Why The Golden Rule Does Not Work

965 words - 4 pages

The Golden Rule is a universally recognized guideline for proper ethical behavior. Many support it because it has a feel-good factor, and this rule is viewed as ‘good’. Unfortunately, this ethic of reciprocity may not always work. It seems to be merely a goodwill gesture, and is not necessarily a practical belief to enforce.
There are different ways that people seem to practice the Golden Rule. There is the high end of the rule, in which we are taught to be kind to our enemies. While this action might be truly selfless, this aspect has often been the catalyst of historical atrocities. Indoctrinated masses, failing to revolt against corrupt and ruthless rulers, have easily been led ...view middle of the document...

Following this guideline, they are given free reign to do as they please, simply because someone else may do it to them. This is confirmed in Oliver Thompson’s statement, “At the lower end, this is the rule of vendetta, 'an eye for an eye'. Violent behavior by one group tends to produce a justification for the morality of violence by any opposing groups.” (Thompson, 1993)
Our golden rule theorem says: "Treat others only as you consent to being treated in the same situation." To apply the Golden Rule, I'd imagine myself in the other person's place on the receiving end of the action. The Golden Rule forbids the combination of my performing an action to another, then I'm unwilling that this be done to me in the same situation. (Gensler, 2003) The Golden Rule doesn't tell us what to do in this situation. It doesn't replace regular moral norms; it only prescribes consistency.
The essence of the Golden Rule is that person A can act, affecting person B, if A would not object in B's position. In turn person B can react, if A would not object to the reaction. (Crabtree, 2001) When all actions in a society follow this procedure, the society cannot be said to be wrong or unjust. The logical flaw in this is that the image involves and affects only two people. However, social reality does not often consist of simple one on one interaction without further consequences. The most obvious failure of the Golden Rule is that it contains no provision for transference of perspective to third parties. The Golden Rule is so limited, that it cannot even give a preferred outcome if three people are involved. Remember the film cliché, where gangster A has a gun to the head of gangster B, who has a gun to the head of gangster C, who has a gun to the head of gangster A, completing the circle?
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