Our rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness
can only be secured by a state strictly separated from religion

08 April 2014

The Value of Studying Theology: Philosophy in Action Podcast

By Diana Hsieh

On last Sunday's episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, I answered a question on the value of studying theology. The question was:

Can a rational atheist extract any value from studying theology? Theology includes a mix of arguments for the existence of God, plus views on ethics, and more. It's the earliest form of philosophy. Can a person benefit by cherry picking ideas from theological teachings or does the mysticism and other faults outweigh any benefits?

My Answer, In Brief: A rational atheist can extract quite a bit of value from studying the arguments for the existence of God, religious scriptures, and contemporary religious beliefs and practices. He can better his understanding of the culture, become more culturally literate, understand people better, and develop well-justified views on religion.

Download or Listen to My Full Answer:

Tags: Activism, Epistemology, Ethics, Literature, Metaphysics, Philosophy, Relationships, Religion, Society, Theology

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

A podcast of the full episode – where I answered questions on evolution's ethical implications, cultivating a healthy body image, the value of studying theology, and more – is available here: Episode of 30 March 2014.

You can automatically download podcasts of Philosophy in Action Radio by subscribing to Philosophy in Action's Podcast RSS Feed:
About Philosophy in Action Radio

Philosophy in Action Radio applies rational principles to the challenges of real life in live internet radio shows on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. For information on upcoming shows, visit the Episodes on Tap. For podcasts of past shows, visit the Show Archives.

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21 January 2014

Asking for Rape?

By Diana Hsieh



I found that photo on Facebook a while back, with the following caption:

This photo was posted on STFU, Conservatives Tumblr page last night [here]. The reason why I'm sharing it is not because of the photo itself (which is epic in it's own right), but for the comments it generated.

One person wrote, "but then again, its kind like putting a meat suit on and telling a shark not to eat you".

STFU responded (with bolded text):

We (men) are not fucking sharks!

We are not rabid animals living off of pure instinct

We are capable of rational thinking and understanding.

Just because someone is cooking food doesn't mean you're entitled to eat it.

Just because a banker is counting money doesn't mean you're being given free money.

Just because a person is naked doesn't mean you're entitled to fuck them.

You are not entitled to someone else's body just because it's exposed.

What is so fucking difficult about this concept?

Bravo.

Indeed. Also, Laura Jedeed has some really excellent comments on rape and this image too.

Happily, the rights of women in western countries are more widely recognized and better protected today than at any other time in human history. That's a huge achievement, and part of why I'm grateful to live in modern America.

However, more progress awaits us. One example was in the news last year:

A recent court case just exposed a barbarity in California law, namely that it's not rape to trick an unmarried woman into sleeping with you by pretending to be her boyfriend.

Julio Morales was convicted and sentenced to three years in state prison for entering an 18-year-old woman's bedroom and instigating sex with her while she was asleep after a night of drinking at a house party in 2009. According to prosecutors, it wasn't until "light coming through a crack in the bedroom door illuminated the face of the person having sex with her" that she realized Morales wasn't her boyfriend. Holy shit.

But a panel of judges overturned the conviction this week because of a law from 1872 that doesn't give women the same protections as married women because, as we all know, single women are always down for nonconsensual sex, even when they're asleep and/or purposefully tricked into the act.

The court admitted that "If the woman had been married and the man had impersonated her husband" it would be rape. But since there was no ring on her finger, it's not!

Eugene Volokh had some comments here. I agree that rape by fraud shouldn't be a punishable offense, except in cases of impersonation of a lover or spouse. (I'm not sure of the case of mere friends.) As Eugene says of such impersonation:

It is, thankfully, apparently a rare sort of lie; it is very far outside the normal level of dishonesty that people expect might happen in their relationships; it is one for which there is no plausible justification or mitigation; and criminalizing it is unlikely to sweep in the garden variety lies that, unfortunately, often appear in people's sexual and romantic lives.

California law obviously needs to be updated.

Here's another example. The 2012 election was replete with politicians making ridiculous and offensive comments about rape in order to rationalize their across-the-board opposition to abortion. Most notable was Todd Akin's justification for denying abortions to women pregnant due to rape:

... from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.

Conservatives need to recognize that forced pregnancy -- not just pregnancy due to rape but any unwanted pregnancy -- is a morally abhorrent violation of rights, not a gift from God.

