On Sunday’s episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, Greg Perkins and I answered questions on conservative allies in politics, flunking a student, guilt about refusing requests, and more. The podcast of that episode is now available for streaming or downloading.

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Whole Podcast: 20 July 2014

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Podcast Segments: 20 July 2014

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


My News of the Week: I’ve been busy finalizing the proofs for Explore Atlas Shrugged this week. I had a great clinic with Eric Horgan last weekend, and I got second in my division at the event at Aspen Ridge yesterday. Paul and I are belatedly celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary with a few days of vacation next week.

Question 1: Conservative Allies in Politics

Question: Aren’t politicians like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul allies in the struggle for liberty? Although I’m an atheist and a novice Objectivist, I’ve always wondered why so many advocates of individual rights oppose candidates and movements that seem to agree with us on a great many issues. Despite their other warts, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz are the most likely men to promote our causes. The notion that they evangelize is dubious. And even if true, are there better alternatives today? I’ve also seen this attitude towards Libertarian candidates and their party. Ronald Reagan was the only President who advanced the ball towards free markets in the last fifty years, and yet people condemn him because of his position on abortion and because of his religious/political partnerships. I’ve never understood this. Shouldn’t we embrace the advocates of free markets out there today, even if not perfect?

My Answer, In Brief: The Republicans – including “better” Republicans like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul – are a dangerous mixture of some economic liberty, nationalism, and theocracy. Instead of discrediting liberty by supporting them, focus on the issues.

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

Question 2: Flunking a Student

Question: Should a professor pass a student who deserved to flunk for fear of reprisals? Because you’ve taught at the university level, I want to ask you about integrity in grading as a professor. Suppose you flunked a student who never showed up to class and didn’t complete the assigned work adequately. However, this student was well-connected to university donors and administrators. After you flunked this student, suppose that a high-ranking administrator threatened reprisals against you if you didn’t give this student a passing grade. What should you do? Would it be corrupt to comply with the administrator’s demand? What might you (or another professor) do instead?

My Answer, In Brief: The professor should not degrade his integrity by passing the student. He should document everything and enlist the resources available at any respectable university to eliminate the problem.

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

Question 3: Guilt about Refusing Requests

Question: How can I overcome feelings of unearned guilt about refusing other people’s requests? Too often, I feel guilty when I shouldn’t – for example, for rejecting unwanted romantic advances or declining invitations to events with family or coworkers. Even though I know logically that I have the right to pursue my own values rather than satisfy the wishes of others, I feel terrible knowing that my actions will disappoint or upset someone else. Too often I succumb to the guilt: I agree to things I’d rather not because I don’t want to let someone else down. What philosophical or psychological strategies might I use for dealing with such unearned guilt?

My Answer, In Brief: To overcome feelings of unwarranted guilt at refusing requests from others, you need to retrain your emotions by always acting on your best rational judgment and reminding yourself of the relevant facts when you feel that guilt.

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

Rapid Fire Questions


  • Should customers who break something in a store be forced to pay for it?
  • What is the rational response to Heraclitus’ claim that ‘you never step in the same river twice’?
  • Is playing peek-a-boo with a baby who has yet to develop sufficient concept-awareness moral? What if it stresses the baby? How do you determine morality in interactions with less developed humans?
  • How much effort should be put into improving physical fitness beyond the point of mere healthiness?
  • Are Objectivists unique in their fondness for acronyms when discussing philosophy?

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  • Start Time: 54:41
  • Duration: 12:36
  • 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: 1:07:18

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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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