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If there is no God, murder isn't wrong?

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Hereandnow
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Re: If there is no God, murder isn't wrong?

Post by Hereandnow » December 4th, 2018, 8:32 pm

GE Morton
I have no idea what "empirical theory" to which you refer there. The aim of a moral theory, however, is not to explain murder, or any other behavior, but to pronounce upon whether it is acceptable or not, and for what reasons. I suspect that the "reality" you have in mind is the emotional impact that act can have on some people, which would be your reason for deeming it unacceptable. Which is not a very good reason, because that impact will vary from person to person. Few murderers experience the angst of Raskolnikov.
All that science IS is empirically grounded. Take evolution and its focus on reproduction and survival in the "selection" of genetically based traits. Along with this, take evolutionary biology, and organic chemistry, and neurology; and then take cosmology, and---the point is, all empirical investigations conspire to keep inquiry about all things grounded in, well, empiricism. Any of these you can mention have no truck with inquiry about the nature of ethics, and this is because ethics, what makes ethics what it is, which is value and caring, is not observable. So the empirical theory in question is really all such theories that, in there knowledge claims, think they can speak authoritatively about what ethics is essentially.
As to the aim of moral theory, the determination as to what is acceptable or not must rest somewhere outside the determination itself, otherwise it would be an arbitrary determination. This would be value and caring, which are what ethics is all about, what good and bad behavior is all about. Value and caring are not, again, observable in their ethical aspect. One cannot "see" the good.
They play a role in the motivation of certain acts. Other emotions motivate other acts. All acts have some emotional impetus. But whether any act is or is not moral is a separate question from its motivation, although motives and intentions can be mitigating factors when assigning praise or blame. But upon what then, in your view, is moral wrongness based?
Moral wrongness is objectively based on caring and value, the various and sundry delights and miseries we face in the world. Subjectively,, I argue, it is grounded in knowledge of value in play (it hurts; it hurts and you know it) and the compassion or altruism that follows on this. I am, to get an idea of it, on the opposite end of John Rawls in his Justice As Fairness in that he bases moral justification on self interest. I am also against Kant's moral acts being bound to duty and utterly free of the motivation of desire. I believe that a moral action issues from moral sentiment that is a response to occasions value and caring are in play.
Well, that thesis certainly requires an argument. Many philosophers would disagree, and claim that a "true moral act" is one done from duty, not one done because the agent is emotionally disposed to do it.
Kant said some things that are laudable. Treating others as end rather than means; duty above desire; universalizing our maxims: these all having something important in them. Looking to Mill's utility does as well, but these beg the important question as to why anyone would want to moral at all. Why bother with even giving morality the time of day? Self interest? Granted, and lots of thought runs along this line.But why are my interests any different than anyonw else's? My reason for rejecting all of them is simple: value, what I called above the various sundry delights and miseries we face in the world, is what makes ethics at all important. Nothing valued, then nothing matters, then we can murder who we please, though we wouldn't because we wouldn't give a damn to do so. It is this caring and the value we care about, this is what ethics IS, it is the ontology of ethics, if you like, what is the irreducible actuality of me helping that little old lady across the street: She struggles, she is afraid, I see it, I can help; and the confusing ways we exchange value in a society occludes the simplicity of this. Once we accept this, and we see the existential grounding of ethics int eh material conditions around us, we discover the truth of ethics at its essence. The phenomenology of ethics.
You tend to use the term "inherent" frequently, and, in my view, somewhat carelessly. Your second sentence there (which is self-contradictory) again appears to presume that moral rightness is a function of motivations, and further presumes, a priori, that empathy and compassion are "moral" emotions. But as I said, those assumptions require arguments.
All of this requires arguments, I know. I give a bit of my argument above. Here: I said, "An act of compassion and empathy is inherently right"
and I stand by it. Acting out of compassion and empathy is inherently right, and all the wrong that may follow from such an act does not alter the assessment of the rightness of the act. Utility and motivation are two entirely different things. Now you need a counter example to this, a case in which the act is so motivated, but it cannot be considered right as an act so motivated. best I can do is imagine person S who is lazy, dos not give proper consideration to a certain matter that is critical to the welfare of others. Then the moment comes, S observes the crisis that ensues from his own idleness and then acts according to the compassion and empathy that rises within. Regardless of the outcomes, can his actions be deemed right because he acted out of compassion? Yes.
Perhaps you can think of a better one. I am convinced bad actions that issue from good intentions should be separated in moral assessment.
Laws are explicit, but so are moral codes. The facts that there are many incompatible codes, that no code supplies answers to every possible moral question, and that all the nominal adherents of a code do not understand it or apply it correctly in every case, does not mean it is not explicit, articulable and communicable
And the moment a moral code becomes becomes explicit, it becomes dogma, which is good for moral guidance. It is a heuristic only. Real ethics comes in to play when values and caring collide in the world. I borrowed a shovel and carelessly broke it, but it was an old shovel andn if I buy a new one it would be over compensation, and so on and so on. What to do? I say, first one has to consider the other person, discovering thereby the true motivation, the authentic moral motivation. Second, work it out. Consult Kant, or Mill. think reall hard on the matter, for here you find the complexities of your own world in play, and this is complicated.
Huh? Are you suggesting that the existence of suffering "existentially" demands that there exist an entity, or agency, to atone or compensate for it?
I knew this would raise an eyebrow. I am already posting too long (but you did say things require arguments. And you were right about that). But I have said this before many times. There is no justification for our suffering in the world, and there must be. Period. This world is not ethically stand alone, nor is it hermeneutically stand alone, but ethics is a dimension of what we are that is powerful, imposing, profound, and it is upon us, the stricken, wretched, cancer ridden, diseased lot of us. And if we are getting better, then consider the tonnage of all that came before and lies elsewhere. I won't argue this one. It is intuitive, to think as entirely unaccountable even one ampng the multitudes who was thrown into existence in misery and hopelessness. As if the universe twelve or thirteen billion years ago at some point just decided to start torturing itself through the agencies of you, me and Joan of Arc; and all for nothing.
The real question is, "What is anything doing here at all?" "Why does anything exist?" "God" is our attempt to answer that question. But that answer just moves the question back one step.
No, I beg to differ, If it were about "anything at all" then who would care to ask. But we do ask. Being is not what we are. Caring in Being is what we are. And we care about value-in-the-world. What is THAT doing here? God is an attempt to escape misery and realize happiness. Existence is a piece of useless metaphysical jargon.

