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NMSU PHIL 201G - Commentary

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Module 4.1 CommentaryHow do you go about making moral choices? By moral choices, I mean making choices that are right and wrong, such as whether or not to give a homeless person cash. These types of questions are considered “ethical” questions in philosophy. In Module 4.1, we turn to questions that deal with the philosophical field of ethics. The specific question being asked is “How do we determine what we ought to do?” The readings I have selected for Module 4.1 explore two possible ways humans approach making moral choices. One is from the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle. The other is from the ancient Chinese philosopher Mencius. The first reading is from The Nicomachean Ethics, by Aristotle. In the selection, Aristotle looks atthe nature of morality. In other words, he asks, “What is morality?” He will refer to morality using the word “virtue.” He equates virtue with the idea of ‘good.’ So, he looks at what is good in human existence. An important part of Aristotle’s overall philosophy is that he sees everything in nature, including humans, as having a goal. Humans spend their lives reaching toward the goal, which for Aristotle, is happiness. This is where he begins his thoughts in our reading. He takes a deep dive into what happiness means for humans, concluding that happiness is tied up in virtue. Aristotle thinks through, one step at a time, how a human comes to make moral choices. He concludes that humans make moral/ethical choices based on experiences. To Aristotle, it takes practice to become a moral or virtuous person. An important thing to notice here, is that Aristotle sees moral behavior as external to a human. It is somethingto be achieved. One note about Aristotle: His theory is challenging to read. Just think of it as someone “thinking out loud.” Aristotle takes his students, that’s you, through his thought processes. It’s like watching someone build a car engine, one piece at a time. Don’t get discouraged. Stay with Aristotle’s process. Trust Aristotle’s process. Our second reading from Mencius, takes a different point of view from Aristotle. To Mencius, humans are endowed with good. So, good exists inside of each human. Humans make immoral choices due to external factors. This selection is much shorter than the reading by Aristotle. The structure of the piece by Mencius is in the form of a dialogue. It is a conversation between Kao Tzu and Mencius. As you read, ask yourself what differences you see between the two selections. How do they view moral behavior differently from one


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