Saturday, January 24, 2015

Philosophy Weekend: News from Philosophy in Action

By Diana Hsieh

Every Saturday, I post the news of the week from my primary work, Philosophy in Action, where I apply rational principles to the challenges of real life. Here's this week's update.

Upcoming Radio Shows


Philosophy in Action Radio broadcasts live over the internet on most Sunday mornings and Thursday evenings. Below are the episodes upcoming this week. I hope that you join us! More upcoming episodes can be found here: Episodes on Tap.

Sunday morning, 25 January 2015: Q&A on Ultrahazardous Activities, Declining Gift Solicitations, and More

I'll answer these questions on the live broadcast of Philosophy in Action Radio on Sunday morning, 25 January 2015.
  • Question 1: The Regulation of Ultrahazardous Activities: Would the government of a free society issue bans/regulations to prevent harmful activity? At the turn of the 20th century it was common to use cyanide gas to fumigate buildings. Although it was well-known that cyanide gas was extremely poisonous and alternatives were available, its use continued and resulted in a number of accidental deaths due to the gas traveling through cracks in walls and even in plumbing. With the development of better toxicology practices, these deaths were more frequently recognized for what they were and at the end of summer in 1825 the NYC government banned its use. In this and other situations, it was recognized that the substance in question was extremely poisonous and could only be handled with the most extreme care – care that was rarely demonstrated. The question is this: Should the government step in and ban the substance from general use or should it simply stand by and wait for people to die and prosecute the users for manslaughter. Or is there another option?
  • Question 2: Declining Gift Solicitations: 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?
The live broadcast begins at 8 am PT / 9 MT / 10 CT / 11 ET on Sunday, 25 January 2015. The podcast will be posted later that day. For more details, check out the episode page.

Thursday evening, 29 January 2015: Q&A on Doctrine of Double Effect, Being Helpful, Sports Fans, and More

I'll answer these questions on the live broadcast of Philosophy in Action Radio on Thursday evening, 29 January 2015.
  • Question 1: Doctrine of Double Effect: Is the doctrine of double effect true? The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy says: "The doctrine (or principle) of double effect is often invoked to explain the permissibility of an action that causes a serious harm, such as the death of a human being, as a side effect of promoting some good end. It is claimed that sometimes it is permissible to cause such a harm as a side effect (or 'double effect') of bringing about a good result even though it would not be permissible to cause such a harm as a means to bringing about the same good end." How has this principled used in analyzing real-world ethics? Is it true? Why or why not?
  • Question 2: Being Helpful to a Disliked Co-Worker: Should I do something nice for a coworker I dislike? There's a lady at work that I dislike. My conflict with her is primarily merely a conflict of personality. I find her defensive, passive-aggressive, and awkward to the point of rudeness. I am also not very impressed with her work products, but that rarely has a direct impact on me – except when I'm asked to review them – as is the fact that she only seems to work for about six hours every day. Indirectly, of course, her eccentricities and poor work quality cast our team in a very poor light and could eventually serve as a reason to dissolve or lay off our team. It's a mystery as to why she hasn't been fired. But I'm not her manager. In a meeting earlier today, she made a remark that she thought she was being excluded from important meetings that are relevant to her work. The truth is that she's not being actively excluded from these meetings, but rather everything is happening so fast and the meetings aren't always planned, so it's really just not possible to include her in those meetings. She would probably be heartened to understand better how these events take place in our company. (She's rather new, and I am very tenured.) She might feel better about her position and she might become less defensive about things if she had a better understanding of the organizational mechanics here. But I strongly dislike her and would prefer that she seek other employment. Should I be kind and explain those mechanics or not?
  • Question 3: Collectivism among Sports Fans: Are sports fans collectivists? A friend of mine thinks that sports fans are living vicariously through the players and are thus collectivistic. I think this is an overgeneralization from contact with super-fans of pro sports. Getting mad when "my" team loses and saying things like "we won" are some of the examples of the collectivist thinking he cites. Is there a logical link between fans and collectivism or are super-fans inherently collectivistic, even if it is compartmentalized? Is team competition or "us-versus-them mentality" a good indicator of someone that should be avoided as a friend or partner?
The live broadcast begins at 6 pm PT / 7 MT / 8 CT / 9 ET on Thursday, 29 January 2015. The podcast will be posted later that day. For more details, check out the episode page.


Recent Podcasts


The podcasts of last week's radio shows are now available. Check out the full collection of past radio shows in the podcast archives, sorted by date or by topic. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast RSS feed too.

18 January 2015: Q&A on Right to Die, Marriage without Love, Creating Art, and More

I answered these questions on Sunday's Philosophy in Action Radio:

Should a person who does not wish to live be forcibly prevented from committing suicide? Should people who merely like and respect each other ever marry? Is creating art necessary for a moral life?

You can listen to or download the podcast below, and visit the episode's page for more, including audio files for individual questions.

Recent Blog Posts


Here are last week's posts to Philosophy in Action's blog NoodleFood, ordered from oldest to newest. Don't miss a post: subscribe to NoodleFood's RSS Feed.
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