Monday, April 3, 2017

On the Devil’s Candy

The Devil’s Candy is an Australian Metal inspired Horror movie that is a noteworthy example of potential not fully utilized.  It’s a film that contends that the Devil is not some cartoonish “ooga-booga” Halloween figure but a personal one of destruction and Anti-God sentiment.  The film fails for two main reasons.  A – most of the characters are unbelievably stupid and don’t act in the climax the way almost any half-intelligent person in the situation would.  But more importantly B – it contends that our notions of Satan are childish and a more realistic interpretation of the personification of evil is necessary all the while resorting back to a childish notion of evil.
The childish notion I’m talking about is the main antagonist.  A paranoid schizophrenic who believes he hears Satan telling him to feed him (kill) children because they are “his candy.”  The uninspired and sophomoric twist is it must be Satan talking to the disturbed man because in the same house a painter gets graphic depictions of children that the bald jogging-suit wearing man murders.  Flat-out telling you, “it’s the devil.”
This isn’t exciting or clever writing.  I don’t think it’s intention is to convert anyone to Christianity, but it doesn’t show a clever or thought-provoking notion of Satan and if anything shows how childish Bronze-Age Mythologies are.  If the film was smartly written, it would follow in the steps of Total Recall and make it indiscernible between a world where evil exists because Man is fundamentally corruptible by vice and a world where evil exists because Man is fundamentally corruptible by vice, directed by Satan’s intentions.  Inserting notions of us serving Satan not deliberately, but through pursuing our personal pleasures and desires rather than seeing every person as an end-in-themselves and having a society where actions and policies exist for the benefit of all rather in self-interested conflicts of markets.
This would bring up notions that Schopenhauer (an Atheist) brought up in his writings.  How it does seem at times that this world is Purgatory or Hell, and we exist for the benefit of the Devil rather than any God; unintentionally furthering his goals through our indifference towards the well-being and happiness of others.  And of course, there’s Schopenhauer’s quote of every time a man ejaculates into a woman the Devil laughs.
It does have good things in it, the most noteworthy being the music.  Metal isn’t often used in films, so it’s a tad refreshing to hear Metallica in a movie whose genre you would suspect would utilize head-banger music more often.

It’s fine as a mindless horror movie, but it’s a shame that not more is done with its premise of reconceptualizing Satan/personal evil to be something more tangible and less childish.  The other Horror film the director made about a teenager who is captured by an obsessed girl and her father I thought was the same as well – fine but overpraised.  And when people claim that a movie is exceptional and unique in the most mediocre and unoriginal genre in existence but their claims are found to false it’s a tad disappointing.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

