The Golden Rule: A Naturalistic Perspective

Utilitas 34 (3):262-274 (2022)
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A number of philosophers from Hobbes to Mill to Parfit have held some combination of the following views about the Golden Rule: (a) It is the cornerstone of morality across many if not all cultures. (b) It affirms the value of moral impartiality, and potentially the core idea of utilitarianism. (c) It is immune from evolutionary debunking, that is, there is no good naturalistic explanation for widespread acceptance of the Golden Rule, ergo the best explanation for its appearance in different traditions is that people have perceived the same non-natural moral truth. De Lazari-Radek and Singer employ all three of these claims in an argument meant to vindicate Sidgwick's ‘principle of universal benevolence’. I argue that the Golden Rule is the cornerstone of morality only in Christianity, it does not advocate moral impartiality, and there is a naturalistic explanation for why versions of the Golden Rule appear in different traditions.

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Nathan Cofnas
Cambridge University


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