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The Golden Rule?


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#1 Chris

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Posted 06 July 2012 - 08:34 AM

This is partially from a blog I wrote up earlier today.

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I ran across this article in Psychology Today about the influence of religion on society. Actually, it is the seventh article in an ongoing series.

In this 7th part of the series, we take a look at some religious proverbs that have become woven into the fabric of civilization: the golden rule, “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,” “turn the other cheek,” and the idea of universal dignity.


About halfway through the article the concept of the Golden Rule comes up. Here the article tries to make a comparison between the major religions and their versions of the Golden Rule.

A variant of the golden rule can be found in virtually every religion, ethical code, or moral philosophy.

Do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you.
– Hinduism

Treat not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.
– Buddhism

What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.
– Confucianism

What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor.
– Judaism

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
– Christianity

Not one of you truly believes until you wish for others what you wish for yourself.
– Islam

We should behave to our friends, as we would wish our friends to behave to us.
– Aristotle

Act only on that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.
– Immanuel Kant’s Categorical Imperative

Neminem laedere.
– Legal codification of the golden rule, which translates as “general rule of care,” or “hurt no one.”



I have a couple of issues with this list. The minor one is that I don't agree that the one chosen to represent Judaism is the best one. I would think ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ would be more appropriate.

The main issue I have is that the majority of these ‘rules’ aren’t actually what are known as ‘Golden Rules’; they are sometimes called ‘Silver Rules’ and are akin to the Hippocratic Oath, or Harm Principle. What this means is that these ethical rules of reciprocity confine action to restraining from negative activities that would cause others harm. Under this ethic, the emphasis then is only on prohibiting wrong; in other words, it favors the legalistic.

The Golden Rule, however, emphasizes positive action meant to benefit others; in other words, it is a motivation for proactive action--to friends, family, strangers on the street; across classes and castes; locally, nationally, globally. This is a hallmark of early Christianity.

#2 Evangelion

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Posted 06 July 2012 - 08:54 AM

I love this, what a perceptive analysis!

:)
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#3 Chris

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Posted 06 July 2012 - 08:56 AM

Of course, here is an example of sophomoric New Atheist rhetoric that doesn't actually address the point, but misinterprets it, then tries to make a funny.

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#4 Fortigurn

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Posted 06 July 2012 - 09:03 AM

The main issue I have is that the majority of these ‘rules’ aren’t actually what are known as ‘Golden Rules’; they are sometimes called ‘Silver Rules’ and are akin to the Hippocratic Oath, or Harm Principle. What this means is that these ethical rules of reciprocity confine action to restraining from negative activities that would cause others harm. Under this ethic, the emphasis then is only on prohibiting wrong; in other words, it favors the legalistic.

The Golden Rule, however, emphasizes positive action meant to benefit others; in other words, it is a motivation for proactive action--to friends, family, strangers on the street; across classes and castes; locally, nationally, globally. This is a hallmark of early Christianity.


Yes that's a key issue. Compare the Golden Rule of Scripture to the fictional 'Wiccan Rede'; 'An ye harm none, do as ye will'. The entire aim is to let you get away with as much self-indulgence as possible, with the least restraint. It's all about you, and your needs. There is no obligation towards others. There's a very good table around somewhere which shows the differing obligations of the various forms of the Rule.

#5 Richard

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Posted 06 July 2012 - 09:12 AM

Very insightful. The reverse golden rule, or silver rule, or whatever you want to call it, sounds a lot like the gospel the world preaches "if it doesn't harm other people it's OK". Proactive positive religion is what the truth is all about.

#6 Hudders

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Posted 06 July 2012 - 04:13 PM

Most of the ones listed there are prescribing against negative actions, but the Aristotle quote is pretty much saying the same thing as the Christianity one. Are you sure you didn't mean that this is an idea that was founded in Judaism and then later in Christianity?

#7 Chris

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Posted 06 July 2012 - 07:25 PM

Are you sure you didn't mean that this is an idea that was founded in Judaism and then later in Christianity?


No. I wasn't trying to point out origins in my post. But, I do agree with your statement above.

#8 Fortigurn

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Posted 06 July 2012 - 07:32 PM

Aristotle's formulation was specifically in answer to how we should treat friends, and postdates the Mosaic formulation anyway.

