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Golden Rule

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Golden Rule

Book with "Dieu, la Loi, et le Roi" ("God, the law and the king") on one page and the golden rule on the other, by Bernard d'Agesci (fr).

The Golden Rule or ethic of reciprocity is a maxim,[1] ethical code or morality[2] that essentially states either of the following:

  • One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself (directive form).[1]
  • One should not treat others in ways that one would not like to be treated (cautionary form, also known as the Silver Rule).[1]

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.[3][4]

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".[3][4] 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.) Religions figure prominently in the history of this concept.[1][5]

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 in England and Europe.[1][6] 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.[1][5] 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).[1]

Rushworth Kidder notes that the Golden Rule can be found in the early contributions of Confucianism. Kidder notes that this concept's framework appears prominently in many religions, including "Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, and the rest of the world's major religions".[7] According to Greg M. Epstein, " 'do unto others' ... is a concept that essentially no religion misses entirely."[8] Simon Blackburn also states that the Golden Rule can be "found in some form in almost every ethical tradition".[9] 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.


Ancient Babylon

The Code of Hammurabi (1780 BC)[10] dealt with the reciprocity of the Lex talionis in ways such as limiting retribution, as they did concepts of retribution (literally "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth").

Ancient China

The Golden Rule existed among all the major philosophical schools of Ancient China: Mohism, Taoism, and Confucianism. Examples of the concept include:

  • "Zi Gong asked, saying, "Is there one word that may serve as a rule of practice for all one's life?" The Master said, "Is not reciprocity such a word?" – Confucius[11][12]
  • "Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself." – Confucius[13]
  • "If people regarded other people's families in the same way that they regard their own, who then would incite their own family to attack that of another? For one would do for others as one would do for oneself." – Mozi
  • "The sage has no interest of his own, but takes the interests of the people as his own. He is kind to the kind; he is also kind to the unkind: for Virtue is kind. He is faithful to the faithful; he is also faithful to the unfaithful: for Virtue is faithful." – Laozi[14]
  • "Regard your neighbor's gain as your own gain, and your neighbor's loss as your own loss." – Laozi[15]

Ancient Egypt

An early example of the Golden Rule that reflects the Ancient Egyptian concept of Maat appears in the story of The Eloquent Peasant, which dates to the Middle Kingdom (c. 2040–1650 BC): "Now this is the command: Do to the doer to cause that he do thus to you."[16] An example from a Late Period (c. 664 BC – 323 BC) papyrus: "That which you hate to be done to you, do not do to another."[17]

Ancient Greece

The Golden Rule in its prohibitive form was a common principle in ancient Greek philosophy. Examples of the general concept include:

  • "Avoid doing what you would blame others for doing." – Thales[18] (c. 624 BC – c. 546 BC)
  • "What you do not want to happen to you, do not do it yourself either. " – Sextus the Pythagorean.[19] The oldest extant reference to Sextus is by Origen in the third century of the common era.[20]
  • "Do not do to others that which angers you when they do it to you." – Isocrates[21](436–338 BC)
  • "It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and well and justly (agreeing 'neither to harm nor be harmed'),[22] and it is impossible to live wisely and well and justly without living a pleasant life." – Epicurus[23]
  • " has been shown that to injure anyone is never just anywhere." – Socrates, in Plato's Republic. Plato is the first person known to have said this.[24]

Ancient Rome

Seneca, maybe following Publilius Syrus,[25] told "ab alio expectes alteri quod feceris" ("expect from others what you did to them")[26][27] and "non est quod credas quemquam fieri aliena infelicitate felicem" ("it is not so, as you might believe, that one is made happy through the unhappiness of others").[28][29]


Sanskrit tradition


tasmād_dharma-pradhānéna bhavitavyam yatātmanā | tathā cha sarva-bhūtéṣhu vartitavyam yathātmani || (तस्माद्धर्मप्रधानेन भवितव्यं यतात्मना। तथा च सर्वभूतेषु वर्तितव्यं यथात्मनि॥ Mahābhārata Shānti-Parva 167:9)

Tamil tradition

In the Section on Virtue, and Chapter 32 of the Tirukkuṛaḷ (c. 200 BC – 500 AD), Tiruvaḷḷuvar says: Why does a man inflict upon other creatures those sufferings, which he has found by experience are sufferings to himself ? (K. 318) Let not a man consent to do those things to another which, he knows, will cause sorrow. (K. 316) He furthermore opined that it is the determination of the spotless (virtuous) not to do evil, even in return, to those who have cherished enmity and done them evil. (K. 312) The (proper) punishment to those who have done evil (to you), is to put them to shame by showing them kindness, in return and to forget both the evil and the good done on both sides. (K. 314)

Religion and philosophy

Global ethic

The "Declaration Toward a Global Ethic"[30] from the Parliament of the World’s Religions[31][32] (1993) proclaimed the Golden Rule ("We must treat others as we wish others to treat us") as the common principle for many religions.[33] The Initial Declaration was signed by 143 leaders from all of the world's major faiths, including Baha'i Faith, Brahmanism, Brahma Kumaris, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Indigenous, Interfaith, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Native American, Neo-Pagan, Sikhism, Taoism, Theosophist, Unitarian Universalist and Zoroastrian.[33][34] In the folklore of several cultures{31} the Golden Rule is depicted by the allegory of the long spoons.

