Re: The "New Golden Rule"

Scott Badger (
Mon, 18 Jan 1999 08:50:38 -0600

On January 15, 1999 10:27 PM, Sean Parker <> wrote:

>The old golden rule was fine, the only issue is a semantic one. This "new"
>rule loses its bang because it ignores the relationship between you and
>fellow man.

Since I coined the phrase, New Golden Rule, in an earlier post allow me to comment.

"Do unto others as they would have you do unto them" does not, IMO, ignore the relationship between you and your fellow human. In fact, it explicitly takes
your fellow human into consideration whereas the old rule seems more one- sided. I'm in general agreement with Harvey Newstrom who stated, "No, the old golden rule was a perfect excuse for projecting one's morality onto others."

Dave Kekich offered,

"Stay out of my life, and I'll stay out of your's."

There are too many exceptions to this one. (e.g. If I'm on fire, I definitely want
you to come into my life, hopefully with an extinguisher, and an invitation is
NOT required.

David Gobel suggests:

"Do unto others the way they want, if not harmful to them or others."

There are obvious "holes" in this one too. Harmful in whose opinion? I don't want Jehovah's witness' bothering me, but they believe it is harmful to me for them not to try to convert me.

>Arguably, this "projective" capacity is the foundation of the
>rule to begin with. The idea, as expressed by modern cog sci scholars,
>something like this: We developed the ability to hold a model of the world
>around us in our heads to make decisions, and as a byproduct of this
>"projective" ability, we learned to project, or model, our own experience
>humanity to other humans...i.e. creating a model of what its like to be us
>and projecting it on them.
>Forget multiculturalism, thats just a small example of the differences that
>arise between our subjective, lonely, isolated minds. Even people who
>a similar cultural heritage have differing wants and needs, so different in
>fact, that we cannot begin to second guess their desires. Descarte
>understood this when he articulated the golden rule as he did...
>Do unto others _just as_ you would have them do unto you. The statement is
>intended more to express the ideal relationship between individuals than to
>dictate specific behaviors. It can be processed on many levels. i.e. "I
>will give you, Mr. Pacifist, a punch in the face because I would have you
>punch me, Mr. Masochist, in the face." but by that same token, "I will not
>do to you, Mr. Pacifist, what you do not want me, Mr. Masochist, to do to
>you, because I would not do to you, what I would not want you to do to me."
>The golden rule should be seen to operate on this second, "higher level"...
>Maybe somebody out there could better express what I'm trying to get at

I agree with you that this higher order meaning is satisfactory. I don't know
if this is a better expression or not, but I could restate it as . . .

"I will give careful consideration to your desires and dispositions before I

interact with you, because I would want you to act in the same respectful

manner toward me."

The problem is that the common interpretation of the Old Golden Rule is not on this meta level, but rather is frequently used to further one's own agenda,
as Mr. Newstrom explained with several good examples. The average person would have a more difficult time justifying selfish actions if the higer order
interpretation were somehow made more explicit than it currently is. The statement above is also stated in a positive, proactive manner (as suggested by Mr. Gobel).

Mark D. Fulwiler wrote:

>What if someone asks you to kill them? Or what if they would have you
>give them all your money? Clearly this "New Golden Rule" still has some
>major problems. :-)

The version offered in quotes above solves this problem. It does not obligate
you to do "anything" another may request of you, it obligates you to give respectful consideration to their request. Further, it obligates you to consider
unspoken requests (e.g. please don't make jokes about to my weight).

Unfortunately, the quote offered above is hardly a snappy one and is not likely
to catch on. Then again, it's the snappy quotes that tend to be inflexible and too

Scott Badger