Apr 282014

On Sunday’s episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, Greg Perkins and I answered questions on ambition as a virtue, happiness without close friends, refusing involvement in a biological child’s life, and more. The podcast of that episode is now available for streaming or downloading.

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Whole Podcast: 27 April 2014

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Podcast Segments: 27 April 2014

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


My News of the Week: I’ve finalized and posted the questions for Explore Atlas Shrugged, and now I turn to making print-on-demand and ebook versions. At 4 am this morning, I watched Martha Deeds’ mare Peekies give birth to a handsome colt! That was exciting!

Question 1: Ambition as a Virtue

Question: Is ambition a virtue? Ayn Rand defined ambition as “the systematic pursuit of achievement and of constant improvement in respect to one’s goal.” If we apply ambition only to rational goals – as happens with the virtue of integrity, where loyalty to values only constitutes integrity if those values are rational – then could ambition be considered a virtue? Or at least, could ambition be an aspect of a virtue like productiveness?

My Answer, In Brief: Ambition is not a virtue: it doesn’t share the core qualities of the virtues. However, ambition is morally significant: it’s a moral amplifier. So ambition is a quality of character that makes a good person better and a bad person worse. It’s a quality that you should cultivate in yourself – and then deploy selectively, based on the context.

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

Question 2: Happiness without Close Friends

Question: How can I maintain my sense of self when surrounded by people I don’t relate to deeply? At places like work I have trouble relating to my coworkers on a significantly deep level. For the most part, we just don’t share the deepest or most important aspects of life, such as a genuine interests in ideas, various nuances of the culinary arts, and so on. However, I enjoy interacting with these people, but I’m not likely to engage in frequent outings and whatnot. Yet, in other aspects of life – for the time – I don’t have the ability to deal with people I share a “like soul” with, to use Aristotelian terms. Thus, how can I truthfully express my personality and values while maintaining, or even deepening, my friendship with these people? I feel like I’m “faking” myself too often.

My Answer, In Brief: Intimate friends are often few and far between, but you can manage and arrange your life to give yourself a greater chance to find such people. Appreciate and cultivate your lesser friends, expand your social network, develop yourself without compromise or concealment, and don’t give up!

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

Question 3: Refusing Involvement in a Biological Child’s Life

Question: It is wrong to refuse any involvement in my biological child’s life? Some years back I had a contraceptive malfunction, and a child was conceived as a result. I offered to pay for an abortion but the woman refused. The child was born, and the mother and child moved away. I voluntarily pay child support, but I have no desire to be part of the child’s life. I never wanted to be a father nor do I want to now. Am I right – morally and legally – to take this stance?

My Answer, In Brief: A man doesn’t have any moral obligation to play the role of a father to a child, simply because he contributed his sperm. Being a parent is a very serious obligation, and it should not be undertaken lightly by either men or women.

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

Rapid Fire Questions


  • Are all people really created equal?
  • What is your opinion of camp as an aesthetic style? Is it in any way nihilistic?
  • Wouldn’t the principles (or maxim) of ones action’s be universally applicable according to Objectivism – just as for Kantian ethics?
  • Sometimes when people talk openly about sex or their sex life, I just think ‘Eeek! How tasteless and vulgar. Keep it to yourself!’ Am I too prudish?
  • What does it really mean to be a ‘nice person’? Can someone be too nice?

Listen or Download:

  • Start Time: 52:42
  • Duration: 12:13
  • 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: 1:04:56

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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  • John Pryce

    1) So the super soldier serum in ‘Captain America’ was ambition?

    2) I have this problem. I have two intimate friends, neither of whom lives in my state any longer.

    3) I don’t have kids at the moment, but I agree.

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