The video Universally Preferable Behavior – Debunked by Josh Cardosi claims to debunk Stefan Molyneux’s theory of UPB. While it makes a solid point about Stefan’s blindness to the fact that his (and my) belief in the value of moral is not derived (at least not clearly to me) from logic, Josh’s claim to debunking UPB is ridiculous. I have pointed out many holes and unproved assumptions in UPB on this blog. This video does not. It’s a shallow attempt at a take down, IMO.
Here’s my summary of the video:
- Josh makes the claim that the argument Stefan makes from the UPB that murder is evil could be used to argue that gay sex is evil. This argument is fatuous, since consensual sex is does not violate the non aggression principle (NAP). Stefan takes the NAP as an axiom, but his arguments for what is evil then follow from the NAP. While the argument connecting the ethical category of evil to the NAP isn’t crystal clear, it is there in UPB.
- Stefan’s dismissal of nihilism is glib, but I agree with it entirely. Max Stirner is an amoral utilitarianist. The utilitarian message is essentially “what’s in it for me?”
- Josh criticizes the fact that Stefan says that adopting UPB is a choice, as if this has bearing upon its validity. Just because following something is a choice does make it untrue (or true). You can choose to ignore the formula for area when figuring out how many floor tiles to buy. That doesn’t make the formula any less true.
- Josh complains that Stefan skirts the question of why should we have morals, and from the clips Josh plays, this seems to be true. When pressed, Stefan seems to appeal to people’s innate sense of morality. I agree that this is not a logical argument for why one should have morals, but it doesn’t invalidate the theory.
The theory of UPB has its holes: arguments from scientific authority, and unstated and unjustified axioms (like the NAP and the principle of avoidability), but they do not invalidate it (merely weaken the argument from logic for its truth). I’d rather trust someone who has a few blind spots in his logic than a morally vacuous nihilist, any day.
In summary, Josh makes no argument for why UPB is invalid, which is rather odd for a video that claims to debunk it. (click bait, anyone?) If you want to take apart UPB, you must go after the axioms it stands on and the logic with which it derives its conclusions from them. This video seems more like an attack on Stefan for saying that morals are valuable, perhaps because he claims his statement is based in logic. It’s hard not to see it as a cynical attempt to cash in on Stefan’s popularity.
I certainly hope that Josh does not, like the caller in the clips he plays, believe in utilitarianism. Stefan is shown saying that utilitarianism is a moral system that could be observed by an amoeba, a statement which Josh goes after vigorously. I would have to agree with Stefan. He might better have said that utilitarianism is the moral system of the sociopath. Not everyone has an innate sense of morality; I feel sorry for people who don’t.