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:
People often oppose some proposed exception to the rules on the grounds that doing so would set a dangerous precedent and engender abuse. For example, suppose that an honest and diligent student is in the hospital, and he wants to keep up with his school work as much as possible. His parents propose that he take his math exam from the hospital, and they’ll monitor him during the exam. The school refuses on the grounds that if all students were allowed to do that, then cheating would be rampant because not all parents would be honest or diligent monitors. Is that a valid reason for refusing this proposed exception to the rules? When should exceptions be granted to established rules?
Crony companies – similar to Orren Boyle’s Associated Steel in “Atlas Shrugged” – seek government favors, such as subsidies for themselves and controls on competitors. Yet their stock may perform well in the short to medium term. Is it immoral to invest in such companies?
As a free-market advocate, I’m distressed about President Obama’s policies. However, I’m increasingly worried about some of my friends in the free-market movement exhibiting an alarming level of hatred for President Obama. I have seen my friends latch on to every “juicy”-sounding accusation against the President, which they spread all over Facebook, such as spurious claims that the administration violently threatened Bob Woodward, or that the President conspires to grant himself a third term. I think a reasonable discourse on Obama’s faults is necessary, but the conspiracy theories and outright hatred cloud people’s judgments. I want to ask my pro-free-market, Obama-hating friends that they not bring up their dubious accusations in conversation, but I don’t know how to do that without offending them. Is there a solution to this dilemma?
John doesn’t like living. He finds no joy in life, and only lives because it would upset other people if he ended his life. He has tried counseling and medication, but he simply has no desire to continue to live. He makes no real contribution to society, nor does he wish to be a part of society. If John wants to die, he can, but the state will attempt to stop him at every turn, even to the point of incarceration. Is there a point when the law (and other people) should simply respect his wishes and allow him to end his life – or perhaps even assist him in doing so?
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?
I’m often called an “extremist” for my views – in my view, because I’m very consistent and refuse to compromise. Religious people are often called extremists too, yet that’s really only consistency with their scripture. So how does “extremism” differ from consistency, if at all?
Over a year ago, I was the tenant of a type-1 diabetic who refused to eat properly. As a result, I regularly had to call the ambulance for her, as she would allow her blood-sugar to drop to dangerous levels, such that she couldn’t think or move for herself. She never learned anything from these experiences. She never put emergency food within reach, for example. So a few days or weeks later, I would have to call the ambulance again. I believe that I was being forced – literally – to take care of her. I feared that I’d face manslaughter or other criminal charges if I left her alone in that state. Would it have been morally proper for me to leave her in that state without any advance warning? Should that be legally permissible?
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?
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?
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: http://rt.com/usa/waiter-garcia-family-syndrome-681/
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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.)