Bahá'í Faith

The Writings of the Bahá'í Faith while encouraging everyone to treat others as they would treat themselves, go further by introducing the concept of preferring others before oneself:

O SON OF MAN! Deny not My servant should he ask anything from thee, for his face is My face; be then abashed before Me.
Blessed is he who preferreth his brother before himself.
And if thine eyes be turned towards justice, choose thou for thy neighbour that which thou choosest for thyself.
Ascribe not to any soul that which thou wouldst not have ascribed to thee, and say not that which thou doest not.
Beware lest ye harm any soul, or make any heart to sorrow; lest ye wound any man with your words, be he known to you or a stranger, be he friend or foe.


Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama, c. 623 – c. 543 BC)[44][45] made this principle one of the cornerstones of his ethics in the 6th century BC. It occurs in many places and in many forms throughout the Tripitaka.

Comparing oneself to others in such terms as "Just as I am so are they, just as they are so am I," he should neither kill nor cause others to kill.
Sutta Nipata 705
One who, while himself seeking happiness, oppresses with violence other beings who also desire happiness, will not attain happiness hereafter.
Dhammapada 10. Violence
Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.
Udanavarga 5:18
Putting oneself in the place of another, one should not kill nor cause another to kill.[46]


According to Great Commandment) and Leviticus 19:34 ("But treat them just as you treat your own citizens. Love foreigners as you love yourselves, because you were foreigners one time in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.").

The Old Testament Deuterocanonical books of Tobit and Sirach, accepted as part of the Scriptural canon by Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodoxy, and the Non-Chalcedonian Churches, also express a negative form of the golden rule:

"Do to no one what you yourself dislike."
—Tobit 4:15
"Recognize that your neighbor feels as you do, and keep in mind your own dislikes."
—Sirach 31:15

At the time of Hillel, an elder contemporary of Jesus of Nazareth, the negative form of the golden rule already must have been proverbial, perhaps because of Tobit 4:15. When asked to sum up the entire Torah concisely, he answered:

"That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn."
—Talmud, Shabbat 31a

Two passages in the New Testament quote Jesus of Nazareth espousing the golden rule:

Matthew 7:12

Do to others what you want them to do to you. This is the meaning of the law of Moses and the teaching of the prophets.

Luke 6:31

Do to others what you would want them to do to you.

A similar passage, a parallel to the Great Commandment, is Luke 10:25-28

25And one day an authority on the law stood up to put Jesus to the test. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to receive eternal life?” 26What is written in the Law?” Jesus replied. “How do you understand it?” 27He answered, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Love him with all your strength and with all your mind.’(Deuteronomy 6:5) And, ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ ” 28“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do that, and you will live.”.

The passage in the book of Luke then continues with Jesus answering the question, "Who is my neighbor?", by telling the parable of the Good Samaritan, indicating that "your neighbor" is anyone in need.[50] This extends to all, including those who are generally considered hostile.

Jesus' teaching, however, goes beyond the negative formulation of not doing what one would not like done to themselves, to the positive formulation of actively doing good to another that, if the situations were reversed, one would desire that the other would do for them. This formulation, as indicated in the parable of the Good Samaritan, emphasises the needs for positive action that brings benefit to another, not simply restraining oneself from negative activities that hurt another. Taken as a rule of judgment, both formulations of the golden rule, the negative and positive, are equally applicable.[51]

In one passage of the New Testament Paul the Apostle refers to the golden rule:

Galatians 5:14

14For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

In the view of John Topel, Jesus' formulation of the golden rule was unprecedented in the thought world of his day and remains unique. 'Among most exegetes it has become commonplace that the golden rule as a general moral maxim existed before Jesus, not only in the negative form, but also in the positive formulation. [..] A careful study of the texts usually cited as predecessors of Jesus' usage does not support this contention. What emerges rather is the originality of his positive formulation'.[52]

It was the first clear positive formulation of the general moral maxim of altruistic mutuality. Its uniqueness finds its ground in the literary context in which Jesus' rule is located in the Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6:27-36); the command to love one's enemies (Luke 6:27-30); the rejection of the Greek ethic of reciprocity (Luke 6:32-34) and the disciples' Imitatio Dei (Luke 6:35c-36)


"What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others."
Zi gong (a disciple of Confucius) asked: "Is there any one word that could guide a person throughout life?"
The Master replied: "How about 'shu' [reciprocity]: never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself?"
--Confucius, Analects XV.24, tr. David Hinton (another translation is in the online Chinese Text Project)[53]

The same idea is also presented in V.12 and VI.30 of the Analects, which can be found in the online Chinese Text Project


When we say that man chooses for himself, we do mean that every one of us must choose himself; but by that we also mean that in choosing for himself he chooses for all men. For in effect, of all the actions a man may take in order to create himself as he wills to be, there is not one which is not creative, at the same time, of an image of man such as he believes he ought to be. To choose between this or that is at the same time to affirm the value of that which is chosen; for we are unable ever to choose the worse. What we choose is always the better; and nothing can be better for us unless it is better for all.


