On Sunday’s episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, Greg Perkins and I answered questions on abortion rights and the violinist argument, Obama’s cultural impact, laws against marital infidelity, managing demands for family time, and more. The podcast of that episode is now available for streaming or downloading.

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Whole Podcast: 2 June 2013

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Podcast Segments: 2 June 2013

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


My News of the Week: Greg and I had a fabulous time at ATLOSCon, and my talk on “moral amplifiers” went fabulously well. Thank you to all my Dwolla contributors, who I’m sometimes not able to email! If you want your genome sequenced, use this link from 23 and Me.

Question 1: Abortion Rights and the Violinist Argument

Question: Can abortion rights be justified based on Judith Thomson’s “violinist” argument? Even if we accept that an embryo is a person with a right to life, can’t abortion rights be justified on the basis of Judith Thomson’s famous “violinist” thought experiment – meaning, on the grounds that one person does not have the right to use another person for life support?

My Answer, In Brief: Judith Thomson’s defense of abortion is an excellent way to challenge and dispense with the view that abortion immoral and should be illegal because the embryo or fetus has a right to life. It’s not a definitive account of rights in pregnancy, nor is it intended to be such. It’s major flaw is that it relies too heavily on intuitions, albeit good ones.

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

Question 2: Obama’s Cultural Impact

Question: Will Obama’s second term further damage American culture and values? I’m not as worried about the tax hikes, foreign policy, and other concrete policies of Obama’s second term as I am about the cultural change that his administration will instill in society over the next four years, just as it did over the last four years. The next generation of liberals – college age kids, that is – are little socialists who repeat the phrases like “social justice” and “fair share.” Is such cultural change a genuine problem? If so, what can be done to combat it?

My Answer, In Brief: Obama has reinvigorated the left, but he was merely capitalizing on cultural trends. To fight that, people need to become better advocates of rational principles, as well as support the effective advocates thereof.

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

Question 3: Laws Against Marital Infidelity

Question: Should marital infidelity be illegal? Many states, including Colorado, have laws against marital infidelity on the books. These laws are rarely if ever enforced. Politicians often attempt to repeal them, but those attempts are often unsuccessful. Many people think that the government ought to “take a moral stand” even if the law isn’t enforced. Does that view have any merit? Should these laws be repealed? Why or why not?

My Answer, In Brief: Laws against adultery are wrong and unjust. They do not set a proper moral example, and they undermine respect for the rule of law.

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

Question 4: Managing Demands for Family Time

Question: 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?

My Answer, In Brief: So long as you’re living at home or otherwise financially dependent on your parents, you must respect their rules. Hopefully, you can find some win-win ways to gain more independence. Once on your own, you must establish your life as your own, and not permit your family to meddle.

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

Rapid Fire Questions


  • Is it possible to formulate a sound a priori disproof of the existence of God?
  • You’re in favor of open immigration, but do you have any first-hand experience dealing with immigrants?
  • Is microfinancing moral? Is it “better” then other charity as it supposedly offers a hand up as opposed to a hand out?

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  • Start Time: 58:46
  • Duration: 9:47
  • 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: 1:08:33

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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