Jan 202014

On Sunday’s episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, Greg Perkins and I answered questions on faith in reason, free speech of government officials, gay pride, and more. The podcast of that episode is now available for streaming or downloading.

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Whole Podcast: 19 January 2014

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Podcast Segments: 19 January 2014

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


My News of the Week: I’ve been very busy preparing for my departure for Aiken, South Carolina, plus I’ll be away at SnowCon Tahoe late next week. As a result of that travel, the next live show will be on Tuesday, January 28th. After that, we’ll broadcast on Thursday evenings through the end of February. Check out the calendar and episodes on tap for details. The half-price sale on my podcast on Finding Good Prospects for Romance and Friendship ends on January 20th.

Question 1: Faith in Reason

Question: Does being rational mean having faith in reason? I’m a high school student in a religious school. Many of my classmates claim that my belief in a knowable reality, science, and reason is merely a form of faith. So how can a person validate his own reason and senses? How can a person know that they are reliable means of knowing reality – unless he uses them and thereby engages in circular reasoning? My classmates claim that God is the only way out of this puzzle: God checks our reasoning by verifying and opposing our various conclusions. How can I respond to their arguments effectively?

My Answer, In Brief: The validity of perception and logic cannot be proven due to problems of circularity, but they can be validated by noticing that they are fundamental and inescapable in any thinking or claims of knowledge. Faith, in contrast, rejects the need for any justification – not just of itself, but of any claims of faith too.

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

Question 2: Free Speech of Government Officials

Question: Does freedom of speech apply to government officials? In August 2013, Rolling Stone caused a furor by putting accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the cover. In response, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino wrote to the publisher of Rolling Stone, telling him that doing so “rewards a terrorist with celebrity treatment” – treatment the magazine should have given to the survivors. Other government officials were similarly critical of Rolling Stone. My first reaction was that these government officials had no place saying anything about a publication. But then I wondered, doesn’t the First Amendment still apply to them? In other words, do government officials have freedom of speech?

My Answer, In Brief: Politicians have the right to free speech, just like the rest of us. However, they overstep the bounds of proper government when they speak from their political office without an explicit statement recognizing the rights of the people involved.

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

Question 3: Gay Pride

Question: Are “gay pride” parades good? Sexuality is not chosen, so being gay is not something that a person could be proud of. However, these parades seem like harmless fun, and they might even help alleviate homophobia. (They might perpetuate stereotypes too, however.) So are they, on balance, of benefit? Also, what should be made of the fact that a “straight pride” parade would be seen as homophobic? Isn’t the goal here equality? Does that show that gay pride parades are elevating a minority into something special and unequal?

My Answer, In Brief: The concept of “gay pride” does not mean taking homosexuality per se to be a virtue. Rather, it recognizes the virtues requires to come out and assert one’s rights in today’s society.

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

Rapid Fire Questions


  • Do you have any opinion about Ann Coulter?
  • Should I be conflicted about enjoying the late Michael Jackson’s music given that I believe he molested children (even though he was publicly acquitted)?
  • If one is interested in becoming a voice for a cause or an activist, how does one start?

Listen or Download:

  • Start Time: 1:03:05
  • Duration: 6:26
  • 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: 1:09:31

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  • Adam Fitchett

    In response to your question on faith in reason:

    I think Thomas Reid hit on a very important point: no skeptic has ever been willing to deny the truth of their own consciousness. Not even Descartes, or Nietzsche or anyone. One cannot prove that one is conscious, it is axiomatic, just like the law of identity. But whilst some skeptics have denied the law of identity, none at all have been wiling to deny their own consciousness or their own existence. It is just too immediately true.

    What the skeptics seem to have missed is that one’s own consciousness, and of course the corollary that one must be conscious OF something, are not just inescapable axiomatic propositions, they are inescapable immediate truths. I am not simply unable to deny my own consciousness; I actually know that it is a truth. It is its own truth.

    This gives us a philosophical ‘foot in the door’, against the skeptics, because after we have established that ‘there is something of which one is conscious’, the whole rest of Ayn Rand’s philosophy flows forth inexorably.

  • James

    That’s actually not true, Adam Fitchett. There is a school of thought among some skeptics (well, in the modern sense of the word) that argues that since the dualism is not true, the mind is therefore merely an emergent property of the brain and consciousness is therefore an illusion. They argue that we only think we can think, and that what’s really happening is a series of deterministic chemical reactions that inescapably lead to certain inevitable ends. They use the fact that various thought processes show up on brain scans of various types as evidence.

  • c_andrew

    If “we only think that we think” and if “deterministic chemical reactions … inescapably lead to certain inevitable ends” then exactly what is the epistemological status of these theorizers notions? Are they claiming self-exception? Or are they even aware that their position is self-refuting? Did the “deterministic chemical reactions” lead to truth in their particular cases? If so, how can they establish that in the face of their own theories?

    • James

      Given my interactions with believers in such concepts, I do not think they realize that the position is self-refuting. Most of them state outright that philosophy is useless and unworthy of consideration–and then make errors that would embaris the greenest neophyte. I’m reasonably certain that these people “learned” philosophy from soundbites, and have no idea what they’re talking about. They also tend to view morality as entirely subjective (how something can be subjective when we’re all just deterministic chemical reactions is a point they studiously avoid), or completely irrelevant (again, they dismiss philosophy wholesale). In case it wasn’t clear, all I was saying was that such a school of thought exists, and provided a description of their beliefs. I certainly don’t agree with it!

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