The Golden Rule-do unto others as you would have them do unto you, is about as basic as morality gets. It’s the bridge between empathy and sympathy, between putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and making some accommodation to them as a result. Putting oneself in someone else’s shoes is, of course, a figure of speech. What we really do is get a mind’s-eye view—a virtual experience—of ourselves in their situation.
How do we do it? Mostly through figures of speech.
We’re symbolic creatures. Unlike other life forms we can use words-cultural conventions in the form of “sign vehicles” (sounds and letter-shapes) that reliably bring to mind features of things. For example, while some animals see colors, we also give names to colors and use these names to make connections between otherwise unrelated things-red sky at morning; red light district; seeing red; black, white, and re(a)d all over; red light, green light.
Through symbols we mix and match features into a composite mental sketch that forms a fairly complex approximation of what it would be like to be another person. It’s this ability to draw far-reaching connections through the use of words that enables us to empathize in detail and to sympathize voluntarily—that is, to make sacrifices to accommodate others.
Suppose you’re out in the city with a friend and he asks if you could rest a while because his new shoes are killing him. You’d rather not, but lightning fast and effortlessly, through words (not necessarily spoken but at least thought) you compose mental composite sketches of yourself “in his shoes” with your feet “killing” you like his “kill” him.
“Lickety-split,” figures of speech like “walk a mile in his shoes,” “heartless,” “need breaking in,” “blister,” “brother’s keeper,” “he ain’t heavy,” and “the Golden Rule” act on you. Words and figures of speech enable you to compose recollections of a time you had new shoes that hurt and a friend stopped for you, and of a time in the future when your friend wouldn’t stop for you if you don’t stop for him now.
Animals are capable of doing quite violent things to each other, yet we don’t hold them to a human standard of morality. We don’t because we recognize that their capacity for empathy and sympathy is more limited than ours, limited by their lack of figures of speech. They can’t word their way to complex and subtle interpretations of each other’s feelings.
Humans, of course, are capable of vastly more violent acts than animals. With our capacity for symbolic thought, we can mix and match not only toward empathy but toward innovation, including innovative ways of destroying things. “Let’s see,” we say, “what if we crossed a rocket with a nuclear chain reaction with a computer. . . . ” By reverse-sympathy, we torture people by putting them in our shoes as we imagine the most excruciating pain that could be imposed upon us.
The way our complex symbolic capacity engenders both higher moral standards and more innovative ways and means to hurt each other makes us the most internally conflicted animals ever. But for that too we have the power of symbolic thought to aid us in rationalizing. We can also word our way to justifications for treating others to such torture: “He’s a servant of the devil and in God’s name should die the most excruciating death I can imagine.”
As it’s generally understood, the Golden Rule suggests that what you hope others would do to you should simply be identical to what you would do to them. In practice, that’s a bit of an oversimplification, which is one reason none of us apply it perfectly.
In my wildest dreams, I would have others do unto me all sorts of favors. I would have them accommodate my wishes, keep me from disappointments, bend over backward to make my life easy and successful. But I’m not about to do all that unto others. So the Golden Rule standard is not really about what I would have them do unto me but what I could reasonably expect them to do unto me given what I do unto them. Thus, in practice, the Golden rule is some sort of balancing act between “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” and its reciprocal-”Expect others to do unto you as you do unto them.”
I just read “Mistakes Were Made: But Not by Me,” a new book about the ways we all naturally hold double standards, cutting ourselves far more slack than we cut for others. The book attributes this tendency primarily to a universal human need to reduce cognitive dissonance. You invest in some activity that doesn’t go right. You’re confronted with your failure. You can’t stand the dissonance between the hope you had for that activity and disappointment of its failure, so you side with hope, denying that you made a mistake.
We don’t experience cognitive dissonance about other people’s mistakes, so we blame them far more readily. We can be scathingly exacting in our criticism of others while granting ourselves all sorts of immunities.
A useful counterbalance to the Golden Rule, then, would be one that countervails against our tendency to do unto ourselves differently from what we do unto others. Instead of just fantasizing about the special treatment we would have others do unto us and then trying unsuccessfully to give them the same royal treatment, we should look at what we really do to other people, and mete out to ourselves the same in return—no special treatment at all.
Not to be confused with Golden Law, Golden ratio, or Golden Act.
For other uses, see Golden Rule (disambiguation).
