On Sunday’s episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, Greg Perkins and I answered questions on personality and sense of life, helping a self-destructive friend, concern for the rights of rights-violators, and more. The podcast of that episode is now available for streaming or downloading.

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Whole Podcast: 5 May 2013

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Podcast Segments: 5 May 2013

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


My News of the Week: I’m delighted to report that last Sunday’s episode had over 18,000 listens thank to promotion by BlogTalkRadio. That is made possible by our generous supporters, so thank you! Paul Hsieh has a column in the print edition of Forbes, so pick that up. I’ve been at my 20th high school reunion, at Garrison Forest School in Maryland. It’s been great to see my classmates for the first time in 20 years. Finally, I’ve been diligently reviewing the galley proofs of my soon-forthcoming book, Responsibility and Luck (a.k.a. my dissertation).

Question 1: Personality and Sense of Life

Question: What is the relationship between personality and sense of life? What is the difference between them? How does a person’s sense of life relate to his personality? Does understanding someone’s sense of life help us to understand his personality and vice versa?

My Answer, In Brief: Ayn Rand’s concept of “sense of life” is difficult to untangle and seems deeply problematic, as becomes evident when attempting to make sense of it in light of what we know about personality.

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

Question 2: Helping a Self-Destructive Friend

Question: Am I obliged to help 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?

My Answer, In Brief: Given the distant nature of the friendship and the fact that this person has created her own problems, you’re not obliged to help and you probably shouldn’t do so. You should only help if you can do so in a way that’s of benefit to both of you.

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

Question 3: Concern for the Rights of Rights-Violators

Question: Is it wrong to be indifferent to the rights-violations of people who advocate rights-violations? Some celebrities actively promote the violation of rights by lending their support to political groups. For example, former American Idol contestant Krista Branch has actively campaigned against gay marriage on behalf of Focus on the Family. However, in a recent interview, Branch complained that people were pirating her songs. I know that Branch’s intellectual property rights should be respected, and I would never pirate her music. Yet I can’t feel any sympathy for her, given that she advocates violating other people’s rights. I’m of the opinion that people who advocate for the use of force against others should not be spared from the consequences of the kind of culture that creates. Is that wrong? Am I being malevolent? Should I defend her rights, even though she advocates violating my rights?

My Answer, In Brief: Even the rights of people who advocate rights-violations should be respected, but rational people should crusade for the principle and innocent people being harmed by rights-violations, not for those mixed cases.

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

Rapid Fire Questions


  • What’s your opinion of vitamins and other supplements? For everything that’s recommended there seems to be someone dismissing it. Do you know of any good sources on the subject? Does Nathaniel Branden really say that he can cure migraines in The Psychology of Self-Esteem? Is forcing a fire code on private city dwellings wrong? What would happen in a free market instead?

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  • Start Time: 54:38
  • Duration: 13:06
  • 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: 1:07:45

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.

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