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Re: If there is no God, murder isn't wrong?

Post by Eduk » December 5th, 2018, 4:22 am

@GE Morton you said morals are just a system created by societies. I asked if one ought to follow such a system. You said it depending on whether the moral was sound or not.
Please give me an example of a sound moral.
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Re: If there is no God, murder isn't wrong?

Post by GE Morton » December 5th, 2018, 11:03 am

Eduk wrote:
December 5th, 2018, 4:22 am
You said it depending on whether the moral was sound or not.
Please give me an example of a sound moral.
No, I did not say that. What I said was, "As for whether one ought to follow a moral code, the answer to that is dependent upon the theory from which the code is derived. Whether that answer is "yes" or "no" depends upon whether that theory is sound."

That comment refers to moral theories. I said nothing about a "sound moral," and don't know what you mean by that. Hence the previous request for a clarification.

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Re: If there is no God, murder isn't wrong?

Post by Eduk » December 5th, 2018, 11:10 am

@GE Morton so it's not the moral which can be judged sound or not it is the theory which can be judged sound or not?
Could you give me an example of a moral which ought to be followed because it is derived from a sound theory?

I am simply trying to understand you and I think some actual real world examples of what you mean will help to illustrate your points.
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Re: If there is no God, murder isn't wrong?

Post by GE Morton » December 5th, 2018, 11:18 am

Eduk, you're not answering the question re: what you mean by a "sound moral." So, again, are you referring to a moral theory, moral principle, or moral rule?

A moral principle or rule is sound if it is derived from a sound moral theory. A moral theory is sound if it satisfies the criteria given earlier.

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Re: If there is no God, murder isn't wrong?