The Golden Rule (which can be considered a law of reciprocity in some religions) is the principle of treating others as one would wish to be treated. It is a maxim of altruism that is found in many religions and cultures. The maxim may appear as either a positive or negative injunction governing conduct:
- One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself (positive or directive form).
- One should not treat others in ways that one would not like to be treated (negative or prohibitive form).
- What you wish upon others, you wish upon yourself (empathic or responsive form).
The Golden Rule differs from the maxim of reciprocity captured in do ut des—"I give so that you will give in return"—and is rather a unilateral moral commitment to the well-being of the other without the expectation of anything in return.
The concept occurs in some form in nearly every religion and ethical tradition and is often considered the central tenet of Christian ethics. It can also be explained from the perspectives of psychology, philosophy, sociology, human evolution, and economics. Psychologically, it involves a person empathizing with others. Philosophically, it involves a person perceiving their neighbor also as "I" or "self". Sociologically, "love your neighbor as yourself" is applicable between individuals, between groups, and also between individuals and groups. In evolution, "reciprocal altruism" is seen as a distinctive advance in the capacity of human groups to survive and reproduce, as their exceptional brains demanded exceptionally long childhoods and ongoing provision and protection even beyond that of the immediate family. In economics, Richard Swift, referring to ideas from David Graeber, suggests that "without some kind of reciprocity society would no longer be able to exist."
The term "Golden Rule", or "Golden law", began to be used widely in the early 17th century in Britain by Anglican theologians and preachers; the earliest known usage is that of Anglicans Charles Gibbon and Thomas Jackson in 1604.
Possibly the earliest affirmation of the maxim of reciprocity, reflecting the ancient Egyptian goddess Ma'at, appears in the story of The Eloquent Peasant, which dates to the Middle Kingdom (c. 2040–1650 BC): "Now this is the command: Do to the doer to make him do." This proverb embodies the do ut des principle. A Late Period (c. 664–323 BC) papyrus contains an early negative affirmation of the Golden Rule: "That which you hate to be done to you, do not do to another."
In Mahābhārata, the ancient epic of India, there is a discourse in which the wise minister Vidura advises the King Yuddhiśhṭhira
Listening to wise scriptures, austerity, sacrifice, respectful faith, social welfare, forgiveness, purity of intent, compassion, truth and self-control—are the ten wealth of character (self). O king aim for these, may you be steadfast in these qualities. These are the basis of prosperity and rightful living. These are highest attainable things. All worlds are balanced on dharma, dharma encompasses ways to prosperity as well. O King, dharma is the best quality to have, wealth the medium and desire (kāma) the lowest. Hence, (keeping these in mind), by self-control and by making dharma (right conduct) your main focus, treat others as you treat yourself.
— Mahābhārata Shānti-Parva 167:9
In the Section on Virtue, and Chapter 32 of the Tirukkuṛaḷ (c. 200 BC – c. 500 AD), Tiruvalluvar says: "Do not do to others what you know has hurt yourself" (K. 316.); "Why does one hurt others knowing what it is to be hurt?" (K. 318). He furthermore opined that it is the determination of the spotless (virtuous) not to do evil, even in return, to those who have cherished enmity and done them evil. (K. 312) The (proper) punishment to those who have done evil (to you), is to put them to shame by showing them kindness, in return and to forget both the evil and the good done on both sides (K. 314)
The Golden Rule in its prohibitive (negative) form was a common principle in ancient Greekphilosophy. Examples of the general concept include:
- "Avoid doing what you would blame others for doing." – Thales (c. 624–546 BC)
- "What you do not want to happen to you, do not do it yourself either. " – Sextus the Pythagorean. The oldest extant reference to Sextus is by Origen in the third century of the common era.
- "Do not do to others that which angers you when they do it to you." – Isocrates (436–338 BC)
The Pahlavi Texts of Zoroastrianism (c. 300 BC–1000 AD) were an early source for the Golden Rule: "That nature alone is good which refrains from doing to another whatsoever is not good for itself." Dadisten-I-dinik, 94,5, and "Whatever is disagreeable to yourself do not do unto others." Shayast-na-Shayast 13:29
Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC–65 AD), a practitioner of Stoicism (c. 300 BC–200 AD) expressed the Golden Rule in his essay regarding the treatment of slaves: "Treat your inferior as you would wish your superior to treat you."