One should never do that to another which one regards as injurious to one’s own self. This, in brief, is the rule of dharma. Other behavior is due to selfish desires.
Brihaspati, Mahabharata (Anusasana Parva, Section CXIII, Verse 8)[55]


श्रूयतां धर्मसर्वस्वं श्रुत्वा चाप्यवधार्यताम्।
आत्मनः प्रतिकूलानि परेषां न समाचरेत्।।

If the entire "Dharma" (spiritual and moral laws) can be said in a few words, then it is — that which is unfavorable to us, do not do that to others. (Padmapuraana, shrushti 19/357–358)

In Mahābhārata, the ancient epic of India, comes a discourse where the wise minister Vidura advices the King Yuddhiśhṭhira thus, “Listening to wise scriptures, austerity, sacrifice, respectful faith, social welfare, forgiveness, purity of intent, compassion, truth and self-control — are the ten wealth of character (self). O king aim for these, may you be steadfast in these qualities. These are the basis of prosperity and rightful living. These are highest attainable things. All worlds are balanced on dharma, dharma encompasses ways to prosperity as well. O King, dharma is the best quality to have, wealth the medium and desire (kāma) the lowest. Hence, (keeping these in mind), by self-control and by making dharma (right conduct) your main focus, treat others as you treat yourself."

"tasmād dharma-pradhānéna bhavitavyam yatātmanā | tathā cha sarva-bhūtéṣhu vartitavyam yathātmani ||" (तस्माद्धर्मप्रधानेन भवितव्यं यतात्मना। तथा च सर्वभूतेषु वर्तितव्यं यथात्मनि॥ Mahābhārata Shānti-Parva 167:9)


Many different sources claim the Golden Rule as a humanist principle:[56][57]

Trying to live according to the Golden Rule means trying to empathise with other people, including those who may be very different from us. Empathy is at the root of kindness, compassion, understanding and respect – qualities that we all appreciate being shown, whoever we are, whatever we think and wherever we come from. And although it isn’t possible to know what it really feels like to be a different person or live in different circumstances and have different life experiences, it isn’t difficult for most of us to imagine what would cause us suffering and to try to avoid causing suffering to others. For this reason many people find the Golden Rule’s corollary – “do not treat people in a way you would not wish to be treated yourself” – more pragmatic.[56]
—Maria MacLachlan, Think Humanism[58]
Do not do to others what you would not want them to do to you. [is] (...) the single greatest, simplest, and most important moral axiom humanity has ever invented, one which reappears in the writings of almost every culture and religion throughout history, the one we know as the Golden Rule. Moral directives do not need to be complex or obscure to be worthwhile, and in fact, it is precisely this rule's simplicity which makes it great. It is easy to come up with, easy to understand, and easy to apply, and these three things are the hallmarks of a strong and healthy moral system. The idea behind it is readily graspable: before performing an action which might harm another person, try to imagine yourself in their position, and consider whether you would want to be the recipient of that action. If you would not want to be in such a position, the other person probably would not either, and so you should not do it. It is the basic and fundamental human trait of empathy, the ability to vicariously experience how another is feeling, that makes this possible, and it is the principle of empathy by which we should live our lives.
—Adam Lee, Ebon Musings, "A decalogue for the modern world"[59]

In the view of Greg M. Epstein, a Humanist chaplain at Harvard University, " 'do unto others' ... is a concept that essentially no religion misses entirely. But not a single one of these versions of the golden rule requires a God".[60]


The Golden Rule is implicitly expressed in some verses of the Qur'an, but is explicitly declared in the sayings of Muhammad. A common transliteration is: ِAheb li akheek ma tuhibu li nafsik. This can be translated as "Wish for your brother, what you wish for yourself" or "Love your brother as you love yourself".

From the Qur'an: the first verse recommends the positive form of the rule, and the subsequent verses condemn not abiding the negative form of the Golden Rule:

“...and you should forgive And overlook: Do you not like God to forgive you? And Allah is The Merciful Forgiving.”
Qur’an (Surah 24, "The Light," v. 22)
“Woe to those... who, when they have to receive by measure from men, they demand exact full measure, but when they have to give by measure or weight to men, give less than due”
Qur’an (Surah 83, "The Dealers in Fraud," vv. 1–4)
“...orphans and the needy, give them something and speak kindly to them. And those who are concerned about the welfare of their own children after their death, should have fear of God [Treat other people's Orphans justly] and guide them properly.”
Qur’an (Surah 4, "The Women," vv. 8-9)
“O you who believe! Spend [benevolently] of the good things that you have earned... and do not even think of spending [in alms] worthless things that you yourselves would be reluctant to accept.”
Qur’an (Surah 2, "The Calf," v. 267)

From the hadith, the collected oral and written accounts of Muhammad and his teachings during his lifetime:

A Bedouin came to the prophet, grabbed the stirrup of his camel and said: O the messenger of God! Teach me something to go to heaven with it. Prophet said: “As you would have people do to you, do to them; and what you dislike to be done to you, don't do to them. Now let the stirrup go! [This maxim is enough for you; go and act in accordance with it!]”
Kitab al-Kafi, vol. 2, p. 146
“None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.”
—An-Nawawi's Forty Hadith 13 (p. 56)[61]
“Seek for mankind that of which you are desirous for yourself, that you may be a believer.”
—Sukhanan-i-Muhammad (Teheran, 1938)[62]
“That which you want for yourself, seek for mankind.”[62]
“The most righteous person is the one who consents for other people what he consents for himself, and who dislikes for them what he dislikes for himself.”[62]

Ali ibn Abi Talib (4th Caliph in Sunni Islam, and first Imam in Shia Islam) says:

