Universally Preferable Behaviour in a Nutshell

austin-in-a-nutshell“Help! I’m in a nutshell! How did I get into this nutshell? Look at the size of this bloody great big nutshell! What sort of shell has a nut like this? This is crazy!”
— Austin Powers

I’m going to attempt to give a concise summary of Stefan Molyneux’s theory of Universally Preferable Behavior.

First, the axioms:

  • Morality is a valid concept.
  • Moral rules are consistent for all mankind.
  • Moral theory is self consistent.
  • Moral theory is consistent with empirical observation.
  • Ethics apply to situations that cannot be avoided.

Next, the seven ethical categories of behavior:

  1. Good. Universally preferable and morally enforceable through violence. E.g. preventing murder.
  2. Aesthetically positive. Universally preferable but not morally enforceable through violence. E.g. being on time.
  3. Personally positive. Neither universally preferable nor enforceable. E.g. eating ice cream.
  4. Neutral, or has no ethical or aesthetic content. E.g. running for a bus.
  5. Personally negative. E.g. eating broccoli.
  6. Aesthetically negative. E.g. rudeness.
  7. Evil. Universally proscribed. E.g. rape.

Then the coma test:

It is hard to imagine that any theory ascribing immorality to a man in a coma could be valid. Any ethical theory that posits a positive action as universally preferable faces the challenge of the coma test. If giving to charity is a moral absolute, then not giving to charity would be immoral. However, a man in a coma is unable to give to charity, and would therefore be classified as immoral. Similarly, one who has no money to give and one currently receiving charity would be immoral.

Finally, according to UPB:

  1. Rape is evil because it is unavoidable, and it is initiated by force
  2. Murder (as opposed to killing in self defense) is evil for the same reasons
  3. Theft is evil because it is unavoidable, and gives the thief a right to property while removing the victim’s right, making that right inconsistent
  4. Fraud is merely negative, because it can be avoided
  5. Lying is merely negative because liars can be avoided

Update (2016-07-11)

I originally included the non aggression principle (or NAP, which is that initiating the use of force is morally wrong) was one of the axioms of UPB. After rereading more carefully, it is not. The NAP cannot be derived from the UPB, but individual acts of aggression can be shown to be morally wrong.

 

Advertisements

About jimbelton

I'm a software developer, and a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, and I blog about movies, books, and philosophy. My interest in religious philosophy and the search for the truth inspires much of my writing.
This entry was posted in philosophy and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Universally Preferable Behaviour in a Nutshell

  1. Pingback: UPB: More Challenging Tests | Jim's Jumbler

  2. Pingback: Is the Non Aggression Principle “True”? | Jim's Jumbler

  3. Pingback: Sophistry for God: William Lane Craig | Jim's Jumbler

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s