According to Simon Blackburn, the Golden Rule "can be found in some form in almost every ethical tradition".
See also: Abrahamic religions
See also: Judaism and Jewish ethics
A rule of altruistic reciprocity was first stated positively in a well-known Torah verse (Hebrew: ואהבת לרעך כמוך):
You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your kinsfolk. Love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
— Leviticus 19:18
Hillel the Elder (c. 110 BC – 10 AD), used this verse as a most important message of the Torah for his teachings. Once, he was challenged by a gentile who asked to be converted under the condition that the Torah be explained to him while he stood on one foot. Hillel accepted him as a candidate for conversion to Judaism but, drawing on Leviticus 19:18, briefed the man:
What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.
— Shabbath folio:31a, Babylonian Talmud
Hillel recognized brotherly love as the fundamental principle of Jewish ethics. Rabbi Akiva agreed and suggested that the principle of love must have its foundation in Genesis chapter 1, which teaches that all men are the offspring of Adam, who was made in the image of God (Sifra, Ḳedoshim, iv.; Yer. Ned. ix. 41c; Genesis Rabba 24). According to Jewish rabbinic literature, the first man Adam represents the unity of mankind. This is echoed in the modern preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And it is also taught, that Adam is last in order according to the evolutionary character of God's creation:
Why was only a single specimen of man created first? To teach us that he who destroys a single soul destroys a whole world and that he who saves a single soul saves a whole world; furthermore, so no race or class may claim a nobler ancestry, saying, 'Our father was born first'; and, finally, to give testimony to the greatness of the Lord, who caused the wonderful diversity of mankind to emanate from one type. And why was Adam created last of all beings? To teach him humility; for if he be overbearing, let him remember that the little fly preceded him in the order of creation.
The Jewish Publication Society's edition of Leviticus states:
Thou shalt not hate thy brother. in thy heart; thou shalt surely rebuke thy neighbour, and not bear sin because of him. 18 Thou shalt not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.
This Torah verse represents one of several versions of the Golden Rule, which itself appears in various forms, positive and negative. It is the earliest written version of that concept in a positive form.
At the turn of the eras, the Jewish rabbis were discussing the scope of the meaning of Leviticus 19:18 and 19:34 extensively:
The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I the LORD am your God.
— Leviticus 19:34
Commentators summed up foreigners (= Samaritans), proselytes (= 'strangers who resides with you') (Rabbi Akiva, bQuid 75b) or Jews (Rabbi Gamaliel, yKet 3, 1; 27a) to the scope of the meaning.
On the verse, "Love your fellow as yourself," the classic commentator Rashi quotes from Torat Kohanim, an early Midrashic text regarding the famous dictum of Rabbi Akiva: "Love your fellow as yourself – Rabbi Akiva says this is a great principle of the Torah."
Israel's postal service quoted from the previous Leviticus verse when it commemorated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on a 1958 postage stamp.
See also: Christian ethics and Great Commandment
The "Golden Rule" was given by Jesus of Nazareth, who used it to summarize the Torah: "Do to others what you want them to do to you." and "This is the meaning of the law of Moses and the teaching of the prophets" (Matthew 7:12 NCV, see also Luke 6:31). The common English phrasing is "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you". A similar form of the phrase appeared in a Catholic catechism around 1567 (certainly in the reprint of 1583). The Golden Rule is stated positively numerous times in the Hebrew Pentateuch as well as the Prophets and Writings. Leviticus 19:18 ("Forget about the wrong things people do to you, and do not try to get even. Love your neighbor as you love yourself."; see also Great Commandment) and Leviticus 19:34 ("But treat them just as you treat your own citizens. Love foreigners as you love yourselves, because you were foreigners one time in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.").
The Old TestamentDeuterocanonical books of Tobit and Sirach, accepted as part of the Scriptural canon by Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodoxy, and the Non-Chalcedonian Churches, express a negative form of the golden rule:
"Do to no one what you yourself dislike."
— Tobit 4:15
"Recognize that your neighbor feels as you do, and keep in mind your own dislikes."
— Sirach 31:15
Two passages in the New Testament quote Jesus of Nazareth espousing the positive form of the Golden rule:
Do to others what you want them to do to you. This is the meaning of the law of Moses and the teaching of the prophets.
Do to others what you would want them to do to you.