Alas, the third example hits closer to home for me. In a February 2012 podcast, Leonard Peikoff said that a man is entitled to force himself on a woman if she has a few drinks with him and then goes up to his hotel room. Thankfully, he corrected that a few weeks later, but only in part. By a rather strange analysis, Peikoff concluded that a woman cannot withdraw consent after penetration. In reality, that means that the man can do whatever he pleases to the woman after penetration, even as she kicks and screams and yells and cries in protest. That's seriously, seriously wrong -- and dangerous too.

On a more positive note, you'll find my own views on the nature and limits of consent in sex in this podcast. (It's a pretty lengthy discussion... about over 40 minutes.)

Ultimately, my point here is that the rights of women matter -- and they're not yet fully protected. The image at the top of this post reminds us of that. The fact that she's half-naked doesn't make her any less of a person with the absolute right to forbid another person access to her body.

That's a lesson that some people still need to learn, unfortunately.

Read more...

07 January 2014

The Morality of Elective Abortion: Philosophy in Action Podcast

By Diana Hsieh

On Sunday's episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, I answered a question on the morality of elective abortion. The question was:

Is elective abortion morally wrong? Some people support abortion in the cases of rape or incest, as well as in cases of serious medical problems with the fetus or the pregnancy. However, they regard the termination of a normal, healthy pregnancy as morally wrong, particularly as irresponsible. Are such abortions wrong? Does the judgment change if the couple used birth control or not?

My Answer, In Brief: Abortion is a moral choice whenever a pregnancy – let alone raising a child – would be a sacrifice of herself, her goals, and her happiness. For many unwanted pregnancies, an early-term abortion is a far better option than adoption or becoming a parent.

Download or Listen to My Full Answer:

Tags: Abortion, Adoption, Children, Duty, Ethics, Obligation, Parenting, Responsibility, Sacrifice, Self-Sacrifice, Sex

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

A podcast of the full episode – where I answered questions on the morality of elective abortion, liability for injuries on the job, guilt over self-sacrifice, and more – is available here: Episode of 5 January 2014.

You can automatically download podcasts of Philosophy in Action Radio by subscribing to Philosophy in Action's Podcast RSS Feed:
About Philosophy in Action Radio

Philosophy in Action Radio applies rational principles to the challenges of real life in live internet radio shows on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. For information on upcoming shows, visit the Episodes on Tap. For podcasts of past shows, visit the Show Archives.

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12 December 2013

Objectivism Versus Secular Humanism: Philosophy in Action Podcast

By Diana Hsieh

On Sunday's episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, I answered a question on Objectivism versus secular humanism. The question was:

What are the similarities and differences between Objectivism and secular humanism? Objectivism and secular humanism are two secular worldviews. What are their basic points? Are they hopelessly at odds? Or do they share some or even many attributes?

My Answer, In Brief: Secular humanism is an attempt to meld secularism with altruistic and collectivist ethics, plus leftist politics. It's not a coherent philosophy – or well-grounded in facts. I urge secular humanists to honestly consider at Ayn Rand's philosophy as an alternative.

Download or Listen to My Full Answer:

Tags: Epistemology, Ethics, Metaphysics, Objectivism, Philosophy, Politics, Secular Humanism

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

A podcast of the full episode – where I answered questions on Objectivism versus secular humanism, moral judgment of European colonizers, the right time to declare love, and more – is available here: Episode of 8 December 2013.

You can automatically download podcasts of Philosophy in Action Radio by subscribing to Philosophy in Action's Podcast RSS Feed:
About Philosophy in Action Radio

Philosophy in Action Radio applies rational principles to the challenges of real life in live internet radio shows on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. For information on upcoming shows, visit the Episodes on Tap. For podcasts of past shows, visit the Show Archives.

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27 November 2013

Positive Change in Islam: Philosophy in Action Podcast

By Diana Hsieh

On Sunday's episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, I answered a question on positive change in Islam. The question was:

Can Islam change for the better? Many critics of Islam claim that the religion is inherently totalitarian, violent, and repressive – and hence, that change for the better is utterly impossible. An Islamic reformation or enlightenment will never happen, they say. Is that true? More generally, what are the limits of a religion's ties to its own scriptures?