“O' my child, make yourself the measure (for dealings) between you and others. Thus, you should desire for others what you desire for yourself and hate for others what you hate for yourself. Do not oppress as you do not like to be oppressed. Do good to others as you would like good to be done to you. Regard bad for yourself whatever you regard bad for others. Accept that (treatment) from others which you would like others to accept from you... Do not say to others what you do not like to be said to you.”
Nahjul Balaghah, Letter 31 [63]

Other hadiths calling for the golden rule are:

Anas related that Muhammad said: "None of you is truly a Muslim until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself". (Reported in Sahih Muslim and Sahih Bukhari).
Whoever wishes to be delivered from the fire and to enter paradise should treat other people as they wish to be treated themselves. (reported by Sahih Muslim).
Do unto all men as you would wish to have done unto you; and reject for others what you would reject for yourself. (Reported by Abu Dawud)

Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the founder of the Ahmadiyya movement in Islam says:

Everyone who looks down upon a brother because he esteems himself more learned, or wiser, or more proficient than him is arrogant, inasmuch as he does not esteem God as the Fountainhead of all intelligence and knowledge and deems himself as something. Has God not the power to afflict him with lunacy and to bestow upon his brother whom he accounts small better intelligence and knowledge and higher proficiency than him? So also he who, out of a mistaken conception of his wealth, or status, or dignity, looks down upon his brother, is arrogant because he forgets that his wealth, status and dignity were bestowed upon him by God. He is blind and does not realize that God has power to so afflict him that in a moment he might be reduced to the condition of the lowest of the low, and to bestow upon his brother whom he esteems low greater wealth than him. In the same way he who takes pride in his physical health, or is conceited of his beauty, or good looks, or strength, or might and bestows a scornful designation on his brother making fun of him and proclaims his physical defects is arrogant, for he is unaware of God Who has power to afflict him with such physical defects as to render him worse than his brother and to bless the latter so that his faculties should not suffer decline or be stultified over a long period, for He has power to do all that He wills. So he who is neglectful of Prayer on account of his dependence upon his faculties is arrogant for he has not recognized the Fountainhead of all power and strength and relies upon himself. Therefore, dear ones, keep all these admonitions in mind lest you should be accounted arrogant in the estimation of God Almighty unknowingly. He who out of pride corrects the pronunciation of a word by his brother partakes of arrogance. He who does not listen courteously to his brother and turns away from him partakes of arrogance. He who resents a brother sitting next to him partakes of arrogance. He who mocks and laughs at one who is occupied in Prayer partakes of arrogance. He who does not seek to render full obedience to a commissioned one and Messenger of God partakes of arrogance. He who does not pay full attention to the directions of such a one and does not study his writings with care also partakes of arrogance. Try, therefore, that you should not partake of arrogance in any respect so that you may escape ruin and you and yours may attain salvation. Lean towards God and love Him to the utmost degree possible and fear Him as much as anyone can be feared in this life. Be pure hearted and pure intentioned and meek and humble and free of all mischief so that you may receive mercy.[64]


In Jainism, the golden rule is firmly embedded in its entire philosophy and can be seen in its clearest form in the doctrines of Ahimsa and Karma

The following quotation from the Acaranga Sutra sums up the philosophy of Jainism:

Nothing which breathes, which exists, which lives, or which has essence or potential of life, should be destroyed or ruled over, or subjugated, or harmed, or denied of its essence or potential. In support of this Truth, I ask you a question – "Is sorrow or pain desirable to you ?" If you say "yes it is", it would be a lie. If you say, "No, It is not" you will be expressing the truth. Just as sorrow or pain is not desirable to you, so it is to all which breathe, exist, live or have any essence of life. To you and all, it is undesirable, and painful, and repugnant.[65]

Saman Suttam of Jinendra Varni[66] gives further insight into this precept:-

All the living beings wish to live and not to die; that is why unattached saints prohibit the killing of living beings.
—Suman Suttam, verse 148
Just as pain is not agreeable to you, it is so with others. Knowing this principle of equality treat other with respect and compassion.
—Suman Suttam, verse 150
Killing a living being is killing one's own self; showing compassion to a living being is showing compassion to oneself. He who desires his own good, should avoid causing any harm to a living being.
—Suman Suttam, verse 151



The earliest known text of the positive form of the Golden Rule is the following Biblical verse, written c. 1300 BC:[67]

You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your kinsfolk. Love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
—Leviticus 19:18[68]the "Great Commandment" (Hebrew: "ואהבת לרעך כמוך")

Hillel the Elder (c. 110 BC – 10 AD),[69] singled out the Golden Rule (Leviticus 19:18) as the most important message of the Torah. Rabbi Akiba agreed and suggested that the principle of love must have its foundation in Genesis chapter 1, which teaches that all men are the offspring of Adam who was made in the image of God (Sifra, Ḳedoshim, iv.; Yer. Ned. ix. 41c; Genesis Rabba 24).[70] According to Jewish rabbinic literature, the first man Adam represents the unity of mankind. This is echoed in the modern preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And it is also taught, that Adam is last in order according to the evolutionary character of God's creation:[70]

"Why was only a single specimen of man created first?[70] To teach us that he who destroys a single soul destroys a whole world and that he who saves a single soul saves a whole world;[70] furthermore, so no race or class may claim a nobler ancestry, saying, 'Our father was born first'; and, finally, to give testimony to the greatness of the Lord, who caused the wonderful diversity of mankind to emanate from one type.[70] And why was Adam created last of all beings?[70] To teach him humility; for if he be overbearing, let him remember that the little fly preceded him in the order of creation."[70]