On Two Kinds of Illusion

In the pages of ancient mystics there are notions of the “illusory” or hollow nature of existence.  There is a metaphysical and moral interpretation of this, each worthy of description and analysis.
The metaphysical form of this is seen most clearly in the writings of Descartes and in pop-culture Sci-fi films such as The Matrix.  What if the world we know of is not the “real” world?  And though this is a profound thought initially, it in the minds of many goes no further in spawning thought for three distinct reasons.  One is the practical and self-absorbed nature of the human race.  Another is the non-intellectual nature of most people.  And the last is the superfluous and eliminative nature of the argument.  Which, although theoretically true, does not create any new knowledge but destroys not only all existing knowledge but even the possibility of it (unless other non-empirical forms of knowledge are accepted).
Though the first two have to do with human nature rather than the nature of the argument, the last can be seen as a form of criticism of the argument itself.  If all descriptions of trees and burning supernovas are not proven to be true (what they describe is not knowledge, unless we take the pragmatist account of it) then the most learned of men is on equal footing with the ignoramus who knows nothing.  If anything, the learned man is in a worse position for he “knows” more things which he cannot verify than the man who knows nothing and makes no claim of knowledge.
This I believe is a primary reason why this talk of the world being illusory is so unsatisfactory.  Regardless of its truth it kills conversations and all further descriptive accounts of respective fields of knowledge (e.g. biology, medicine, engineering, etc.).  Another is that in essence a purely metaphysical account of the world is always of less significance to Man than a normative or moral one.  This is partially because of the practical and egotistical nature of humanity; but also due-to an implicit recognition of the normative superseding or taking precedence over the descriptive in any account of things.  For what “is” is of no significance if we have no idea or knowledge of what “ought” to be.
This is why the second meaning of this life being “illusory” feels so much more powerful and evokes more passion in Man than the descriptive or Cartesian account of it.  The account of this illusion given in Schopenhauer and some interpretations of Buddhism, that our lives are illusory because they are based on striving and desires for things we crave for but will not provide the lasting happiness we dream of, are so powerful in their affect even on a mediocre mind because it is a truth that rings deep in a world of lies, philosophic sophistry and religious mumbo-jumbo.  We long for something, but what we crave is not in actuality that thing but the happiness we foolishly believe it can sustain for us. 
All of our lives are spent mostly anywhere but in the present moment.  Either contemplating some past event or imagining the future.  Either in fantasy or in preparation.  This recognition and description is one reason why Arthur Schopenhauer is worthy of the title of one of the most brilliant thinkers ever to grace the sorry face of mankind.  His depiction of our lives and the reality of our existence is as vivid and powerful as one could ever find.
The degree to which this is true and the degree to which this is significant in a description of our lives is so equally strong that it makes us wonder why a benevolent creator would bother in creating us – nay, it seems an impossibility.  For if we were created by a morally good God (rather than one who is apathetic or malevolent) then asides from His first error (creating anything at all) it seems His major mistake in creation was creating a race of beings that are fundamentally not satisfied with their lives.  This is seen in many writings but particularly in the writings of that great pessimist (cite Schopenhauer).
This truth of our nature is a reason why Stoicism is so unsatisfactory to so many people.  For its main tenant is, “embrace life as it is rather than believe in hope and wishes.”  It is the fundamental nature of our race to wish and dream for what either cannot be or what currently is not because it is not.  That is, even if we get the things we desire, the things we hoped and wished for so fervently, the effect is not the lasting happiness we thought but a momentary period of dull satisfaction only to be met with more desires for more of the same thing or new things which we elude ourselves into believing will make us happy.
One of the most defining qualities in a person is whether they prefer a happy lie or the truth no matter how somber and unpleasant.  To the extent that a man can stomach an unpleasant truth is the extent which his constitution is moldable for Stoicism; or as Schopenhauer notes from Aristotle as one of the wisest truths of all philosophy:  strive for a lack of pain and contentment rather than pleasure and happiness in this life.  For though the most cheerful man in the world is only happy periodically, unhappiness created by attachment to this world and the ill-logic of believing in lasting happiness through external things (material or social) is what abounds everywhere, making fools of even the most intellectual of men and what makes our lot so sorry and worthy of pity and sympathy.
It is this recognition of the illusory and unfortunate nature of our lives which ground feelings of general love and compassion.  For though the average man can feel love for his friends and family, he has nothing in his experience of humanity as a whole and therefore can only relate to them through the very broad medium of suffering which every single person on earth can relate to and has experience of.
The illusory nature of things can also be observed in the phenomena of romance.  Romantic love is not “true love” in the strictest sense of the word and instead a form of Egoism and wish-fulfillment.  Let us briefly compare it to the most legitimate forms of love and concern that exist.  A parent’s love of their child is based on legitimate moral concern for the well-being and happiness of their off spring.  There are many instances in their lives where their child’s happiness and well-being is of greater importance to them than their own – it is this very real sentiment which is the best example we have of the general goodness of the human race and defeats the arguments of Psychological Egoism despite humanity being largely egotistical as a whole.  Aristotle defines true friendship as having moral concern for the well-being of the friend rather than merely using him as a means to pass the time or for mutual utility (which could be seen more as the nature of an acquaintance than a true friend).
In comparison with the love of friends and family, romantic love immediately seems shallow and superficial in comparison.  Romantic love is self-absorbed and is a form of selfish craving rather than legitimate concern for another’s welfare.  Those who truly love their romantic partner love them in the same way as two people who are fierce friends love each other and therefore when romantic love is genuine love it is not a distinct form but rather mimics friendship.
The realization that romance is a shallow illusion is merely one form of realizing the significance of “moral illusions” or psychological deceptions as opposed to metaphysical falsehoods.  While the latter is a passing note of intrigue for intellectuals, it is the illusory nature of our existence which should be of the utmost attention to the masses, for it is this realization that is of the utmost significance to their lives and is their salvation from needless self-inflicted pain to the extent that such freedom is possible.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017


I'm bitter that to save money I went to a community college before I came here.

