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UPB behavior classification, is it complete?

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The UPB book tries to establish a rational proof of fundamental moral rules, which is a laudable effort. However, based on my current understanding of UPB, it seems that the way UPB classifies behavior is incomplete, and that for that reason, adjustments or additions are needed to make it logically sound. The UPB book places human behavior into the categories good, APA, PP, ANA, or evil, according to its definitions. But these are not the only logically possible categories. This is shown in the following table.

 

upbcattab.png

 

APA,ANA = aesthetically positive/negative action

PP = personal preference

X = logical impossibility

 

In UPB reasoning, a behavior is placed in a category mainly by showing it cannot be in any of the other categories. For example: If a behavior cannot be good, APA, or PP, then it must be ANA or evil. But this only works if there are no valid alternative categories. Possible alternative categories are labeled 1 to 9 in the table. For UPB reasoning to fully work the way it is intended, it must be that these alternative categories are empty. Can it be proven these are empty?

 

Categories 1 and 8: the behavior is not morally required, but enforcing it is not morally wrong (and its opposite category)

It seems obvious these categories are empty, but moral nihilists would deny it.

 

Categories 2, 3, 6, 9: the behavior is sometimes required, or sometimes banned

A single action in a specific situation cannot be sometimes required, because it is only a single instance. Once we generalize a behavior, it becomes a possibility that the behavior will be sometimes morally required, and sometimes neutral. In order to prevent this, ethically relevant aspects should not be generalized away. On the other hand, if too much aspects are kept, then the UPB reasoning would also break down, because applying the same behavior to both involved parties would then no longer create a contradiction. If an aspect is generalized away, but many people believe the aspect is ethically relevant, then a valid argumentation should be provided why this aspect is ethically irrelevant.

(Category 3 cannot logically be applicable to forcible actions.)

 

Categories 4, 5, 6, 7: enforcing or forcibly preventing sometimes not banned.

To show or make sure these categories are empty, two things are required:

- It must be shown that the way a preference or behavior is enforced is ethically irrelevant (I think this cannot be shown), or the definition of the UPB classification must be adapted to precisely make the distinction between right and wrong enforcement. (related thread)

- Behavior must be generalized in such a way that the moral status of its enforcement is not effected by the generalization.

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In UPB reasoning, a behavior is placed in a category mainly by showing it cannot be in any of the other categories. For example: If a behavior cannot be good, APA, or PP, then it must be ANA or evil. But this only works if there are no valid alternative categories.

I don't think this is correct. UPB categorizes moral propositions, not behaviors, though that is a bit of a quibble. "Enforceable preferences" get tossed into the category of ethics, so either universal or not. If the moral proposition passes the tests, it is universal, otherwise not. Your analysis may make sense, but it's not UPB, you have some original content in there, in conflict with Stef's version. Accept no substitutes!

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"Enforceable preferences" get tossed into the category of ethics, so either universal or not. If the moral proposition passes the tests, it is universal, otherwise not.

 

Right, and the complementary category of "universal" is "not-universal", which means it still can be valid sometimes, if it is does not pass the universality test. Related to this is the biased standard about what is universal: Negative property right rules are allowed to take into account the context of the action as necessary (who has homesteaded etc.), but other rules are not allowed to do so, because that would supposedly violate universality. The universality rule only makes sense after we have established which aspects are ethically relevant.

 

Your analysis may make sense, but it's not UPB, you have some original content in there, in conflict with Stef's version. Accept no substitutes!

 

My analysis is derived from statements in the UPB book. The five UPB categories are derived from this:

"To help us separate aesthetics from ethics, let us start by widening these categories to encompass any behaviour that can be subjected to an ethical analysis. These seven categories are: ... good, ... aesthetically positive, ... personally positive, ... neutral, ... personally negative, ... aesthetically negative, ... evil."

For simplicity, I have combined the categories "personally positive, neutral, and personally negative" into one category: personal preference (PP). Words ending on "-able" are avoided in my analysis, because they are too ambiguous. I use the word "required" as substitute for "universally preferable". UPB-book quote:

"when I talk about universal preferences, I am talking about what people should prefer"

The word "should" indicates a requirement. The word "banned" is used in the UPB book:

"what is universally banned is simply a mirror image of what is universally preferable"

Banned means it is required to be absent. This confirms the word "required" was a good choice for the opposite category. I have interpreted "enforceable" to mean that enforcing it is never banned.

What is the original content that you think is in conflict with Stef's version?

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Right, and the complementary category of "universal" is "not-universal", which means it still can be valid sometimes, if it is does not pass the universality test.

Valid in what sense? We're talking about a moral proposition that involves use of force, right? Stef's jargon, "enforceable preference." Here valid=universal, invalid=not universal.

Related to this is the biased standard about what is universal: Negative property right rules are allowed to take into account the context of the action as necessary (who has homesteaded etc.), but other rules are not allowed to do so, because that would supposedly violate universality.

This is not clear for me either. "Murder is not UPB." "Stealing is not UPB." But how are "murder" and "stealing" defined, determined?