The Golden Rule originates in a well-known Torah verse (Hebrew: "ואהבת לרעך כמוך"):

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 Jewish Publication Society's edition of Leviticus:

Thou shalt not hate thy brother. in thy heart; thou shalt surely rebuke thy neighbour, and not bear sin because of him. 18 Thou shalt not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.[71]

This Torah verse represents one of several versions of the Golden Rule, which itself appears in various forms, positive and negative. It is the earliest written version of that concept in a positive form.[67]

At the turn of the eras, the Jewish rabbis were discussing the scope of the meaning of Leviticus 19:18 and 19:34 extensively:

The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I the LORD am your God.
—Leviticus 19:34

Commentators summed up foreigners (= Samaritans), proselytes (= 'strangers who resides with you') (Rabbi Akiba, bQuid 75b) or Jews (Rabbi Gamaliel, yKet 3,1; 27a) to the scope of the meaning.

The Sage Hillel formulated a negative form of the golden rule. When asked to sum up the entire Torah concisely, he answered:[72]

That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn it.
Talmud, Shabbat 31a, the "Great Principle"

On the verse, "Love your fellow as yourself," the classic commentator Rashi quotes from Torat Kohanim, an early Midrashic text regarding the famous dictum of Rabbi Akiva: "Love your fellow as yourself — Rabbi Akiva says this is a great principle of the Torah."[73]

Israel's postal service quoted from the previous Leviticus verse when it commemorated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on a 1958 postage stamp.[74]


If people regarded other people's families in the same way that they regard their own, who then would incite their own family to attack that of another? For one would do for others as one would do for oneself.

Mozi regarded the golden rule as a corollary to the cardinal virtue of impartiality, and encouraged egalitarianism and selflessness in relationships.


The Golden Rule appears to be present in at least one of Plato's dialogues:

One should never do wrong in return, nor mistreat any man, no matter how one has been mistreated by him.
Plato's Socrates (Crito, 49c) (c. 469 – 399 BC)


Consistent with the observation by Walter Terence Stace "that 'doing as you would be done by' includes taking into account your neighbor's tastes as you would that he should take yours into account" (see Criticisms and responses to criticisms), Scientology addresses the issue concerning differences in values or interests by focusing on the values and interests of the recipient of the conduct:

Thus today we have two golden rules for happiness: 1. Be able to experience anything; and 2. Cause only those things which others are able to experience easily.
Scientology: A New Slant on Life, Two Rules for Happy Living[75][76][77]


Whom should I despise, since the one Lord made us all.
—p.1237, Var Sarang, Guru Granth Sahibtr. Patwant Singh
The truly enlightened ones are those who neither incite fear in others nor fear anyone themselves.
—p.1427, Slok, Guru Granth Sahibtr. Patwant Singh
I am a stranger to no one, and no one is a stranger to me. Indeed, I am a friend to all.
—p.1299, Guru Granth Sahib


The sage has no interest of his own, but takes the interests of the people as his own. He is kind to the kind; he is also kind to the unkind: for Virtue is kind. He is faithful to the faithful; he is also faithful to the unfaithful: for Virtue is faithful.
Tao Teh Ching, Chapter 49
Regard your neighbor's gain as your own gain, and your neighbor's loss as your own loss.
—T'ai Shang Kan Ying P'ien

The Way to Happiness

The Way to Happiness expresses the Golden Rule both in its negative/prohibitive form and in its positive form. The negative/prohibitive form is expressed in Precept 19 as:

19. Try not to do things to others that you would not like them to do to you.

The positive form is expressed in Precept 20 as:

20. Try to treat others as you would want them to treat you.


These eight words the Rede fulfill, 'an ye harm none do as ye will.
Here ye these words and heed them well, the words of Dea, thy Mother Goddess, "I command thee thus, O children of the Earth, that that which ye deem harmful unto thyself, the very same shall ye be forbidden from doing unto another, for violence and hatred give rise to the same. My command is thus, that ye shall return all violence and hatred with peacefulness and love, for my Law is love unto all things. Only through love shall ye have peace; yea and verily, only peace and love will cure the world, and subdue all evil."
The Book of Ways, Devotional Wicca

Other contexts

Human rights

According to Marc H. Bornstein, and William E. Paden, the Golden Rule is arguably the most essential basis for the modern concept of human rights, in which each individual has a right to just treatment, and a reciprocal responsibility to ensure justice for others.[82]

However Leo Damrosch argued that the notion that the Golden Rule pertains to "rights" per se is a contemporary interpretation and has nothing to do with its origin. The development of human "rights" is a modern political ideal that began as a philosophical concept promulgated through the philosophy of Jean Jacques Rousseau in 18th century France, among others. His writings influenced Thomas Jefferson, who then incorporated Rousseau's reference to "inalienable rights" into the United States Declaration of Independence in 1776. Damrosch argued that to confuse the Golden Rule with human rights is to apply contemporary thinking to ancient concepts.[83]


If the negative/prohibitive form of the Golden Rule would stand alone, it would simply serve as a proactive motivation against wrong action. But the Golden Rule in general actually serves as a motivation toward proactive action. As Dr. Frank Crane put it, "The Golden Rule is of no use to you whatsoever unless you realize that it's your move!"[84]

Criticisms and responses to criticisms

Many people have criticized the golden rule; Karl Popper wrote: "The golden rule is a good standard which is further improved by doing unto others, wherever reasonable, as they want to be done by" (The Open Society and Its Enemies, Vol. 2). This concept has recently been called "The Platinum Rule."[85] Philosophers, such as Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Bertrand Russell, have objected to the rule on a variety of grounds.[86] The most serious among these is its application. How does one know how others want to be treated? The obvious way is to ask them, but this cannot be done if one assumes they have not reached a particular and relevant understanding.

