New Questions in the Queue

 Posted by on 7 February 2013 at 8:00 am  Question Queue
Feb 072013

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, 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:

Are egoism and altruism mutually exclusive?

Most people have a common-sense view of ethics. They think that a person should spend lots of time pursuing his own goals and happiness. They also think that a person should sometimes set aside such pursuits to help others. Basically, on this view, a person can be an egoist and an altruist. Yet I’ve heard that egoism and altruism are two wholly incompatible moral theories too. So what’s right or wrong about the common sense view?

Shouldn’t egoism be limited to protect others from harm?

You advocate an egoistic ethics, according to which people should always act in their self-interest. However, isn’t such egoism dangerous if unchecked? Wouldn’t the egoist cheat, manipulate, and even murder others in order to get what he wants? Doesn’t egoism need to be restrained by concern for other people and their rights?

How can a person be an effective activist?

Many people want to engage in activism for good ideas – particularly in politics. Yet many of those people burn out or lose interest over time. Many others don’t seem to have much impact. What can people do to be effective long-term activists?

Should I refuse to be the beneficiary of racism or sexism?

When reviewing my job position file, I realized that my job could only be filled by a white female. I’d already planned to leave that job, but imagine that I’d planned to stay. In that case, what should I have done? Should I have left the job or protested in some fashion? (I was working outside the United States, in a country without any anti-discrimination laws.) Morally speaking, is the racism worse than the sexism?

If evolution is true, how can homosexuality be genetic?

According to evolutionary theory, shouldn’t we be seeing a sharp decrease in homosexuality if such is genetic? Reproduction of any “gay genes” is only possible if gays act against their natures, which fewer gays seem to be doing these days. Plus, homosexuality would seem to be a biological defect by the standard of “the survival of the fittest.” Yet instead of any decrease in homosexuality, we’re seeing a sharp increase in it. Does this mean that scientists must choose between evolutionary theory and the view that homosexuality is genetic?

What are “spiritual” values?

In your 27 January 2013 discussion of “Materialism in Marriage,” you talked about the importance of “spiritual values.” However, I found that confusing, since I’ve always associated “spirituality” with religion (often of the woozy variety). So what are spiritual values? How are they different from material values? Why are they important?

Should spouses always share activities?

A friend of mine is loathe to pursue any hobbies or interests that her husband doesn’t share. He’s not controlling: he’s the same way. Although I know that they want to spend time together, that seems really limiting to me. Is that a reasonable policy in a marriage – or does it lead to self-sacrifice and mutual resentment?

Does the idea of innate personality violate the principle of “tabula rasa”?

In past shows, you’ve indicated that you think that some aspects of personality are innate, rather than acquired by experience. If that’s right, isn’t that a form of determinism? Moreover, wouldn’t it violate the principle that every person is born a “blank slate”?

Should dueling and other consensual fights be legal?

In your September 5th, 2012 interview with Dr. Eric Daniels, you discussed some of America’s violent past traditions, including the practice of dueling. While I have no intention of challenging my rivals to mortal combat, I cannot see why this practice should be illegal. The same might be said of less lethal modern variants such as bar fights, schoolyard fights, and other situations where violence is entered into with the mutual consent of both parties. Should such consensual violence be forbidden by law in a free society, not just for children but perhaps for adults too? If so, what justifies allowing more ritualized forms of combat, such as mixed-martial arts fighting, boxing, or even football?

What is the solution to the is-ought problem?

David Hume famously claimed that statements about what ought to be cannot be derived from statements about what is the case. Does that mean that ethics is impossible? Can the gap be bridged, and if so, how?

How can an atheist teenager maintain his integrity in a religious school?

A few years ago, I read Ayn Rand’s novel “Atlas Shrugged” for the first time. After a year of struggling between faith and reason, I chose reason. Unfortunately, I am a teenager, and I am forced to attend church and a religious school. For a time, I was fine coexisting with religious people. However, in the next academic year, I will have to take a class entitled “Christian Apologetics” in which I will have to pretend to be a Christian theologian. Now my integrity is at stake. How should I confront my religious family about my atheism? How can I persuade them to enroll me a different school?

Are reparations for once-oppressed ethnic groups ever proper?

Periodically, we hear calls for reparations by the government to be paid to certain ethnic groups due to past racism, oppression, or slavery. Are such reparations ever ethical or necessary? If so, who should receive them and who should pay for them? When has too much time passed for such reparations? Are reparations based purely on group membership racist? Do they risk promoting racism in the broader culture, particularly among members of ethnic groups not party to the oppression?

Should parents be licensed?

Given the cost to society of parents shirking their obligations to their children, to entrust children to just anyone able to bear that child seems negligent. The state does, after all, forbid chronic drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel again. On the other hand, to give discretionary power to the state over such a personal matter seems very dangerous. Is there any middle ground that would better protect kids from abusive or neglectful parents and protect society from the growing scourge of poor parenting?

Should high-capacity firearms clips be banned?

Many advocates of gun control seek to limit the capacity of semi-automatic handgun clips to ten or even six rounds. Is that reasonable? Are such clips only useful for mass shootings – or might they be necessary for self-defense, such as when faced with home invasion?

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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