I'm bitter that to save money I'm here instead of a prestigious university.

I'm bitter I'm lazy.

I'm bitter I'm mentally ill.

I'm bitter I was wronged in the ways I was.

I'm bitter about the world and the fact I have to live in it.

Monday, February 27, 2017

A Part of Me

I feel bad falling back on the good faith of others. But is it because I hate having that relation with people, or because I'm afraid of being caught and having that good faith end?

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Update on Paper

Updated my Technocratic Socialist paper.  I was intending on doing an analysis of Aristotle's Politics within it but I need to do more reading also it seemed like it would be artificially inserted and seem clunky.  So I'm going to put it on the back burner.

Also I did a massive edit on the Rousseau section.

Hope you enjoy.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Technocratic Socialism

Now, get seven million five hundred thousand votes to declare that two and two make five, that the straight line is the longest road, that the whole is less than its part; get it declared by eight millions, by ten millions, by a hundred millions of votes, you will not have advanced a step. Well, then, now you are going to be surprised. There are axioms in probity, in honesty, in justice, as there are axioms in geometry; and the truths of morality are no more at the mercy of a vote than are the truths of algebra. The notion of good and evil cannot be resolved by universal suffrage. It is not given to a ballot to make the false become the true and the unjust the just. The human conscience cannot be put to the vote.
Victor Hugo
The biggest argument against democracy is a five minute discussion with the average voter.
Winston Churchill

