Do you believe in any version of the Golden Rule?

Here’s a link for anyone who thinks the Golden Rule is an exclusively Christian thing (or even originated with the carpenter’s son). Some relevant formulations taken from the article in question:

Do you agree with the basic idea expressed herein? If yes, why? If not, why not?

Poll in a second. Feel free to talk amongsts yourselves till then, but nobody had better touch my sandwich. (Booby-trapped, dontcha know.)

Do not agree. At least, not when you get into specifics. People want different things, and if I assume that they want what I want, I’m being a jerk.

“Treat people the way they want to be treated,” is more Golden.

As I said once in a thread asking the same question: if I’m making dinner by the Golden Rule, everyone’s having Cheeseburger Hot Pockets tonight. Whatsamatter? I love Cheeseburger Hot Pockets. I’m going to treat you as I want you to treat me!

The only way the Golden Rule is literally correct is if you expand it to such generalities as to be useless. Sure, everyone wants “respect.”. So you should show people the respect you’d want them to show you. But what does that mean? How does that look? Acts of showing respect in one culture - making eye contact, for example - are signs of disrespect in another. Following the Golden Rule in intercultural relationships may lead you to do the exact opposite of what you intend, and may lead to getting your ass kicked for good measure.

I sort of take the idea to mean what I’ve always said, which is that all evil in the world is caused by selfishness and lack of empathy. Empathy leads to treating people in the way you’d like to be treated (with a healthy dash of brains).

I prefer Karl Popper’s formulation:
“The golden rule is a good standard which is further improved by doing unto others, wherever reasonable, as they want to be done by.”
While it still has some problems, i.e. how do I know how others want to be treated? It is still preferable to assuming that my viewpoint and preferences are the only valid ones. That said any and all versions of the rule would probably improve the world if they were more widely implemented.

Given that my ex is now part of the S&M crowd, I’m pretty sure I **don’t **want to be treated the way he wants too.

You’re joking, of course, but I don’t think any version of the Rule requires that. In a sexal situation, the Rule would require him to respect your sexual wishes, not to treat his needs (or kinks) as yours. Otherwise it would be impossible to have heterosexual sex while honoring the Rule.

Only one of the listed formulas says that. The rest are all about not treating people the way you don’t want to be treated, which is an entirely different proposition.

Seriously, anybody who thinks the Golden Rule ends up with everybody eating lamb is kind of missing the point, IMHO.

I voted with the first option, but I agree with you. However, how I’ve explained this to my kids is “the Golden Rule is to treat others the way you’d want to be treated; that means that, given your choice, you’d rather have things your way; therefore, the Golden Rule is to give others their way when possible, as long as it doesn’t mean you’re being a wimp, or you’re not breaking rules/laws by doing so”.

IOW, the Golden Rule is wonderful, but you have to apply some common sense! :slight_smile:

Not sure about the ruling over one, at least that part.

The general gist I would agree with, but the tricky bit of course is doing it in practise and how narrowly or widely to interpret it for any particular scenario.

I guess one way would be to view it as a starting point rather than something that can cover everything, and needs to be viewed in the context that we’re fallible, ie its something we can aspire to than really ever achieve entirely.


What, and no one in that other thread set you straight? You fundamentally don’t get the Golden Rule. It’s not “give other people what you want” it’s “treat other people how you would like to be treated”.

The first time I ever came across this rule was in the film ‘The Waterbabies,’ where Mrs Do-As-You-Would-Be-Done-By told Tom to pretty much abide by her name. As a kid, I decided she was wrong, because ideally you should do what they want, not you, because you might want completely different things. ‘Do as they would be done by by’ would be better.

it’s not intended to be a comprehensive prescription for how to make everyone happy all the time. It’s more about avoiding bad behavior.

Not everyone wants hot pockets for dinner, but it’s a pretty sure bet that almost no one wants hot pockets shoved up their nostrils.

That rule would have problems also. If I meet a mugger is giving him my wallet because he wants it the right thing to do? That may seem like a silly example but there are real world consequences of telling people the “right” thing to do is give way and let the other person have what they want. The Golden Rule at least places your desires on an equal footing with the desires of others.

As an overall guiding principle on ethics, I prefer Kant’s categorical imperative: “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.” In simpler terms (because Manny didn’t have a gift for phrase-making) you should only do something if you feel it would be okay for everyone else to do the same thing.

edited - nm - its too late to phrase my thougths correctly -

My version of the rule goes: “Do unto others before they get a chance to do unto you.”

I agree with the basic idea but, as it so often happens with lofty principles, the problem is in the execution.

My mother used to be a staunch follower of the “do unto others as you wish others did unto you” formulation - until I managed to get it through her skull that different people have different wishes. When she’s angry, she wants someone to lend her an ear so she can burn it: she needs to talk in order to calm down - the bros and I, we want to be left alone so we can calm down: we can’t talk about whatever made us angry until we’ve calmed down, if we try talking about it before we’ve accepted it, we get angrier. It’s just one of many examples of how and where that particular formulation fails.

Some of those seem… quite negative in outlook and possible results: “hurt others not in ways you would find hurtful”? What, if it wouldn’t hurt you, it’s ok to do it even when the other person is weeping “pleasestoppleasestopstopstopdon’tstop”? Just “don’t hurt others,” please.

Taking a vegetarian to a steakhouse for her birthday because you happen to like steak is a case where both “treating her too exactly as you’d like to be treated” (next time, please be a bit less self-centered and use “I’d like to be taken to my favorite kind of restaurant” instead of “I’d like to be taken to a steakhouse”) and of “well, it wouldn’t offend me, so I don’t know why she got so huffy!” Because you’re a moron, that’s why.

My own formulation is along the lines of “do unto others as they wish to have done unto them, to the best of your ability.” I let the bros stew and Mom burn my ear going five times over the same offense in a single phone conversation, and it works: they calm down.

There’s exceptions to every rule, except this one.

Heh, I think they’re all fine in general, but, like I said, there are exceptions.

I think “treat other people the way they would like to be treated” is the best phrasing, but the general idea is captured by the famous versions above.

I don’t understand how this is a problem. You show respect for people in the way they understand (as you would like to be shown respect). You might have to take time to figure out different cultural mores but that’s a good thing, in my book.

SecondJudith et al, the problem is with the amounts of people who take it too literally, who (for example) show respect in the way they wish it was shown to them. How many times have we bemoaned biblical literalists, barracks lawyers and other rules-literalists in these boards? Can I have one € for every post in which we’ve done that? It might pay my mortgage for this whole year…