A similar passage, a parallel to the Great Commandment, is Luke 10:25-28
25And one day an authority on the law stood up to put Jesus to the test. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to receive eternal life?"
26What is written in the Law?" Jesus replied. "How do you understand it?" 27He answered, " ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Love him with all your strength and with all your mind.’(Deuteronomy 6:5) And, ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ " 28"You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do that, and you will live.".
The passage in the book of Luke then continues with Jesus answering the question, "Who is my neighbor?", by telling the parable of the Good Samaritan, indicating that "your neighbor" is anyone in need. This extends to all, including those who are generally considered hostile.
Jesus' teaching goes beyond the negative formulation of not doing what one would not like done to themselves, to the positive formulation of actively doing good to another that, if the situations were reversed, one would desire that the other would do for them. This formulation, as indicated in the parable of the Good Samaritan, emphasizes the needs for positive action that brings benefit to another, not simply restraining oneself from negative activities that hurt another. Taken as a rule of judgment, both formulations of the golden rule, the negative and positive, are equally applicable.
In one passage of the New Testament, Paul the Apostle refers to the golden rule:
14For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
See also: Islamic ethics
The Arabian peninsula was known to not practice the golden rule prior to the advent of Islam. "Pre-Islamic Arabs regarded the survival of the tribe, as most essential and to be ensured by the ancient rite of blood vengeance" 
However, this all changed when Muhammad came on the scene: "Fakir al-Din al-Razi and several other Qur'anic commentators have pointed out that Qur'an 83:1-6 is an implicit statement of the Golden Rule, which is explicitly stated in the tradition, "Pay, Oh Children of Adam, as you would love to be paid, and be just as you would love to have justice!" 
"Similar examples of the golden rule are found in the hadith of the prophet Muhammad. The hadith recount what the prophet is believed to have said and done, and traditionally Muslims regard the hadith as second to only the Qur'an as a guide to correct belief and action." 
From the hadith, the collected oral and written accounts of Muhammad and his teachings during his lifetime:
"A Bedouin came to the prophet, grabbed the stirrup of his camel and said: O the messenger of God! Teach me something to go to heaven with it. Prophet said: "As you would have people do to you, do to them; and what you dislike to be done to you, don't do to them. Now let the stirrup go!" [This maxim is enough for you; go and act in accordance with it!]"
— Kitab al-Kafi, vol. 2, p. 146
"None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself."
— An-Nawawi's Forty Hadith 13 (p. 56)
"Seek for mankind that of which you are desirous for yourself, that you may be a believer."
— Sukhanan-i-Muhammad (Teheran, 1938)
"That which you want for yourself, seek for mankind."
"The most righteous person is the one who consents for other people what he consents for himself, and who dislikes for them what he dislikes for himself."
Ali ibn Abi Talib (4th Caliph in Sunni Islam, and first Imam in Shia Islam) says:
"O' my child, make yourself the measure (for dealings) between you and others. Thus, you should desire for others what you desire for yourself and hate for others what you hate for yourself. Do not oppress as you do not like to be oppressed. Do good to others as you would like good to be done to you. Regard bad for yourself whatever you regard bad for others. Accept that (treatment) from others which you would like others to accept from you... Do not say to others what you do not like to be said to you."
— Nahjul Balaghah, Letter 31
See also: Bahá'í Faith
The Writings of the Bahá'í Faith encourages everyone to treat others as they would treat themselves and even prefer others over oneself:
O SON OF MAN! Deny not My servant should he ask anything from thee, for his face is My face; be then abashed before Me.
Blessed is he who preferreth his brother before himself.
And if thine eyes be turned towards justice, choose thou for thy neighbour that which thou choosest for thyself.
Ascribe not to any soul that which thou wouldst not have ascribed to thee, and say not that which thou doest not.
See also: Indian religions
See also: Hinduism
One should never do that to another which one regards as injurious to one’s own self. This, in brief, is the rule of dharma. Other behavior is due to selfish desires.
— Brihaspati, Mahabharata (Anusasana Parva, Section CXIII, Verse 8)
By making dharma (right conduct) your main focus, treat others as you treat yourself
If the entire Dharma can be said in a few words, then it is—that which is unfavorable to us, do not do that to others.