#9 Chris

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Posted 06 July 2012 - 07:55 PM

...the Aristotle quote is pretty much saying the same thing as the Christianity one.


Are you sure?

#10 Chris

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Posted 02 September 2012 - 10:35 AM

The main issue I have is that the majority of these ‘rules’ aren’t actually what are known as ‘Golden Rules’; they are sometimes called ‘Silver Rules’ and are akin to the Hippocratic Oath, or Harm Principle. What this means is that these ethical rules of reciprocity confine action to restraining from negative activities that would cause others harm. Under this ethic, the emphasis then is only on prohibiting wrong; in other words, it favors the legalistic.

The Golden Rule, however, emphasizes positive action meant to benefit others; in other words, it is a motivation for proactive action--to friends, family, strangers on the street; across classes and castes; locally, nationally, globally. This is a hallmark of early Christianity.


Yes that's a key issue. Compare the Golden Rule of Scripture to the fictional 'Wiccan Rede'; 'An ye harm none, do as ye will'. The entire aim is to let you get away with as much self-indulgence as possible, with the least restraint. It's all about you, and your needs. There is no obligation towards others. There's a very good table around somewhere which shows the differing obligations of the various forms of the Rule.


CK Barrett points out that in early Christan writings the negative form of the Golden Rule predominates, instead of the positive from in the traditional teaching of Jesus (Mt. 7:12; Lk. 6:31). He cites as evidence Didache 1.2 (late 1st c.(?)), the Epistle of the Apostles 18 (Apocryphal NT, mid-2nd c.(?)), and Theophilus (Ad Autolycum 2.34, 2nd c.). According to Barrett, it is in the Clementine Homilies (3rd c.(?)) that we first see the positive form of the Rule. Barrett posits the reason for this in this concluding statements:

Finally—and to bring this aberrant paper somewhat nearer to the main, and very important, theme of this volume—there has been a good deal of dispute about the relative value of the positive form of the Golden Rule (found in the Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon on the Plain) and the negative (found in the Western text of Acts 15:29). It is the negative form that is found in the Jewish material that we have surveyed; and on the whole Christian writers have maintained the superiority of the positive form, forgetting perhaps that it is the negative form that predominates in early Christian literature, while Jewish scholars have defended the negative. There is a perceptive and fairminded discussion by Israel Abrahams; and it is reasonable to assert that each form implies the other. It is however a striking fact that in the Christian centuries both Jews and Christians (though the latter had the positive form in the tradition of the sayings of Jesus) seem to have preferred the negative. Perhaps the explanation is that it is the negative form that is better fitted to the situation of a small, persecuted, minority group. It means, Don’t retaliate. Don’t do to them the unkind things that you don’t like when they are done to you. As the minority group grows into a majority, acquires power, and is able to take the initiative, the positive form becomes applicable and is preferred as a mark of superiority and authority. How are we to treat those who live in our environment? It is in our power to treat them well or badly. You should treat them as you would like them to treat you if the positions were reversed.

C.K. Barrett, "The First Christian Moral Legislation", in , vol. 200, The Bible in Human Society: Essays in Honor of John Rogerson (ed. M. Daniel Carroll R. et al.;, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1995), 65-66.


That final statement, to me, nicely complements what we learn from Jesus' teaching on the Golden Rule where he references it as the fulfillment of the Law (Mt 7:12)[1]. Emphasized in the Law was the favorable treatment of foreigners, slaves and women by the Israelites. While certainly not egalitarian my modern, westernized standards, it was revolutionary in ANE society.

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[1] Interesting to note is the similarity between Jesus and Hillel on this teaching. While it is true that Jesus emphasizes the positive and Hillel the negative, both reference their rule as fulfilling the Law. I wonder, completely aware of my ignorance in this area, if Jesus "spun" Hillel here. The two gospel references to the Golden Rule are in Matthew and Luke; yet only Matthew includes the Law reference. Matthew is widely accepted to have written to a Jewish audience, many, perhaps, who were familiar with Hillel (c.110 BCE-10 CE).

Edited by Chris, 02 September 2012 - 10:52 AM.


#11 Fortigurn

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Posted 02 September 2012 - 11:08 AM

Excellent notes Chris, thanks. By the way, Zotero is a great way to capture and organize those interesting Berea/BTDF threads you find and want to return to later. :)

Edited by Fortigurn, 02 September 2012 - 11:11 AM.





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