New Questions in the Queue

 Posted by on 15 January 2014 at 8:00 am  Question Queue
Jan 152014

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:

What should I do about the dishonesty of my new project manager?

One of the project managers at my job recently lied when evaluating my co-worker. We are evaluated yearly, but aren’t supposed to share the results of the reviews with others. However, my co-worker shared her review with me. It painted her in an extremely negative light via false accusations, and her yearly raise was affected by it. She wasn’t given any warning about the accusations either. I’ve taken over her duties, which include working under the accuser. I’m afraid my review next year will be unjustly and perhaps even dishonestly negative, but I wasn’t supposed to see her review in the first place. What should I do? Is there something I should do about my co-worker’s false negative review? How can I protect myself from this dishonest project manager?

Is the doctrine of double effect true?

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy says: “The doctrine (or principle) of double effect is often invoked to explain the permissibility of an action that causes a serious harm, such as the death of a human being, as a side effect of promoting some good end. It is claimed that sometimes it is permissible to cause such a harm as a side effect (or ‘double effect’) of bringing about a good result even though it would not be permissible to cause such a harm as a means to bringing about the same good end.” How has this principled used in analyzing real-world ethics? Is it true? Why or why not?

What are the moral limits on the doctrine of collateral damage in wartime?

Collateral damage was originally applied to damage to civilian lives and property in the course of a battle. New and different modes of conflict over the past half century have extended the battlefield into more areas than merely front line conflicts – as seen in guerrilla or asymmetric warfare. Should the doctrine of collateral damage be expanded or restrained in these new contexts? If so, what moral limits should be imposed on defensive or preemptive military actions in these new contexts – and why?

What human qualities count at metaphysical versus the man-made?

Many human qualities – including simple ones such as handedness – seem to be influenced by a person’s genetic makeup. Often, such qualities develop substantially before the person can make conscious choices. In the case of handedness, every person with the use of his hands develops a dominant hand. Does that mean that handedness is metaphysically given, rather than a man-made fact which can vary with each individual? More generally, what kinds of qualities of a person are “metaphysical” versus “man-made”?

What is the free market solution to climate change?

Most political arguments about global warming revolve around the question of whether global warming truly exists or not, and if so, whether its cause is industry. Assuming that global warming is a real and dangerous phenomena, what is the free market solution? How could it be addressed without government controls and regulations? Would assigning pollution rights or adjusting property rights help? if so, how?

Are some people so awful as to be unworthy of any friendship?

Dennis Rodman is friends with North Korean dictator, Kim Jong Un. When asked about it, “Rodman said he hoped the friendly competition would “open the doors” to “talk about certain things,” but he isn’t going to bring up the regime’s human rights abuses. “I am not going to sit there and go ‘Hey guy, you are doing the wrong thing. That is not the right way to do it. He is my friend first… and I love him,” Rodman told reporters at Beijing airport. Is Rodman’s approach wrong? Are some people so bad that they aren’t worthy of any friendship? If so, when? Being a murderous tyrant seems to be a clear-cut case, but what about more common failings in a person?

How can I live more joyfully?

I believe that the world is a wonderful place full of opportunity, great things, and lovely people. I also believe that I am an efficacious person, and therefore capable of flourishing and achieving happiness. So why do my emotions not match my convictions? I want to live more joyfully; I adhere to the cardinal virtues to the best of my ability; I’ve tried mental exercises, such as listing all my personal values and thinking about how important and good they are for me, but it still doesn’t make me feel happy. What am I doing wrong? What can I do instead?

Could nineteenth-century contract laborers consent to their employers’ use of violence on them?

During the nineteenth century, it was commonly understood among Asian contract laborers in Hawaii’s sugar cane fields that they could be whipped by supervisors if they worked too slowly. Did the contract laborers therefore tacitly consent to the risk of being subjected to whippings? Or is the corporal punishment a wrongful initiation of the use of force, even if the contract laborers accepted the job knowing that they might be whipped? Does the answer change if consent was explicit – meaning that the laborer voluntarily signed a contract allowing the supervisor to whip him at will?

Should ethics begin with facts about evolution, including altruism?

The ethical egoism advocated by Ayn Rand doesn’t seem to incorporate genetics or evolution. Having evolved in tribal and family groups, we are creatures tuned to group behavior more than to individual behavior. Altruism wasn’t made up by religion. In a tribe, helping those around you helps you survive too. Helping your kin helps your genes survive. The fact is that feeling good when you help others is built into the core of being human. The fact is that much status seeking and other seemingly irrational actions are techniques to ensure the propagation of our genes. Objectivism starts with “A is A.” But, if reality is most important, shouldn’t people base their ethics on the facts about humans as they actually are – altruism and all?

