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The golden rule a relative law?

  1. Dec 1, 2005 #1


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    as stated in the Bible, "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you" or simply "Treat others as you want to be treated." is the golden rule.

    But since the way you wish to be treated is you're choice, would that make "Treat others as you want to be treated." a relative law?
    Can't one conform to the golden rule by simply having his or her own feelings?

    From wikipedia:"a criminal might argue before a judge that since the judge would not want himself to be sent to prison by anyone, the judge would violate the golden rule by sending other people, such as the criminal, to prison."

    With no offense to anyone, my opinion is that moral relativism is nonsense and self-contradicting. The golden rule is seeming to me to be meaningless in an absolutist's perspective.

    what do u guys think?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 1, 2005 #2


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    maybe i should say that the golden rule is not a law, just a rule, forgive me.
  4. Dec 1, 2005 #3
    this may be a strong argument, db. but really, in this capitalist, "get rich or die tryin'", "time is money", and "screw the planet and people, so long as i get paid" world that we have made for ourselves, when has the wisdom of such a remark ever been deeply explored and passed onto children and people as a Real value? it seems that almost no one really cares about another persons experience, unless it also affects them directly.

    shouldn't the "golden rule" then be the highest value? the one which is the central "pivot" of all human endeavors? the hinge of all human understanding? wisdom comes at a price. you gotta give up your self/selfish desires to It, in order to be endowed with wisdom. we do not find this important, to begin with.

    why do we imprison people? we label tham as bad, but do not sincerely make an effort to mend their abused, disjointed or broken psyche's. retaliation is surely not the cure, as it only leads to more of the same; more retaliation.

    the wise are the paragons of actualization and perfection. since the judges are not necessarily wise (furthermore, usually are not wise), and we are not a wise society, it is obvious that many people would condemn the judge for agreeing with the man.

    the only Real Teacher, is the paragon on Wisdom. Those that pose as teachers only act on emotion and flawed logic; they are sophists. wisdom results, when one has completely "unfolded" their mind, and thereby can see the whole of it, without contradiction or hypocrisy. to see the Reality of "reality"

    everything is connected, directly. we are our environment and our environment becomes what we are. if we are polluted in mind, we will pollute the environment. the "outer" is the expression of the "inner" and vice-versa. they are the same. i am sure the prison is not the most nourishing, cultivating and healing environment that one can find oneself. "eye for an eye" got us this far.... and we are on the verge of self-destruction!! (in geologic and species time, that is) :)

    the Real Revolution will not be a societal movement, such as socialism or communism, or any other -ism. it will occur internally, through the individuals, whom compose society, unceasing striving for self-realization or actualization. wisdom will take over from the inside and work its way to the "outer". like a microwave from the inside out... or like a philosophical enema. :)
  5. Dec 1, 2005 #4
    marginalization is the germ that makes a society "sick". marginalization is the action of "sick" individuals; dis-ease of the mind. flaky people make flaky societies. look at our administration.. (clears throat...) weak psyche's make weak people make weak relations make weak bonds make weak groups make weak society make weak species fall apart and self-destruct. thank you db.
  6. Dec 1, 2005 #5


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    Judges and lawmakers do not CHOOSE to act the way they do (in the sense of the GR). They are doing their duty as appointed by our society to enforce laws that protect people. BTW, it also *protects* the criminal from getting abused by an overzealous judge or officer - they cannot CHOOSE to do more harm than we'll allow either.
  7. Dec 1, 2005 #6
    get wise or die tryin'.... yeah.
  8. Dec 1, 2005 #7
    The golden rule states that you must treat others the way they want to be treated, because you would treat yourself the way you would like to be treated, it does not state to treat them in any specific way that you would like to be treated. Just a tip: when reading the Bible, try to think as general as possible.

