On Sunday’s episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, Greg Perkins and I answered questions on social contract theory, romanticizing historical figures in art, mental illness as an excuse for wrongdoing, fervent hatred for President Obama, and more. The podcast of that episode is now available for streaming or downloading.

You can automatically download podcasts of Philosophy in Action Radio by subscribing to Philosophy in Action’s Podcast RSS Feed:

Whole Podcast: 28 July 2013

Listen or Download:

Remember the Tip Jar!

The mission of Philosophy in Action is to spread rational principles for real life… far and wide. That’s why the vast majority of my work is available to anyone, free of charge. I love doing the radio show, but each episode requires an investment of time, effort, and money to produce. So if you enjoy and value that work of mine, please contribute to the tip jar. I suggest $5 per episode or $20 per month, but any amount is appreciated. In return, contributors can request that I answer questions from the queue pronto, and regular contributors enjoy free access to premium content and other goodies.

Podcast Segments: 28 July 2013

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


My News of the Week: Kelly Elmore, Aaron, and Livy are here! I got Philosophy in Action’s channel set up on Libsyn, the new podcast host. Also, the updated RSS feeds are now in play!

Question 1: Social Contract Theory

Question: Is a “social contract” the proper basis for government? The idea of a “social contract” is often used to justify all kinds of government interventions for the so-called “greater good.” What does it mean to say that society is founded on a social contract? What are the practical implications of that approach to politics? Was John Locke a proponent of this view?

My Answer, In Brief: Social contract theory is an attempt to justify basic political principles and government based on (usually) a tacit or hypothetical agreement between all members of the society. It’s thoroughly subjective, so it’s simply a recipe for violations of rights.

Listen or Download:


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

Question 2: Romanticizing Historical Figures in Art

Question: Are there moral limits to romanticizing historical figures in art? For example, a writer might romanticize Robin Hood as the Ragnar Danneskjöld of the Middle Ages. If this is proper, is there an ethical limit as to what kinds of persons one may or may not romanticize, or as to how far one may stretch the historic truth? For example, does it matter if there are still contemporaries of that historic person alive who suffered unjustly because of him? Would it be wrong to ignore some unpleasant facts in order to present a fictionalized heroic character?

My Answer, In Brief: The basic facts and moral nature of any historical figure should be respected, although rough edges might be smoothed away to create a more consistent character in literature. Inventions should not be represented as historical fact.

Listen or Download:


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

Question 3: Mental Illness as an Excuse for Wrongdoing

Question: Does mental illness excuse wrong behavior? Recently, a friend of mine apologized for making hurtful and unfair comments to me. (It’s not the first time she’s done that.) She said that she’s been struggling with depression, and she’s now on anti-depressants and in therapy. I’m not sure how to take that. I feel for her, yet I also feel like I’m being manipulated into overlooking her bad behavior because she’s “sick.” How should struggles with mental illness figure into explanations and apologies for wrong behavior – if at all?

My Answer, In Brief: A person can struggle with mental dysfunctions in an honest and honorable way, without inflicting harm on others. That’s to be commended, but keep your distance from people who use such as a crutch and an excuse.

Listen or Download:


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

Question 4: Fervent Hatred for President Obama

Question: How should I respond to friends who fanatically hate President Obama? 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?

My Answer, In Brief: Many people hate Obama in a very non-objective way, and that is discreditable to the cause of liberty and it can be socially awkward. The key is to ask such people to respect your boundaries – and add distance between yourself and them if they refuse.

Listen or Download:


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

Rapid Fire Questions


  • Many commonly used positive adjectives (e.g. fabulous, fantastic, miraculous) have mystical undertones; should rational people avoid using such words?
  • Is there something wrong with the Turing Test? What made me think of it is knowing several people who I think wouldn’t be able to pass it.
  • You’ve stated before that you’re a GTD fan. What does your GTD implementation look like? How do you execute GTD?
  • Has Aristotle been marginalized? When I was in high school the only things I came across about him were the silly parts of his cosmology.

Listen or Download:

  • Start Time: 59:04
  • Duration: 6:44
  • 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: 1:05:48

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.

Philosophy in Action's NewsletterPhilosophy in Action's Facebook PagePhilosophy in Action's Twitter StreamPhilosophy in Action's RSS FeedsPhilosophy in Action's Calendar

  • http://twitter.com/Radian_Angle Tjitze de Boer

    Gilgamesh the heroic CEO of Uruk.inc! The fickle gods as governmental legislators. And the monster in the wood as a huge hippy luchador.

Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha