The Golden Rule Reconsidered

Posted by  $  MikeMarotta 3 months, 3 weeks ago to Philosophy
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This came up in the "Ayn Rand / Bible" topic in "Ask the Gulch."
(Full discussion on that is here:

Posted by $ Solver 4 days, 14 hours ago
Except it seems to assume that each individual seems to value the same things the same way.

Posted by $ prof611 4 days, 14 hours ago
As an objectivist for over 50 years, I would say that the only part of the bible I find relevant is the "Golden Rule". It seems to be applicable to just about any philosophy.

Posted by $ CBJ 4 days, 12 hours ago
The "Golden Rule" is not applicable to any religion that advocates the use of force against non-believers. It also does not apply to philosophies such as nihilism or subjectivism, or philosophies that advocate unconditional obedience to authority.

Posted by lrshultis 4 days, 10 hours ago
My problem with the 'Golden Rule' is that it is not a good governing rule. It calls for one to become a nuscience to those whom one deals with. Much better is the 'don't do to others what you do not like' which is a governing rule. It is like saying do not harm others and not like saying to doing something to others which can be harmful but is just great for those into sadomasochism.

Posted by $ MikeMarotta 19 hours, 30 minutes ago
No. Literally, yes, it does apply to "just about any philosophy" but it does not apply to Objectivism. See Solver's one-liner in reply. The error in the so-called Golden Rule is the assumption that everyone values the same things in the same way.

Have you never done a favor for a friend who did not appreciate it? If not hostile (friendship being the context), they were ambivalent and unappreciative. Their values were not yours.

As a literal statement the Golden Rule fails.

You may want to interpret it as a broad intention for justice. We call it the equal recognition of the rights of others. But realize that it is very easy to construct social situations in which that does not apply. You buy a seaside site and build your home on it. Someone comes along and buys the shoreline and puts up a skyscraper that blocks your view. Do you go to the Planning Commission? Do you sue in court? Do you sell and and move on? What you do has not much to do with their rights. Hell, Howard Roark blew up a building... Could you do that to protect your highly putative "property rights" to a seaside sunset?

Yes, if someone were drowning and if you were qualified and prepared, you might choose to jump in and save them, perhaps on the assumption that if it were you then you would want the same. Myself, I am a volunteer first responder (not for swimming) but I signed up and got trained and go to drills not because I would want someone to do the same for me. I can take care of myself and I am prepared to do so. My motivation is expressed in Atlas Shrugged where Ragnar and Miidas explain that it is in their self-interest to see society rebuilt as soon as possible. So, too, for me. I am capable, competent, and trained to respond to a large-scale disaster. The sooner we all get back to normal, the better it is for me. Their happiness is not my concern.

Moreover, as for the drowning victim, some curmudgeon here might reply, "If I am stupid enough to be drowning in the first place, then let me go because I am unworthy of living." (Just sayin'...).

Posted by $ Solver 17 hours ago
Interesting though provoking post. It is a topic in of itself.

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  • Posted by  $  Starwagen 3 months, 3 weeks ago
    The so called "Golden Rule" is a corrupt translation of the original, as translated and put into use by later Christians. The original reads more like "What thou find distasteful to thyself do not to thy neighbor" That version works in any society. The modern version "Do unto others..", as pointed out above, is an admonition to go out and mess around in other peoples lives.
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    • Posted by  $  Solver 3 months, 2 weeks ago
      So much of arguments about the “Golden Rule” is about which golden rule we sre talking about. The “do unto” or the “don’t do unto” versions. They are very different.
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  • Posted by Kittyhawk 3 months, 3 weeks ago
    Thanks for the thought-provoking post, which prompted me to research further. The Wikipedia entry is interesting, as it has a long list of various promulgations of The Golden Rule in different cultures and religions throughout history.

    For example: 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. I think The Golden Rule can be read as an admonition against hypocrisy, and as advocating having an objective code of morality which one applies equally and fairly to oneself and to others.

    Wikipedia's "Criticism" section addresses some of the objections raised here. An excerpt: 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 neighbour'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.
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  • Posted by Lucky 3 months, 3 weeks ago
    When this topic was on here a year or so ago, I rather liked this contribution from someone:
    Find out what they intend to do to you, then do it to them first.

    Yes I like it for the rhetoric and humor over the logic, it does not work in a strict sense unless everyone values the same things in the same way.
    Given that, it suits those who are initiators rather than reactive.
    Interpreted loosely it could justify forward defense, the removal of known enemies before they strike when it is too late.
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    • Posted by  $  3 months, 3 weeks ago
      Consider the fact that "... as you would have others do to you." places the standard of judgment with you. IIt is not that you should do for others whatever they want. So, the Golden Rule holds.

      (Just sayin'.,..)
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  • Posted by LibertyBelle 3 months, 2 weeks ago
    I find Confucius's rule ("What you do not like when done to yourself, do not do unto another") to actually be better. (My 6th grade teacher denied that it was a saying by Confucius, because she said, "The Bible's not quoting Confucius!"--another reason I saw that you could not get justice in school). The Golden Rule calls for positive action; Confucius's saying is negative, calling for abstinence. Neither can be the basis of a whole ethical system. Other people's tastes won't necessarily by the same. Suppose you like expressions of physical affection, so you go around hugging and kissing people. Suppose you do that with someone who gets very indignant, and wants you to keep your hands to yourself. You did what you would have wanted done to yourself, but at the same time you crossed the line, and disregarded that person's personal rights. You should respect the rights of others as you would want your own respected; but first you should have an idea of what a person't rights are in the first place. --And in order to get a valid ethical system, you need to know how to arrive at one; to use your mind rationally, and to know something of the nature of man.
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    • Posted by Lucky 3 months, 2 weeks ago
      The story as I recall is:
      Confucius was on tour. The question was asked,
      Sir, some say that kindness should be repaid with kindness, but how should unkindness be repaid?
      Confucius answered,
      Yes, kindness is to be repaid with kindness. Unkindness should be repaid with justice.

      This use of the word justice corresponds, in my view, to Objectivism in that it is easy to deal with good intentions, but bad behavior should generate a response based on good first principles and proper understanding of the situation.
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  • Posted by jdg 3 months, 3 weeks ago
    The golden rule has some use as a rule of thumb, but not to get exact answers for the same reason Mill's utilitarianism fails -- because each person's values (including utility) for things are subjective. So any comparison of your utility for something and my utility for it would require an observer who can hold both our points of view simultaneously. Fat chance of that.

    This is why economics calculations are always written to assume that money measures "objective value". At least money does make it possible to observe objectively that I'm willing to pay more for X than you are, when that is so.
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  • Posted by term2 3 months, 3 weeks ago
    I think the golden rule is very effective if people WANT to gat along with each other in the maximally efficient way.

    You dont take my stuff or attack me, and I wont take yours or attack you- so we can then get on to cooperating for our mutual benefit.

    That does assume that all people actually want to cooperate as equals. There are some people who just want to take others' stuff, but dont want them to take theirs. Not very logical, but some people arent strapped by logic and its conclusions.'
    Some neighbors will borrow and never return, but never loan out their stuff for example. Very shortly they lose the ability to borrow from others in the neighborhood who are ON to how they think.
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  • Posted by mia767ca 3 months, 3 weeks ago
    the only philosophy of peace is reason and logic...objectivism...honor individual rights and you retain your individual rights...violate them and you are without rights...
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  • Posted by  $  blarman 3 months, 3 weeks ago
    I think that context regarding the Golden Rule is important. It is all in how you see that other person (and similarly one's self) that determines what the Golden Rule actually means in that situation. Many of the posts here present various scenarios which are then used to argue against the Golden Rule, but all are extremes and all are based on the premise that the individual in question sees little or no value in their own life. In such cases, I think we should ask if this is really what this person wants, because I would argue that it isn't. Even those who are suicidal are generally depressed and without hope because they don't feel that anyone cares about them or that their continuance means anything either to themselves or others. What stops people from committing suicide? Someone who cares - someone who wants good things for them and is willing to say that. If I was in that situation (ie facing either suicide or a friendly hand) I sure think I'd pick the friend.

    For more normal people, I believe that the Golden Rule is completely applicable. What person wouldn't want to get a good deal on something they need yet also want the vendor to be able to continue to supply for those needs?
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    • Posted by lrshultis 3 months, 3 weeks ago
      Why blame the suicidal with being depressed when a large number of them have extreme anxiety with very painful panic attacks and may have social anxiety in which case one does not want any person to coddle them? It seems like anxiety which indicates a fear of the future would be more a reason for suicide than being miserable about how one has screwed up his life and want someone to come and feel good about them.
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      • Posted by  $  blarman 3 months, 3 weeks ago
        Blame isn't really relevant. But the future is. What a person thinks about the future and their prospects in it is what ultimately decides whether or not they keep going. So treating that person as if they have intrinsic merit and value - just as I would want if in their situation - is the expression of the Golden Rule in such a circumstance. It has everything to do with how one views the inherent value of another human being.
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        • Posted by lrshultis 3 months, 3 weeks ago
          Do you really believe that helping a person to fake self esteem? It is the little self esteem which helps develop pathological depression and anxiety.
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          • Posted by  $  blarman 3 months, 2 weeks ago
            I'm not talking about faking anything. Either you see in someone the capability for greatness or you do not. And that includes one's self. What I am talking about is a mutual agreement that transcends depression and replaces it with real self-worth. Having been there at a point in my life and having someone to help me out of that was literally a life-changer. Now I wasn't depressed to the point of suicidal, but I certainly wasn't going anywhere in my life - I had dropped out of school, was working a dead-end job just for something to do, etc. It took someone to see what I was capable of that took the time to help me see the same.

            And despite all that, she married me. ;)
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  • Posted by  $  Solver 3 months, 3 weeks ago
    “One should not treat others in ways that one would not like to be treated”

    Imagine more people using the “prohibitive form” of the Golden Rule.
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    • Posted by  $  3 months, 3 weeks ago
      See the sadist-masochist interaction at top. But aside from that, I do not like strawberry ice cream. Serving it to others might be OK with many of them.

      The problem with an absolute rule is that is it not objective. Absolute moralities say that you must always do (or refrain from) some action regardless of context.

      Objectivism recognizes absolutes, but they tend to be in the metaphysical realm, not the world of human action.
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      • Posted by lrshultis 3 months, 3 weeks ago
        The trouble with absolute rules is that some means of punishment has to be established for those who do not agree with the rule. Governments are forms of such absolute rule systems.
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  • Posted by  $  CBJ 3 months, 3 weeks ago
    I would not want to be around a masochist who decided to adopt the golden rule.
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    • Posted by  $  3 months, 3 weeks ago
      So, the sadist says the masochist, "Hurt me." And the masochist says, "No."

      (We shoiuld have a discussion on paradoxes. They present epistemological problems.)
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      • Posted by  $  puzzlelady 3 months, 3 weeks ago
        You have it backwards. The masochist says "Hurt me, hurt me!" And the sadist says, "No." This is not a paradox. Refusing the masochist is a sadistic thing to do. It is a meta-level concept. It is a more devious means of hurting.

        The Golden Rule is likewise a meta-rule. It does not itemize specific preferences that should have the same value to all individuals. It lets each individual assign their own value and interact with others accordingly. It means being what used to be called considerate of others. The extreme case of inverted values, as in S&M, is not the ruling condition, just as lifeboat situations are not the standard by which to measure everything else.

        Ayn Rand's version of the Golden Rule is Galt's Oath.
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  • Posted by  $  25n56il4 3 months, 3 weeks ago
    Picky, picky, picky. I haven't argued the Bible with anyone since a Unitarian picked me up and shook me! He was a Bible Scholar. Handsome as could be and made $200K a year in the 1960's but no way! He was also a member of Mensa.
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    • Posted by  $  3 months, 3 weeks ago
      See the quote from Ayn Rand's letter to John Hospers in the "Bible" thread in Ask the Gulch. At one work site, one of the programmers was a born again Christian who quoted the Bible warning people of the end of days. Another colleague was Catholic. I liked her. She once replied, "So, you believe in the literal truth of the Bible." And did hesitate. "Yes," She asked, "Is that the same King James Version that Saint Paul used?" and walked away.

      For my interest in ancient Greek numismatics, I got a Greek New Testament. Then I found out that it was translated into Koine Greek from modern texts. No actual Koine New Testament exists. It is a set of manuscripts. Different places have different archives. Mostly the same. They say...
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  • Posted by  $  Solver 3 months, 3 weeks ago
    The golden rule, being a “do unto” rule, needs to consider the individual values as well as subjectivity problems.

    Imagine an SJW thinking, “I like punching Nazis. I’m not a Nazi, but if I was a Nazi I’d want somebody to punch me.”
    Now image a mob of those.

    It usually works better when two people know each other, have a good idea of each other’s values and share many values.
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