One satirical version the Golden Rule makes a political and economic point: "Whoever has the gold, makes the rules."[87]

Differences in values or interests

Shaw's comment about differing tastes suggests that if your values are not shared with others, the way you want to be treated will not be the way they want to be treated. Hence, the Golden Rule is "dangerous in the wrong hands,"[88] according to philosopher Iain King, because "some fanatics have no aversion to death: the Golden Rule might inspire them to kill others in suicide missions."[89]

Differences in situations

Immanuel Kant famously criticized the golden rule for not being sensitive to differences of situation, noting that a prisoner duly convicted of a crime could appeal to the golden rule while asking the judge to release him, pointing out that the judge would not want anyone else to send him to prison, so he should not do so to others.[90] Kant's Categorical Imperative, introduced in Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals, is often confused with the Golden Rule.

Cannot be a sole guide to action

Philosopher [92] Therefore, he concludes that there can be no viable formulation of the Golden Rule, unless it is heavily qualified by other maxims.[93]

Responses to criticisms

Walter Terence Stace, in The Concept of Morals (1937), wrote:

Mr. Bernard Shaw's remark "Do not do unto others as you would that they should do unto you. Their tastes may be different" is no doubt a smart saying. But it seems to overlook the fact that "doing as you would be done by" includes taking into account your neighbor's tastes as you would that he should take yours into account. Thus the "golden rule" might still express the essence of a universal morality even if no two men in the world had any needs or tastes in common.[94]

[95] Counter-examples to the golden rule typically are more forceful against the first than the second.

In his book on the golden rule, Jeffrey Wattles makes the similar observation that such objections typically arise while applying the golden rule in certain general ways (namely, ignoring differences in taste, in situation, and so forth). But if we apply the golden rule to our own method of using it, asking in effect if we would want other people to apply the golden rule in such ways, the answer would typically be no, since it is quite predictable that others' ignoring of such factors will lead to behavior which we object to. It follows that we should not do so ourselves—according to the golden rule. In this way, the golden rule may be self-correcting.[96] An article by Jouni Reinikainen develops this suggestion in greater detail.[97]

It is possible, then, that the golden rule can itself guide us in identifying which differences of situation are morally relevant. We would often want other people to ignore any prejudice against our race or nationality when deciding how to act towards us, but would also want them to not ignore our differing preferences in food, desire for aggressiveness, and so on. The platinum rule, and perhaps other variants, might also be self-correcting in this same manner.

