Universally Preferable Behaviour: Read Along!

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Universally Preferable Behaviour

If I were a nutritionist, I would tell you all about the science, biology and chemistry of food and digestion – with the express goal, at the end, of convincing you to change your dietary habits in order to improve your well-being.
If I were a personal trainer, I would tell you all about the science and biology and chemistry of stretching and exercise – with the express goal, at the end, of convincing you to change your exercise habits.
My goal in this book is to give you the background, knowledge and expertise to understand the value and purpose of philosophy, which is to get you to change your moral habits.
The purpose of medical research is to provide knowledge that leads to the prevention or cure of disease. There is no purpose in engaging in medical research if no one ends up changing any behaviours based upon the results of that research.
The entire purpose of a smoking cessation program is to have you not pick up a cigarette, light it, and suck on it. Going over the medical, biological and genetic background as to the dangers of smoking is all very important, but it is important only insofar as it helps reinforce your willpower to refrain from smoking that cigarette.
Everything in philosophy comes down to you changing your moral habits – and changing your moral habits requires a deep understanding of the value of good moral habits, and the disasters of bad moral habits.
This may seem like a controversial position, but only because philosophy has been largely hijacked by people who wish to use it for personal gain – such as academics and sophists (often the same category). Therefore, modern philosophy delivers abstractions that are clever, confusing, often annoying, and ultimately worse than useless. Academic philosophy is like an overindulged amateur magician – intrusive, irritating, incompetent, but rarely called out.
The four major branches of philosophy – metaphysics (the study of reality); epistemology (the study of knowledge); politics (the study of state power); and ethics (the study of virtue) – are like the plumbing that delivers water to your sink. Aqueducts, sewers, piping – these all only have value insofar as they enable you to turn on a tap in your house and actually get some clean water. Metaphysics, epistemology, politics and ethics – these have value insofar as they enable you to make and enforce better moral decisions in the world.
Think of the immense amount of research, science, engineering and physics that goes into the design and creation of a car – the purpose of which is to get you from A to B. Few people would buy a car without an engine (unless it was to cannibalize parts for another car with an engine) because a car is not a piece of art, a paperweight, or a hat, but a piece of machinery designed to provide mobility. If you give a paralyzed man a wheelchair with only one wheel, your “gift” is cruelty, not charity. The purpose of a wheelchair is to give someone without the use of his legs mobility, and such purpose is not served with only one wheel.
Think of the engineering complexity and technological genius that is required to serve up a web page to your eyeballs. The whole point is to facilitate your viewing. Without that viewing, everything else is worse than useless. If your monitor won’t turn on, the entire infrastructure becomes useless.

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Comment (26)

  1. A person who has a depth of wisdom and insight is a person who is lonely in that regard, and seeks-out others to communicate with and when finding few, reaches out to anyone who will listen….many times being saddened and frustrated in the walk. The line between narcissism and extreme knowledge is thick, but to a narcissist it is non-existent. Stefan reminds me of the saddened frustrated one who enjoys building the line (teaching) between himself and the narcissist.

  2. Stefan, I wonder about you. You could be covering real issues, but your book is a rant. We prefer when you talk Assange, Trudeau, Trump, ad infinitum. I like and greatly admire your brain, but most people like myself are watching the world crumble around us and wonder why is Stef covering esoteric bull? When your house is burning down, will you be ranting about Kant or Hegelian Dialects???

  3. I was informed of the goal of living a moral life and I was told how to act in order to achieve this goal. I was not convinced, however, that I should adopt this goal, even though in actuality my actions usually involve of not raping, murdering and stealing. I would still consider performing these actions, provided the risk and reward of said actions were appropriate in relation to my chosen goals.

  4. 31:4031:52. Types of action are not what is universally preferable. Is murder universally wrong? No. Is theft? No. Is rape? No. Such things are, indeed, usually wrong. But they are not wrong for the reason most people (including you) think. When murder, theft, or rape is wrong, it is wrong because it reduces the prospects of survival for the actor or for the actor's race, or both. The universal rules aren't specific do's and don't's. Rather they are meta-rules that examine any specific action within the context of survival. If you try, you can imagine hypothetical scenarios in which the failure to steal, or a refusal to murder, is the actual immoral action.

  5. It’s the same question that Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C Clarke asked in 2001 a space Odyssey. The HAL 9000 computer was infallible until he compared himself to man.

  6. What about additives. That which our bodies can't process . snuck in and so on.

    Look into additives. What combinatons kill will?

    Speaking of clean water..

    Define moral whem Christians and others are lead into infanticide and more

  7. The only dangers in life are the one's which you are brainwashed with after birth !
    At birth you are born with unlimited potential,
    which as you grow and age is gradually weaned out of you.
    Grow up ? I think not !
    Like Yoda say's ,
    Don't think , do ,
    Do , or Do Not !

  8. If one subscribes to the concept of universalizable behaviours, one cannot accept the acts of Julian Assange. Theft with a goal for greater good is not universalizable, at least not in deontic reasoning.

  9. I think Stefan is really dumb for not presenting this as a morality beyond good and evil. Nothing about universal preferability makes something actually good. This is an ethical system beyond ethics. Like just complete Nietzsche my Nibb

  10. "communism is socialism and socialism (a plot to enslave the world) is
    not a movement of the downtrodden but a scheme supported and directed by the wealthiest of people."

    None Dare Call it Conspiracy — Dan Smoot, Former Assistant to J. Edgar Hoover

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