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Chapter 1- Ethical Theories- Mary Midgley: Trying Out one’s New Sword March 1, 2009

Filed under: itethic — hikaru011 @ 2:49 pm
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Otsuka Hikaru

ITETHIC

Book: Contemporary Moral Problems

Book Review: Chapter 1- Ethical Theories- Mary Midgley: Trying Out one’s New Sword

Library Reference: N/A

Internet Reference: N/A

Learning Expectation:

  • I expect to learn Tsujigiri

  • Moral isolationism

  • Basis for criticizing other cultures

Quote:

“Tsujigiri, literally “crossroads cut.” A samurai sword had to tried out because, if it was to work properly, it had to slice through someone at a single blow, from the shoulder to the opposite flank. Otherwise, the warrior bungled his stroke. This could injure his honor offend his ancestors, and even let down his emperor. So tests were needed, and the wayfarer had to be expended. Any wayfarer would do- provided of course, that he was not another Samurai.”

Book Review:

Moral isolationism is a doctrine of immoralism because it forbids any moral reasoning. It falsely assumes that cultures are separate and unmixed. It is also a belief that no one can understand culture except his own. For example, I, as a Filipino, may not be familiar and don’t understand the American culture, but I, as a Filipino, know my own culture. According to Midgley, there is something wrong with Moral isolationism. I think what is wrong is we are ignorant or sometimes we misunderstood other people’s culture. Moral isolationism stops us in criticizing others customs that might destroy the value of morality, it is wrong because it defies or contrast the moral values we know and believe. In the example stated above, the tsujigiri or the crossroad cuts, for most of us, we may think that it is immoral. Taking out a life of innocent people just to practice your sword it a very brutal action, but for the ancient Japanese, what is immoral or wrong is when they bring disgrace to their emperors and ancestors. I think that most of us misunderstand other’s culture because in the first place, we don’t care about others except our own. I believe this is true. But before giving any opinion or before criticizing something or other people’s culture, we must first consider knowing and understanding the basis. It is the same when you criticize and give an opinion with your friends. How can you give your own idea or opinion if you are completely unaware what happened.

It is also said in the book that we may well reflect that we simply do not understand it; therefore are not qualified to criticize it at all, because we are not members of that culture. If we think like this, we should ask ourselves: Does the isolating barrier between the two cultures block praise as well as blame? How they or we judged each other’s customs.

Integrative Questions:

  1. What is tsujigiri?
  2. Do you think it is morally right?
  3. What is moral isolationism?
  4. What is/are the basis of criticizing other cultures?
  5. Is moral isolationism is a doctrine of immoralism?

What I have learned?

I have learned about moral isolationism. Moral Isolationism means that we don’t know any culture except our own. I believe that this statement is true. Most of us don’t care with other cultures. When we heard something, we just react with the situation, without knowing if that certain thing that happened is typical to them or not.

Review Questions

1. What is “moral isolationism”?

Moral isolationism is a doctrine of immoralism because it forbids any moral reasoning. It falsely assumes that cultures are separate and unmixed.

2. Explain the Japanese custom of tsujigiri. What questions does Midgley ask about this custom?

Tsujigiri or crosscut is practiced by the Japanese samurais. They

test new swords on wayfarers. It is important to the samurais that their sword must be able to slice through someone in a single swing, passing from the shoulder to the opposite side. If the sword did not work properly, the samurai would lose his

Honor, the respect of his emperor and disgrace his ancestors.

In others’ custom, they might think that it is brutal and unfair, but for the Japanese this is right since it is their custom. Midgley asks do other people with different custom questions our very own customs.

3. What is wrong with moral isolationism, according to Midgley?

“People usually take it up because they think it is respectful attitude to other cultures. In fact, however, it is not respectful.”

Moral isolationism stops us in criticizing others customs that might destroy the value of morality, it is wrong because it defies or contrast the moral values we know and believe.

4. What does Midgley think is the basis for criticizing other cultures?

The basis to criticize other culture is to prove it that it destroys the general moral teachings. But in order to make favorable judgment or criticism, we have to know enough.

Discussion Questions

1. Midgley says that Nietzsche is an immoralist. Is that an accurate and fair assessment of Nietzsche? Why or why not?

No because all of us has a right to express what we think and believe in.

2. Do you agree with Midgley’s claim that the idea of separate and unmixed cultures is unreal? Explain your answer.

Yes because racial discrimination is everywhere!

 

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