Jul 152013

On Sunday’s episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, Greg Perkins and I answered questions on today’s feminist movement, the morality of jailbreaking, racism versus moral decency, the objectivity of color concepts, and more. The podcast of that episode is now available for streaming or downloading.

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Whole Podcast: 14 July 2013

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Podcast Segments: 14 July 2013

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


My News of the Week: I’ve been continuing the move of my podcast archive from Podbean to Libsyn, plus riding my horse Lila a whole lot!

Question 1: Today’s Feminist Movement

Question: How should the feminist movement be judged? Do today’s feminist causes have any merit? Or is the feminist movement merely seeking special favors for women at the expense of men – perhaps even via violations of the rights of men? If the movement is mixed, how should it be judged, overall? Should better feminists eschew the movement due to its flaws – or attempt to change it from within? Can advocates of reason, egoism, and capitalism ally themselves with selected feminist causes without promoting the worse elements thereof?

My Answer, In Brief: Despite its many problems, feminism has been a major force for political, economic, and social change for the better. Today, just as with any other ideologically mixed movement, alliances with feminists should be made in a careful and ad-hoc way.

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

Question 2: The Morality of Jailbreaking

Question: Is it morally wrong to ‘root’ or ‘jailbreak’ your own electronic devices? Maybe I’m just too stupid or lazy to read through all the legal-ese that comes with these devices, so I don’t know whether technically a customer is contractually obligated not to do it. But I know that companies try to design their products so that people can’t easily “root” or “jailbreak” them, and clever people find ways to do it. Is doing so a theft of intellectual property?

My Answer, In Brief: Whatever the legalities of jailbreaking, the morality depends on your reasons and goals. Jailbreaking for your own education and amusement is not wrong, but jailbreaking in order to cheat a company by obtaining a paid service for free is.

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

Question 3: Racism Versus Moral Decency

Question: Can a person be a racist yet still a morally decent person? Paula Deen has been in hot water – with her shows and sponsorships cancelled – because of allegedly racist comments that she admitted to making in a deposition. (The lawsuit was brought by Lisa Jackson – a former manager of a restaurant owned by her and her brother. Ms. Jackson alleges sexual harassment and tolerance of racial slurs at the restaurant.) Based on Ms. Deen’s admissions in the deposition, is she racist? If so, can she still be a moral person? Do matters of race trump all other moral convictions?

My Answer, In Brief: Based on what she said in her deposition, Paula Deen is racist. In a multi-racial society like contemporary America, when she’s running a southern cooking business empire, that’s not merely inexcusable, but entails her behaving unjustly toward many people.

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

Question 4: The Objectivity of Color Concepts

Question: Are concepts of color objective? Given that people from different cultures conceptualize colors differently, I don’t see how concepts of color – or at least the demarcation of colors – can be objective. For example, in English, the colors “green” and “blue” have different names because they refer to different concepts. In Japanese, however, the word “aoi” can refer to either light green or blue: they don’t draw a distinction between them. Similarly, English speakers refer to both the sky and a sapphire as “blue.” But in Italian this is not the case: the word “blu” only refers to dark blue, and the sky is the distinct color of “azzuro.” Do such cultural differences cast doubt on the claim that concepts of color are objective?

My Answer, In Brief: Colors exist on a spectrum, so they can be divided up “at the joints” in many ways. That cultures differ in some of those dividing lines does not mean that color concepts are less than objective.

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

Rapid Fire Questions


  • Are divorce laws still skewed against men? Is it a vestige of patriarchy or is it active discrimination against men?
  • Are there instances of legitimate, ad-hoc alliances with environmentalists?
  • Do you see the 20 week abortion bans passed in certain states as a major threat to abortion rights overall? What is wrong with “pain felt by the fetus” as the demarcation point for abortion rights?

Listen or Download:

  • Start Time: 57:29
  • Duration: 7:08
  • 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: 1:04:37

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  • John

    Great podcast, as usual.

    During the rapid fire question on alliances with environmentalists you made the point that supporting small farms can be a good thing if done for the right reasons. I am so glad to hear you say that. I am a member of a CSA and will take my organic, locally grown produce over the mass produced stuff any day. Of course I can afford to pay for it and choose to do it because of the benefits that I get from it, not because I think it I “need” to support my local farmer etc.

    As I was listening to your comments it made me think of a blog entry from my CSA that I particularly enjoyed. Here’s a taste:

    “We have a lot of iron on this farm; that’s why you’re receiving a full box this week. We also have a lot of irrigation capacity, which is why our shareholders received full boxes last year. I’ve been criticized for both our enormous irrigation capacity and our large assortment of iron. I’ve been chastised, “that’s your ego at work, buying big equipment to impress people.”

    Sure, I like gazing out at ample machinery near the farm buildings, but I like a whole lot more when that equipment is roaring down the field in a wet year, helping to make the boxes full for our shareholders, or when that high powered irrigation gun is saving the crops in a historic year of drought.”

    If you’re interested the whole thing is here. It’s not very long. http://angelicorganics.wordpress.com/2013/06/11/welcome-to-the-2013-season-our-23rd-year-as-a-csa-1st-harvest-week-delivery-june-11th-15th-2013/

    Just thought I’d share.

    • https://philosophyinaction.com/ Diana Hsieh

      Thanks for that, John!

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