The Golden Rule

The Golden Rule

The Golden Rule

The Golden Rule


Wattles offers a comprehensive survey of the history of the golden rule - Do unto others as you want others to do unto you. He traces the rule's history in a variety of contexts and offers his own synthesis of these varied understandings.


How is one to move beyond shock and cynicism as one confronts the evidence of moral decline in society? What reaction comes more easily than to blame them? We may be driven to act on the tendency to separate humankind into two camps-- the ones who are the problem and those of us with higher standards-- but such is not the ultimate solution. I believe that we can all learn to relate more humanely and reach out more effectively by discovering the golden rule in its full implications.

The need even for morally active people to discover the golden rule is greater that I realized over a decade ago when I began my research. I used to assume that nearly everyone was raised so that when they heard the phrase "the golden rule" they could supply a principle worded, approximately, "Do to others as you want others to do to you." I also assumed that nearly everyone who heard that principle spelled out had a roughly accurate initial grasp of its meaning. And I assumed that those who thought highly of the principle would occasionally spend time thinking about how to apply it. I have not made a scientific survey and would not hazard an estimate in percentage terms, but my experiences talking about the rule with individuals and groups during the past several years incline me to doubt these assumptions.

A volunteer soliciting contributions for an environmental group guessed that the golden rule was "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." A reporter misquoted the rule: "Do to others as will be done to you." Given a correct formulation, two students debated at length with their professor that the rule meant the same as the motto "Get even." A pastor's wife doubted that the rule was biblical. Philosophers often distort the rule and dismiss it, while others who prefer a charitable interpretation find no reply.

This book is intended both for beginners and scholars in the fields of philosophy and religion, but students of psychology and cultural history will profit from it as well. Presupposing a course or two in philosophy or . . .

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