I would like to address this comment:
I am not sure I understand. I think I agree with you that people act from desires and influence others to implement those desires. To me this describes the situation as it is and does not imply a moral "should" or "ought".
Could you explain what elements of moral "ought" might be missing from this description.
It is commonly understood that description and prescription are mutually exclusive categories. I disagree with this.
Ultimately, I hold that it is a very strange view that seems to assume that the universe is made up of two different types of things that can somehow interact with each other - things that can be described and not prescribed, and things that can be prescribed but not described.
Ultimately, I hold that "prescriptions" are a subset of "descriptions". All squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares. All prescriptions are descriptions, but not all descriptions are prescriptions.
So, what does a prescription describe?
It describes a relationship between some possible state of affairs and desires.
There are two types of ought - practical ought and moral ought.
If Agent has a desire that P, and action X can improve the possibility of P, then A ought to do X (unless A has more and stronger reasons - desire that Q - that are incompatible with P).
For moral ought, I propose that is a description of the case in which people generally have many and strong reasons act (desires) so as to apply rewards (such as praise) and punishments (such as condemnation) in order to promote or inhibit particular desires or aversions.
My question would then be - what aspects of conventional "ought" as used in practice is not captured by this claim?
"It's wrong to lie."
People generally have many and strong reasons to apply rewards (such as praise) and punishments (such as condemnation) so as to promote an aversion to lying.
What is there that is found in the actual use of moral "ought" and "should" that is missing from this account?
Ultimately . . . let's say you don't want to use moral "ought" in this case. You want to insist that moral "ought" requires some kind of categorical imperative or a command from God.
I answer . . . Fine. Then moral "ought" does not exist. We quit using "ought" statements in all real-world decision making. Desires that people generally have many and strong reasons to promote or inhibit using rewards and condemnation still exist.
Or, let's say that you want to apply moral "ought" to . . . day, the greatest good for the greatest number.
Again, are you limiting yourself to that which is objectively true of "the greatest good for the greatest number?" If you are, then I am going to agree with everything you say. But, if you are assigning qualities to "the greatest good for the greatest number" (e.g., that it has some sort of intrinsic prescriptivity or that people are always justified in condemning those who do not promote the greatest good for the greatest number), then I am going to accuse you of making things up.
When I apply moral "ought" to "that which people generally have many and strong reasons to apply rewards (such as praise) and punishments (such as condemnation) so to promote those desires that would motivate such an action," am I saying anything about this subject that is not objectively true?
If I am, then I would also be guilty of making stuff up. So, I try to avoid that. But if that is your accusation, I need you to specify, exactly, what I am saying about these desires that people have many and strong reasons to promote that is not true. What is it, exactly, that I am making up or leaving out?