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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Molyneux in the beginning

I received an interesting post from a disciple of Molyneux. Here it is:
"I accept Stefan Molyneux's underlying philosophy, Universal Preferable Behavior, which has nothing to do with families. However, one of the consequences of that philosophy is that the initiation of force or threat thereof is immoral. From that follows Molyneux's definition of abuse that you find so abhorrent.
You should start at the beginning, rather than the end."

I see three things in this post.
The First is that UPB – Universally Preferred Behaviors is an authoritative Philosophy. It is not. UPB is a disconnected, poorly framed series of bad analogies, and shoddy thinking. If anyone cares to dig into the flaws and failures of UPB, you can visit here to see that UPB really isn’t much.


The second is that Use of initiation of force or its threat thereof is immoral: Moly really believes Pacifism is an absolute. It is a zero tolerance condition. There is to be no violence…ever…..for any reason. This is so ingrained into the FDR frontal lobe that they mix threats and real force together as if they are the same thing. For example, any (I mean any) law of the state as an act of violence. Any firm form of discipline by a parent (including a firm word of rebuke) is violence. In this respect and many others, FDR is much more like a religion than a philosophy. Think Quakers. UPB puts forth a set of behaviors and insists that the followers believe. They say it is a conscious decision to believe and it is. But so is the conscious decision to be a Catholic. Also like Religion, UPB has a set of circular reasoning so any argument about its validity can be rebuked with its own self sustaining logic. It is really very much like Religious dogma.

Moly goes back and forth on self defense (and the defense of property), as a rationale for violence. But in the end, it is a problem for him. He has to maintain complete intolerance of violence to hold his position of moral superiority. I remember listening to one of Moly’s early podcasts. He twisted himself into a pretzel trying to prove that the self defense does not justify violence. He made one argument after another. He came up with analogy, after example, after anecdote. Each one was more strained and incoherent than the last. Of course he couldn't make the case. Anyone can think of countless examples when force and the threat of force is the exact correct and moral choice. Did anyone see the sickening bus video of a kid being brutally beaten. Can you think of a moral use of force? Of course you can. We look to philosophy and values that help us determine when violence is allowable and when it is immoral. What are its limits? Etc. Mindlessly calling for pacifism in all cases is an abrogation of philosophy.

Let’s simplify this with another example or two. A toddler is reaching for a $10,000 Ming vase in a store. He is going to knock it over. Mom notices just in time. She firmly says, “NO!” as she slaps the child’s hand and prevents the damage. The bank account is saved. And the child got a solid memory impression that knocking things off shelves is a bad idea. In Moly’s world of NON-Philosophy, this is an act of abuse that the child can look to and remember as the prima facie evidence of the corruption and abuse they received while growing up in that terrible home. Sometime later, the child reaches for a product on a shelf and the mother sternly says, “NO!” The child stops. No slap involved. hmmm Some would think the child is learning self discipline and beginning to figure out the boundaries of acceptable behavior. Not Moly. Moly says that the mother is threatening violence. Another example of an immoral and abusive parent. And on it goes. In one pod cast, a teenage girl was talking to him about how she felt so helpless when her mother would “not listen to her.” She would go to her room and cry in frustration. Moly could barely contain his glee. He helped the caller to understand that her mother was committing violence against her since the only logical end of an argument with a parent is violence. Therefore it is abuse. Then he goes on and says the mother did not really love her. How could she if she treated her like that. As stupid as this is, it is real and true for those who follow UPB and FDR.

I have another one. This is priceless. Did you know that faithful believers in FDR have no problem threatening the use of force? You can refer to my report on the Philadelphia Debate for the full story. When my brother approached my son to talk to him in the lobby. He was certainly did not represent any sort of physical threat to my son. Stil, a group of FDR Molypods collected around my son to prevent his Uncle from approaching him. This group was MOST CERTAINLY showing A THREAT of violence to my brother. Now in fairness, in their warped state of consciousness, they may have actually thought my brother was a physical threat. If so, I would argue they acted morally. They were protecting their friend. But that is my view of morality. Not Moly’s. (Ironically in Moly's sloppy description of UPB, they might be behaving with an end in mind and therefore they were behaving properly. Maybe I will go into this in another post someday).

Also on that day, a Molypod approached my friend who was handing out brochures and threatened him with being removed by security if he did not stop his activity. That is really rich. They are calling on the state to suppress an opposing view. It must have been unnerving that they couldn't just ban my friend's IP address from the FDR site. I wonder if banning those who dissagree with FDR dogma is an act of violence on their part?

The third item is a suggestion to start at the beginning. Let’s do that. Moly’s early writings are instructive. It is here, where he is unfiltered. He gives his true thinking and beliefs. Ever since the Philadelphia Debate, when Moly was directly and publicly challenged, he has retreated from his real beliefs. Moly has knuckled under to the pressure of being exposed for what he is. So here is the beginning. In his early days he said things like this in his essay, “Are People just Stupid.” He honestly seems to think he is the only source of real and beneficial parental practices and thinking. Here is an excerpt: The narcissism is staggering. He seems to contend that all (maybe except for himself and Christine) parent’s don’t have a clue and he refers to John Locke as the last competent philosopher as the rationale? Cut me a break. Anyway, here is Moly in the beginning. He wrote this long before he was a father.

