The Not So Golden Rule

Philosophy Now (125):32-34 (2018)
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The Golden Rule is (roughly) as follows: treat others as you would have others treat you. Philosophical reactions to it vary; it has both supporters and detractors. In any case, almost nobody who things critically about morality takes the literal version of the Golden Rule seriously, since there are just too many problems with it. To demonstrate this, I will look at a literal version of the Golden Rule espoused by John C. Maxwell, a well-known and influential motivational speaker, and briefly discuss some of the obvious problems that it faces. I will then examine a more sophisticated version of the Golden Rule espoused by philosopher Harry Gensler. While able to overcome some of the problems of the literal Golden Rule, Gensler's version nevertheless shares a common difficulty with it: in both cases, the moral agent is asked to imagine themselves in the place of another. Maxwell things this is easily done, and Gensler asks for vividness and accuracy in this act of imagination. I wish to show that any version of the Golden Rule that takes seriously the need to imagine oneself in the place of another is to ask one to do the impossible, so any versions of the Golden Rule that require this should be rejected.
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First archival date: 2018-05-29
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