Dec 162013

On Sunday’s episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, Greg Perkins and I answered questions on public shamings, problems with an aggressive dog, photography as art, and more. The podcast of that episode is now available for streaming or downloading.

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Whole Podcast: 15 December 2013

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Podcast Segments: 15 December 2013

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


My News of the Week: I had a fabulous birthday this week! Many thanks to the reviewers of my new book, Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame. If you’ve read it, please review it on Amazon! Get a signed copy for just $25 in December! Also, if you’re looking for a last-minute Christmas gift, my podcast on Finding Good Prospects for Romance and Friendship is available for half price – just $10 – through the end of December.

Question 1: Public Shamings

Question: Are public shamings morally justifiable? I often read of judges handing down sentences designed to humiliate the offender, such as standing at a busy intersection wearing a sandwich board apologizing for their offense. Many people favor these kinds of punishments in lieu of jail time because they consume less resources of the penal system. They may be more effective too. Does that justify such shamings? Moreover, what’s the morality of similar shamings by parents and businesses? A bodega in my neighborhood posts surveillance camera footage of shoplifters, usually with some snarky comment about their theft. I find this practice amusing, but is that moral? Is it akin to vigilantism?

My Answer, In Brief: Public shaming for petty crimes can help protect the community, deter crime, incent reparations, and empower the victim – particularly when done by the victim.

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

Question 2: Problems with an Aggressive Dog

Question: What should a person do about a neighbor’s aggressive dog? My husband was attacked (but barely injured) by a neighbor’s dog. No one else was in the room at the time. Our children often play at this person’s house, and the dog has always been friendly in the past. How do you suggest handling the situation? Should we allow our children to play with the dog, as we always have in the past? What should the owner do about the dog?

My Answer, In Brief: An aggressive dog is dangerous, so you need to have a calm but frank conversation with the owner, set limits for your family, and teach everyone about dealing with strange dogs.

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

Question 3: Photography as Art

Question: Does photography qualify as art? I’ve always viewed photography as a legitimate form of art. However, many people I disagree: Ayn Rand argued that it’s a technical rather than a creative skill. However, I regard photography as a technical and creative skill, just like painting. So does photography qualify as art? If not, does that mean that photography doesn’t have value – or has less value than proper art forms like painting? If photography has value nonetheless, what is the source of that value?

My Answer, In Brief: In my view, photography is not, strictly speaking, art because it’s not wholly the creation of the artist in the way that painting is. However, that doesn’t imply anything about the value of photography, which is often considerable.

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

Rapid Fire Questions


  • If a professional football player suffers a career-ending injury in the 1st of a 3-year contract, should he give the money back for the years he doesn’t play?
  • What do you think of the comparison between the NBC drama Dracula and Atlas Shrugged?What should a person do when they see others treating people unjustly, e.g. by making fun of fat people?
  • Are schoolyard bullies motivated by the death premise?

Listen or Download:

  • Start Time: 58:27
  • Duration: 9:53
  • 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: 1:08:20

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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