When raising children, parents have absolutely no idea what they’re doing. Why should children obey them? Because parents are right? Hell no – ask parents why they hold their beliefs, they don’t have a clue. How could they? The last competent philosopher was probably John Locke, over three hundred years ago. The general social stream of ideas is just muck and confusion, designed by evil people to baffle and paralyze any good souls that accidentally emerge from the sick swamps of modern thought.
Average parents can no more reinvent morality from scratch than they can build a Space Shuttle in their backyards. Still, they have to get their children to obey them – how do they do it?
Oh, the usual suspects. Guilt, shame, withdrawal, criticism, bribery, bullying, manipulation – the usual crap that has passed for parenting throughout history. Guilt, shame and bullying always rush to fill the void when logical morality loses favour, because children must be taught, and if no carrots are to be found, sticks will always just have to do.
So face it: your parents were bullies, or weak curriers of favour, or manipulative emotional infants themselves. You have no respect for them, for respect requires courage, and courage requires logical morality. You do not love them, since love demands virtue, and manipulating children into blind obedience is not at all virtuous. There are only a few possible responses to modern parents:
- Contempt
- Indifference
- Boredom
- Hatred
- Empty conformity
These are usually mixed into an over-stimulating frappe of conflicting emotions, leaving family gatherings fraught with tension, alienation, dissociation and emptiness.

For more information on Moly's early foundation, visit http:///

So to the person who made this post: From the beginning Moly has had a neurotically distorted view of abuse. When you say that UPB has nothing to do with the family, I am not so sure? The non-violence messaging of UPB is the beginning, middle and end of Moly’s method for persuading young people to leave and remain apart from their families. If you look to the beginning, it appears Moly's obsession with the idea that all parents are bad is the beginning of UPB. You may want to take a moment and get some perspective. A = A. Use your head and truly evaluate your beliefs. Try Objectivism. Try anything. Just give yourself a chance to see beyond FDR and UPB. If you look at your life and you only associate with other FDR members, this may be your first clue that something is amiss.


  1. You certainly turned everything I said on its head. And we both got the name of UPB wrong. It's Universally Preferable Behavior.
    The gist of UPB is that, for some action to be moral, it must be valid for all people, at all times, and in all places. That's it. From that flows everything else. This is the beginning I meant. Start with the premises and follow them to their logical conclusion. In many ways the resulting philosophy is identical to Objectivism. The laws of existence, identity, and consciousness are intact. Some issues, such as the role and morality of government and abortion, are in diametrical opposition.
    You conveniently forgot that it's the *initiation* of force that is immoral. Self-defense is moral (although Mr. Molyneux has expressed doubts about even that), since it's a reaction to someone else initiating the force. Regarding the child and the Ming vase, the slap is immoral and unnecessary. Simply moving the child's hand or body out of the way would suffice. A lesson may still be learned, but that's immaterial. Initiating violence for the sake of a lesson is immoral. ANY and ALL initiation of force is immoral, so its ends are never justified. This is why governments and everything they do are immoral and should be abandoned as soon as possible. Anything good that a government can do (if there is such a thing) can and should be done by a free market, which will do the task, if it should be done at all, better and cheaper and, most importantly, more morally, than any government can.
    You seem to think that destroying families and donating to FDR are the main focuses of Mr. Molyneux's work. They are not. His goal is the discovery and spread of truth. The rest is incidental, even trivial. And most people, including yourself, simply don't want to hear it.
    Steven Wayne Lytle

  2. Hi, Steven--

    I really hope you don't mind if I chime in here. I'm not a parent but I saw your comment and have a few doubts about the points you raise. First, evidence suggests to me that Molyneux actually developed his attitude toward families first and UPB second. His article "Are People Just Stupid?" appeared months before his first article that only suggested the possibility of UPB. More important, Molyneux's credits the beliefs regarding on parents and family expressed in that essay to his wife Christina. In other words, the roots of those beliefs are in Psychology, not Philosophy. That essay indicts nearly all parents everywhere. The clear message is parents are bullies and you don't love them.

    You say one must start at the beginning, rather than the end. From a historical perspective, I believe Molyneux's psychology-based views regarding what constitutes abuse came first.

    I think there is something to the fact that Molyneux does not post this foundational essay on his home page for all to read and react to before they first enter the site. If he no longer believes it, then why not publicly repudiate it and delete it? If he does believe it, then why hide it? If you say that it is one obscure essay then you should know I'm literally drowning in quotes--some that I have already published and some that I have yet to publish--that are completely consistent with the beliefs stated within. If he repudiates and deletes that essay he has a lot more deleting to do--the entire book "On Truth" is based on it.

