New Questions in the Queue

 Posted by on 29 June 2012 at 7:30 am  Question Queue
Jun 292012

As you know, on Sunday morning’s Philosophy in Action Radio, I answer four 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.

FYI, 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, submit it. Just e-mail me at [email protected] to make arrangements.

Now, without further ado…

Should parents make empty threats to their children?

At the grocery store last week, I heard a mother threaten to throw away her daughter’s favorite toys unless the daughter behaved. That seems to be pretty common: parents make empty threats in an attempt to scare their kids into better behavior. They’ll say that it works, and perhaps it does. But what are the consequences? Are such empty threats a valid parenting technique?

How would the government protect the safety of food and drugs in a free society?

Would the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) exist in free society? If so, would food or drugs have to gain FDA approval to be sold? Would it have the power to remove food or drugs deemed unsafe from the market? If not, what would protect consumers from harm due to adulterated or otherwise unsafe food or drugs?

What is the value of marriage?

What is the value of marriage? How is it different from living with a romantic partner in a committed relationship? Is marriage only a legal matter? Or does it have some personal or social benefit?

Is it wrong for an atheist to refuse to attend a sibling’s religious ceremony?

I’ve decided not to attend the religious ceremony of my younger sister’s upcoming Bat Mitzvah. I’m an atheist, and while I don’t think attending would be immoral, I don’t want to support any kind of religiosity or connection to religion. Other family members have criticized me for that decision, saying that I should support my sister and not pressure her into agreeing with my own views. Should I attend? If not, how should I handle the family dynamics?

What is the relationship between personality and sense of life?

What is the difference between them? How does a person’s sense of life relate to his personality? Does understanding someone’s sense of life help us to understand his personality and vice versa?

What should a person do when part of his job involves dealing with looters?

I work for a company that promotes other companies. One of those promoted companies is extremely large, and it was bailed out with taxpayer money in 2009. In my view, my employer is profiting from theft. I’m having a terrible time dealing with this situation, and resent my job everytime I’m expected to perform for this customer. Is there another way that I can look at this situation so that it won’t be so distressing? Or is there something else that I could or should do?

Is it wrong to invent stories about yourself to tell to strangers?

In the past, I’ve made up stories about myself (basically assuming a character) and told them to strangers on the bus or in an airport. When I mentioned this to my spouse, I hadn’t really thought of this as lying until I saw his horrified reaction. Do you think this is wrong? If so, why? Would it be acceptable in some contexts, such as for an acting class?

Should minor girls be required by law to obtain parental consent for an abortion?

Normally, parents are legally empowered to make medical decisions for their minor children, and minors cannot obtain medical procedures without parental consent. How should that apply in the case of pregnancy? Should pregnancy and abortion be treated differently from other medical conditions? Should parents be allowed by law to force a daughter under 18 to carry a pregnancy to term or to abort against her will? Should minor teenagers be granted more power over their medical decisions? Should the law grant exemptions in cases of potential abuse or neglect if the pregnancy or abortion were discovered?

Should a person feel guilty for not acting selfishly enough?

According to rational egoism, a person ought to act selfishly – not in the sense of hurting others, but in the sense of pursuing his own good. If a person fails to do that, should he feel guilty for failing to act morally?

Is it moral to knowingly ignore or violate a website’s terms of service?

Suppose that during the sign up process for a website you are presented with some terms of service and a checkbox indicating that you have read them, and that the checkbox is disabled until you’ve scrolled to the bottom of the terms. Leaving aside the question of whether the terms should be enforceable in a court of law, is it moral to simply scroll to the bottom and click the checkbox without reading, or to later do something that you know was expressly prohibited by the terms? If so, what kind of obligations do you have when the terms aren’t presented so unambiguously (e.g. there’s just a link in the site footer that says “terms of service”) or are filled with complicated legalese? If not, is there (or should there be) any way for a site owner to communicate the terms of using the site, or does putting an HTTP server on the public network thereby permit anyone in as long as there are no technical barriers put in place?

Can open relationships be moral?

Can it ever be moral to have sex with someone else while in a relationship, assuming that you’re honest with everyone involved? If not, why not? If so, what might be some of the pitfalls to be aware of? For example, should the criteria for selecting sexual partners be stricter than if you were single? How should you navigate the tricky territory of opening a previously closed relationship? How might personality differences (especially with respect to sex and intimacy) affect the relationships?

When should a person speak up against bigotry toward gays?

My boyfriend and I were at a party at the home of one of his coworkers. One person at the party started using offensive homophobic slurs, so I asked him not to use that kind of language. He persisted, and the conversation escalated into an argument. My boyfriend did not take a position, and he later said he “didn’t want to get involved” and that it had been “none of my business” to stick my neck out against the bigot. I believe that silence implies acceptance. Though there may not be a moral obligation to intervene, it still seems like the right thing to do. What is the moral principle behind this? Is it important enough to end a relationship over?

How should I respond to an unwanted gift given by my in-laws?

My in-laws often give me presents that I don’t much like – like frumpy boring sweaters and books I’ll never read. I thank them kindly for the present, but I’m not effusive in my praise. Recently, they gave me something really pretty inappropriate for me – on par with giving a bacon cookbook to a vegetarian. I wasn’t sure whether it was just clueless or hostile. How should I respond?

How can I estimate the time required for work more accurately?

I’m self-employed, and I’m routinely frustrated by my inability to estimate how much time a project will require of me. For example, I’ll think that a programming project will require two days, but by the time I’m done with all the little unexpected details, I’ve spent five days on it. How can I be more accurate in my estimates?

Should I flirt with my friends?

I tend to be physically reserved around my friends, not touching them or otherwise physically displaying affection. Should I try to be more expressive? What would be too much? Are some of my friends giving the wrong impression by being flirty with their friends?

To submit a question, use this form. I prefer questions 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.)

  New Questions in the Queue
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