The ethic of reciprocity is a fundamental moral value which "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. In essence, it is an ethical code that states one has a right to just treatment, and a responsibility to ensure justice for others. Reciprocity is arguably the most essential basis for the modern concept of human rights, though it is not without its critics.
Many assign the imperative commandment of Golden Rule as instruction for a positive only form of reciprocity. A key element of the golden rule is that a person attempting to live by this rule treats all people, not just members of his or her in-group with consideration. The golden rule, with roots in a wide range of world cultures, is well suited to be a standard to which different cultures could appeal in resolving conflicts. Principal philosophers and religious figures have stated it in different ways.
Ancient Greek philosophy
The Golden Rule was a common principle in ancient Greek philosophy
. A few examples:
- "Do not to your neighbor what you would take ill from him." (Pittacus)
- "Avoid doing what you would blame others for doing." (Thales)
- "What you wish your neighbors to be to you, such be also to them." (Sextus the Pythagorean)
- "Do not do to others what would anger you if done to you by others." (Isocrates)
- "What thou avoidest suffering thyself seek not to impose on others." (Epictetus)
The "Declaration Toward a Global Ethic from the Parliament of the World’s Religions
(1993) proclaimed the Golden Rule (both in negative and positive form) as the common principle for many religions. The Initial Declaration was signed by 143 leaders from different faith traditions and spiritual communities.
- Putting oneself in the place of another,
- one should not kill nor cause another to kill.
- One who, while himself seeking happiness, oppresses with violence other
- beings who also desire happiness, will not attain happiness hereafter.
In addition, the Dalai Lama has stated:
If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.
If you want to be happy, practice compassion.
From the sacred scriptures of the Baha'i Faith:
"Ascribe not to any soul that which thou wouldst not have ascribed to thee, and say not that which thou doest not." Baha'u'llah.
"Blessed is he who preferreth his brother before himself." Baha'u'llah;
"And if thine eyes be turned towards justice, choose thou for thy neighbour that which thou choosest for thyself." Baha'u'llah.
Within Christian circles, the ethic of reciprocity is often called the "Golden Rule". Christianity adopted the ethic from two edicts, found in ("Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.") and ("But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God"). Crucially, Leviticus 19:34 universalizes the edict of Leviticus 19:18 from "one of your people" to all of humankind.
Several passages in the New Testament quote Jesus of Nazareth espousing the ethic of reciprocity, including the following:
"So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets."
"Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them."
25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’
26He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’
27He answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.’
28And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’
Jesus then proceeds to tell the parable of the Good Samaritan, indicating that "your neighbour" means a total stranger, or someone that happens to be nearby.
said in the Analects
"Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself." - Analects XV.24, tr. David Hinton
The same idea is also presented in V.12 and VI.30 of the Analects
The Golden rule appears in the Mahabharata
, where Vrihaspati
That man who regards all creatures as his own self, and behaves towards them as towards his own self, laying aside the rod of chastisement and completely subjugating his wrath, succeeds in attaining to happiness.
In addition to the law of karma, the Bhagavad Gita contains a dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna with the statement:
That one I love who is incapable of ill will,
And returns love for hatred.
As portrayed by Swami Vivekanand- Do good and forget, don't expect any reward.
In his Last Sermon
, the Prophet Muhammad
- "Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you."
Jeffrey Wattles holds that the ethic of reciprocity appears in the following statements attributed to Muhammad:
- “Woe to those . . . who, when they have to receive by measure from men, exact full measure, but when they have to give by measure or weight to men, give less than due”
- The Qur'an commends "those who show their affection to such as came to them for refuge and entertain no desire in their hearts for things given to the (latter), but give them preference over themselves
- “None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.”
- "Seek for mankind that of which you are desirous for yourself, that you may be a believer; treat well as a neighbor the one who lives near you, that you may be a Muslim [one who submits to God]."
- “That which you want for yourself, seek for mankind.”
- "The most righteous of men is the one who is glad that men should have what is pleasing to himself, and who dislikes for them what is for him disagreeable."
In Jainism, the ethic of reciprocity is firmly embedded in its entire philosophy and can be seen in its clearest form in the doctrines of Ahimsa and Karma
- 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 breath, exist, live or have any essence of life. To you and all, it is undesirable, and painful, and repugnant.
The ethic of reciprocity is set forth in (the Great Commandment) ("You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your countrymen. Love your fellow as yourself: I am the LORD." ) and ("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.").
The Sage Hillel formulated the Golden Rule in order to illustrate the underlying principles of Jewish moral law:
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.
Rabbi Akiba emphasized the importance of Leviticus 19:18.
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.
Not surprisingly, Israel's postal service quoted from this verse when it commemorated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on a 1958 postage stamp.
- "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 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
Many people have criticized the golden rule; George Bernard Shaw
once said that "The golden rule is that there are no golden rules". Shaw also criticized the golden rule, "Do not do unto others as you would expect they should do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same." (Maxims for Revolutionists). "The golden rule is a good standard which is further improved by doing unto others, wherever possible, as they
want to be done by." Karl Popper
(The Open Society and Its Enemies, Vol. 2
) This concept has recently been called "The Platinum Rule Philosophers, such as Immanuel Kant
, Friedrich Nietzsche
, and Bertrand Russell
, have objected to the rule on a variety of grounds. 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.
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. For example, it has been said that a sadist is just a masochist who follows the golden rule. Another often used example of this inconsistency is that of the man walking into a bar looking for a fight. It could also be used by a seducer to suggest that he should kiss an object of his affection because he wants that person to kiss him. Similar objections also apply to the so-called "platinum rule," for if a seducer wants a woman to kiss him, but she does not want him to, it follows from this rule that the seducer should not kiss her--but that she should kiss him.
Differences in situations
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.
M. G. Singer observed that there are two importantly different ways of looking at the golden rule: as requiring that you perform specific actions that you want others to do to you, or that you guide your behavior in the same general ways that you want others to. 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. An article by Jouni Reinikainen develops this suggestion in greater detail.
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 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.
Science of the Golden Rule
There has been some research published arguing that some of fair play and the Golden Rule may be stated and rooted in terms of neuroscientific
Cynical version of the Golden Rule
While the golden rule in religion implies devotion to selflessness, "the Golden Rule" is often recited as "Whoever has the gold makes the rules." Although websites credit Lyndon Foreman
for this version, his precise significance as a notable figure is unclear. This ironic version is most often used dismissively by economists and stock traders; it is not so much an opposite of the Golden Rule as a claim that moral precepts are decided by those who have wealth and the power that wealth can bring—i.e. they are not really moral precepts, merely rules allowing those with wealth and power to hold onto or increase that wealth and power.