Did Stephen Woodford Debunk UPB?

upb-debunkedStephen Woodford of Rationality Rules claims to debunk Stefan Molyneux’s theory of universally preferable behavior in his video Universally Preferable Behaviour – Debunked (Stefan Molyneux Refuted). He does a good job disassembling Molyneux’s proofs that UPB is correct, but then claims that since the proofs are incorrect, the theory is therefore entirely incorrect. Woodford thereby commits one of his own sins: a hasty generalization.

To me, one of the most powerful arguments for UPB is the case Molyneux makes as to why murder is universally unpreferable. Put succinctly, it is that you cannot prefer to be murdered, because by definition, the victim of a murder does not want to be murdered.

Perhaps there are no universally preferable behaviours, but there do seem to be universally unpreferable behaviours. UUB doesn’t have the same ring to it as UPB, so I see why Molyneux chose to frame his philosophy as he did.

I find an irresistible parallel to human rights here. Negative rights (the right to freedom of speech, for example) are demonstrably possible: just don’t interfere with anyone’s speech. Positive rights (the right to health care, for example) are less amenable. Health care requires resources. Does your “right” to health care give you the right to compel others to provide those resources?


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.

2 Responses to Did Stephen Woodford Debunk UPB?

  1. Brent says:

    Murder is defined by the state. That is why war is not murder. Since murder is defined by the state, the murder of someone who wishes to commit suicide is still murder. The act of suicide itself is defined as murder by someone who wants to be murdered. Hence your argument fails

    • jimbelton says:

      Um, the state does not have the right to “define” murder. Killing in war is murder, unless it is done in self defense or defense of others. Assisting suicide is not murder, because it’s not an act of aggression. Hence, you are entirely wrong on all points.

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 )

Connecting to %s