New Questions in the Queue

 Posted by on 29 July 2015 at 8:00 am  Question Queue
Jul 292015

As you know, on Sunday morning’s Philosophy in Action Radio, I answer 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 is the difference between familiarity and intimacy?

In a recent Facebook post, you wrote: “Lately, I’ve been thinking about the difference between mere familiarity with another person and the intimacy of a deep connection. By familiarity, I mean that each person knows what the other is up to, how they spend their days, what their concerns are, how they’re likely to act, etc. In contrast, the intimacy of a deep connection requires openness, vulnerability, visibility, total trust, generosity with the self, accessibility, etc. (Intimacy often involves familiarity, but not necessarily.) Obviously, I’m thinking here of the psychological aspects of a relationship, although I think that the distinction works for physical and sexual aspects too, if they exist.” Can you say more about this difference? How does it impact a person’s psychology and various relationships?

How can a person use accountabilibuddies to be more productive?

Lately, you’ve mentioned using accountabilibuddies to help break bad habits, cultivate new habits, get more done, or eliminate procrastination. How does that work? What kind of person do you want as you accountabilibuddy? What do you do for them? What do they do for you? What are the major benefits? What are some of the pitfalls to avoid?

Did Hank Rearden really threaten to beat up Lillian Rearden in Atlas Shrugged?

Consider the following quote from Atlas Shrugged: “‘Lillian,’ he said, in an unstressed voice that did not grant her even the honor of anger, ‘you are not to speak of her to me. If you ever do it again, I will answer you as I would answer a hoodlum: I will beat you up. Neither you nor anyone else is to discuss her.’ (p. 530). Was Hank serious in his threat, or were these just the words he chose to emphasize how important the issue was to him? Ayn Rand’s heroes tend to be very careful and literal in their word choice, but I can’t imagine Hank would ever have followed through with this. As evil as Lillian was, I don’t think assaulting her can be justified. What’s the right interpretation of this passage?

Is vulnerability of value?

In a recent blog post, you stated “…I’m opting for a “vulnerability through strength” and “strength through vulnerability” route…” Could you please explain this idea? Why is vulnerability something that should be cultivated in the first place? It doesn’t seem compatible with rational egoism, given that “vulnerability” and “weakness” are often used interchangeably.

How can I counter the effects of ghosting in dating?

Ghosting is when one person disappears from a relationship – suddenly cutting off all contact – without rhyme or reason or explanation of any kind. How does that affect the ghoster and the ghostee? Personally, when I go on dates, it does not matter how well they go. Even if I get my date’s number at the end of the night (if I didn’t already have it), my default assumption is that I will never hear from them again even if I try to contact them. Even if there are second and third dates, I still carry the expectation that I will be ghosted. Currently, being ghosted does not have as much of an emotional impact as it used to for me, but I think that’s because I expect it now (which is, unfortunately, justified). When I don’t receive a call or text after a 24 hour period, I consider myself ghosted and move on…but I find that that window is getting smaller. How can I psychologically arm myself against the damage of this increasingly prevalent practice while not simultaneously shutting down my ability to be emotionally vulnerable and open to new relationships? What should ghosters be doing instead of just disappearing?

Do doctors deserve our trust?

It seems that the majority of doctors are extremely second-handed today. Their attitudes toward medicine revolve around what they were taught in school and the edicts of the FDA.They have almost no intellectual independence and would be paralyzed without their structure of authority to tell them what to do. Like most people they are clueless about the free market. How can anyone trust their judgment given this second-handedness?

How do we keep good ideas from becoming trite?

Individualism is a big part of American culture, so much so that I think certain aspects of it have become trite. I know that as a kid I would always roll my eyes at such cliches as “be yourself” and “follow your dreams.” Even though on reflection they were actually good advice, they always sounded phony to me and I think most people felt the same and continue to feel that way for all their lives. I’ve been inspired a lot by some of Ayn Rand’s writings, but if her ideas were to become more commonplace, I wonder whether the principles of Objectivism would just start to sound like more uninspiring platitudes. How can we prevent this? How can we rescue good ideas from being dismissed as clich?s?

When is delegation in a marriage irresponsible or unwise?

There are some parts of normal adult life that I’m really bad at, in part due to social anxiety. Examples include calling or meeting with companies (airlines, banks, etc) to make changes, writing emails that involve stress or conflict, scheduling events that we’ll both attend, budgeting and finance, driving and navigating, and dealing with mechanical stuff. Should I ask my husband to do those chores? If I ask for help, I worry that I’m being weak, lazy, and avoiding my responsibilities. On the other hand, if I try to do the hard things on my own, I often mess up. Where’s the line between delegating and shirking?

