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Taoism And Western Moral Philosophy Essay

3909 words - 16 pages

Taoism presents a moral philosophy that at first seems very different from most western moral philosophies which, though very different, usually understand morality as a set of restraints on behavior or a common set of principles (common virtues). Western moral philosophy, in general, emphasizes constraining behavior that stems from desire. Taosim's emphasis is dealing directly with controlling ones desire by eliminating them. Taoism and western moral philosophy deal with desire but Taoism deals with it directly and western morality often only tries to stem the effect of desire. Both systems see in man that he does not naturally desire the good and true or the Way. Desire is the root of evil. Only when we desire something bad do we act bad. Thus, as in western moral philosophy, we can provide an incentive to not act on ones desire or, as in the case of Taoism, desire can be eliminated. The result of both moral systems is the same--moral behavior. Both systems of morality try to encourage man to act better than he naturally is. Whether you call it the Way, the Ten Commandments, or the categorical imperative they deal with the same thing. Man's inherent state is fallen, whether he has fallen from grace or lost his Way, all great societies have realized that man is in need of help. This is true for Black Elk who was given a vision to help man and Socrates who felt that man needed to be saved from his own ignorance. Moral systems, by their very nature, have observed and concluded that when man is left to fulfill his individual desires, without respect to others and the greater good, nothing good can come from it. All societies have functioned around this principle from the beginning of civilization. Further, unlike many other moral philosophies, the Tao can not be reasoned or justified for "there are ways but the Way is uncharted; there are names but not nature in words" (Lao Tzu 1983, pg.53). Just as "Thirty spokes will converge in the hub of wheel; but the use of the cart will depend on the part of the hub that is void" (pg.63), so can we never isolate the Way. It is functional like the part of the hub that is void, yet though it can't be isolated, you can't live without it. We can try to give names to the Way or Tao but we can never know the Tao's secrets; it just is. Taoism is self evident and personal, i.e. the Tao is different for everyone and is a "Way of life" that requires a deep psychological inspection of the self. Rather than to try to justify or explain the grounding for Taoism, it would be far better to look at how living the Taoistic life can affect an individual's life, or rather how it has affected my life, even though I never tried to follow a Taoistic philosophy, in particular the Wei Wu Wei. We are asked what the passage, "Those who would take over Nature and shape it to their will, never succeed. . ." means and what are its implications for my behavior are.

Essentially, the meaning of the above passage is that you can't move...

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