श्रूयतां धर्मसर्वस्वं श्रुत्वा चाप्यवधार्यताम्।
आत्मनः प्रतिकूलानि परेषां न समाचरेत्।।
— Padmapuraana, shrushti 19/357–358
See also: Buddhism
Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama, c. 623–543 BC) made this principle one of the cornerstones of his ethics in the 6th century BC. It occurs in many places and in many forms throughout the Tripitaka.
Comparing oneself to others in such terms as "Just as I am so are they, just as they are so am I," he should neither kill nor cause others to kill.
— Sutta Nipata 705
One who, while himself seeking happiness, oppresses with violence other beings who also desire happiness, will not attain happiness hereafter.
— Dhammapada 10. Violence
Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.
— Udanavarga 5:18
Putting oneself in the place of another, one should not kill nor cause another to kill.
See also: Jainism and Ahimsa in Jainism
The Golden Rule is paramount in the Jainist philosophy and can be seen in the doctrines of Ahimsa and Karma. As part of the prohibition of causing any living beings to suffer, Jainism forbids inflicting upon others what is harmful to oneself.
The following quotation from the Acaranga Sutra sums up the philosophy of Jainism:
Nothing which breathes, which exists, which lives, or which has essence or potential of life, should be destroyed or ruled over, or subjugated, or harmed, or denied of its essence or potential.
In support of this Truth, I ask you a question – "Is sorrow or pain desirable to you ?" If you say "yes it is", it would be a lie. If you say, "No, It is not" you will be expressing the truth. Just as sorrow or pain is not desirable to you, so it is to all which breathe, exist, live or have any essence of life. To you and all, it is undesirable, and painful, and repugnant.
A man should wander about treating all creatures as he himself would be treated.
— Sutrakritanga, 1.11.33
In happiness and suffering, in joy and grief, we should regard all creatures as we regard our own self.
— Lord Mahavira, 24th Tirthankara
Saman Suttam of Jinendra Varni gives further insight into this precept:-
Just as pain is not agreeable to you, it is so with others. Knowing this principle of equality treat other with respect and compassion.
— Suman Suttam, verse 150
Killing a living being is killing one's own self; showing compassion to a living being is showing compassion to oneself. He who desires his own good, should avoid causing any harm to a living being.
— Suman Suttam, verse 151
See also: Sikhism and Karma
Precious like jewels are the minds of all. To hurt them is not at all good. If thou desirest thy Beloved, then hurt thou not anyone's heart.
— Guru Arjan Dev Ji 259, Guru Granth Sahib
East Asian religions
See also: East Asian religions
See also: Confucianism
- "What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others."
- Zi gong (a disciple of Confucius) asked: "Is there any one word that could guide a person throughout life?"
The Master replied: "How about 'shu' [reciprocity]: never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself?"
- --Confucius, Analects XV.24, tr. David Hinton (another translation is in the online Chinese Text Project)
The same idea is also presented in V.12 and VI.30 of the Analects (c. 500 BC), which can be found in the online Chinese Text Project. The phraseology differs from the Christian version of the Golden Rule. It does not presume to do anything unto others, but merely to avoid doing what would be harmful. It does not preclude doing good deeds and taking moral positions, but there is slim possibility for a Confucian missionary outlook, such as one can justify with the Christian Golden Rule.
See also: Taoism
The sage has no interest of his own, but takes the interests of the people as his own. He is kind to the kind; he is also kind to the unkind: for Virtue is kind. He is faithful to the faithful; he is also faithful to the unfaithful: for Virtue is faithful.
— Tao Te Ching, Chapter 49
Regard your neighbor's gain as your own gain, and your neighbor's loss as your own loss.
— T'ai Shang Kan Ying P'ien
See also: Mohism
If people regarded other people’s states in the same way that they regard their own, who then would incite their own state to attack that of another? For one would do for others as one would do for oneself. If people regarded other people’s cities in the same way that they regard their own, who then would incite their own city to attack that of another? For one would do for others as one would do for oneself. If people regarded other people’s families in the same way that they regard their own, who then would incite their own family to attack that of another? For one would do for others as one would do for oneself. And so if states and cities do not attack one another and families do not wreak havoc upon and steal from one another, would this be a harm to the world or a benefit? Of course one must say it is a benefit to the world.
— Mozi, c. 400 BC
Mozi regarded the golden rule as a corollary to the cardinal virtue of impartiality, and encouraged egalitarianism and selflessness in relationships.