My Answer, In Brief: As in every other religion, Muslims are not bound to the barbaric elements of Islamic texts. Islam can change – and hopefully will, for the better.

Download or Listen to My Full Answer:

Tags: Christianity, Foreign Policy, Islam, Judaism, Philosophy, Religion

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

A podcast of the full episode – where I answered questions on positive change in Islam, self-esteem and appearance, and more – is available here: Episode of 24 November 2013.

You can automatically download podcasts of Philosophy in Action Radio by subscribing to Philosophy in Action's Podcast RSS Feed:
About Philosophy in Action Radio

Philosophy in Action Radio applies rational principles to the challenges of real life in live internet radio shows on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. For information on upcoming shows, visit the Episodes on Tap. For podcasts of past shows, visit the Show Archives.

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24 October 2013

Responsibility & Luck: Now Available

By Diana Hsieh

I'm delighted to announce that my first book, Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame, is now available for purchase in paperback, as well as for Kindle and Nook.

The book defends the justice of moral praise and blame of persons using an Aristotelian theory of moral responsibility, thereby refuting Thomas Nagel's "problem of moral luck." It's an academic work but accessible to anyone with an interest in philosophy.

About Responsibility & Luck

Does the pervasive influence of luck in life mean that people cannot be held responsible for their choices? Do people lack the control required to justify moral praise and blame?

In his famous article "Moral Luck," philosopher Thomas Nagel casts doubt on our ordinary moral judgments of persons. He claims that we intuitively accept that moral responsibility requires control, yet we praise and blame people for their actions, the outcomes of those actions, and their characters -- even though shaped by forces beyond their control, i.e., by luck. This is the "problem of moral luck."

Philosopher Diana Hsieh argues that this attack on moral judgment rests on a faulty view of control, as well as other errors. By developing Aristotle's theory of moral responsibility, Hsieh explains the sources and limits of a person's responsibility for what he does, what he produces, and who he is. Ultimately, she shows that moral judgments are not undermined by luck.

In addition, this book explores the nature of moral agency and free will, the purpose of moral judgment, causation in tort and criminal law, the process of character development, and more.
For more information, including two sample chapters and the detailed table of contents, visit the book's web page.

Again, you can purchase Responsibility & Luck in paperback, as well as for Kindle and Nook.

Paperback Kindle Nook
Like every author, I depend on good reviews of the book on Amazon, social media, and elsewhere. So once you've read Responsibility & Luck, please review it!

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18 September 2013

Atheists Patronizing Religious Businesses: Philosophy in Action Podcast

By Diana Hsieh

On Sunday's Philosophy in Action Radio, I answered a question on atheists patronizing religious businesses. The question was:

Is it wrong for an atheist to patronize religious businesses? Is it an endorsement of religion or failure of integrity for an atheist to buy goods or services from a religious business, such as hiring an explicitly religious (and advertised as such) plumber or joining the local YMCA?

My Answer, In Brief: Most people are religious, and they're good trading partners. However, when a person injects his religion into his business, that's increasing the likelihood of unwanted proselytizing, as well as seeming to endorse his religiosity. In that case, find another person to do business with, if possible.

Download or Listen to My Full Answer:

Tags: Atheism, Boundaries, Business, Integrity, Justice, Religion, Respect, Sanction
To comment on this question or my answer, visit its comment thread.

A podcast of the full episode – where I answered questions on identifying a central purpose, Immanuel Kant on sex, becoming an educated voter, atheists patronizing religious businesses, and more – is available here: Episode of 15 September 2013.

You can automatically download podcasts of Philosophy in Action Radio by subscribing to Philosophy in Action's Podcast RSS Feed:
About Philosophy in Action Radio

Philosophy in Action Radio applies rational principles to the challenges of real life in live internet radio shows on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. For information on upcoming shows, visit the Episodes on Tap. For podcasts of past shows, visit the Show Archives.

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16 September 2013

Becoming an Educated Voter: Philosophy in Action Podcast

By Diana Hsieh

On Sunday's Philosophy in Action Radio, I answered a question on becoming an educated voter that might be of interest. The question was:

How should I educate myself so that I can cast informed votes in elections? I'm 25, and I've never voted in any local, state, or national election. I have good reason for that, I think: I've never been able to educate myself sufficiently on the candidates to be certain of who to vote for. Also, as a marketing student with a passion for advertising and public relations, I don't think I could vote until I'd seen the inside of a campaign team as a member of it, so that I have a personal understanding of how much the candidate presented is real or idealized. I know that that is unrealistic, because I wouldn't know which candidate to work for. Instead of that, what steps could I take to inform myself, without consuming too much time, so that I could vote in the next presidential election?

