Universally Preferable Behaviour may seem to be a rational alternative to morality but is it?

Stefan Molyneux in Universally Preferable Behavior: A Rational Proof of Secular Ethics argues that instead of morality we should use the expression universally preferable behaviour. For Molyneux, universally preferable behaviour is libertarian and rational. Anybody who understands the why behind it will see it makes sense. Universal means that the behaviour is not preferable regardless of time or place. It is always and universally preferable. This is an argument for a rather liberal morality that doesn't overdo rules. It is bigger than the moral agreements people have about details. Two people have basically the same deep preferences though there will be differences in the detail.

He is redefining morality as UPB but I see no need to do that. UPB should replace morality. He calls it ethics. Ethics is a term that covers standards but not necessarily moral ones. An animal rights charity may declare animals equal to humans. That's the policy it has. It is its ethic but it does not mean it expects morality to agree with this.

He starts out by saying that some preferences are preferences you should have and others are preferences you should not have and that everybody should be in one mind about what is best to prefer. He declares them binding which mean they can be forced on others. He insists that people with bad preferences must be corrected.

The problem is you cannot make people prefer what you want them to prefer and what if we generally preferred to eliminate anybody who reaches 60? How does he get a should?

He says that our preference is that for murder to be simply wrong.  Murder is the behaviour.  Murdering anybody who reaches 60 is only a subset of murder.  The problem is murder not the kind of murder.  He writes, "I also cannot logically argue that it is wrong for some people to murder, but right for other people to murder. Since all human beings share common physical properties and requirements, proposing one rule for one person and the opposite for another is invalid — it is like proposing a physics theory that says that some rocks fall down, while other rocks fall up. Not only is it illogical, it contradicts an observed fact of reality, which is that human beings as a species share common characteristics, and so cannot be subjected to opposing rules". Against this it is argued that facts about say physics only illustrate physics but morality is a different subject.  It is another failure where an IS is mistaken for an OUGHT.  The examples he gives have nothing to do with it. We still need to be shown why we cannot contradict moral law.

One might say that if God has revealed that he applies consistency and this runs through all laws, biological or ethical or whatever, then we are meant to use them as valid parallels.  To say different is to deny that God might have done this and thus to say there is no God.  If God might have done something and you flat out say there is no might then that is rejecting faith in God.

Anyway being forced to prefer anything contradicts our preference that we be free to prefer what we prefer.

He writes, "If I argue against the proposition that universally preferable behavior is valid, I have already shown my preference for truth over falsehood — as well as a preference for correcting those who speak falsely". This he says by default means a willingness and preference to correct the bad preferences of others. It is objected that it shows what the preferable behavior is to you but it still does not imply that you should fix others. What if you should not for they should do it themselves? There is still no obligation that one may prefer to impose on others. He gets preferred behaviour but not universally preferred behaviour.

One might then say that not imposing is still an action. You might try to neither impose or not impose. This is impossible but forget that for the purpose of argument. Doing neither is still doing something. So the menu consists of:

Obligation to impose

Obligation to not impose

Obligation to do either which is the same as an obligation to do neither.

Thus we can succeed in getting something universal. It is that we always interact in some way. It makes no sense for that something to be just anything so it must be something preferable.  But it still does not tell us what preferences we should have.  All of us preferring x does not make x just or loving.

People see morality as being about justice and love and preferences as a different thing.

At best with this, we have the best of morality but not morality. Who cares? Do we really care if the worst serial killer is dealt with firmly on the basis of morality as long as he or she is dealt with?


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