New Questions in the Queue

 Posted by on 4 April 2013 at 3:00 pm  Question Queue
Apr 042013

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:

What are my obligations to a friend in trouble due to her own poor choices?

I have a friend who is emotionally draining to me, and she is especially “down on her luck” this month. However, her situation is a direct result of especially poor personal choices over the last year, and there is no good path to get her out of the hole of poverty and depression. We don’t have much in common other than similar-aged kids, and active participation in a local moms’ group, but because I have come to her aid in the past, I feel an unspoken obligation to continue. (Maybe it’s guilt or pity, or empathy?) What are my obligations in a friendship that has recently become more taxing than beneficial? I don’t dislike her, and we have many mutual friends, but I just don’t think I can muster the time, financial resources, or energy this time to help bail her out of the latest fiasco. Is it morally acceptable to refuse to help? Should I talk to her about why now – or wait until she’s less vulnerable?

Would the government of a free society employ scientists?

In a fully free society, would there be any scientists employed full time by the government for police, legislative, or judicial services? If not, how would judges obtain the necessary scientific knowledge to make proper rulings in the court cases that would replace today’s environmental and other regulations? Might scientists be hired by the government of a free society for other purposes?

Is it right or wrong to condemn people for being obese?

Obviously, obese and morbidly obese people have made mistakes in their lives. Are they morally culpable for those mistakes? How should other people judge their characters? If I see an obese person on the street, should I infer that he is lazy and unmotivated? Should I refuse to hire an obese person because I suspect he won’t work as hard as a non-obese person? Is obesity a moral failing – or are there other considerations?

How can abortion rights be more effectively defended?

Although the biblical case against abortion is weak, the religious right has gained much traction against abortion rights in the last decade or two. The “personhood” movement is growing every year, and incremental restrictions on abortion have mushroomed. Even more alarming, the demographics seem to be against abortion rights: young people are increasingly opposed to abortion. What can be done to more effectively defend abortion rights? Can any lessons be drawn from the success of the campaign for gay marriage?

What can the success of the gay marriage teach us about effective advocacy for economic liberty?

In your March 31st, 2013 broadcast, you discussed the reasons why the campaign for gay marriage has been so successful. You hinted at some lessons, particularly the need to give people concrete experiences from which to draw their own conclusions. But what could be the equivalent of “coming out” with economic liberty?

What’s the rationale for declaring some physically mature people too young to have children?

Given that nature has dictated that both male and female humans can procreate in their early teens and given that morality is deduced from reality, why would sex and procreation at that young age be immoral? Isn’t that what nature intended? More generally, is there a a rational basis for moral judgments about the proper age of procreation? Or is it purely subjective?

Is it wrong to treat opposition to Israel’s policy as antisemitic?

At times, I’ve noticed a seeming package-deal in the media, whereby any criticism of Israel’s policies is dismissed as a form of antisemitism. Yet I’ve met people over the years who don’t support Israel’ s political positions, but they claim to not be antisemitic and have nothing against Jews. In contrast, a person against America’s policies is not assumed to be anti-American. So is criticism of Israel antisemitic? Or is equating them a dangerous package deal?

Should a person quit or wait to be fired from an increasingly intolerable job?

I have been employed with a large company for 26 years, and it has been a mildly satisfying career until recently. Since a new CEO took the helm, working conditions have degraded exponentially. Some changes were necessary. Others are arbitrary and designed to intimidate employees to the point of resignation. For example, I recently phoned to report in sick, and I had to argue for an hour and a half before they would show me unavailable. The actuarial value of my pension at this point is about $400,000. If I stay for six more years, that amount will double. I believe that the shareholders have a right to fire me if I don’t toe the line. But I believe that management is violating my rights by blatantly circumventing my contract. (For example, time off depends on manpower available, but they’ve laid off 20% of the workforce.) So should I quit now – or should I hang on and wait to be fired?

What’s the best approach for a first date?

What are some good activities for a first date? Dinner, then coffee, perhaps? Should I ask the woman, or just plan it out myself? Should I joke – and if so, what sort of humor should I use? Should I refrain from talking about myself or saying “I”? (I know a guy who answers every one of his dates’ questions with “I would” or “I think.”)

How should the feminist movement be judged?

Does the feminist movement today promote individual rights, or is it a force which often seeks special powers or favors for women at the expense of men? If it’s mixed, how should the movement be judged, overall? Should better feminists eschew the movement due to its flaws? Do those better feminists share any blame for allying themselves with the feminists who advocate for the violation of rights?

Was Francisco’s lack of jealousy in “Atlas Shrugged” rational or realistic?

In Part 3, Chapter 5 of Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged,” Francisco tells Dagny, “…No matter what you feel for [John Galt], it will not change what you feel for me, and it won’t be treason to either, because it comes from the same root, it’s the same payment in answer to the same values…” Is that a rational and realistic response? Given his love for Dagny, shouldn’t Francisco (and Hank) have been more disappointed in their loss of Dagny, and perhaps even jealous of John Galt? Is a person wrong to feel bitter disappointment or jealousy over a lost love?

Are some jobs morally and psychologically hazardous?

My first job out of college was working for a DRG decoder, meaning that we’d correct the Medicare codes applied by doctors’ offices in order to increase the amount the government would pay out. Although our company was mostly honest, I felt there was a moral hazard in the temptation to not just nudge the code toward a more profitable diagnosis, but to outright lie. Also, even though we were helping doctors overcome the burden placed on them by government, it always felt “unclean,” living as it were in the belly of the beast. More broadly, it seems there are certain jobs that — although perfectly appropriate under the circumstances — bear special moral and psychological hazards. The police, the military, psychologists, lawyers, all are by definition working only with the “darker side” of life. (No one calls a cop because they’re having a wonderful family moment.) Are there certain jobs that inherently carry extra moral and/or psychological baggage? If so, what are those hazards are and how can a person best to minimize them?

Is taking antidepressants and other prescribed drugs for mental problems a form of evasion?

I’m new to the philosophy of Objectivism, and I’ve seen that it’s rapidly helping cure the last parts of a depression I went through last year. I started taking Adderal about 8 months ago, and it has helped extensively. But I wonder: Is taking these drugs or other antidepressants conflicting with the principle that a person should never evade reality?

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?

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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