The Mulla and the Philosopher of Morality

The Mulla was riding his donkey into town one day when he was stopped by a famous philosopher of morality traveling through the village to give a talk in a larger town nearby. The philosopher introduced himself and asked the Mulla if he knew a good place to have lunch. The Mulla suggested one of his favorite places, and the scholar, both thankful for the suggestion and hungry for a good conversation, invited the Mulla to join him. The Mulla happily agreed, since he wanted to know what a philosopher of morality was really all about.

When they arrived at the restaurant, the waiter came to the table and told them about the special of the day, which happened to be fresh fish. “Bring us two specials,” they told the waiter. Within minutes, the waiter brought out a large platter with two delicious-looking fish, one of which was much larger than the other. Without a moment’s hesitation, the Mulla grabbed the larger fish for himself, placing it quickly on his plate.

The philosopher couldn’t believe his eyes and sat there in disbelief for several minutes without touching the smaller fish remaining on the large platter. Finally, when he just couldn’t restrain himself any longer, he told the Mulla in an indignant and morally self-righteous way that taking the larger fish was not only selfish but also violated the moral and ethical laws of every known spiritual tradition. The philosopher then went on to explain these laws in great detail, and why one should always allow others to choose first.

The Mulla listened carefully and patiently to everything the philosopher said, and then simply asked him what he would have done.

“Well, I, being a considerate and moral person, would have taken the smaller fish,” the philosopher replied without a thought.

The Mulla then asked him: “Would being considerate and moral and choosing the smaller fish make you happy?”

“Yes, of course,” the philosopher quickly responded. “The moral action brings us the deepest levels of happiness.”

The Mulla reached over to the platter, took the smaller fish, and carefully put it on the philosopher’s plate. “Well, here you are,” he said smiling. “Now we’re both happy.”

Retold by Dennis Lewis from the vast panoply of Mulla Nasreddin stories. Picture from Wikipedia.

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