See also: Iranian religions
New religious movements
See also: Wicca
Here ye these words and heed them well, the words of Dea, thy Mother Goddess, "I command thee thus, O children of the Earth, that that which ye deem harmful unto thyself, the very same shall ye be forbidden from doing unto another, for violence and hatred give rise to the same. My command is thus, that ye shall return all violence and hatred with peacefulness and love, for my Law is love unto all things. Only through love shall ye have peace; yea and verily, only peace and love will cure the world, and subdue all evil."
— The Book of Ways, Devotional Wicca
See also: Scientology
The Way to Happiness expresses the Golden Rule both in its negative/prohibitive form and in its positive form. The negative/prohibitive form is expressed in Precept 19 as:
19. Try not to do things to others that you would not like them to do to you.
— The Way to Happiness, Precept 19
The positive form is expressed in Precept 20 as:
20. Try to treat others as you would want them to treat you.
— The Way to Happiness, Precept 20
Main article: Towards a Global Ethic: An Initial Declaration
The "Declaration Toward a Global Ethic" from the Parliament of the World’s Religions (1993) proclaimed the Golden Rule ("We must treat others as we wish others to treat us") as the common principle for many religions. The Initial Declaration was signed by 143 leaders from all of the world's major faiths, including Baha'i Faith, Brahmanism, Brahma Kumaris, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Indigenous, Interfaith, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Native American, Neo-Pagan, Sikhism, Taoism, Theosophist, Unitarian Universalist and Zoroastrian. In the folklore of several cultures the Golden Rule is depicted by the allegory of the long spoons.
See also: Humanism
Many different sources claim the Golden Rule as a humanist principle:
Trying to live according to the Golden Rule means trying to empathise with other people, including those who may be very different from us. Empathy is at the root of kindness, compassion, understanding and respect – qualities that we all appreciate being shown, whoever we are, whatever we think and wherever we come from. And although it isn’t possible to know what it really feels like to be a different person or live in different circumstances and have different life experiences, it isn’t difficult for most of us to imagine what would cause us suffering and to try to avoid causing suffering to others. For this reason many people find the Golden Rule’s corollary – "do not treat people in a way you would not wish to be treated yourself" – more pragmatic.
— Maria MacLachlan, Think Humanism
Do not do to others what you would not want them to do to you. [is] (…) the single greatest, simplest, and most important moral axiom humanity has ever invented, one which reappears in the writings of almost every culture and religion throughout history, the one we know as the Golden Rule. Moral directives do not need to be complex or obscure to be worthwhile, and in fact, it is precisely this rule's simplicity which makes it great. It is easy to come up with, easy to understand, and easy to apply, and these three things are the hallmarks of a strong and healthy moral system. The idea behind it is readily graspable: before performing an action which might harm another person, try to imagine yourself in their position, and consider whether you would want to be the recipient of that action. If you would not want to be in such a position, the other person probably would not either, and so you should not do it. It is the basic and fundamental human trait of empathy, the ability to vicariously experience how another is feeling, that makes this possible, and it is the principle of empathy by which we should live our lives.
— Adam Lee, Ebon Musings, "A decalogue for the modern world"
In the view of Greg M. Epstein, a Humanistchaplain at Harvard University, " 'do unto others' ... is a concept that essentially no religion misses entirely. But not a single one of these versions of the golden rule requires a God". At least the Biblical accounts, however, portray the obligation to love one's neighbor as oneself as a corollary of a more basic obligation to love God with one's entire being.
See also: Existentialism
When we say that man chooses for himself, we do mean that every one of us must choose himself; but by that we also mean that in choosing for himself he chooses for all men. For in effect, of all the actions a man may take in order to create himself as he wills to be, there is not one which is not creative, at the same time, of an image of man such as he believes he ought to be. To choose between this or that is at the same time to affirm the value of that which is chosen; for we are unable ever to choose the worse. What we choose is always the better; and nothing can be better for us unless it is better for all.
— Jean-Paul Sartre, Existentialism is a Humanism, pp. 291–292
According to Marc H. Bornstein, and William E. Paden, the Golden Rule is arguably the most essential basis for the modern concept of human rights, in which each individual has a right to just treatment, and a reciprocal responsibility to ensure justice for others.