    If one does not respect the Rule, then the Rule does not apply to them.
    The criminal is not subject to the golden rule, because (s)he has violated it and thus become a criminal. So, the judge is doing nothing wrong in sending the criminal to jail.
  9. Dec 1, 2005 #8
    maybe a good tip... but, no, no, no man. the rule is The rule. it applies always and everywhere or not at all. the golden rule can't become the silver rule, in place of a rule you deem to be more Golden for the circumstance. Golden is Golden, is always #1. see? there is no higher "rule", if there are to be rules at all.
  10. Dec 1, 2005 #9
    So, you're saying forgive wrongdoers?
  11. Dec 1, 2005 #10
    Well, that is what the Bible says, turn the other cheek
  12. Dec 1, 2005 #11

    One Love.
  13. Dec 1, 2005 #12
    Too bad that mentality of this country is not "God is always watching"...
    So, the criminal justice system is basically the golden rule plus the little amendment: If one does not respect the Rule, then the Rule does not apply to them.

    The crux of the justice system is: treat people good (the Rule, basically), and if you treat them bad, we will treat you bad.
  14. Dec 1, 2005 #13


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    I apreciated your replies. I think because of Livingod's statement, this discussion could take a turn to meta-ethics:

    What is "good" treatement? Can we simplify the rule to "treat people good"?
    The Golden (not silver) rule is "treat others as you want to be treated." My question is, isnt this rule (statement) an example of moral relativism?

    The way I see it is by replacing the words "as you want to be treated" by the word "good" we have totally changed the way the rule is followed. I feel as if the rule has now gone from relative to absolute. The way you want to be treated is your preference and can also be affected (corrupted) by your unbringing. Whether the way you want to be treated is moral or immoral, you can still conform to the rule by treating people in that same way. Therefore, in my opinion the golden rule doesn't solve much in applied ethics, the rule only does any good with absolute thinking..."treat others as you want to be treated, as long as it's good (moral)."

    I'm a begginer to philosophy so sorry if I made really wrong statements, its just the way I see things with my knowledge in philosophy now.
  15. Dec 1, 2005 #14
    the golden rule: he who has the gold rules.
  16. Dec 2, 2005 #15
    mugsby has a point here. this is the tendancy and the history and seemingly, will be, the future of humanity.

    who will learn?

    "he who reacts, is reactionary; he who transcends, is wise beyond measure."
  17. Dec 2, 2005 #16
    No doubt that you would want to be treated in a fashion that you consider good, so you must treat others in a fashion that they consider good, because that is how you would like to be treated. So I sum up the Rule into the phrase "treat others good", though the "good" I'm talking about is what they would consider good.
  18. Dec 2, 2005 #17
    Everything's connected. ya know?
  19. Dec 6, 2005 #18
    The Golden Rule is a 'metaphysical' natural law.
    Basically, what we dish out comes back to us, be it nice or not.
    In your example it can be presumed that the person being sentenced had already violated the 'Golden Rule'.
    Perhaps the judge, about to sentence the criminal, would best resort to fairness under the circumstances of the crime.
    You can see the Golden Rule operating frequently. Go into a biker bar and start pushing people around!
  20. Dec 6, 2005 #19
    I think the Golden Rule should be expanded to "what goes around, comes around, so 'Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.' "

    In that case, the judge would not be voilating the Rule, he would only be enforcing it because the crimial did something bad, so he must have something bad done to him.

    P.S. Is there something like "what goes around, comes around" in the Bible? Not being christian, I don't really know.
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2005
  21. Dec 10, 2005 #20
    isn't that really just "an eye for an eye?"

    yes, there is a reference like that in the bible, jesus says, "tit for tat".

    jesus, though, knew that he was not the one who judges and thereby issues tit for tat. that is held for the highest progenitor of justice.

    jesus was the manifestation of the actualization of the golden rule. jesus was/is the way, to "heaven on earth".

    eye for an eye, was the strict enforcement of control.
    the golden rule "goes around" force and brings about control naturally, through freedom and respect and love. right?
  22. Dec 14, 2005 #21
    I interpret the phrase "do unto others as they would do unto you" a little differently than "an eye for an eye". The latter phrase is very clear in matching an action X, deemed to be bad, with a punishment as severe X. Kill someone, be killed. Steal someone, get your hand off. Of course some subjectivity is required to interpret the severity of the action, but the "eye for an eye" mentality is pretty clear nonetheless.