If we are to examine the proper descriptions of statecraft then first we must briefly examine the notions of ‘ought’ pertaining to Sovereignty and rule.  What is the goal of politics?  Why ‘ought’ a Nation be democratic?  Is it because it is the best form of government in providing the most desired things (whether external or traits of the citizenry)?  Or is it similar to the notion that every man should be captain of his own ship even if he leads it into the rocks?  This then is not an argument of pragmatism but of “natural right” or responsibility.  That regardless of consequence, even if a citizenry creates Hell on Earth (or at least Hell of ‘X’ country, for the effects of a populous’ choices and actions in international affairs is another thing to consider), a people ought to govern themselves collectively just as a man ought to have autonomy over his own life regardless of the results.
It is not my purpose to argue for one ought and against another.  But, if pragmatism is to be our measuring stick, our presumed ought, then Democracy fails at its aim.  Its methodology is inherently arbitrary, and subject to the whims of the great mass of people who are on whole mediocre in intellect, selfish and morally corrupt – in another word, anything but great.
If the aim of life is to live well, and this wellness is dependent upon social features outside of our control, it stands to reason that those who both are the most knowledgeable and have the good of the people as their aim (for if a desired end is ‘X’ to have those in charge who do not work towards or desire ‘X’ is the height of foolishness – and yet that is the state of affairs in modern statecraft) should be those who manage society – not those who win popularity contests.  Those who are well liked and those who are capable and eager to create the ideal society (or at least the ideal society considering the far from ideal facts of this existence) share nothing necessarily in common.  In fact, since being well liked depends largely on “showmanship” or superficial qualities, and being competent and well-meaning has to do with virtues and character that are distinct from such qualities, and since to practice one excellence in human action and welfare is necessarily to become deficient in another, it stands to reason that those who are well-liked are likely to be less qualified than their alternatives.  If one trains in gladiatorial battle, one cannot at the same time study to be a proficient mathematician.  So, if being well-liked is in part a skill, that is learned, to engage in the social activity that stimulates this part of the mind is to become deficient or at least less well off in the descriptive knowledge necessary to operate an aspect of society (engineering for example).
Also, it is the superficial qualities of the race that are most attached to egoism and vanity.  Beauty and sociability are desired traits to possess if one is concerned with being well-liked, but this desire is fundamentally grounded in the most vane and shallow form of egoism; that base impulse present in every human animal that is contrary to the higher moral impulses necessary for noble statecraft.
So being well-liked not only makes one less likely to be knowledgeable, it makes one less likely to be truly of good nature – the very two qualities we established were desirable for leaders of a Nation if we desire to live well.  And yet this quality, popularity, is what determines the outcome of who is to have control of the Executive and Legislative branches of Government; also the Judicial branch since it is the President which appoints Supreme Court Justices.
Though it is popularity which chooses who is to lead, despite any veneer of Democracy the leaders make decisions contrary to public opinion routinely.  Instead of what is right or what is popular, it is ultimately corporate interests which largely decide what policies are chosen in the United States.  Democracy has only served to increase political corruption through misinformation and allowing men and women who are base and stupid to elect men and women who do not have the interests of the American people as their aim. 
It is the sin of human hubris that assumes the common man, a creature incapable of securing his own means of tranquil and virtuous living, will be motivated to let alone know what is good and just for the whole.  This same naivety and optimism can be said of all Stateless forms of Communism or Communitarianism.  The notions of all men being seen as brothers and given proper share of society without force of “right” or fairness is an absurdity.  The egotistical essence of humanity will have all argue for an increase in their station and argue for their lot over the lot of others.  Humans naturally have emotionally affinity and argue for the goodness (regardless of whether said goodness is present) of friends and family while give strangers occasional moral concern if any. 
The fact that the State is required for human beings to fund collective endeavors, even ones the majority profit from, over their own individual pleasures shows the stupidity and selfishness of the human race.  That force is necessary to secure justice and proper allocation of resources just as the brain is necessary to regulate proper distribution of blood throughout the body.  To leave the affairs of allocation and prioritization of resources to the working (non-intellectual) class is akin to the heart having the responsibility of managing all the elements of the blood rather than its mere circulation through the body – which it is designed by nature to do and not the brain just as the common man is meant to toil physically and not the intellectual class.
Similar to Schopenhauer’s remarks on Constitutional forms of Government, Social Anarchism and Stateless forms of Communism would be adequate and good if Man in his nature was selfless, rational and good[1].  But since Man is in his nature sinful, stupid and egotistical Social Anarchy is not for the race of Man.
Democracy, what is presupposed to be the freest and liberating form of Government for a free and liberal people has created the highest incarceration rate seen on the Earth.  Electing one’s leaders in no way presupposes individual freedom – in fact, considering the eagerness of people to be deceived it almost has built within a tendency to thwart all moral aims.  For if a man is capable of deception, and agrees to the word of goodness rather than the deed, then this almost guarantees that who will be elected will do anything but what is desired, for if they did they would perform the hypothetical action and there would be no distinction between word and deed.
