I don't believe in the existence of "oughts" and "shoulds" because I believe this language is meaningless except from a theistic viewpoint.
Your argument /presupposes/ that morality exists.
I agree that oughts are only things that exist and that we can go and find if there is a god or some other kind of being to make them. If we were created for a purpose then that is what we should do, (regardless of our own moral feeling on the matter). However, not being a theist I have to agree with you, I dont believe in the existence of oughts in an "out there" sense. The reason I've had to talk about desires (things that very clearly exist) a lot is because I want to *create* the idea of an ought.
Now you may well not want me to create an ought:
As a moral nihilist I don't live in a "moral haze" by not defining oughts, I simply bunk out the argument altogether in the same way atheists don't argue about the colour of gods beard.
I don't recognise the existence of "right" and "wrong",
Now this is a perfectly valid an consistent point of view. There is nothing at all in the universe that compels us to find one thing morally preferable to another. However this amoral basis strikes me as being unsatisfactory, not from a logical point of view, but in terms of my own subjective requirements. I want to be able to criticise others for their actions, I want to be able to back up the decisions I make with reasons and explanations. This is not because that is logically valuable, but because it is subjectively desirable.
Luckily, the only value is subjective value, and there is no other imperative beyond that.
I dont think that a priori there is any imperative beyond that, but I cannot believe either there is any a priori imperative *within* that. Desires and other concepts of subjective value are not inherently imperative. The is-ought gap is real, no amount of facts either objective or subjective can ever compel us to act.
What I mean by this is that the is/ought gap cannot be bridged without using theism as a keystone.
To get to an imperative you must go beyond statements about what is, but we can do this without a god or some other understanding on a universal level. This can only happen by diktat, but it can, in this sense, happen. I must simply declare as an axiom some kinds of actions as moral, this is not logically satisfactory, but if, as I do, you have gone to the effort of creating an entire philosophical system for the sake of saying that other people have failed in some moral sense then it's a necessity.
Now of course you have a similar concept to my concept of should:
However I recognise that certain actions are aggregately preferable
and others aren't, (Ie, theft, killing, stealing, blah de blah, are not preferable for the victim or for me, because of destruction of empathy, etc).
My problem with this is that you obviously have a strong idea of what you mean. But as for me I find such an intuitive assessment unsatisfactory, I find it hard to justify telling someone that theft is wrong unless I can say what I mean and why. So I find it easier if I can concretely say that this is wrong because I define should in this way.
This philosophical project as a diagram.
As an example of how "should" in this style works. It's important to say that we need to go to the most basic desires. So to give a classic example. There is a glass on the table, your friend comes in and asks for it. We conclude from this (ie a scientific conclusion) that there is a mind, and this mind desires water. Now on this basis we "should" help him in his need. Obviously you "should" obey his request. But, what if you happen to know that the glass contains concentrated sulphuric acid. Then we "should" disobey. Why? Because following someone's desires is not the same thing as doing what they tell you. It means using what they tell you to work out what they want and then doing whatever you can to make that happen.
Morality cannot be defined by what is, but a thorough knowledge of what *is* is vital in working out what we should do. Parents who refuse to give their children vaccines are motivated by exactly the same drives as those who do: "I dont want my child to get sick". The only question is how to make that happen. It's only by looking at randomised double blind placebo controlled trials that you can work out what you should do. The moral failing (and it is a moral failing) in non-vaccinating parents is not the drive or the emotion or the intention, all these Kantian values are there in perfect working order. The failing is in the execution, in knowing how to do what they want. Specifically it is in seeking out medical advice in unreliable places, or basing it on intuitions and conspiracy theories rather than the best possible evidence.
I have explicitly said that motivation is not a moral criterion, but it is still important. Compare with scientific heuristics. It is not a part of how we judge a scientific theory that it is based upon Newtonian principles or quantum principles or whatever, all the science demands is that it works. However, theories within such frameworks are well observed to work better than ones outside it, so we should work within them as this will make finding a good theory easier.
In the same way we can bring into our moral discussions the idea of state of mind. Being an altruistic person is not itself something we either should or should not do, because it doesn't effect anyone else either way. However, it makes doing the right thing a lot easier. So if we train ourselves to empathise with others then it is more likely that we will do what we should. It is important not to mistake this means as an end, Christian ethics is based largely on this assumption which I regard as flawed. To me the greatest commandment is not "love your neighbour" but "do unto your neighbour", the former is a tool toward the latter, nothing more.
This is not a small technical matter the distinction between good aims and good means. Some of greatest problems are caused by people with the best of intentions ballsing thing up. See every dam project ever, see the Catholic Church and AIDs, CFCs, the war on drugs, the war on terror, funding Al-Qaeda to fight the Russians, rabbits and cane toads, sexual abstinence pledges, the list goes on and on. It's important to be motivated well, but if you dont put it into action on the ground in the right way you cause more harm than good.