Scientific research

There has been research published arguing that some 'sense' of fair play and the Golden Rule may be stated and rooted in terms of neuroscientific and neuroethical principles.[98]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g   This dictionary of philosophy contains the following exact quote under the entry for "golden rule": "The maxim 'Treat others how you wish to be treated'. Various expressions of this fundamental moral rule are to be found in tenets of most religions and creeds through the ages, testifying to its universal applicability." (end quote).
  2. ^   (above quote found p. 136, ch. 6)
  3. ^ a b Stace, Walter T. (1937, Reprinted 1975 by permission of MacMillan Publishing Co. Inc., Also reprinted January 1990 by Peter Smith Publisher Inc). The Concept of Morals. New York: The MacMillan Company; and also reprinted by Peter Smith Publisher Inc, January 1990. pp. 178, 179 (ch. 7).  
  4. ^ a b
  5. ^ a b Stace, Walter T. (1937, Reprinted 1975 by permission of MacMillan Publishing Co. Inc.). The Concept of Morals. New York: The MacMillan Company.   (See chapters on Ethical Relativity (pp 1–68), and Unity of Morals (pp 92–107, specifically p 93, 98, 102)
  6. ^  
  7. ^ W.A. Spooner, "The Golden Rule," in James Hastings, ed. Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, Vol. 6 (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1914) pp. 310–12, quoted in Rushworth M. Kidder, How Good People Make Tough Choices: Resolving the Dilemmas of Ethical Living, Harper, New York, 2003. ISBN 0-688-17590-2. p. 159.  
  8. ^ Esptein, Greg M. (2010). Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe. New York: HarperCollins. p. 115.  
  9. ^  
  10. ^ Quote from Kenneth Bond: "...Code of Hammurabi. I used a translation by L.W. King with Commentary by Charles F. Horne (1915). My version was a 1996 electronically enhanced version of the 1910  
  11. ^  
  12. ^ The entry for "golden rule" in A Dictionary of Philosophy, in giving examples, states: "...  
  13. ^ Analects XV.24 (tr. David Hinton)
  14. ^ Tao Teh Ching, Chapter 49
  15. ^ T'ai Shang Kan Ying P'ien (Sacred Books of the East)
  16. ^ "The Culture of Ancient Egypt", John Albert Wilson, p. 121, University of Chicago Press, 1956, ISBN 0-226-90152-1
  17. ^ "A Late Period Hieratic Wisdom Text: P. Brooklyn 47.218.135", Richard Jasnow, p. 95, University of Chicago Press, 1992, ISBN 978-0-918986-85-6.
  18. ^ Diogenes Laërtius, "The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers", I:36
  19. ^ "The Sentences of Sextus". 
  20. ^ The Sentences of Sextus Article
  21. ^ Isocrates, Nicocles or the Cyprians, Isoc 3.61 (original text in Greek); cf. Isoc. 1.14, Isoc. 2.24, 38, Isoc. 4.81.
  22. ^ Tim O'Keefe, Epicurus on Freedom, Cambridge University Press, 2005, p.134
  23. ^ , 31Epicurus Principal Doctrines, tranls. by Robert Drew Hicks (1925)
  24. ^ W. H. D. Rouse, translator, Great Dialogues of Plato, Signet Classics, 2008, p. 150 (Republic, 335e).
  25. ^ Uchenna B. Okeja, Normative Justification of a Global Ethic: A Perspective from African Philosophy, Lexington Books, 2013, page 124.
  26. ^ Seneca, Epistulae ad Lucilium, 94, 43.
  27. ^ Publilius Syrus, Sententiae, sententia 2.
  28. ^ Seneca, Ep., 94, 67.
  29. ^ Vincent Barletta, Death in Babylon: Alexander the Great and Iberian Empire in the Muslim Orient, The University of Chicago press, 2010, page 31.
  30. ^ Towards a Global Ethic – Urban Dharma - Buddhism in America (This link includes a list of 143 signatories and their respective religions.)
  31. ^ "Parliament of the World's Religions". 16 August 2013. Retrieved 12 September 2013. 
  32. ^ "The Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions". 16 August 2013. Retrieved 12 September 2013. 
  33. ^ a b Towards a Global Ethic (An Initial Declaration) - Under the subtitle, "We Declare," see third paragraph. The first line reads, "We must treat others as we wish others to treat us."
  34. ^ "Parliament of the World's Religions - Towards a Global Ethic" (PDF). Retrieved 12 September 2013. 
  35. ^ "Bahá'í Reference Library - The Hidden Words of Bahá’u’lláh, Page 11". 31 December 2010. Retrieved 12 September 2013. 
  36. ^ "The Golden Rule Bahá'í Faith". 11 April 2009. Retrieved 12 September 2013. 
  37. ^ Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p71
  38. ^ "The Hidden Words of Bahá'u'lláh – Part II". Retrieved 12 September 2013. 
  39. ^ Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p30
  40. ^ Words of Wisdom See: The Golden Rule
  41. ^ Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings, LXVI:8
  42. ^ Hidden Words of Bahá'u'lláh, p10
  43. ^ Selections from the Writings of `Abdu'l-Bahá, p. 73
  44. ^ Gautama Buddha (B.C. 623-543)" by T.W. Rhys-Davids, The World's Great Events, B.C. 4004-A.D. 70 (1908) by Esther Singleton, pp. 124-135""". 28 November 2012. Retrieved 12 September 2013. 
  45. ^ "The Buddha (BC 623-BC 543) - Religion and spirituality Article - Buddha, Bc, 623". Booksie. 8 July 2012. Retrieved 12 September 2013. 
  46. ^ Detachment and Compassion in Early Buddhism by Elizabeth J. Harris (
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  48. ^ The Holy Bible, New Century Version. 2005 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.
  49. ^ Vaux, Laurence (1583, Reprinted by The Chetham Society in 1885). A Catechisme / or / Christian Doctrine. Manchester, England: The Chetham Society. p. 48 (located in the text just before the title, "Of the Five Commandments of the Church." Scroll up slightly to see a section saying: "The sum of the ten Commandments does consist in the love towards god, and our neighbor (Ephe. 4., Matt. 7.). In the first Table be three Commandments: which take away and forbid sin and vice against the worshipping of God. They forbid idolatry, apostasy, heresy, superstition, perjury, blasphemy, and move us to the pure and true worshipping of God in heart, word and deed. In the Second table be seven Commandments, which command us to give reverence and honor to every man in his degree, to profit all, and hurt none: to do unto others, as we would be done to ourselves."). 
  50. ^ "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on Luke 10". Retrieved 12 September 2013. 
