New Questions in the Queue

 Posted by on 6 June 2013 at 8:00 am  Question Queue
Jun 062013

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:

How is a person’s appearance related to self-esteem?

Should a rational person care much about his body — including height, weight, musculature, beauty, and so on? Is that second-handed somehow? How much effort should a person exert to make himself look the way he wants to look? Should a person’s looks affect his self-esteem? Do a person’s looks reveal his character or self-esteem to others?

Does the “trolley problem” have any validity or use?

I often come across people who think ethical philosophy consists of asking others what they would do in “hypothetical situations” in which they are allowed only two options, both terrible. One I keep coming across is that of the Trolley Problem proposed by Philippa Foot and modified by Judith Thomson, in which one must choose whether to kill one person or let five others die. Psychologists Jonathan Haidt and Joshua Greene even take fMRIs of people when they answer this question. Greene says that when someone chooses to sacrifice one individual, the prefrontal cortex – which regulates impersonal, long-term decisions – lights up. By contrast, when one refuses to sacrifice the individual, blood rushes to the amygdala – the part of the brain regulating empathy and visceral emotional responses. Is it valid for moral philosophers to pose the Trolley Problem to people and to insist that people’s answers show that one can only either be a deontologist or a utilitarian?

What are the similarities and differences between Objectivism and secular humanism?

Objectivism and secular humanism are two secular worldviews. What are their basic points? Are they hopelessly at odds? Or do they share some or even many attributes?

Should I care about future generations?

People often claim that we should act for the sake of future generations, particularly regarding environmental concerns. Is that rational? Why should I care what happens to people after I am dead? Why should I work for the benefit of people who cannot possibly benefit my life and who aren’t even known, let alone of value, to me?

Should hopelessly insane murderers be put to death?

Imagine a totally psychotic and extremely mentally disturbed person who has a propensity to violently kill innocent people. I am talking about a really stark raving bonkers individual. This person has no capability to think and act rationally. How can this person have any rights whatsoever? Why should it be the job of the state to provide for this person when they are locked up in an asylum? Would it be moral and practical to simply execute this person, thus removing the burden of having to keep an eye on him in case he escapes and kill someone?

What does the term “inductive” mean?

What is the distinction (if any) between some claim being “inductive” versus (1) ad hoc, (2) non-systematic, (3) disintegrated, (4) anecdotal, and (5) empirical? Basically, what is the proper meaning of the term “inductive”?

Should soldiers be subject to punishment via the Uniform Code of Military Justice?

Via the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), the military can dole out discipline in the same ways as ordinary employers – such as via loss of pay, suspension, firing, and so on. In addition, it can prosecute and punish behavior in military court leading to imprisonment. That’s something a regular job could not do. Is that valid? Should soldiers have to function under a whole different legal system than civilians? Why shouldn’t crimes by soldiers be prosecuted in ordinary courts?

Should the military ban marital infidelity?

On June 2nd, 2012, you answered the question: “Should marital infidelity be illegal?” I agree with you that infidelity shouldn’t be illegal. However, might some government organizations – such as the military – legitimately ban and even criminalize infidelity for its voluntary members? According to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, infidelity is against the law for military members. Might that be proper? Might the military want to enforce strict rules of moral conduct on their members, even for seemingly private matters?

How does a person cultivate a healthy body image?

Suppose that a woman realizes that she has been unconsciously influenced by unrealistic body images – as portrayed in movies, magazines, and so on? She is basically healthy, and so it would be good for her to feel good about how she looks. But a person can’t always change everything about herself: she can’t change her height, however much she dislikes it. Even if a person can make changes, most people need to accept that they will never look like movie stars. So how does a person cultivate a healthy body image? How might a person notice and combat an unhealthy obsession with appearance?

Should mothers who give birth in prison be allowed to keep their newborns with them?

A trial program in Vancouver that allowed incarcerated mothers of newborns to keep their babies with them during their prison terms was apparently a success in terms of outcomes for the children – in that more of those children remained with their mothers for the long run rather than ending up in the foster care system. The program was cancelled and people have argued against it on two main grounds: first that it violates the rights of the child, and second that it “softens” the experience of being in jail, making it less effective as a punishment. The program was available only to non-violent offenders. Does a program like this violate anyone’s rights in principle, or does it undermine the proper purpose of the penal system?

Isn’t everyone selfish?

If you dig deep enough, everyone seems to be selfish. I work because that’s easier than being a welfare queen. But a college student might cave to his parents about his choice of career because that’s easier than standing up for himself. Even the nun who seems to sacrifice everything is doing what she enjoys most and thinks best by her own religious standards. So isn’t true altruism impossible? Isn’t everyone selfish?

Can naturally occurring genetic material be intellectual property?

The US Supreme Court will soon rule on a case concerning patents on parts of the genome. Should a person be able to patent something in nature that he discovered? What about artificially created genetic products/sequences? Is a person’s own genome his intellectual property? Can living organisms be subject to intellectual property law – and if so, in what way?

Should people who merely like and respect each other ever marry?

Imagine that a person doesn’t think that he’ll ever find true and deep love – perhaps for good reason. In that case, is it wrong to marry someone you enjoy, value, like, and respect – even if you don’t love that person? What factors might make a decision reasonable, if any? Should the other person know about the lack of depth in your feelings?

Should a person preserve or eradicate his unusual accent?

I’m often embarrassed when friends or family point out that I’m speaking with a distinctive accent. I’m a native English speaker, and I appreciate (albeit with some annoyance, sometimes) people who’ve learned English as a second language. (That’s hard, as my own less than spectacular attempts to learn a second language show.) Still, sometimes I catch myself using a turn of phrase or even word that is only used by my extended family. Half the time, I’m pleased to be reminded of my older relatives, but the other half of the time, I wonder if I just sound like a moron. Is an accent or dialect part of who you are – or should you work to eradicate it?

Should concealed carry permits be required to carry firearms concealed?

In the United States today, most states have “shall-issue” concealed carry laws, whereby the sheriff of a county must issue a concealed carry permit to anyone who meets the requirements. Those requirements usually include no history of criminal activity, no history of mental illness, and some training. However, two states permit “constitutional carry,” meaning that any law-abiding citizen has a right to carry a concealed firearm, without the need for a permit. Is requiring a “concealed carry” permit a violation of the right to self-defense? Or is “constitutional carry” a dangerous form of anarchy?

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.)

Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha