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David Ottinger

Possible Error UPB pg 126 and Applying UPB...

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First off, I really wish we had more examples broken down somewhere to reference for thought analysis.  Anyhow... to the possible error...

 

I might be misunderstanding something, but shouldn't under the 'Universal' column for row 'Running for the bus' be classified as 'not available'?

 

Because, if there is no preference, then why are we evaluating if it is Universal or Personal?  Doesn't make much sense, unless I'm missing something here.

 

 

 

This confusion came about because I'm trying to evaluate the following assertion:  "It is universally preferable for people to live than to die.  People need blood to live.  If you do not donate blood, then people will not get blood, and they will die.  It is thus a moral imperative for you to donate blood in order to prevent people from dying."

 

So, I broke that down into the two respective prescriptive behaviors as follows for evaluation:

 

(1) You should give blood; and

(2) You should prevent people from dying.   
 

 

And, I'm having trouble evaluating them...

(1) "You should give blood"

Is there a preference?   Yes

Is it universal?  No.

Enforceable? Yes..right?  'Cause you can forceblly take blood, right?

Requires initiating action on part of the victim? No

Can violators be avoided?  N/A

Moral Category:   Neutral (personal preference)


(2) "You should prevent people from dying."

Is there a preference?  No..?  I mean, it's not really my choice.  But, what if I'm doctor? 

Is it universal?  N/A if preference is no, right?  

Enforceable? No.

Requires initiating action on part of the victim?  N/A

Can violators be avoided?  N/A

Moral Category:   ???

 

 

I'm completely lost here... :(

 

 

 

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You could go simpler with something I believe passes UPB.  No unchosen positive obligations.  Giving blood is really no different from taxation.  Everyone has a limited supply of money (blood) from which they can give all of what is required to survive(lose enough blood to die), or a percentage(give a portion) to help someone else.  Taxation involves taking it by force (which would be the same in your blood example) and the moral case is no different.  In modern societies, a lack of money could mean death, same for a lack plasma, or platelets.  If Stef tackles taxation in the book, which I think he does, try to view giving blood in the same regard and see if you still have questions.

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(2) "You should prevent people from dying."

Is there a preference?  No..?  I mean, it's not really my choice.  But, what if I'm doctor? 

 

Is it universal?  N/A if preference is no, right?  

 

Enforceable? No.

 

Requires initiating action on part of the victim?  N/A

 

Can violators be avoided?  N/A

 

Moral Category:   ???

 

 

I'm completely lost here... :(

 

You've touched on the area that UPB refers to as aesthetically preferable actions (APA) I believe. This situation would be considered as morally neutral. However, these actions can come with consequences. A doctor that actively refuses to help a dying patient will be seen as a poor doctor and is likely to lose custom as a result of his inaction. However, a doctor that fights to save a patients life to no avail, will be considered as having done the best he could. Either decision potentially ends up with a dead person, but the choice to intervene or not will be judged by the wider world independently.

 

Perhaps I'm confusing the point with my analogy, but UPB is concerned with the enforceable part of a moral theory. In this case it is clearly not a UPB violation.

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You could go simpler with something I believe passes UPB.  No unchosen positive obligations.  Giving blood is really no different from taxation.  Everyone has a limited supply of money (blood) from which they can give all of what is required to survive(lose enough blood to die), or a percentage(give a portion) to help someone else.  Taxation involves taking it by force (which would be the same in your blood example) and the moral case is no different.  In modern societies, a lack of money could mean death, same for a lack plasma, or platelets.  If Stef tackles taxation in the book, which I think he does, try to view giving blood in the same regard and see if you still have questions.

 

I appreciate the response.  However, I don't think it quite addresses the given assertion.  Your response is evaluating the given assertion from the assumption that blood donations would be forced.  If that was the case, then that's a pretty clear cut case, imo, of a NAP violation. 

 

But, I'm trying to look at this from a point of virtue.  So, take that you're not being forced to give blood. 

 

This blood example came about because I suggested that if one could establish a universal principle that makes helping others a moral imperative, then it would change my mind in thinking that helping others is not a moral obligation. 

 

This really is an age old question:  Are you your brother's keeper?

 

'Brother' being fellow man.

 

Liberals try to make sympathy a moral imperative. They try to argue that the plight of others is everyone's burden.

 

So, I think this belief is one of the core beliefs assumed by liberals -- one of the major advocates of statism.  So, I think breaking this down is important as moral arguments are what make up a particular form of governance. 