However Leo Damrosch argued that the notion that the Golden Rule pertains to "rights" per se is a contemporary interpretation and has nothing to do with its origin. The development of human "rights" is a modern political ideal that began as a philosophical concept promulgated through the philosophy of Jean Jacques Rousseau in 18th century France, among others. His writings influenced Thomas Jefferson, who then incorporated Rousseau's reference to "inalienable rights" into the United States Declaration of Independence in 1776. Damrosch argued that to confuse the Golden Rule with human rights is to apply contemporary thinking to ancient concepts.
Further information: Reciprocity (social psychology) and Reciprocal altruism
There has been research published arguing that some 'sense' of fair play and the Golden Rule may be stated and rooted in terms of neuroscientific and neuroethical principles.
Philosophers, such as Immanuel Kant and Friedrich Nietzsche, have objected to the rule on a variety of grounds. The most serious among these is its application. How does one know how others want to be treated? The obvious way is to ask them, but this cannot be done if one assumes they have not reached a particular and relevant understanding.
Differences in values or interests
George Bernard Shaw wrote, "Do not do unto others as you would that they should do unto you. Their tastes may be different." This suggests that if your values are not shared with others, the way you want to be treated will not be the way they want to be treated. Hence, the Golden Rule of "do unto others" is "dangerous in the wrong hands," according to philosopher Iain King, because "some fanatics have no aversion to death: the Golden Rule might inspire them to kill others in suicide missions."
Differences in situations
Immanuel Kant famously criticized the golden rule for not being sensitive to differences of situation, noting that a prisoner duly convicted of a crime could appeal to the golden rule while asking the judge to release him, pointing out that the judge would not want anyone else to send him to prison, so he should not do so to others. Kant's Categorical Imperative, introduced in Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals, is often confused with the Golden Rule.
Cannot be a sole guide to action
In his book How to Make Good Decisions and Be Right All the Time, philosopher Iain King has argued that "(although) the idea of mirroring your treatment of others with their treatment of you is very widespread indeed… most ancient wisdoms express this negatively – advice on what you should not do, rather than what you should." He argues this creates a bias in favour of inertia which allows bad actions and states of affairs to persist. The positive formulation, meanwhile, can be "incendiary", since it "can lead to cycles of tit-for-tat reciprocity," unless it is accompanied by a corrective mechanism, such as a concept of forgiveness. Therefore, he concludes that there can be no viable formulation of the Golden Rule, unless it is heavily qualified by other maxims.
Responses to criticisms
Walter Terence Stace, in The Concept of Morals (1937), wrote:
Mr. Bernard Shaw's remark "Do not do unto others as you would that they should do unto you. Their tastes may be different" is no doubt a smart saying. But it seems to overlook the fact that "doing as you would be done by" includes taking into account your neighbor's tastes as you would that he should take yours into account. Thus the "golden rule" might still express the essence of a universal morality even if no two men in the world had any needs or tastes in common.
Marcus George Singer observed that there are two importantly different ways of looking at the golden rule: as requiring (1) that you perform specific actions that you want others to do to you or (2) that you guide your behavior in the same general ways that you want others to. Counter-examples to the golden rule typically are more forceful against the first than the second.
In his book on the golden rule, Jeffrey Wattles makes the similar observation that such objections typically arise while applying the golden rule in certain general ways (namely, ignoring differences in taste, in situation, and so forth). But if we apply the golden rule to our own method of using it, asking in effect if we would want other people to apply the golden rule in such ways, the answer would typically be no, since it is quite predictable that others' ignoring of such factors will lead to behavior which we object to. It follows that we should not do so ourselves—according to the golden rule. In this way, the golden rule may be self-correcting. An article by Jouni Reinikainen develops this suggestion in greater detail.
It is possible, then, that the golden rule can itself guide us in identifying which differences of situation are morally relevant. We would often want other people to ignore any prejudice against our race or nationality when deciding how to act towards us, but would also want them to not ignore our differing preferences in food, desire for aggressiveness, and so on. This principle of "doing unto others, wherever possible, as they would be done by..." has sometimes been termed the platinum rule.
Charles Kingsley's The Water Babies (1863) includes a character named Mrs Do-As-You-Would-Be-Done-By (and another, Mrs Be-Done-By-As-You-Did).