Post by Eduk » December 5th, 2018, 11:59 am

A moral theory is sound if it satisfies the criteria given earlier.
Yes and I'm asking for an example. A real world example. You seem to not want to provide one? I don't know why though?
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Re: If there is no God, murder isn't wrong?

Post by GE Morton » December 5th, 2018, 12:45 pm

Eduk wrote:
December 5th, 2018, 11:59 am
A moral theory is sound if it satisfies the criteria given earlier.
Yes and I'm asking for an example. A real world example. You seem to not want to provide one? I don't know why though?
I gave you a link earlier to a theory I claim is sound. Of course, if you disagree about that, please point out its flaws.

When you speak of a "real world example," do you mean a sound theory actually accepted and followed in some culture? Of course, there isn't one. If there were this discussion would be passe.

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Re: If there is no God, murder isn't wrong?

Post by Eduk » December 5th, 2018, 1:05 pm

I gave you a link earlier to a theory I claim is sound.
Which is exactly when I asked for a practical example. If I say one plus one is two I can give a practical example by first giving you one apple and then giving you another and then counting them. You must have heard of examples? Please give me an example of a moral which you have derived from your theory.
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Re: If there is no God, murder isn't wrong?

Post by GE Morton » December 5th, 2018, 1:16 pm

Eduk wrote:
December 5th, 2018, 1:05 pm
Please give me an example of a moral which you have derived from your theory.
Until you specify what you mean by a "moral" I can't comply with your request.

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Re: If there is no God, murder isn't wrong?

Post by Eduk » December 5th, 2018, 1:23 pm

are you referring to a moral theory, moral principle, or moral rule?
You have already provided a moral theory. Therefore I would like a moral principle or moral rule. I'm not sure what the difference between principle and rule is, so it would be interesting to see your examples.
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Re: If there is no God, murder isn't wrong?

Post by GE Morton » December 5th, 2018, 2:05 pm

Eduk wrote:
December 5th, 2018, 1:23 pm
are you referring to a moral theory, moral principle, or moral rule?
You have already provided a moral theory. Therefore I would like a moral principle or moral rule. I'm not sure what the difference between principle and rule is, so it would be interesting to see your examples.
A principle is more general than a rule. Several rules may follow from a given principle. A sound moral principle would be, "One ought not act in ways that reduce others' welfare." A rule entailed by that principle would be, "Thou shalt not murder."

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Re: If there is no God, murder isn't wrong?

Post by GE Morton » December 5th, 2018, 8:47 pm

Hereandnow wrote:
December 4th, 2018, 8:32 pm

All that science IS is empirically grounded. Take evolution and its focus on reproduction and survival in the "selection" of genetically based traits. Along with this, take evolutionary biology, and organic chemistry, and neurology; and then take cosmology, and---the point is, all empirical investigations conspire to keep inquiry about all things grounded in, well, empiricism. Any of these you can mention have no truck with inquiry about the nature of ethics, and this is because ethics, what makes ethics what it is, which is value and caring, is not observable.
Well, you have a moral theory of your own there. Now you need some argument establishing its soundness. Which might prove difficult, since it presumes "value and caring" to be essential components, which are subjective emotional states not universally shared or uniformly focused, and not elicitable or communicable via rational argument.

