New Questions in the Queue

Dec 052012

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.

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

Now, without further ado, the most recent questions added to The Queue:

Do humans ever act on instinct?

Animals are supposed to act by instinct and learning. Humans, on the other hand, have the capacity choose their actions based on rational thought. Does that mean that humans don’t have any instincts, not even an instincts to live, eat, sleep, or procreate? Or do we have some instincts, but those can be overridden by reason?

Should Objectivism be applied to new fields?

Advocates of Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism claim that the philosophy is not changeable or expandable, meaning that is it what Ayn Rand made it. Yet they claim that the philosophy can be applied to new philosophical issues (such as induction) or other disciplines (such as educational theory) – and that scattered or brief comments (such as on the virtues) can be fleshed out. Is that approach likely to be profitable? Why or why not?

Will Obama’s second term further damage American culture and values?

I’m not as worried about the tax hikes, foreign policy, and other concrete policies of Obama’s second term as I am about the cultural change that his administration will instill in society over the next four years, just as it did over the last four years. The next generation of liberals – college age kids, that is – are little socialists who repeat the phrases like “social justice” and “fair share.” Is such cultural change a genuine problem? If so, what can be done to combat it?

Can Objectivism save the culture?

Advocates of Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism often claim that the philosophy is necessary for substantially changing the culture for the better. That seems presumptuous to me. Is it true? Also, is the philosophy capable of saving the culture on its own? Or is more needed?

How can I refuse solicitations for gifts for co-workers?

I work in a department of about thirty people. In the past few months, we have been asked to contribute money to buy gifts for co-workers – for engagements, baby showers, bereavement flowers, and Christmas gifts for the department chair, administrative assistants, housekeeping staff, and lab manager. Generally these requests are made by e-mail, and I can see from the “reply all” messages that everyone else contributes. Often these donations add up to a large amount ($10-20 each time). I do not wish to take part, but am worried that since I am a newer employee my lack of participation will be interpreted negatively. What can I do?

What is the relationship between Objectivism and libertarianism?

Some libertarians – and some Objectivists, including John Allison – claim that Objectivism’s politics is a type of libertarianism. Is that true? What is the essence is libertarianism? Should Objectivists ally themselves with libertarians, such as via the Cato Institute, now under John Allison’s leadership? Why or why not?

Should police attempt to collect the DNA of everyone in the vicinity of a serious crime?

In 2012, Jessica Ridgeway was abducted from a Denver suburb. (She was murdered.) During the search for her, the police voluntarily collected the DNA of about 500 people who made cell phone calls around the time and location of the abduction. Ultimately, Jessica’s body was found, and the suspect turned himself in before the DNA was processed. However, the suspect gave his DNA voluntarily, and he would have been caught by his DNA. Is this a proper method of police investigation? Even though people can refuse, does it violate rights? See:

Is the welfare state a good reason to restrict immigration?

Conservatives – and even some Objectivists – claim that immigrants are flocking to the United States for our welfare benefits. They claim that immigration must be restricted until the welfare state is curtailed. Is this a reasonable position – or does it amount to punishing would-be immigrants for our own welfare state? Also, what kind of message are supposed advocates of free markets sending with this anti-immigration rhetoric?

How can I say no to a friend’s request to become a business partner?

Over the past several years, I developed a home craft business. Now that it is successful one of my friends wants to be involved. She sends messages asking to get together to discuss ideas for new products and expanding the business. However, I am not interested in having a partner. How can I let her know that I don’t want a partner – without coming across as mean or hurting her feelings? Also, since I want to support and encourage my friends’ interests, I’m struggling with guilt for saying “no.” How can I overcome that?

Why do some organizations change their own names so often?

Over the years, I’ve seen several businesses and institutions change their names while staying the same for all intents and purposes. Is this intentionally done to confuse people? To me, it seems like an attempt to play matador whenever a problem arises, as if abandoning the name will solve the problem. How should people respond to these superficial changes?

Should we stop caring about the sex lives of politicians?

In response to the affair and resignation of David Petraeus, many have argued that such sex scandals are the absurd consequence of American puritanism. These people claim that sex is easily compartmentalized in a person’s life, such that sexual fidelity has no bearing on a person’s intelligence, character, or suitability for public office. Is that right?See:

Is “radical honesty” moral and wise?

Psychotherapist Brad Blanton claims that people should be “radically honest” – meaning that they should say what they think all the time. (See Is that a life-serving policy – or simply an excuse for rudeness? For example, if my friend is telling me a story that I don’t care to hear, should I tell her of my disinterest? Would that foster a more authentic and valuable relationship? Should I try to gently signal my disinterest? Or should I try to cultivate some interest in her story? In other words, is tact a value – or a destructive form of pretense?

Is it wrong to have a romantic relationship with a married person?

In Ayn Rand’s novel “Atlas Shrugged,” Dagny Taggart had an affair with Hark Rearden, knowing that he was married. How should those actions be judged in real life? Clearly, Hank’s cheating was dishonest and wrong. Was Dagny wrong to pursue the affair? What should she have done instead? Or, imagine that Dagny didn’t know that Hank was married until after they’d slept together. What should she have done in that case upon finding out the truth? Should she stop the affair? Should she inform the wife about the cheating? Should she apologize to the wife? Also, if your answer is different than Dagny’s, how do you reconcile that?

Will Obama usher in dangerous cultural change in America?

With another four years of Obama in office, I’m not too worried about the coming tax hike, war decisions, and so on. Rather, I’m worried about the cultural changes that the Obama administration will instill in society over the next four years, as it did in the past four years. Today’s college-age liberals – our next generation – are little socialists who repeat the phrases of “social justice” and “fair share.” Am I right to be worried?

What should be done about third party payments in medicine?

I was fascinated by your statement in your November 7th, 2012 discussion of the election that the real need in medicine was to do away with third party payments. It’s quite a radical proposal, one of the most radical I’ve heard from you. How would you think such a think might be implemented through ethically proper means – as opposed to measures such as legally prohibiting third party payments? Are there types of medical care – perhaps catastrophe illness or injury – where third party payment would need to be kept in place, or where people in a free economy would likely still choose to keep them in place?

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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