  51. ^ Moore: Judaism in the First Centuries of the Christian Era; Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1927–1930; Vol.2, p.87, Vol.3, p.180.
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  54. ^ Sartre, Jean-Paul (2007). Existentialism Is a Humanism. Yale University Press. pp. 291–292.  
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  61. ^ Wattles (191), Rost (100)
  62. ^ a b c [English Title: Conversations of Muhammad]
    Wattles (192)
    Rost (100)
    Donaldson Dwight M. 1963. Studies in Muslim Ethics, p.82. London: S.P.C.K
  63. ^
    another translation: "My dear son, so far as your behavior with other human beings is concerned, let your 'self' act as scales to judge its goodness or wickedness: Do unto others as you wish others to do unto you. Whatever you like for yourself, like for others, and whatever you dislike to happen to you, spare others from such happenings. Do not oppress and tyrannize anybody because you surely do not like to be oppressed and tyrannized. Be kind and sympathetic to others as you certainly desire others to treat you kindly and sympathetically. If you find objectionable and loathsome habits in others, abstain from developing those traits of character in yourself. If you are satisfied or feel happy in receiving a certain kind of behavior from others, you may behave with others in exactly the same way. Do not speak about them in the same way that you do not like others to speak about you... [A]void scandal, libel and aspersion as you do not like yourself to be scandalized and scorned in the same manner."
  64. ^ Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. Nuzulul Masih. Islam International publications. pp. 24–25. 
  65. ^ Jacobi, Hermann (1884). Ācāranga Sūtra, Jain Sutras Part I, Sacred Books of the East, Vol. 22..  Sutra 155-6
  66. ^ *Varni, Jinendra; Ed. Prof. Sagarmal Jain, Translated Justice T.K. Tukol and Dr. K.K. Dixit (1993). Samaṇ Suttaṁ. New Delhi: Bhagwan Mahavir memorial Samiti. 
  67. ^ a b Plaut, The Torah — A Modern Commentary; Union of American Hebrew Congregations, New York 1981; pp.892.
  68. ^ New JPS Hebrew/English Tanakh
  69. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia: Hillel: "His activity of forty years is perhaps historical; and since it began, according to a trustworthy tradition (Shab. 15a), one hundred years before the destruction of Jerusalem, it must have covered the period 30 B.C. -10 C.E."
  70. ^ a b c d e f g "ADAM". Retrieved 12 September 2013. 
  71. ^ "Leviticus". The Torah. Jewish Publication Society. p. 19:17. 
  72. ^ Gensler, Harry J. (1996). Formal Ethics. Routledge. p. 105.  
  73. ^ Kedoshim 19:18, Toras Kohanim, ibid. See also Talmud Yerushalmi, Nedarim 9:4; Bereishis Rabbah 24:7.
  74. ^ "Sol Singer Collection of Philatelic Judaica".  
  75. ^  
  76. ^ Hubbard, L. Ron (2012). "The Rules for Happy Living". LRonHubbard.Org. Church of Scientology International. Retrieved 13 August 2012. 
  77. ^ Hubbard, L. Ron (2006). "Two Rules for Happy Living". Church of Scientology International. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  78. ^ Hubbard, L. Ron (2012). "Precept 19". The Way to Happiness. The Way to Happiness Foundation International. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  79. ^ Hubbard, L. Ron (2007). The Way to Happiness: A Common Sense Guide to Better Living. Los Angeles: L. Ron Hubbard Library. p. 59.  
  80. ^ Hubbard, L. Ron (2012). "Precept 20". The Way to Happiness. The Way to Happiness Foundation International. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  81. ^ Hubbard, L. Ron (2007). The Way to Happiness: A Common Sense Guide to Better Living. Los Angeles: L. Ron Hubbard Library. p. 61.  
  82. ^ Defined another way, it "refers to the balance in an interactive system such that each party has both rights and duties, and the subordinate norm of complementarity states that one's rights are the other's obligation."Bornstein, Marc H. (2002). Handbook of Parenting. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. p. 5.  
  83. ^ Damrosch, Leo (2008). Jean Jacques Russeau: Restless Genius. Houghton Mifflin Company.  
  84. ^ "and Robert D. Ramsey, ''School Leadership From A to Z: Practical Lessons from Successful Schools and Businesses'', Corwin Press, Inc., Thousand Oaks, CA, 2003. (ISBN 978-0761938330) p. 45". Retrieved 12 September 2013. 
  85. ^ "The Busybody: The Platinum Rule". 15 February 2006. Retrieved 12 September 2013. 
  86. ^ "Only a Game: The Golden Rule". 24 May 2007. Retrieved 12 September 2013. 
  87. ^  
  88. ^ Source: Page 76 of 'How To Make Good Decisions and Be Right All the Time', Iain King, 2008, Continuum, ISBN 9-781-847-063472.
  89. ^ Source: Page 76 of 'How To Make Good Decisions and Be Right All the Time', Iain King, 2008, Continuum, ISBN 9-781-847-063472.
  90. ^ Kant, Immanuel Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, footnote 13. Cambridge University Press (28 April 1998). ISBN 978-0-521-62695-8
  91. ^ Source: Page 110 of ‘How to Make Good Decisions and Be Right All the Time’, Iain King, Continuum, 2008, ISBN 978-1847063472. Accessed 20 March 2014.
  92. ^ a b Source: Page 112 of ‘How to Make Good Decisions and Be Right All the Time’, Iain King, Continuum, 2008, ISBN 978-1847063472. Accessed 20 March 2014.
  93. ^ Source: Page 114 of ‘How to Make Good Decisions and Be Right All the Time’, Iain King, Continuum, 2008, ISBN 978-1847063472. Accessed 20 March 2014.
  94. ^ Stace, Walter T. (1937, Reprinted 1975 by permission of MacMillan Publishing Co. Inc., Also reprinted January 1990 by Peter Smith Publisher Inc). The Concept of Morals. New York: The MacMillan Company; and also reprinted by Peter Smith Publisher Inc, January 1990. p. 136 (ch. 6).  
  95. ^ M. G. Singer, The Ideal of a Rational Morality, p270
  96. ^ Wattles, p6
  97. ^ Jouni Reinikainen, "The Golden Rule and the Requirement of Universalizability." Journal of Value Inquiry. 39(2): 155–168, 2005.
  98. ^ Pfaff, Donald W., "The Neuroscience of Fair Play: Why We (Usually) Follow the Golden Rule", Dana Press, The Dana Foundation, New York, 2007. ISBN 978-1-932594-27-0

External links

  • Quotations related to Golden Rule at Wikiquote
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