A sound moral theory must focus on acts, not feelings. It must govern the acts of all agents in a moral field, regardless of what they value or care about. Any emotion-based or intuitionist moral theory will fail the universality test. A philosophical moral theory is a result of a rational inquiry into the optimum or necessary rules governing interactions between agents in a certain type of moral field. It is not a codification of anyone's idiosyncratic intuitions or sentiments.
So the empirical theory in question is really all such theories that, in there knowledge claims, think they can speak authoritatively about what ethics is essentially.
A moral theory cannot rely entirely on empirical facts. That would be a case of the "is-ought" fallacy. It must include at least one normative premise. But it certainly must take various empirical facts into account, such as uncontroversial facts about human nature and the structure of human societies.
Moral wrongness is objectively based on caring and value, the various and sundry delights and miseries we face in the world. Subjectively,, I argue, it is grounded in knowledge of value in play (it hurts; it hurts and you know it) and the compassion or altruism that follows on this. I am, to get an idea of it, on the opposite end of John Rawls in his Justice As Fairness in that he bases moral justification on self interest. I am also against Kant's moral acts being bound to duty and utterly free of the motivation of desire. I believe that a moral action issues from moral sentiment that is a response to occasions value and caring are in play.
No, moral wrongness is not "objectively based" on caring and value. A proposition is objective if its truth conditions are public, i.e., verifiable by all suitably situated observers. Your statement, "Moral wrongness is objectively based on caring and value . .. " has no public truth conditions. It is only an analytical hypothesis, one at odds with numerous other hypotheses. And as I said, that hypothesis is unworkable, because it relies on idiosyncratic factors and hence is not universalizable. Clinging to it guarantees that moral problems will remain untractable.
Kant said some things that are laudable. Treating others as end rather than means; duty above desire; universalizing our maxims: these all having something important in them. Looking to Mill's utility does as well, but these beg the important question as to why anyone would want to moral at all. Why bother with even giving morality the time of day? Self interest? Granted, and lots of thought runs along this line.But why are my interests any different than anyonw else's?
I cannot tell you why they are different. But I can easily see that that they are; that everyone's interests differ.
My reason for rejecting all of them is simple: value, what I called above the various sundry delights and miseries we face in the world, is what makes ethics at all important. Nothing valued, then nothing matters, then we can murder who we please, though we wouldn't because we wouldn't give a damn to do so.
I did not claim that nothing matters, that nothing has value. Everyone values something, indeed many things. That fact, but not any particular values, are indeed what gives rise to the need for moral rules --- to enable all agents to secure whatever it is they value, or at least, to minimize impediments to that objective placed by other agents.

Value is not a property of things; it is a pseudo-property subjectively assigned to things by agents, by some valuer, and what is deemed to have value, and what value it has, differs from person to person. For that reason a moral theory that stipulates or relies upon specific values cannot be universalizable.
I said, "An act of compassion and empathy is inherently right" and I stand by it. Acting out of compassion and empathy is inherently right, and all the wrong that may follow from such an act does not alter the assessment of the rightness of the act. Utility and motivation are two entirely different things. Now you need a counter example to this, a case in which the act is so motivated, but it cannot be considered right as an act so motivated.
Easily done. An animal welfare activist breaks into a pharmaceutical lab and releases all the rats and rabbits, presumably due to compassion and empathy with the animals. As a result, a drug trial in progress is delayed for a year, while the trial is restarted. The drug ultimately proves effective, but during that year 1000 people die who could have been saved by it. Or, a man driven by compassion for and empathy with his brother, a convicted rapist, helps the brother escape custody when being transported to prison. The brother commits several more rapes before being arrested again. In short, compassion and empathy can be felt for persons (or other creatures) who don't deserve it, and often is.
There is no justification for our suffering in the world, and there must be.
No, there "must" not be. Justice is a moral term applicable only to the acts of moral agents, not the workings of the laws of nature or the frivolities of chance.

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Re: If there is no God, murder isn't wrong?

Post by Eduk » December 6th, 2018, 11:36 am

A principle is more general than a rule. Several rules may follow from a given principle. A sound moral principle would be, "One ought not act in ways that reduce others' welfare." A rule entailed by that principle would be, "Thou shalt not murder."
Ok, now please correct me if I am wrong. If I take your moral theory would you agree that the theory is based upon your axiom?
All agents in the moral field should adhere to rules per which goods can be maximized, and evils minimized, for all agents.
This sounds like the Nash equilibrium to me (as incorrectly portrayed by the movie Beautiful Mind), by the way.

It seems to me that your moral theory and your moral principle are basically the same?
Also what if murder of a specific individual maximised good and minimised evil for all agents in a moral field (let's say the earth is the moral field - but we could go further).
Also I can't see anywhere where an 'ought' is justified? I mean the moral theory is defined as an axiom? Doesn't this mean that by definition an 'ought' is impossible?
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Re: If there is no God, murder isn't wrong?

