Golden Rule

The Golden Rule or ethic of reciprocity is a maxim, ethical code, or morality that essentially states either of the following:

  • (Positive form of Golden Rule): One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself.
  • (Negative form of Golden Rule): One should not treat others in ways that one would not like to be treated.

This concept describes a "reciprocal", or "two-way", relationship between one's self and others that involves both sides equally, and in a mutual fashion.

This concept can be explained from the perspective of psychology, philosophy, sociology, and religion. Psychologically, it involves a person empathizing with others. Philosophically, it involves a person perceiving their neighbor as also "an I" or "self." Sociologically, this principle is applicable between individuals, between groups, and also between individuals and groups. (For example, a person living by this rule treats all people with consideration, not just members of his or her in-group). Religion is an integral part of the history of this concept.

As a concept, the Golden Rule has a history that long predates the term "Golden Rule", or "Golden law", as it was called from the 1670s. As a concept of "the ethic of reciprocity," it has its roots in a wide range of world cultures, and is a standard way that different cultures use to resolve conflicts. It has a long history, and a great number of prominent religious figures and philosophers have restated its reciprocal, "two-way" nature in various ways (not limited to the above forms).

Rushworth Kidder discusses the early contributions of Confucius (551–479 BCE) (See a version in Confucianism below). Kidder notes that this concept's framework appears prominently in many religions, including "Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism, and the rest of the world's major religions". According to Greg M. Epstein, " 'do unto others' ... is a concept that essentially no religion misses entirely." Simon Blackburn also states that the Golden Rule can be "found in some form in almost every ethical tradition". In his commentary to the Torah verse (Hebrew: "ואהבת לרעך כמוך" ca.1300 BCE):

You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your kinsfolk. Love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD. —Leviticus 19:18, the "Great Commandment"

As Plaut points out, this is the earliest written version of the Golden Rule in the Bible in a positive form. All versions and forms of the proverbial Golden Rule have one aspect in common: they all demand that people treat others in a manner in which they themselves would like to be treated.

Read more about Golden Rule:  Criticisms and Responses To Criticisms, Scientific Research

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