    You could look at the Golden Rule in context of the Bible when Jesus said it, or you could simply look at the rule. Either way, it doesn't seem as concrete. Do unto others as they would do unto you? I take that other's have said as treating all people with a basic respect for human life.

    Now to address an earlier example of a judge sentencing someone to jail. To say that the judge should not send a criminal to jail because of the golden rule is a fairly literal translation of the rule. I would think that if the judge treated the criminal with respect, gave him/her the chance to express him/herself as rightfully as possible in the court of law, and then made a fair judgment according to law, then that judge is following the Golden Rule.

    To never punish, never scold, never reprimand anyone or anything would result in a chaotic society and would only work under ideal conditions.

  23. Dec 16, 2005 #22
    i see your intention jameson, but you have misquoted the rule. as a result, your conclusions are invalid; if we are talking about the Golden Rule, and not some variation of it, then your conclusions are false.

    "Whatsoever ye would that men do unto you, do you even so unto them" (Matthew 7:12)

    perhaps in clearer english: whatever you would have men do unto you, do the same unto them.

    of course, the original proclamation is such for a reason, and not merely a matter of syntax.

    thus, the golden rule stands. it is the way.
  24. Dec 16, 2005 #23
    Thank you for your response.

    I don't see your explanation of the Golden Rule as something contradictory to my interpretation. It doesn't say "if a man does X action to you, do X action back." That would be taking it out of context. We can debate the origin of the intentions of the Biblical verse, but that doesn't interest me as much as the validity of the concept of an eye for an eye or treating others as you would want to be treated.
  25. Dec 17, 2005 #24
    you are welcome.
    very well. we must examine one aspect which is of absolute necessity in this topic: namely, the idea that "the ends justifies the means"

    you will agree that this is fundamentally important.
    do the "means" lead to the desired "end," in this case?

    we will have to look to an equivalent example of "eye for an eye" which is: peace is acheived through war.

    you may already see, if you are very perceptive, where i am going with this.

    conflict, as is apparently clear, leads to further conflict; conflict breeds conflict. peace is never achieved.

    so, i will jump to a further point, which is: the means and the end are the same, essentially.

    if we are to achieve a state of mutual respect, understanding, compassion, peace, freedom and love, then the means must be understanding, peace, freedom and love.

    so, the golden rule is equivalent to the latter and "an eye for an eye" is equivalen to the former (conflict breeding conflict; unrest.

    we bring about peace and order through the institutions of respect and love for the "other" as one wishes for themself.

    some say that this is impossible and would be "moving backward" in the present state of the world. that notion is inherent in the "eye for an eye" mentality. the only way out of the circle of conflict-->conflict, is to step outside of it and stop "feeding it." the golden rule is the means and the end of "ending the causal chain of conflict-->conflict."

    this is difficult to actualize or accept, due to the deeply ingrainedness of "eye for an eye" in the historicity of world affairs.

    one must transcend the circle to end it.

    so, the golden rule is both the means and the end.

    i hope this makes sense, words are often difficult and elude me, but the understanding is present, and i hope that it can be extracted from this short and fragmented discourse.
  26. Dec 19, 2005 #25
    Wait a second,

    "Whatsoever ye would that men do unto you, do you even so unto them" (Matthew 7:12)

    It does not say, "do unto others as you would have others do unto you" it says, "do unto others as others would do unto you" In that case if others steal from you, you steal back. An eye for an eye. And so the judge is only aiding the victim in doing something the victim cannot, bringing the criminal to justice, which the victim is permitted to do.
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