My Answer, In Brief: A person ought to educate himself before voting, and that's relatively easy to do with a bit of research into the candidate's positions and record.

Download or Listen to My Full Answer:

Tags: Elections, Politics, Voting

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

A podcast of the full episode – where I answered questions on identifying a central purpose, Immanuel Kant on sex, becoming an educated voter, atheists patronizing religious businesses, and more – is available here: Episode of 15 September 2013.

You can automatically download podcasts of Philosophy in Action Radio by subscribing to Philosophy in Action's Podcast RSS Feed:
About Philosophy in Action Radio

Philosophy in Action Radio applies rational principles to the challenges of real life in live internet radio shows on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. For information on upcoming shows, visit the Episodes on Tap. For podcasts of past shows, visit the Show Archives.

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09 September 2013

Coalition for Secular Government Cited in the Wall Street Journal

By Diana Hsieh

I'm delighted to report that the Coalition for Secular Government was mentioned in a recent column in the Wall Street Journal: Bradley Smith: The Supreme Court and Ed Corsi's Life of Political Crime. Here's the relevant tidbit:

In Buckley v. Valeo (1976), and again in Federal Election Commission v. Massachusetts Citizens for Life (1986), the Supreme Court held that the regulatory requirements of operating a political action committee could not be imposed on groups that lacked the primary purpose of supporting or defeating political candidates in elections. But across the country, states are flouting that command, imposing rigid requirements on ordinary citizens who are trying to express their political opinions.

In Colorado, for example, a group of friends calling themselves the Coalition for Secular Government operate a website on which they posted a long policy paper on abortion and church-state relations. The paper concluded by urging Coloradans to vote "no" on a ballot measure. For that, the state says they must register as a political committee and report their activities, income and expenses.

The article begins with an even more egregious case than ours, and it's well worth reading.

Read more...

19 August 2013

Link-O-Rama

By Diana Hsieh

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12 August 2013

Tom Varik on Gay Marriage and Spousal Privilege: Philosophy in Action Podcast

By Diana Hsieh

On Wednesday's Philosophy in Action Radio, I interviewed attorney Tom Varik about "Gay Marriage and Spousal Privilege." The podcast of that episode is now available for streaming or downloading. You'll find it on the episode's archive page, as well as below.

You can automatically download podcasts of Philosophy in Action Radio by subscribing to Philosophy in Action's Podcast RSS Feed:



Podcast: Tom Varik about "Gay Marriage and Spousal Privilege"

As the cause of gay marriage gains ever-more traction, many have wondered whether marriage really matters. Attorney Tom Varik argues that it does. In this interview, he discussed the legal status and importance of gay marriage, including the recent Supreme Court cases, as well as the history and limits of spousal privilege.

Tom G. Varik is an attorney in Cleveland, Ohio, where he currently works for the Social Security Administration. He attended the University of Akron School of Law, earning a JD in 2009. Before that, he studied motion picture production at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, where he produced several short films featured in various international underground film festivals, and earned a BFA in 2006.

Listen or Download:

Topics:
  • The nature of spousal privilege
  • Testimonial privilege
  • Communication privilege
  • A few examples
  • The history of spousal privilege: Funk v. US (290 U.S. 371) (1933), Hawkins v. US (358 U.S. 74) (1958), Wyatt v. US (362 U.S. 525) (1960), Wolfe v. US (291 U.S. 7) (1934), and Trammel v. US (445 U.S. 40) (1980)
  • The proper rule and proper justification for spousal privilege
  • A parent-child privilege?
  • The relevance of spousal privilege to gay marriage
  • Elements of marriage for which people cannot contract
  • The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)
  • The recent Supreme Court Case: Windsor
  • The effects of the patchwork of state laws on gay marriage
  • The Full Faith and Credit Clause
  • The Proposition 8 Supreme Court Case
  • The cultural acceptance of gays

Links:
Tags:
About Philosophy in Action Radio

Philosophy in Action Radio applies rational principles to the challenges of real life in live internet radio shows on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. For information on upcoming shows, visit the Episodes on Tap. For podcasts of past shows, visit the Show Archives.