Post by Hereandnow » December 6th, 2018, 1:16 pm

GE Morton:
Well, you have a moral theory of your own there. Now you need some argument establishing its soundness. Which might prove difficult, since it presumes "value and caring" to be essential components, which are subjective emotional states not universally shared or uniformly focused, and not elicitable or communicable via rational argument.
It is a theory about ethics, yes. Look at a theory that you likely think conforms to your standard of “soundness”: Kant said that an act is right if one can will one's maxim to do it to be a universal law. But this begs the question: Why would one want to even consider doing what is right at all, such that one would even bother to consult the categorical imperative? Why bother with duty? There is something seriously wrong with a theory of action that cannot account for an action's motivation. Of course Kant thought that an unwillingness to give due regard to his imperative is simply to stand outside moral authenticity, or worse; but even if one does ask the critical question, can I will this to be a universal law? such a question issues from a desire to do the right thing (though Kant would deny this)It seems to me, the real question re. your objection is how can the imperative escape the vagaries of subjectivity that fit into the decision to universalize? After all, If I want to know if I should return that ax to a drunken lender bent on murder, It is my personal moral mentality that makes that that asks, can I universalize this?, not some ethereal objective rational ideal. In other words, my basis for universalizing depends on me and how I feel about the world. And therefore Kant's theory falls prey to your objection regarding “subjective emotional states” just as mine does. This notion of ethical theory being “universally shared or uniformly focused”
Ask any moral question, if one should commit adultery, or steal when you have no money, or if one's government should attack another: Utility is useful, balancing good over bad outcomes; or, asking, is someone being treated as an end rather thana means?.There ARE the ways we solve moral issues, no doubt. But they do require the original will to do good. What Is This? What is this moral GOOD that creates obligations at all? I ground the answer to this question phenomenologically: we care, value, are interested in things that taste good, look good, and so on, and this foundational relationship highlights what is at the core of what ethics is at root, all about; and it brings the subjectivity to the fore.


A sound moral theory must focus on acts, not feelings. It must govern the acts of all agents in a moral field, regardless of what they value or care about. Any emotion-based or intuitionist moral theory will fail the universality test. A philosophical moral theory is a result of a rational inquiry into the optimum or necessary rules governing interactions between agents in a certain type of moral field. It is not a codification of anyone's idiosyncratic intuitions or sentiments.
As to universality, compassion is universal but it is no more free from inconsistencies in producing right results than reason. Keep in mind Hume: reason as such cares nothing for anything and would just as soon wipe out the human race. It is an empty vessel. Granted there are those who cannot access compassionate regard for others, just as there are those who reason very badly, but when applied, it leads to what I would call true moral agency (Kant claims that any motivated action is thereby not a moral action. I am his polar opposite.) I think this speaks to what governs agents in a moral field.
A moral theory cannot rely entirely on empirical facts. That would be a case of the "is-ought" fallacy. It must include at least one normative premise. But it certainly must take various empirical facts into account, such as uncontroversial facts about human nature and the structure of human societies.
Sure, but all this talk about evolution and the natural sciences giving an understanding to our ethics is on the rise; in fact, it seems to have risen to a place of authority, and there is a lot out there in the areas of bioethics and ethical neuro-reductionsim and the general secularization of ethical thinking. This evolving mass of empirical IS, is displacing what used to be religion prerogative. This IS is trying very hard to be an OUGHT.
No, moral wrongness is not "objectively based" on caring and value. A proposition is objective if its truth conditions are public, i.e., verifiable by all suitably situated observers. Your statement, "Moral wrongness is objectively based on caring and value . .. " has no public truth conditions. It is only an analytical hypothesis, one at odds with numerous other hypotheses. And as I said, that hypothesis is unworkable, because it relies on idiosyncratic factors and hence is not universalizable. Clinging to it guarantees that moral problems will remain untractable.
Compassion and empathy are just as public as reason when deployed. You would like to reduce this to the uncertainties of what particular people are and are not compassionate or empathetic about, which vary. But not so: empathy simply says, to be a moral action it has to be done FOR another because one is aware of the consequences that are among the good and bad things people experience. This is a prinordial given, I argue. I stand critical of the nazi's boot in the face of the Polish Jew not because is violates a priciple of moral thinking, but because it hurts; it hurts and I know it. This goes to all good and bad things that can issue form actions. Just look at the way compassion works and you find it is foundational to all ethical motivations. Even if one embraces self interest as what at the basis of being ethical, one still has to face the grounding of this: my self interest is defined according to same good and bad possibilities. Compassion is taking this and projecting it to Others. All can do this; it is univeral. Willing to do this with this motivation of feeling Others' pain and joy through empathy, this is true ethical agency.
I did not claim that nothing matters, that nothing has value. Everyone values something, indeed many things. That fact, but not any particular values, are indeed what gives rise to the need for moral rules --- to enable all agents to secure whatever it is they value, or at least, to minimize impediments to that objective placed by other agents. 

