New Questions in the Queue

 Posted by on 10 April 2013 at 8:00 am  Question Queue
Apr 102013

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 I use a pen name for a novel to conceal my sex?

I’m an unrecognized author of a soon-to-be self-published young adult novella – my first. This novella will be published under my real name. In order to keep my interest in writing fresh, plus practice writing strong female characters, I’ve begun brainstorming a new project in the category of, shall we say, ‘women’s fiction.’ The problem is that I am male. Within the genre of women’s fiction and it’s sub-genres, the overwhelming majority of writers names are female. Therefore, if I were to publish something within this genre, my initial preference is to go with a pseudonym. On the one hand, giving a name other than my own seems dishonest – and possibly even impractical, given that my identity wouldn’t be a state secret. On the other hand, using my own name would surely impact my sales for the worse. To see a man’s name on the cover would turn off some potential buyers immediately. In these circumstances, is the use of a pen name right or wrong?

Is mere survival the standard of moral value?

In “The Objectivist Ethics,” Ayn Rand says that man’s life is the standard of value. What does that mean? Is it mere physical survival? Is it mere quantity of years – or does the quality of those years matter too? Basically, what is the difference between living and not dying?

Should disabled kids be kept out of the public eye?

Recently, a waiter at a restaurant refused to serve one party after hearing them make fun of a child with Down’s Syndrome sitting with his family in a nearby booth. Both parties were regulars to the restaurant. Some people have praised the waiter’s actions because he took offense at overhearing the first party say “special needs kids should be kept in special places.” He called them on their rudeness and refused to serve them. Others think he was wrong: his catering to the party with the disabled kid is indicative of a culture that embraces mediocrity and disability. What is the proper assessment of the remark made and the waiter’s response? Should people with disabilities be kept from public view?See:

What are the most significant values destroyed by statism?

In other words, what values would be available to us — or more available — in a laissez-faire, rational society that are limited or unavailable to us today? What are some of the major (and perhaps under-appreciated) values destroyed or precluded by government overreach? To put the question another way: How would a proper government improve our lives?

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 the military or 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?

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.)

  • Stephen Macklin

    As a part-time amateur arm-chair philosopher I’d like to take a shot at answering one of these!

    “What are the most significant values destroyed by statism?”

    All of them.

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