[Part of The Molyneux Project; read the main critique here]
My Big Brother Google Analytics thing told me that a whole bunch of people checked out The Molyneux Project yesterday, and I felt really crummy about having set it aside for so long without finishing. Because I really don't have time to be doing this, I'm going to resist every urge in my body to critique every tiny point, and just focus on what I take to be important problems with Stefan's argument. I think this is justified, since the only reason I was doing it before was that I assumed that Stefan would be interested in it, and given the last few conversations I've had with him, I'm no longer sure that this is the case.
Anyway, Stefan concludes his first part by asking why we should even care about morality. He suggestss out that immoral people will not consult moral theories to determine whether they are immoral, and moral people don't need theories in order to continue being good. Further, being moral is no guarantee of safety or wellbeing. Still, Stefan insists that morality is important; he offers that one benefit of being moral is that one will have a lesser chance of being impacted by immoral people.
But remember that Stefan has defined morality in terms of universally preferable behavior. Morals are a set of rules identifying universally preferable behavior--that is, rules telling us what is necessary for the attainment of certain ends. Seen in that light, the purpose of studying morality is obvious. If we want to achieve the ends in question, then we are required to do so morally, because morality is simply a guide for achieving those ends. To put it another way, if we achieve the ends, it must be because we have acted morally, because any action capable of achieving them would fall under the umbrella of preferable actions.
Stefan then goes on to give an explanation of the glory of his task in the context of the darkness and gloom of human history. Hooray.
Starting the next section is a brief heading section entitled "Ethical Categories," in which Stefan tells us that his goal will be to examine how universally preferable behavior "validates or invalidates" common moral propositions. How exactly universally preferable behavior can do this is unclear, since Stefan has redefined most of our normal moral terms in order to fit his positive view of universally preferable behavior.
This can be made clear by an example gives in his next section, "The Seven Categories," where Stefan suggests that refraining from murder is universally preferable and "enforceable through violence." For refraining from murder to be universally preferable, it would need to be the case that murdering would, in every case, be incompatible with achieving certain ends. But I take it that there are at least some situations in which an individual's own ends could be promoted by murder. For example, let's say Clyde stands to inherit a large sum of money from hist dying grandmother. One day, when he went to visit her, she told Clyde that she was considering donating the money to a local group of skinheads, who would use the money to do absolutely horrible things. Being extremely old and weak, Clyde's grandmother is unable to struggle as Clyde smothers her with a pillow. The murder is perfect; no one ever suspects any wrongdoing, and Clyde gets the money. Further, Clyde is not plagued too severely by his conscience. His grandmother was going to die anyway, and a lot of good resulted from those skinheads not getting their hands on that money. If we are to insist that Clyde's behavior was wrong - that it was universally preferable for him to refrain from murdering his grandmother - then we must have in mind some ends which are not Clyde's. Stefan gives no account of these ends.
But more to the point, Stefan gives us no reason for considering Clyde to be evil in the way that our commonsense moral views would command us to. Clyde would simply be acting imprudently; his actions would not be conducive to achieving the ends we have in mind. Stefan would have to explain how these ends, more than having relevance in light of the fact that Clyde doesn't care about them, are actually virtuous and good, so that anyone who does not aim for them is evil.
And even if we grant this, Stefan has not given much of an account of this idea of "enforceability." It's true that he defined ethics and morality as referring to enforceable behaviors on page 48, but he didn't explain why they are enforceable, or what that means. He just said that they could be enforced, and that this enforceability had something to do with the fact that the actions in question were "inflicted" on others. Anyway, that's it for now. I'll try to make time for more later.