 

They're clearly taking a utilitarian stance that violating the NAP is justified because everyone's overall burdens are lessened. 

 

That's obviously a slipper slope. 

 

Basically, if a civilization is developed insofar as to have an abundance of resources/goods that would cover the basic needs of survival (e.g. food, water, shelter, medical care), then there is no valid reason those would not be provided, right?

 

I find that Liberals believe that's happening today. i.e. That resources are being horded insofar as to prevent people from being able to satisfy their survival needs.  Again, government clearly is not the right answer. 

 

Nonetheless, I have to ask myself, is there a universal principle here that we're over looking?  

 

I forget what video it was, but it's possible that even Stefan alludes to it.  He was addressing a hypothetical, and it went something like, "If there is a guy dying of thirst and you have an abundance of water, and you don't give it to him, then you're a dick."

 

To me that sounds like there is some sort of universal preference that is being overlooked.  Otherwise, we wouldn't feel justified in calling that guy a dick. 

 

So, if we could break down the blood donation example I provided, then maybe we could dispell this utilitarian paradox. 

You've touched on the area that UPB refers to as aesthetically preferable actions (APA) I believe. This situation would be considered as morally neutral. However, these actions can come with consequences. A doctor that actively refuses to help a dying patient will be seen as a poor doctor and is likely to lose custom as a result of his inaction. However, a doctor that fights to save a patients life to no avail, will be considered as having done the best he could. Either decision potentially ends up with a dead person, but the choice to intervene or not will be judged by the wider world independently.

 

Perhaps I'm confusing the point with my analogy, but UPB is concerned with the enforceable part of a moral theory. In this case it is clearly not a UPB violation.

 

Right, so is there a universal principle there? 

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Right, so is there a universal principle there? 

 

No, because the choice is not (UPB) enforceable, despite the consequences.

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So, if we could break down the blood donation example I provided, then maybe we could dispell this utilitarian paradox. 

David, 

 

I appreciate where you are going with this.  I think this is a multilayered argument.  First, if I have a financial problem, first I have savings, then I have credit, then I have family, then friends, and then church/community, and then finally the government to turn to, in that order, for help.  That's my personal idea of it, so yours/others might differ.  Typically the 'liberal' says "what if you don't have any of those sources?" They never say "why" in their example of the person who has no one to turn to except the government?  Their argument generally does not make any sense.  That's one layer.   

 

Second.  If I want to put forward generally that it's a good idea to help one's neighbor, I think that's fine.  But when I take that idea and use it to justify using force to "help" I just changed the subject.  We're not talking about whether it makes sense to give to those in need, anymore.  We're talking about whether it's ethical to rob peaceful people at gunpoint.  To play 'Robin Hood.'  UPB handles that part of the discussion, so there's nothing to discuss there. 

 

Somehow people conflate the two, and act as if they are the same topic.  That I honestly don't know how to deal with.  I don't know how to make a compelling emotional argument (that's what I think we need in this conversation) that manages to get our neighbors/brothers helped without hurting our other neighbors/brothers in the process.

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"it is universally preferable for people to live rather than to die." From my (imperfect) understanding of UPB, this obligates me to live, not to insure that anyone else lives, if we accept it as true. Hence, it obligates me to try to find blood if I need it, but no one else is obligated. (Does it obligate me to steal blood if none is available by peaceful means?)

 

Maybe the problem is that "you should live" is not really a moral proposition at all? How far am I obligated to go to avoid death? Risk of death?

 

Use the "coma test." If the man in a coma refuses or fails to give blood, shall we punish him? This seems pretty clearly to indicate that "you must give blood" is not UPB.

 

If "you must give blood" is really UPB, then everyone, even the recipients of the blood, would need to be donating blood at all times. Having donated yesterday or earlier today is not good enough, because it's universal, binding at all times in all places to all persons.

 

Actually, this is one of the most head-scratchingest parts for me, though maybe I have an interpretation that works. Look at what is punished (physical self-defense = ethical violation; shunning, ostracism, other nonviolent social sanctions = aesthetic; no punishment = neutral). Why not "sometimes give blood?" That would be the same as declaring it aesthetic (or even neutral?), since you're not punishing either behaviour, donating or not donating. (?) My impression is that Stef draws this line, violate UPB and you earn a violent response. Does that work?

 

I blogged about Stef's idea of universality at http://brimpossible.blogspot.com/2013/12/the-u-in-upb-universality.html. I am still trying to figure it out.

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