The universality rule only makes sense after we have established which aspects are ethically relevant.

Not really following you there.

My analysis is derived from statements in the UPB book.

There are two problems with that. First, the book is not completely consistent, but that is not the problem here. Second, in this specific instance, Stef begins with some categories, and then eliminates some later. You're concentrating on some parts, missing the whole.

The five UPB categories are derived from this:

"To help us separate aesthetics from ethics, let us start by widening these categories to encompass any behaviour that can be subjected to an ethical analysis. These seven categories are: ... good, ... aesthetically positive, ... personally positive, ... neutral, ... personally negative, ... aesthetically negative, ... evil."

For simplicity, I have combined the categories "personally positive, neutral, and personally negative" into one category: personal preference (PP). Words ending on "-able" are avoided in my analysis, because they are too ambiguous. I use the word "required" as substitute for "universally preferable". UPB-book quote:

"when I talk about universal preferences, I am talking about what people should prefer"

The word "should" indicates a requirement. The word "banned" is used in the UPB book:

"what is universally banned is simply a mirror image of what is universally preferable"

Banned means it is required to be absent. This confirms the word "required" was a good choice for the opposite category. I have interpreted "enforceable" to mean that enforcing it is never banned.What is the original content that you think is in conflict with Stef's version?

 

Proceed with care in removing the jargon, it is tricky.

Stef uses "enforceable" in a way I find odd and I think it has tripped you up also. An "enforceable preference" means an action that initiates force. For example, rape is an enforceable preference.At the end of Stef's analysis, any moral proposition about force is categorized within ethics, it cannot be aesthetic or neutral. No proposition that is not about force (in some sense) is considered part of ethics, it is aesthetic or neutral. (There is either some brilliant move or lame hand-waving to account for non-violent theft.) You said:

If a behavior cannot be good, APA, or PP, then it must be ANA or evil.

UPB analyses moral propositions, not behaviour. Previous analysis eliminated all involuntary positive obligations, so all UPB compliant moral propositions are prohibitions. Maybe I am being rigid, but I always go in this order: is it a moral proposition? This eliminates some propositions. Does it involve force? This eliminates APA, ANA, and neutral. If it is a moral proposition, is it, universal or not, does it pass the coma test and 2 guys? This eliminates non-universal propositions, leaving us with universal moral propositions that prohibit something. Using this set of propositions, one can analyse particular behaviours into good (not violating any proposition) and evil (violates at least one UPB compliant moral proposition). You proceeded with the analysis as if all 5 categories were relevant throughout the entire process. Maybe this is not wrong, but it is definitely more complicated than necessary, since it is so easy to eliminate many categories (non-moral, non-prohibitions, ANA, APA) easily. Also, you are analysing behaviour instead of moral propositions. This may seem quibbly, but I don't think it is. UPB categorizes moral propositions as universal or not. The moral propositions categorize behaviour into good and evil.

So maybe I was wrong, and nothing you are doing is totally outside UPB. But you're doing it in a way that seems awkward to me.

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Valid in what sense? We're talking about a moral proposition that involves use of force, right? Stef's jargon, "enforceable preference." Here valid=universal, invalid=not universal.

UPB also includes universally preferable behavior that is non-enforceable (called APA). I consider APA and ANA part of ethics, Stef does not. It is a bit of a side issue, because it is a matter of definition.

 

About universality: If we say, a moral proposition must apply universally to all people, this is another way of saying that the differences between people are ethically irrelevant. If we say, a moral proposition must apply universally across all variations of aspect X, this is another way of saying that aspect X is ethically irrelevant. Clearly, moral rules must take into account some aspects (context). For example, if someone swings his fist, this is considered evil only if he hits someone else. So the moral proposition "Swinging your fist is immoral" is invalid. But this does not mean that swinging your first is always neutral. The reason is that "swinging your fist" has removed an ethically relevant aspect (whether someone is hit by it), and therefore, if it is not forbidden universally, it can still be forbidden sometimes.

 

For this reason, I recommend to move the discussion away from the question: Is this moral proposition universal? and towards the question: Is this aspect ethically relevant? Aspects that are considered ethically relevant:

a) (history of) force applied to other humans (=> NAP)

b) whether or not a behavior is preferred by the involved parties (=> permission is important)

c) who first significantly improved a physical object. (=> property rights)

These are not the only ethically relevant aspects. An argumentation is needed to establish whether something is ethically relevant or not.

 

Stef uses "enforceable" in a way I find odd and I think it has tripped you up also. An "enforceable preference" means an action that initiates force. For example, rape is an enforceable preference.

I think this is incorrect. Rape is an enforced preference, but it is not enforceable (without being immoral). UPB-quote: "APAs are not enforceable through violence – you cannot shoot a man for being late". The word "cannot" here means it is wrong to do so.

 

Does it involve force? This eliminates APA, ANA, and neutral.

In which category belongs: a) self-defense that involves force, and b) forcibly preventing non-violent theft ?