- Norm of reciprocity, social norm of in-kind responses to the behavior of others
- Reciprocity (cultural anthropology), way of defining people's informal exchange of goods and labour
- Reciprocity (evolution), mechanisms for the evolution of cooperation
- Reciprocity (international relations), principle that favours, benefits, or penalties that are granted by one state to the citizens or legal entities of another, should be returned in kind
- Reciprocity (social and political philosophy), concept of reciprocity as in-kind positive or negative responses for the actions of others; relation to justice; related ideas such as gratitude, mutuality, and the Golden Rule
- Reciprocity (social psychology), in-kind positive or negative responses of individuals towards the actions of others
- Serial reciprocity, where the benefactor of a gift or service will in turn provide benefits to a third party
- Ubuntu (philosophy), an ethical philosophy originating from Southern Africa, which has been summarised as 'A person is a person through other people'
- ^ abcdeAntony Flew, ed. (1979). "golden rule". A Dictionary of Philosophy. London: Pan Books in association with The MacMillan Press. p. 134. ISBN 0-330-48730-2. This dictionary of philosophy contains the following quote under the entry for "golden rule": "The maxim 'Treat others how you wish to be treated'. Various expressions of the rule exist in the tenets of most religions and creeds through the ages, testifying to its universal applicability." (end quote).
- ^Walter Terence Stace argued that the Golden Rule was much more than simply an ethical code. Instead, he posits, it "express[es] the essence of a universal morality." The rationale for this crucial distinction occupies much of his book The Concept of Morals (1937). See: Stace, Walter T. (1937). "ch. 6". The Concept of Morals. New York: The MacMillan Company (reprinted 1975 by permission of Macmillan Publishing Co. Inc.); (also reprinted by Peter Smith Publisher Inc, January 1990). p. 136. ISBN 0-8446-2990-1.
- ^"The moral primacy of basic respect".
- ^W.A. Spooner, "The Golden Rule," in James Hastings, ed. Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, Vol. 6 (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1914) pp. 310–12, quoted in Rushworth M. Kidder, How Good People Make Tough Choices: Resolving the Dilemmas of Ethical Living, Harper, New York, 2003. ISBN 0-688-17590-2. p. 159. Simon Blackburn also notes the connection between Confucius and the Golden Rule. Simon, Blackburn (2001). Ethics: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 101. ISBN 978-0-19-280442-6.
- ^Epstein, Greg M. (2010). Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe. New York: HarperCollins. p. 115. ISBN 978-0-06-167011-4.
- ^Simon, Blackburn (2001). Ethics: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 101. ISBN 978-0-19-280442-6.
- ^"Matthew 7 Commentary - Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible (Complete)". Bible Study Tools. Retrieved 2018-03-02.
- ^"Catechism of the Catholic Church - Moral conscience". www.vatican.va. Retrieved 2018-03-02.
- ^Wattles, Jeffrey (1996). The Golden Rule. Oxford University Press.
- ^Vogel, Gretchen. "The Evolution of the Golden Rule". Science. 303 (Feb 2004).
- ^Swift, Richard (July 2015). "Pathways & possibilites". New Internationalist. 484 (July/August 2015).
- ^Thomas Jackson: First Sermon upon Matthew 7,12 (1615; Werke Band 3, S. 612); Benjamin Camfield: The Comprehensive Rule of Righteousness (1671); George Boraston: The Royal Law, or the Golden Rule of Justice and Charity (1683); John Goodman: The Golden Rule, or, the Royal Law of Equity explained (1688; Titelseite als Faksimile at Google Books); dazu Olivier du Roy: The Golden Rule as the Law of Nature. In: Jacob Neusner, Bruce Chilton (Hrsg.): The Golden Rule – The Ethics of Reprocity in World Religions. London/New York 2008, S. 94.
- ^Gensler, Harry J. (2013). Ethics and the Golden Rule. Routledge. p. 84. ISBN 978-0-415-80686-2.
- ^Eloquent Peasant PDFArchived 25 September 2015 at the Wayback Machine. "Now this is the command: do to the doer to make him do"
- ^"The Culture of Ancient Egypt", John Albert Wilson, p. 121, University of Chicago Press, 1956, ISBN 0-226-90152-1 "Now this is the command: Do to the doer to cause that he do"
- ^Eloquent Peasant PDFArchived 25 September 2015 at the Wayback Machine. "The peasant quotes a proverb that embodies the do ut des principle"
- ^"A Late Period Hieratic Wisdom Text: P. Brooklyn 47.218.135", Richard Jasnow, p. 95, University of Chicago Press, 1992, ISBN 978-0-918986-85-6.