If I would briefly summarize my political philosophy with the given end, or ‘ought,’ being the well-being of all who live in the State and which at its core gives three fact as its core premises:  A – Knowledge is above all other things a tool for human beings to achieve their desired ends.  B – It is a person’s character rather than virtue (knowledge being a virtue) which is the main determiner in their course of action for it is a person’s character which determines their motives; it is our motives which lead us rather than our abilities.  And C – most people are inadequate or not constituted in their character and abilities to operate in the political life of the State.  Or in other worlds, given the presumed ‘ought’ of human well-being in the State, only those who are of impeccable virtue and saintly character should legislate, observing the data and having the good of the people as their desired end.
For those who find that the role of the State is to be the enforcer of the collective will (general will as Rousseau puts it) then consent is what makes a State legitimate.  However, if one is to rely on more Pragmatist and Consequentialist notions, then it seems like consent cannot be the primary arbitrator of legitimacy but instead merit to execute action and policy which will bring about desired ends (whichever they may be) is what is what makes rulers of a State legitimate.
It is the philosophy of Rousseau which espouses the Classical Liberal idea that legitimacy of rulers is a matter of consent rather than a matter of competency and it is this that must be done away with if we wish to live well rather than living according to the wishes of the majority.  Rousseau’s optimism in the will of the majority is much like his optimism in human nature before corrupted by civil society – with very little empirical backing and a great deal of backing to the contrary.
Rousseau is optimistic about the inherent good will of the majority, but also seems to be naïve in thinking that once the well-being of the group is each individual’s aim (an impossibility) than the answer should be obvious and unanimous votes (or close to it) would proceed[2].  As if once all normative questions have been decided the answer should be obvious since there will be no debate on questions of descriptive accounts.  Also he believes that though there is a moral dilemma between the group’s interest and a sole soul’s interest, the lone man will choose to act in the interest of the group because it’s in his interest to do so[3]If he were to claim the man would choose the public good over his own he would be naïve; for Rousseau to claim to choose the public good over his own for his own good is to have a supposed master of education fail elementary logic.
Others like Bakunin have also criticized Rousseau for creating a template of “democratic authoritarianism” or mob rule.  It depends of what area of his work is in question.  There is the question of “forced to be free” quote and of later portions of the work.  In regards to the former however, I don’t think this stands if we accept two things.  A – The acceptance of the need of might or force to enforce what has been decided by any political body for any reason regardless of that bodies’ validity or the validity of their reasoning.  And B – Freedom is not merely Negative Liberty, or “Natural Liberty” as Rousseau calls it.  If “freedom” is something that is more than free action, then Rousseau’s statements stand[4].  When we force a child to attend school to attain an education are we forcing them to be free or forcing them to attain a state contrary to freedom?  It cannot be both.  If we educate our children for their sake and not some higher end, then either we are educating our children in hopes that they become free or we are letting go of freedom for a perceived higher good for our children.
Evidence of authoritarianism and more lapses in logic however can be found further in the work[5].  To say that freedom is not identical with Negative Liberty is one thing.  To say that a man gives consent even when he refuses is entirely another.  It is this slaughter of logic that Rousseau uses to destroy or completely do away with the question of whether or not it is the general will (popular consent) or general good that we seek.  For clearly the two can be in conflict.  But for him, the general will is to have what is good for the population (and by some miracle of knowledge know what the good is) and all individual wills both have it without showing it and any show of something that is contrary to the general will is not important.  They have it without showing it and by being logic of having what they don’t show they consent and are free.  Their “better selves” consent to be punished.  Socrates argued that a just man should want to be punished for his crimes.  Not that all men do even when they claim they don’t.  The difference of statements here is equivalent to the difference of saying that Jim wants beer because he’s an alcoholic and saying that Jim always wants beer even though he’s always spoken against drinking because the general will makes him an alcoholic.
Just as we protect children out of concern for their well-being, so it goes that the majority of the human race should be protected by their respective Nations[6].  For the majority are like children, largely impulsive and short in attentiveness.  Minds that are weak in intellectual power, uninterested in the proper study of questions pertinent to politics, and both incredibly self-interested yet routinely voting against their own economic self-interest out of deception and stupidity.
A truly wise and practical man acknowledges and is honest about all shortcomings, and we must accept the general shortcoming that some are far better in some qualities and capacities than others.  If Descartes was correct and the reasoning faculties of all men and women were comparable then Democracy may be the ideal state of affairs – but we must live life with what we are given not with what we should have, and this applies to the social as much as to the individual.
Not only would an undemocratic arrangement free the non-intellectual masses from burdens they are unequipped and unqualified to handle, it liberates the intellectual minority to pursue with passion the aims which are not only a good for them in enjoyment but the good of the Nation through achievement and proper implementation of knowledge.  Just as there are tests in Plato’s Republic so citizens of a certain tier of society can move up or down a peg, so all who live in a Nation should receive regular inventory of their mental, physical and behavioral strengths and be assigned to roles which best fit their nature.  Reliance on money to receive a degree is the great sin of our society.  The fact that millions perform menial labor when in potential there are many which could be doing far more is a crime against the virtue of the individual and the welfare of the population at large. 
In conclusion, if we properly understand the “is-ought” distinction, we must recognize that how the world “ought” to be in a perfect State is quite different in what we “ought” to do or rather “ought” to attempt to achieve.  We must examine not only the oughts but the “is” of this world to figure out what is the closest approximation to the ideal this world is capable of sustaining.  To try to build Utopias out of a World of Sin is akin to trying to save all life from all illness – when Euthanasia is the best possible solution for many sufferers.