    I don't know if I'd say "destroying families" is the main focus of FDR but at the same time I have fully documented that FDR is a tool developed by Stefan and Christina to pry young people away from their belief in the "inherent virtue" of parents. That's fine, but when Molyneux adds his absolutist philosophy to it, his unintentional net result is that he literally pries people away from their families. That's not my opinion--everything I claim here is (almost too) heavily documented on my site. (

    ...continued in next comment

  3. ...continued from previous comment

    Regarding UPB: outside of FDR, I have found very few people, if any, who believe that UPB can do anything more than test whether a moral proposition is internally consistent. In other words, it is as comfortable validating a nihilist philosophy as anything else--as long as the logic is consistent. I have gathered and published links to most of the people outside FDR who have written or released a video analyzing UPB and most of their arguments are well-thought out and well-stated. I don't think that Molyneux has made the case that he has somehow managed to derive an "ought" from an "is."

    It is hard to discount those criticisms and again, there is something to the fact that people who already believe in Molyneux tend to validate the book but people who judge the book solely on its merits have problems with it. Interestingly, as I pointed out in my essay you can actually tell that the critics--themselves often atheist anarcho-capitalists--would have loved to see him succeed with UPB and only reluctantly had to admit he did not.

    Finally, regarding the child slapping. I completely agree with you. You are absolutely spot on. And yet I still have a problem here with Molyneux. I've seen a variety of parents and families get defooed. Every once in a while I see a real horror-show that should have had a counselor's intervention but more often they look to me like average families--the kind of parents who would probably throw themselves on hand grenade to protect their kids. All of them are excoriated equally. In the court of Molyneux, the parent who once slapped a child's hand is equally as evil as a repeated sexual abuser. In fact, even if your parents were "nice" they were abusive, which Molyneux has attempted to prove many times over.

    I think it's a facile argument to say that Molyneux is speaking the truth and some people "just don't want to hear it." I've heard it. Read every book. Read the forum threads. Listened to most podcasts. (And transcribed some of them.) My truth, for whatever it's worth, is that Molyneux is a really smart guy and an engaging teacher who is probably very sincere in his beliefs. He always has some fascinating thing to say about politics or economics and I still enjoy that part. He can provide a wonderful, effective, convincing introduction to libertarianism.

    At the same time, his views on psychology, parenting, families, and relationships are tragically, destructively wrong. His overbearing manner of proving those views by convincing young people to ditch their families is utterly indefensible. He has spread heartache and sadness beyond measure--not only to the abandoned families but also to the defooers. I have talked to several ex-defooers who are trying to re-connect with their families and I understand their pain.

    That's the truth, as I see it.

  4. Steven Wayne Lytle wrote: Regarding the child and the Ming vase, the slap is immoral and unnecessary. Simply moving the child's hand or body out of the way would suffice. (end quote)

    I think that moving the child's hand or body from the child's point of view would be scarier than a slap and is still using force. If your child was about to put his hand into a running motor, would you not use any force necessary to stop the child from injuring himself?


  5. Cassandra makes a good point. There is a reason the term "slap on the wrist" was coined. It is meant to mean memorable, but not having long term negative painful effect. Whether or not it is a slap or a sudden grab, etc., even the "no slap" avengers, realize there are times when force is needed when raising a young child. I was just using it as an allegory countless for Moly's belief that any and all matter of parenting behavior is abusive. In Moly's world the mother sterninly saying NO!!! is abusive. Holding your ground as a parent with a teenager is abusive. So when Moly says he only endorses defoo in abusive or corrupt environments, he means pretty much any family environment extant. I also agree with the comments that Parents are human. They get frazzled and make mistakes while managing the stresses of life. Those mistakes are not reason enough for a cruel and cowardly break from the family.

  6. Exactly!

    Molyneux wants us to roll around in the grass arguing whether a slap on the wrist, pushing a hand away, spanking, whatever, constitutes abuse. He WANTS us to argue whether this family or that one is/was an abusive environment.

    It's all a smokescreen that takes the focus off him and the real truth: Stefan Molyneux has absolutely no expertise or credibility to make such a determination. None. He's just some guy with an opinion. And there is neither profit nor insight to be derived in arguing over his opinion. In family/relationship matters he offers nothing more to us than any guy you'd meet in a bar. (Probably less, if the guy in the bar has raised children to adulthood.)

    We do damage to ourselves when we act as if his opinions on psychology have any weight at all.

    While we argue over whether this or that action constitutes abuse, he continues to spout that his answers are all derived from "first principles" or "UPB" or whatever. The painful reality about his background is that he has a Master's Degree in history and he was in therapy once.

    Being in therapy no more qualifies you to unravel everyone's family dynamics any more than taking penicillin qualifies you to be a physician.

    He can post as many pictures of his daughter to advertise himself as the perfect father as he wishes. It won't change the truth.

    Cutting to the core of it, there is only one issue that matters: Molyneux believes nearly all parents are abusive and the only way to respond to it is to brutally discard them.

    That is an utterly indefensible position. The very first "smoking gun" indication that he knows it is indefensible is that he doesn't state that belief right on his home page for all to see. He intends to seduce young adults into accepting it, step by step. (My article "Prying them loose" illustrates that, in his own words.)

    To me, personally, there is something unsavory and creepily paternalistic in the way Molyneux has given himself the authority to use deceptive techniques to seduce the unsuspecting. But to each his own...