreement. So what are the rights of the parents and the surrogate in this kind of case? What would have been the morally right course of action for the surrogate and for the parents?

Is multigenerational space travel immoral?

According to a panel at SETICon 2012, the designs for multi-generational space ships are already in the works. However are there ethical problems with people bearing children who will never see Earth, and likely never set foot on a planet? Would they be robbed of any ability to determine their own fate? Or is it a moot point since had the circumstances been different, they might not have ever been born at all?

How can a person deal with overzealous ideologues?

Suppose that an overzealous follower of a particular belief system constantly monitors and polices the behavior of other followers. When he sees what he believes to be a failure by someone to live up to their ideals, he attacks that person publicly, trying to shame him into proper behavior. What is the proper response if I am attacked by this overzealous follower in public? What if the attacks are private? Should I respond if my friends and acquaintances are attacked?

How can I minimize interruptions at work?

I’m a programmer, and I need long stretches of quiet time in order to be productive. Unfortunately, my work has an open floor plan, and people tend to pop by my desk if they have a question. I hate those interruptions, but I don’t know how to discourage them without being snippy or unfriendly. Plus, sometimes my co-workers have good reason to interrupt me with a question or news. So how can I eliminate the unimportant interruptions?

Should I limit my time away from family in deference to their cultural expectations?

My family comes from a conservative Turkish background. They see the amount of independence granted me as a 19 year old as more than enough. I see it as unsatisfactory. In fact, they feel pushed to their limit by the amount of time I ask to spend away from family on a daily basis. They believe I should not ask for any more independence, as they are already trying their hardest to accept me having even a small amount. However, what I’m allowed is very little compared to most people my age. It affects what I can do or not with my life, not just in the short term but in the long term too. Should I respect my family’s wishes on this point, given that they are already trying their hardest within the context of their own cultural values? Or should I ask for more independence, even if that violates their beliefs?

Is it wrong to write essays I don’t believe to win contest money?

I am a current university student with severe financial limitations. I’ve found that one of my best assets is my knack for writing a solid, persuasive essay. Recently, I’ve come across a trove of very generous scholarship essay contests. I feel confident that I could write a solid essay for most of them. The problem is that the majority are funded by organizations whose values I don’t support. Specifically, the essays I’d have to write argue in favor of social and political policies with which I disagree. Would it be moral for me to enter these writing competitions? If I did, would I just be demonstrating my writing ability – or misleading the sponsor into thinking that I agree with what I’ve written?

Isn’t reproduction – not life – the standard of value?

In “The Objectivist Ethics,” Ayn Rand claims that “an organism’s life is its standard of value,” meaning that “that which furthers its life is the good, that which threatens it is the evil.” She claims that on the grounds that the physical functions of a living organism are “actions generated by the organism itself and directed to a single goal: the maintenance of the organism’s life.” In fact, however, evolutionary theory teaches us that reproduction, not life, is the ultimate end of every living organism. Is that true? If so, does that have implications for ethics?

Is “common sense” a form of rationality?

Wikipedia defines “common sense” as “sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts.” Is that a form of rationality? What’s the value of “common sense”? Should a rational person rely on common sense in moral decision-making?

How can people improve the quality of politicians in office?

Although it’s easy to condemn all politicians, some are better than others. How can we get more of the better politicians into office? Should people committed to rights run for office? Or should those people work to elect better (but still mixed) politicians? Or should they try to convince established politicians to embrace rights? What’s the best strategy for effective political change?

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.)

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