Schopenhauer – Government
Rousseau – Social Contract

[1] A constitution which embodied abstract right alone would be an excellent thing for natures other than human, but since the great majority of men are extremely egoistic, unjust, inconsiderate, deceitful and sometimes even malicious; since in addition they are endowed with very scanty intelligence there arises the necessity for a power that shall be concentrated in one man…
[2] But when the social bond begins to slacken and the state to grow weak, when particular interests start to make themselves felt and the smaller societies begin to influence the larger one, the common interest changes and comes to have opponents; votes are no longer unanimous; the general will is no longer the will of all; contradictory views are presented and debates start up; and the best advice isn’t accepted without question.
[3] Does it follow from this that the general will is exterminated or corrupted? Not at all: it continues to be constant, unalterable and pure; but it is pushed aside by other wills that invade its territory. Each man, in distinguishing his interests from the common interest, sees clearly that he can’t entirely separate them, ·i.e. that his pursuit of his own interests will have some negative effect on the common good·; but he sees •his share in the public misfortunes as negligible compared with •the private good that he is laying claim to. Apart from this private good, he wills the general good as strongly as anyone else because it’s in his interests to do so.
[4] To protect the social compact from being a mere empty formula, therefore, it silently includes the undertaking that anyone who refuses to obey the general will is to be compelled to do so by the whole body. This single item in the compact can give power to all the other items. It means nothing less than that each individual will be forced to be free. ·It’s obvious how forcing comes into this, but. . . to be free? Yes·, because this is the condition which, by giving each citizen to his country, secures him against all personal dependence, ·i.e. secures him against being taken by anyone or anything else·. This is the key to the working of the political machine; it alone legitimises civil commitments which would otherwise be absurd, tyrannical, and liable to frightful abuses.
[5] The citizen gives his consent to all the laws, including ones that are passed against his opposition, and even laws that punish him when he dares to break any law. The constant will of all the members of the state is the general will; by virtue of it they are citizens and free.
[6] The question of the sovereignty of the people is at bottom the same as the question whether any man can gave an original right to rule a people against its will.  How that proposition can be reasonably maintained I do not see.  The people, it must be admitted, is sovereign; but it is a sovereign who is always a minor.  It must have permanent guardians, and it can never exercise its rights itself, without creating dangers of which no one can forsee the end.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