 

Also, you are analysing behaviour instead of moral propositions. This may seem quibbly, but I don't think it is. UPB categorizes moral propositions as universal or not. The moral propositions categorize behaviour into good and evil.

Validating a moral proposition implicitly categorizes behavior as moral or immoral.

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UPB also includes universally preferable behavior that is non-enforceable (called APA). I consider APA and ANA part of ethics, Stef does not. It is a bit of a side issue, because it is a matter of definition.

I don't think it is a side issue. You may persuade me that your approach is superior, but it isn't a side issue. I have difficultly expressing why I think that is so, sorry. I may be projecting my own attitudes here. Stef's move eliminating APA and ANA both simplifies the analysis and departs from conventional thinking about morality. In ordinary language, moral questions are not restricted to violent actions, violent self-defense, and violent enforcement of rules. I am torn because I believe that violence deserves it's own category, that it is equivocation to include interpersonal violence and pot smoking in the same category. Perhaps he could achieve this by making subcategories, rather than just eliminating pot smoking from morality.I sympathize in that I feel that readers of the UPB book must construct a jigsaw puzzle out of many pieces, some of which are missing, some of which do not belong. I say "feel" because as my puzzle construction proceeds, I sometimes find pieces that I thought were missing, or find a place for pieces I thought mismatched. So, in effect we must construct our own system, based on ideas from the book, and revise until it makes sense. I think you have made a guess about how the complete puzzle will look, but you are slightly wrong, and it is leading you to concentrate effort on trying to match pieces that don't match. Sorry if that is too metaphorical.

About universality: If we say, a moral proposition must apply universally to all people, this is another way of saying that the differences between people are ethically irrelevant.

It is another way of saying that propositions that categorize actors into different groups are not moral propositions. I think I am agreeing? We are still allowed to categorize persons when they are the object of a moral agent's action. But the moral agent making the decision and taking the relevant action is just a moral agent, discrimination between different sorts of moral agents doesn't work.

If we say, a moral proposition must apply universally across all variations of aspect X, this is another way of saying that aspect X is ethically irrelevant. Clearly, moral rules must take into account some aspects (context). For example, if someone swings his fist, this is considered evil only if he hits someone else. So the moral proposition "Swinging your fist is immoral" is invalid.

I'm not sure I agree, because the fist swinging example doesn't work. If we use UPB, your formulation of the fist swinging moral proposition fails as a moral proposition. That doesn't mean that I may bash your nose at will, it just means the moral proposition relevant to my fist and your nose is a different one, one that passes all the tests.

For this reason, I recommend to move the discussion away from the question: Is this moral proposition universal? and towards the question: Is this aspect ethically relevant? Aspects that are considered ethically relevant:a) (history of) force applied to other humans (=> NAP)b) whether or not a behavior is preferred by the involved parties (=> permission is important)c) who first significantly improved a physical object. (=> property rights)These are not the only ethically relevant aspects. An argumentation is needed to establish whether something is ethically relevant or not.

In other words, we should either abandon UPB entirely, or salvage some interesting bits and combine them with something else. I won't be ready for this until I am sure I understand UPB properly, and believe it is so flawed it cannot be fixed on its own terms. That is, I would write the definitive critique, which would include a simple summary of UPB that Stef would accept as accurate, and an analysis of what we would need to do to make it work, and why that is impossible. What you are suggesting jumps the gun, because although you seem confident you have found an important idea that is missing from UPB, you have not convinced me that you understand UPB on its own terms. You of course are free to do as you like, but I am more interested in finishing what I started. I'm not sure which one is a bigger commitment, a more efficient use of our time.

I think this is incorrect. Rape is an enforced preference, but it is not enforceable (without being immoral). UPB-quote: "APAs are not enforceable through violence – you cannot shoot a man for being late". The word "cannot" here means it is wrong to do so.

I may be overthinking this, or you may be using the jargon better than me. I would never in ordinary speech have thought of rape as an enforceable preference or enforced preference, but a violent act. I was under the impression that there is some ambiguity in Stef's usage in some places. But a quick search does not provide any examples, so I am ;probably wrong.

In which category belongs: a) self-defense that involves force, and b) forcibly preventing non-violent theft ?

Well, certainly not APA, ANA, or neutral. I noted this criticism and quoted labmath2 in the section about punishment, enforcement, and self-defense of my FAQ http://brimpossible.blogspot.com/2014/05/upb-faq-02.html.

Validating a moral proposition implicitly categorizes behavior as moral or immoral.

That's true. But by analyzing at the level of moral propositions, Stef side-steps (side-Stefs?) the is-ought problem. He doesn't make a big deal of it, so maybe I have misinterpreted this, but one way of looking at UPB is a process that evaluates only "is" statements about moral propositions. Or at least, that may be the goal, undermined perhaps by the derivation of some of the concepts (for example, separating violence from non-violence - did that beg the question a bit, sneak in some normative content?). Maybe someone else can help us out if I am wrong.

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