Dec 192011

On Sunday’s episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, Greg Perkins and I answered questions on rationality in face of overwhelming emotions, the value of reading literature, balancing introspection and productive work, optimism or pessimism about the future, and more. The podcast of that episode is now available for streaming or downloading.

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Whole Podcast: 18 December 2011

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Podcast Segments: 18 December 2011

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


My News of the Week: This week, Ari Armstrong, Paul Hsieh, and I attended and testified at a campaign finance hearing. You can submit written testimony until Friday December 23rd. Also, look for Ari’s and my article on abortion in The Objective Standard this week.

Question 1: Rationality in Face of Overwhelming Emotions

Question: How can a person regain his rationality in the face of overwhelming emotions? On occasion, I find my rational judgment swamped by strong emotions like anger and anxiety. In such cases, my thinking seems distorted by my emotions. While in the grip of such emotions, what can I do to re-establish my powers of rational thought? Also, how can I prevent myself from saying or doing things that I’ll later regret?

My Answer, In Brief: You need not be at the mercy of your emotions: you can take charge of own mind in friendly way. So when your emotions rage out of control, you should (1) notice them, (2) analyze them, (3) work to defuse them, and (4) later, prevent the same from happening again.

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

Question 2: The Value of Reading Literature

Question: What value do you gain from reading literature? I’ve never much connected with literature, particularly not the classics. I know that you read them routinely. What value do you find in them? Or, what am I missing?

My Answer, In Brief: Literature isn’t a value for everyone, but it can be an amazing window into other lives and other worlds, as well as a source of inspiration.

Listen or Download:


  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  • Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, and Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
  • North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
  • The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
  • The Iliad by Homer
  • Martin Eden and The Sea Wolf by Jack London
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

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

Question 3: Balancing Introspection and Productive Work

Question: How can I achieve a better balance between introspection and productive work? Particularly I’ve made some mistake, I’ll get wrapped up in the process of introspection until I get the problem sorted out. However, that consumes time – and often my projects suffer and I miss deadlines. How can I find a better balance between these two important activities?

My Answer, In Brief: You should cultivate the discipline required to do less exciting work, but be sure to take the time to introspect. Also, deal with your mistakes in sensible way, with a focus on fixing any problems caused and preventing repetition.

Listen or Download:

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

Question 4: Optimism or Pessimism about the Future

Question: Should we be optimistic or pessimistic about the future of the culture? What do you think will happen to the culture in the next 20 to 50 years? Are you optimistic or pessimistic – and why? What do you think the value and certainty of such predictions based on philosophy are?

My Answer, In Brief: I’m pessimistic, because I see the direction in which the world is headed, particularly on economic issues. But not depressed, because I’m doing what I can and enjoying that.

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

Rapid Fire Questions


  • If our emotions are affected by chemicals and other factors out of our control, does this call into question whether rationality is normal? In other words, do we need to learn how to reason?
  • Why care about the drug war, when just about every politician is bad on that issue?
  • Why worry about the president’s view of abortion given that Roe v. Wade is the law of the land?
  • What should one think of a candidate that shifts positions?
  • Do you think that private sector experience is a plus in a politician?
  • Don’t you think another four years of Obama would all but guarantee a collapse of the last vestiges of the American republic?
  • Should the US be an ally with Saudi Arabia?
  • What are your thoughts on Chris Hitchens’ death?

Listen or Download:

  • Start Time: 57:30
  • Duration: 14:16
  • 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: 1:11:46

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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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