Value is not a property of things; it is a pseudo-property subjectively assigned to things by agents, by some valuer, and what is deemed to have value, and what value it has, differs from person to person. For that reason a moral theory that stipulates or relies upon specific values cannot be universalizable.
Value, I hold, is a non-natural property of things, and it is aspresent in the meanings of things in the world no less than reason is. See a tree out my window, and “see” the structures of my experiences past brought to bear on the impressions, sensations before me. This is another of what requires a lot of arguing, and I am willingto do so, but there are few that have a taste for it.
Easily done. An animal welfare activist breaks into a pharmaceutical lab and releases all the rats and rabbits, presumably due to compassion and empathy with the animals. As a result, a drug trial in progress is delayed for a year, while the trial is restarted. The drug ultimately proves effective, but during that year 1000 people die who could have been saved by it. Or, a man driven by compassion for and empathy with his brother, a convicted rapist, helps the brother escape custody when being transported to prison. The brother commits several more rapes before being arrested again. In short, compassion and empathy can be felt for persons (or other creatures) who don't deserve it, and often is.
I can see I was not being careful on this one. It is because it is difficult to put distance between actions and agents. My action to assault a poor old lady for money has a dual nature: there is me and my motivations, and there is the action in the world with consequences. The act is very much in the middle. So, I realy should make a distinct separation: agents when acting with compassion are to be judged ethically defensible, and applauded for the , if you will, agency of good will, that is, driven by compassion, regard for the Other's well being. The goodness of the agency that commits an ethical act out of compassion is inherent in the compassion. The action, duly distanced from the agent, is good or bad according to how compassion is deployed and here I let Kant and Mill and others to speak.

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Re: If there is no God, murder isn't wrong?

Post by GE Morton » December 7th, 2018, 1:36 am

Eduk wrote:
December 6th, 2018, 11:36 am

Ok, now please correct me if I am wrong. If I take your moral theory would you agree that the theory is based upon your axiom?
All agents in the moral field should adhere to rules per which goods can be maximized, and evils minimized, for all agents.
Yes. It rests on the assumption that the purpose of moral principles and rules is to promote the welfare of moral agents in a social setting. Those who believe that they have some other purpose will have no use for my theory. Those who acknowledge that purpose, or at least agree it is a worthwhile purpose, will see the Axiom as self-evident.
This sounds like the Nash equilibrium to me (as incorrectly portrayed by the movie Beautiful Mind), by the way.
I did not see that movie, but the Nash equilibrium presumes that all players are aware of all other players' strategies. That is not the case with agents in civilized societies. Most of the other agents they will encounter will be strangers, and their strategies unknown to the acting agent.
It seems to me that your moral theory and your moral principle are basically the same?
They are not the same, but the principle is a direct deduction from the Axiom.
Also what if murder of a specific individual maximised good and minimised evil for all agents in a moral field . . .
That is self-contradictory. Surely the welfare of the murder victim is not maximized; hence the welfare of all agents is not maximized.
Also I can't see anywhere where an 'ought' is justified? I mean the moral theory is defined as an axiom? Doesn't this mean that by definition an 'ought' is impossible?
The "ought" is derived from the Axiom ("should" in the Axiom means "ought). All subsequent oughts are instrumental oughts, i.e., the sense of "ought" in, "If you wish to do X, you ought to do Y," which means that Y is an effective and perhaps necessary means of accomplishing X. The same sense as in, "If you wish to drive a nail you ought to get a hammer."

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