DiaBlogue: Obviously (not)

Dear Alan,
Your summary of Axioms, Hypotheses and Facts certainly achieved its goal of “giving [me] something to work with;” perhaps too much so! As we discussed in the comments, though, I’m still slightly confused about your attitude towards proposition X from our Minimal Set of Shared Beliefs:

X. The goal is maximize actual and potential Happiness while minimizing actual and potential Suffering

Rather than pollute the comment stream further, let me try to restate my confusion with greater clarity…

On the one hand, I believe I understand why you “

submit that (X) is sufficient as a theory of ethical value (subject to the caveat above) and further that by itself it is sufficient to support meaningful social inquiry

.” Starting from a high-order metric and using that to infer constraints is a potentially powerful approach, so I appreciate its appeal.
The part that confuses me is that — if I understand your Atheist Ethicist friend correctly — he is specifically critiquing Utilitarian metrics for failing to adequately explain our desire for II. “love” (

my desire to “make the world a better place than it would have otherwise been if I had not lived”

) and III. “truth” (

that propositions that are the objects of our desires are not made or kept true by such a machine

). In other words, it sounds like he would disagree that II. and III. “

are potentially testable truth claims given the [


] definition of moral value,

” which is precisely why he feels compelled to seek a better metric.
Perhaps I am misunderstanding both him and you, but I hope you can at least see why I am confused. As I’ve mentioned before, I believe our greatest challenge is figuring out how to articulate those things we each (subconsciously) consider “obviously” true. That is why I am much less concerned about “who” is right than I am about identifying “where” we disagree.
In a similar vein, I am also confused about how exactly you view my deistic hypothesis “B”:
B. Using a deistic hypothesis — that “the various systems encompassing humanity are the result of a benevolent Purpose” (one sympathetic to human Reason, Virtue, and
Happiness) — we can derive the MSSB assumptions as theorems, rather than
needing to state them as axioms
I get that you “

do not believe we


to treat (I) through (IX) as assumptions or axioms that could instead by derivable from a deistic hypothesis.

” [emphasis mine] My question was instead whether you agreed that we could derive something comparable to the MSSB starting from the deistic hypothesis; the last paragraph of your comment hints that you might, but I’d like to know for sure.
Given all that, I would be happy to reformulate our first goalpost as:
“Does the deistic hypothesis B provide a better explanation for the MSSB than an ethical metric such as X*”
Would proving that in the affirmative carry sufficient “persuasive weight” (to you)? Are you comfortable with using our current “X” (from the MSSB) as the benchmark for these purposes, or would you like to first modify it along the lines Alonzo Fyfe suggested?
I realize you’re hungry for answers, but I’d like to first make sure we agree on the question. :-)Thanks for hanging in there with me.