The Golden Rule: The Flaw of Reciprocity
THEM'S THE RULESJune 29, 2021x
00:59:2240.8 MB

The Golden Rule: The Flaw of Reciprocity

Hosted by Bronwen Clark
Hosted by Bronwen Clark

The Golden Rule is widely accepted as the standard for ethical conduct. In Western society, it is often linked to Christianity, but its principle of treating one another with kindness is a tenet found in every religion and culture around the world. You’ve probably heard, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” or “Do not do unto others as you don't want them to do unto you.” These two versions may seem like they’re saying the same thing, but the subtle difference in wording reveals two very opposite lines of philosophy. The Golden Rule is an easy way to teach kids right from wrong, but when broken down to its core components, it reveals itself to be an impractical and impossible rule to follow. Still, this principle of treating others as you would like to be treated has made its mark upon history and social justice, such as in President John F. Kennedy’s speech to the American public following the desegregation of the University of Alabama. While the Golden Rule continues to influence domestic and foreign politics, it has created an ethical dilemma of how to balance economics, autonomy, and collective good during the global coronavirus pandemic. 

Key Points from This Episode:

  • Living in an apartment building comes with certain sacrifices and the expectation of common courtesy.
  • How the Golden Rule is found in nearly all religions and cultures all over the world. 
  • Why Bronwen thinks it isn’t so “golden” after all. 
  • How all societies had to face issues that challenge both ethnocentrism and egocentrism. 
  • The ways in which the Golden Rule is used for social control.
  • Where we get our empathy. 
  • The subtle differences in the Golden Rule significantly change its meaning and use.
  • How different versions of the rule can be used to teach morality to children.
  • The importance of relativity.
  • The loophole in the rule that could promote violence.
  • How hard it is for us to know what we really want or need, and how our tendency to want what is bad for us makes application of the Golden Rule even harder. 
  • Why Freud dislikes the Golden Rule 
  • How the rule devalues “love.” 
  • Why we should never make assumptions about others’ needs and wants.
  • How despite the Golden Rule appearing in international treaties, religious and ethnic conflicts still exist .
  • How Kant’s “categorical imperative” improves upon the Golden Rule. 
  • How empathy can help and hurt our survival.
  • What a harm-based morality is.
  • The working definition of “heuristics,” or, “a rule of thumb,” and how the Golden Rule oversimplifies complex problems.
  • JFK and other pivotal moments in history that called upon the Golden Rule.
  • How Utilitarianism offers a practical guideline for morality, but still has a fatal flaw.

Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode

The Golden Rule and Society

Them’s the Rules

Them’s the Rules on Twitter

Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents

JFK’s Report to the People 

Show Website