Given all that, I think our best bet is to proceed directly into ethics, as that might help highlight the “real” ontological issues. [Read more] for my attempt to articulate a Systems Theory approach to ethical problems.
To do that, though, I’m going to take a step back and skirt some of the ontological questions by reframing them from an epistemic perspective.
A. There exist Formal, Physical, and Social Systems
That is, they are ontologically real in and of themselves, not something we humans “project” onto reality. Consequently, it is possible to make statements about these systems that are “really” true or false (i.e., not merely “imaginary beliefs”)
B. These systems can be explore and understood rationally
That doesn’t necessarily mean Reason, Observation, and Introspection are all equally important, just that they are a valid sources of information in this context.
Still with me, Alan?
In this context, I define “ethics” as theories about how to optimally structure Social Systems, relatively to whatever purpose or metric(s) those theories define.
Thus, our respective challenge is not to defend the existence of such systems, but both to define our criteria for a successful ethics, and defend why our particular framework is optimal for achieving that.
Fair enough? And are you comfortable that this is both necessary and sufficient to answer the ethical questions you are concerned with?