Should an egoist be willing to torture millions to benefit himself?

In your discussion of explaining egoistic benevolence on December 22, 2013, you indicated that you regarded such a scenario as absurd. Could you explain why that is? Why wouldn’t such torture be not merely permitted but rather obligatory under an egoistic ethics? Why should an egoist even care about what happens to strangers?

Should the government of a free society be permitted to do more than just protect rights?

If the proper purpose of government is to protect individual rights, why shouldn’t a government of a free society do other, additional things as long as it does them without violating anyone’s rights? If courts, police, and military could be publicly financed without the use of force, couldn’t roads and schools? Is there some reason besides reliance on taxation why these sorts of government programs are bad?

Should voters attempt to “buy time” for liberty by voting for Republican candidates?

Often, supporters of capitalism are told that they need to “buy time” in order to advocate for liberty – meaning: they should vote for Republicans to stave off disaster and allow time to persuade the public of the nature and value of freedom. Does the debacle with the rollout of ObamaCare contradict this claim? ObamaCare has suffered from widespread attacks, not just from the right wing, but also from many mainstream media outlets and average citizens. These backlashes have forced the administration to issue substantive revisions of the law, and its political backers appear to be running scared. In this case, a statist policy has gone into effect, the public has felt its harmful effects, and that public has turned against the statist policy and its supporting politicians. After this, I am more optimistic about Americans, as well as less inclined to support Republicans at the federal level. Given the utter failure of free market advocates to turn back the regulatory state, might the public need to learn more lessons like that of ObamaCare, just as much as they need to be educated about abstract philosophy? Does support for Republicans in the federal government, who will at best maintain the mixed economy – where the positives caused by freedom can cloud the negatives caused by controls – actually result in a perpetual solidification of the status quo? If so – and combined with some of the GOP’s irrational theocratic tendencies – should people actively (or passively) support keeping the Republican Party as the minority party in the near future by refusing to vote for or support its candidates?

Should I pursue justice against a wrongdoer at great personal expense?

I am trying to decide if I should file an ethics complaint against my former property manager for a rental property. Basically, she managed the property for me for several years until I visited the property and found it in a state of disrepair that annoyed and concerned me. So, I wanted to fire her. But before she would release me from our agreement, she charged me $1,200 for repairs and maintenance that she had done to the house between tenants. She never asked me if I wanted the work done and when pressed she told me it was a matter of routine and our contract granted her the power to make decisions like that. Upon inspection, I discovered that not only were some of the prices she paid were above market rate, it was her husband’s company doing the work. (I found out the rates because in getting the repairs done, I got quotes from other companies in the area.) I’ve reviewed some of the past records and she did this about 50% of the time. The Association of Realtors’ code of ethics in my state specifically notes that she has to disclose relationships like that, but she didn’t. So, I think whether she was in violation is pretty clear cut; however, some have argued that our contract supersedes the code of ethics. (If the board agrees with that argument, then this becomes a contract dispute and not an ethics concern.) If I file the complaint and the board decides to hear the case, I will have to hire a lawyer, make trips to the area, and basically shovel out even more money. The board could take her license or fine her, but in talking to a lawyer, and a couple of officers on the board it’s more likely that they will push for some sort of education rather than taking her license. And none of that would do anything to get my money back. To get my money back, I’d probably have to go through an even more costly process of mediation, then arbitration, then suing her in small claims court where I would never recoup all of my costs. I think it’s pretty obvious she’s in the wrong and I think I can make the case strong enough to bring some measure of justice on her, but it would be expensive and stressful. On the other hand, she was very unpleasant to me and I hate to see her get away with being a horrible person and a corrupt professional. What should I do? How do I decide whether pursuing justice is worth my time and effort?

Is “body acceptance” rational and healthy – or dangerous?

People seem to be divided on the issue of “body acceptance.” Some think that a person should be proud to be “healthy at any size” (or even just a larger-than-average size). Others say that such views perpetuate unhealthy lifestyles, as well as destroy standards of beauty and health, perhaps out of envy. What is a rational view of body acceptance? Is fat shaming or fit shaming ever acceptable? More generally, what are the boundaries of morally acceptable comments on such matters between acquaintances, friends, and strangers?

Should children star in films not suitable for children?

It is immoral to put a child actor in an adult-level movie, such as horror movies that involve lots of murder? Consider the R-rated horror movie “Child’s Play,” starring a child actor battling a homicidal doll. Is it wrong to expose the child actor to that kind of horror, or is there a potentially proper way to handle it? Additionally, isn’t it a double-standard to have it a practice of having young actors starring in these movies, yet to consider these same movies unfit for children to watch?

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.)

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