Should I change my name when I marry?

I’m a gay man who is engaged to be married. The question has come up about whether or not either of us would change our last name and historically we’ve said no. We have just thought we would just maintain our given names. My fiance doesn’t want to change his name and we both think trying to hyphenate our last names would be unwieldy and fussy. But as we’ve talked about planning a family in the future, it’s occurred to me that I actually like the idea of sharing a name with my husband and my children. So, I’ve been considering changing my name. Somewhat ironically, however, changing my name means giving up a five-generation-old family name in order to take on the name of our new family. I don’t mind this irony very much since my decision would be about taking on a family I choose rather than one I don’t. What do you think? What pros and cons do you see for changing your name at marriage? Do you see any additional pros or cons for gay men considering this question?

Is loving and excelling at the process of the work enough for a career?

In your June 14th, 2015 discussing of choosing a career, you said that a person should love the day-to-day process of doing the work, not merely the effects it creates. What about the reserve problem – meaning that you enjoy the day-to-day work but you don’t feel very inspired by its effects, and you feel like it’s not important, inspiring, or real work? In my own case, I enjoy translation, foreign languages and linguistics. I taught myself French and German, and I am teaching myself several more languages. When I began tutoring others, I realized that I learn instantly what others struggle to master. I’m fascinated by how different languages express the same thought, and I’ll lose myself in the process of translation. However, I don’t find myself inspired by the results. If I were to translate patents or fiction, I wouldn’t feel like I was doing much of importance. Plus, I’d not feel like I was doing any real work because it’s like playing to me. Also, it doesn’t pay well. I’m also interested in technology and electronics, and I like the process of programming too. I feel like the effects of programming are more inspiring and have way more potential, but I have more aptitude for languages. Given these factors, how should I decide on a career path?

Is it wrong for a woman not to report a sexual assault?

I harshly judge grown women who do not report or otherwise address sexual assault. (I say “address” because I’m super picky about bringing in the police on questionable matters, but saying something about it to mutual contacts often might be enough.) I’m missing the empathy component when some douche assaults one lady after another. I do not understand why someone would not address this in some way: assault is a major deal. But maybe I am being too harsh. How should these women be judged?

Do my parents have a right to force me to take a paternity test?

My parents’ marriage has always been rocky, with doubts about my mother’s faithfulness pervading their relationship despite the fact that her infidelity has never been proven. About a year ago, my parents approached me out of the blue about taking a paternity test due to my father’s doubt that I am his biological daughter. Given their unhealthy, abusive past, I was immediately concerned about opening an old wound for my father and endangering my mother with this dangerous “evidence.” So I agreed to take the test only if my father would be willing to forgive my mom for either result and get counseling for past pains. He was infuriated by this and refused to agree to forgive mom or address his anger. He claims that he “deserves to know the truth” and that I am unfairly torturing him by not taking the test. I do not feel it is my responsibility or obligation to take a paternity test that would contribute nothing to me, but could result in more abuse and resentment toward my mother. At age 33, I could care less about the test results as I am a grown adult who will always relate to my dad as my only father, for better or for worse. I was secure in my decision until several weeks ago when I received a letter from my parents threatening legal action if I do not take the paternity test. I am unsure what the law says on this matter, but I do not trust the courts to act rationally (especially because my mother works for a law firm and has some weight to throw around here). I am now uncertain how to balance protecting myself against protecting them from each other and from additional pain. I have consulted other trusted family members on what to do and they have urged me to hold out on taking the test. What should I do?

Why do you think men have dominated societies throughout most of history?

The obvious answer to that question is that men are physically stronger, therefore they have been able to take and keep political and intellectual control. But I wonder if there other factors that have also contributed, such as psychological factors. For example, I have often heard women say they are attracted to men who will “take charge” (at least at times, or in certain situations). Might women have at least some tendency to allow men to take leadership roles? And a disproportionate amount of violent crimes are committed by men, suggesting that men have greater tendencies towards aggressive behavior. What, if any, psychological factors or personality traits have led to history to play out as it has?

How do altruists cope with their own moral hypocrisy?

Since learning about the egoism of the Objectivist ethics, I’ve been fascinated by how often morally righteous altruists – who live with their ideas and push them on others – are able to maintain a seemingly high level of psychological strength, self-esteem, and motivation in life. I’m thinking of the kind of altruist who achieves a high standard of living for himself and his family and who pursues a career of his own choice. Many politicians are good examples of this. The Objectivist ethics seems to say that these individuals should not be able to exist. How do they do it? How do they get away with it?

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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