On Ought – Slim Version

While the majority of the human race has lived and died unaware that their lives require metaphysical and meta-ethical foundation, philosophers have painstakingly dedicated their lives to answering questions no one required the answer to.  Though while argumentation in metaphysics (the Realist/Anti-Realist debate) has no value in people's lives, meta-ethics arguably could.  What if the ‘ought’ I thought I ought to have is not the ‘ought’ I ought to?  What if something I thought was right is instead wrong and my beliefs are erroneous?  This ethical skepticism is certainly useful on some level – without it no one would question the social mores of their culture and many things like slavery and child labor could still be legal.  But what of a deeper, more fundamental questioning of ‘oughts?’  Skepticism that doubts the very notion that we ought to be happy, healthy and have well-being in our lives however one wishes to describe and define it.
It is this ought that I wish to demonstrate lacks foundation.  Basic or axiomatic ‘oughts’ that are required to have any of the secondary ‘oughts’ (I ought to go to the store, because I ought to get eggs; we ought to raise taxes on the wealthy for we ought to use said capital to provide national healthcare for we ought to be healthy) that we live our lives on.  Though I will demonstrate it is problematic for human beings to create rational foundation for ‘oughts’ this is not tantamount to Ethical Nihilism just as Anti-Realism is not tantamount to Metaphysical Nihilism.  The stance that there is an epistemic barrier between Man and Reality (whether descriptive or normative) is not synonymous with the stance that no such Reality exists or to claim we know the descriptive and normative accounts of things are erroneous.
The argument against normative claims of knowledge derives from Hume’s is-ought distinction[1].  Regardless of whether what we see in the world represents the thing-in-itself, and regardless of whether induction is valid there is at the very least with descriptive claims some indisputable account of an exterior world and things happening similar to as they have before.  However, with normative claims there is no starting point for us to begin upon.  If we cannot deduce normative claims from factual or descriptive ones alone then for there to be any oughts we can know there must be one we can know without reference to any other knowledge whether descriptive or normative – it must be axiomatic.  To refer to another normative claim to ground what was meant to be our grounding ‘ought’ ad infinitum would be a problem of infinite regress. 
Philosophy has yet to come up with this axiomatically true ‘ought.’  Until it arrives we remain in a position of tentative Moral Falibilism.  I say tentative because unless it can be demonstrated that axiomatically valid ‘ought’ claims are impossible one might present itself.  Just because all the ought claims in the past lacked foundation does not mean that one which has foundation cannot arise in the future – to say otherwise would be to commit an error in inductive reasoning.
But if this is so, is there anything left for normative discussion?  Yes.  There are two remaining aspects of ethics we can discuss without requiring reference to a valid normative premise.  The first is the law of non-contradiction.  Just as we do not know whether trees truly exist we do know that if trees exist they cannot be both all red and all green, for this violates the law of non-contradiction.  This applies to normative cases as well.  An example being someone claiming the good is to live in a state of maximal pain and pleasure forever.  Assuming a being cannot experience this state it is a contradiction and we can reject it for another reason we rejected other normative claims.  We are also rejecting it in a different way.  Preference Ethics, Divine Command Theory and Deontology are ethical claims that we can’t verify or ground in reason.  That is different than knowing they are wrong.  We simply cannot affirm they are right.
The second way we can discuss ethics is in the descriptive realization of an assumed normative claim or value.  Regardless of whether or not we ought to be healthy, we can give a descriptive account of how to achieve this (consuming tablets of Vitamin C for example).  If someone did not believe this, or asked us how they could improve their immune system, we could refer to scientific data that showed the likelihood of this descriptive account of human biology.  Just as in the realm of politics we can show differing accounts of the effects of taxation and regulation, regardless of whether or not we agree or it can be shown that we ought to be happy and our freedoms (whatever account of freedom we have) protected.  Even if I cannot demonstrate that the American people ought to have a certain standard of living, I can still demonstrate that said standard of living can be achieved through imitating the Scandinavian model for example.  Like Kierkegaard’s Judge Wilhelm in Either/Or, we have to make a choice on non-cognitivist grounds of what our oughts ought to be, or what we value, but once we make that choice, once we have created our Ethics, then we can utilize reason to attempt to implement it[2]
As I stated in my opening, what we have before us is a purely philosophical problem.  People live their lives pursuing their own personal normative evaluations and goals (mostly driven by Egoism) completely ignorant of the meta-ethical problems that philosophers immerse themselves with.  Just as if God (hypothetically a being I assume the validity of) told me I was a lobster, I would not run to the sea and attempt to crack snail shells with my hands, so if He told me what is morally correct is maximizing the amount of acorns in the Universe, I would not spend every waking moments hatching schemes to maximize their quantity. 
Most people seem to have within them intuitions of morality that conform with a basic notion of Pragmatism.  But this is a purely descriptive account of people’s ethics.  What determines our ethical choices descriptively and normatively will differ radically.  Using knowledge of psychology, genetics and insight in up-bringing we can determine what choice a person will make in what he or she ought to do.  But a descriptive account of this and the normative argument for or against this decision will differ as radically as a scientific explanation of emotions against the actual experience of turbulent passions in motivating our actions.
Though it cannot be grounded in reason, the pragmatist approach seems the soundest, if for no other reason that while we do not know if God exists or if the Categorical Imperative is valid we do know we are alive so we should live the best life while we’re doing it.  Ultimately the problems of ethics are not what should we value but how do we attain it.  This is a problem both of descriptive knowledge and of action.  We have made great strides in the former but are largely where we were and likely shall remain in the latter – since problems in action arise typically in errors of a person’s character and will power and not upon knowledge and capacity to reason[3].  Problems the majority of ethicists describe in accounts of human moral weakness.


[1] In every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with, I have always remarked, that the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary ways of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when all of a sudden I am surprised to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not. This change is imperceptible; but is however, of the last consequence. For as this ought, or ought not, expresses some new relation or affirmation, 'tis necessary that it should be observed and explained; and at the same time that a reason should be given, for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it. But as authors do not commonly use this precaution, I shall presume to recommend it to the readers; and am persuaded, that this small attention would subvert all the vulgar systems of morality, and let us see, that the distinction of vice and virtue is not founded merely on the relations of objects, nor is perceived by reason.
[2] This being so, you will perceive again here why I said previously and go on saying that the Either/Or I erected between living esthetically and living ethically is not an unqualified dilemma, because it actually is a matter of only one choice. Through this choice, I actually do not choose between good and evil, but I choose the good, but when I choose the good, I choose eo ipso the choice between good and evil. The original choice is forever present in every
succeeding choice.
[3] It is possible to conceive of a very virtuous man in whom the better consciousness is so continuously active that it is never silent, and never allows his passions to get a complete hold of him.  By such consciousness he is subject to a direct control, instead of being guided indirectly, through the medium of reason, by means of maxims and moral principles.  That is why a man may have weak reasoning powers and a weak understanding and yet have a high sense of morality and be eminently good; for the most important element in a man depends as little on intellectual as it does on physical strength.