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09 August 2013

Evolution and Objectivism: Philosophy in Action Podcast

By Diana Hsieh

On Sunday's Philosophy in Action Radio, I answered a question on evolution and Objectivism that might be of interest. The question was:

Does evolutionary theory contradict the principles of Objectivism? I am new to atheism and Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism, and I embrace both wholeheartedly. However, I take issue with the theory of evolution. Atheism seems to imply evolution, but evolution seems to clash with Objectivism. Evolution holds that man is an insignificant piece of the larger, grander picture of the randomness that is life, that man is just one small insignificant step in the collective evolution of the earth, and that man is one with Mother Earth, not superior to it. In contrast, Objectivism holds that man has a purpose and that man is the most significant being, supreme over all other life. Also, Objectivism holds that "A is A" and that "Existence exists." Evolution, in contrast, claims that life came from non-life, fish came from non-fish, and man came from non-man – meaning that A came from non-A. Am I correct in my criticisms? Might some theory other than evolution be more compatible with Objectivism?

My Answer, In Brief: This question is based on major misunderstandings not only of evolutionary theory, but Objectivism too. Evolutionary theory is proven scientific theory that doesn’t conflict with Objectivist principles in the slightest.

Download or Listen to My Full Answer:

Tags: Egoism, Epistemology, Ethics, Evolution, Human Nature, Logic, Meaning, Metaphysics, Objectivism, Rationalism, Science

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

A podcast of the full episode – where I answered questions on identifying dangerous people, evolution and Objectivism, and more – is available here: Episode of 4 August 2013.

You can automatically download podcasts of Philosophy in Action Radio by subscribing to Philosophy in Action's Podcast RSS Feed:
About Philosophy in Action Radio

Philosophy in Action Radio applies rational principles to the challenges of real life in live internet radio shows on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. For information on upcoming shows, visit the Episodes on Tap. For podcasts of past shows, visit the Show Archives.

Philosophy in Action's NewsletterPhilosophy in Action's Facebook PagePhilosophy in Action's Twitter StreamPhilosophy in Action's RSS FeedsPhilosophy in Action's Calendar

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06 August 2013

Tom Varik on Gay Marriage and Spousal Privilege: Wednesday on Philosophy in Action Radio

By Diana Hsieh

On Wednesday's Philosophy in Action Radio, I'll interview attorney Tom Varik about "Gay Marriage and Spousal Privilege." This episode of internet radio airs at 6 pm PT / 7 MT / 8 CT / 9 ET on Wednesday, 7 August 2013, in our live studio. If you miss that live broadcast, you can always listen to the podcast later.

As the cause of gay marriage gains ever-more traction, many have wondered whether marriage really matters. Attorney Tom Varik argue that it does. He will discuss the legal status and importance of gay marriage, including the recent Supreme Court cases, as well as the history and limits of spousal privilege.

Tom G. Varik is an attorney in Cleveland, Ohio, where he currently works for the Social Security Administration. He attended the University of Akron School of Law, earning a JD in 2009. Before that, he studied motion picture production at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, where he produced several short films featured in various international underground film festivals, and earned a BFA in 2006.

To join the live broadcast and its chat, just point your browser to Philosophy in Action's Live Studio a few minutes before the show is scheduled to start. By listening live, you can share your thoughts with other listeners and ask us follow-up questions in the text chat.

If you miss the live broadcast, you'll find the podcast from the episode posted in the archive: Radio Archive: Tom Varik on Gay Marriage and Spousal Privilege. It will be posted on Thursday morning, if not sooner. You can automatically download that and other podcasts by subscribing to Philosophy in Action's Podcast RSS Feed:


I hope you join us on Wednesday evening!

Philosophy in Action Radio applies rational principles to the challenges of real life in live internet radio shows on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. For information on upcoming shows, visit the Episodes on Tap. For podcasts of past shows, visit the Show Archives.

Philosophy in Action's NewsletterPhilosophy in Action's Facebook PagePhilosophy in Action's Twitter StreamPhilosophy in Action's RSS FeedsPhilosophy in Action's Calendar

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