Molyneux’s Ethics Destroyed! Debating “Universally Preferable Behaviour”

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Denouncing UPB

I always start off any serious and fruitful debates with this question:
“I accept that all ideas I propose could be incorrect, and the reverse, that everything I think to be incorrect could be correct. I seek truth, so if I am proven incorrect I will gladly change. I do not take any stake in the outcome of this debate. I ask you to do the same. Do you accept?”

P= Premise
C= Conclusion

P1: “Preferences” are required for life, thought and debating.
P2: Debating requires that both parties hold truth to be both objective and universally preferable.
C: Thus, the very act of debating contains an acceptance of universally preferable behaviour (aka UPB)


Proof 1

P1: The concept UPB must be true.
P2: Arguing against the truth of UPB demonstrates UPB.
C: Thus, no argument against UPB can be true.

P2 is false; If I state a preference for truth over falsehood when debating UPB, that does not mean that I have preference for truth over falsehood in all things. For example, if I were in a situation where I needed to choose between knowing the truth and permanently decreasing the well-being of all life, or to not know the truth but to permanently increase the well-being of all life, I would choose falsehood over truth because I value well-being over truth. Even if I did have a preference for truth over falsehood, it would not be a universal preference, because all other people do not share my preference for truth over falsehood. While I may value truth over falsehood, when it comes to the question of being reunited with dead loved-ones when we die, another person might value falsehood over truth as a result of valuing comfort over truth. What we value personally is not universal.
UPB has asserted that “moral values exist because we hold the belief that moral values exist” which is not the same as demonstrating that moral values actually exist. For example, if all people believe that the moon is made of cheese, that wouldn’t make it so.

Proof 2

P1: All organisms require UPB to live.
P2: man is a living organism.
C1: Therefore all men are alive due to the practice of UPB
C2: Thus any argument made against UPB requires an acceptance and practice of UPB.
C3: So, no argument against UPB can be true.

P1 is circular reasoning since it is also implicitly included within C1. This is stating, “that because all living organisms require UPB to live, all living organisms cannot argue against UPB because they are alive.”
Here is a comparison to show this error: Risos asks, “How do you know the bible is divinely inspired?”, William reponds, “because it says in the 3rd chapter of 2 timothy, that ‘all scripture is given by divine inspiration of God”.
Risos asks, “How do you know all organisms require UPB to live?”, Stefen responds, “ organisms are alive because they practice UPB.”
Since P1 is circular with C1, all other points are unsupported. Also, notice that C1 states “practice” of UPB, while C2 states “acceptance and practice”, which is also unsupported even if the argument were sound, it still wouldn’t be valid. Thus, it is a formal fallacy; a non sequitur, since it does not follow from the premises.

Proof 3

P1: For a scientific theory to be true, it must be supported by empirical observation.
P2: If UPB is true, humans should believe in UPB.
P3: All men believe in UPB
C: Therefore evidence exists to oppose the idea that UPB is not true.

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