Posts Tagged ‘Golden Rule Generalized’

Do Onto Others, As You Want Them Do Onto You? Not So Fast

November 9, 2019


The Golden Rule: do onto others as you would like them to do onto you, was spread around by Thales, Confucius, 26 centuries ago, but it is already found in Egypt’s Middle Kingdom 40 centuries ago, in the mightiest form. The idea is also found in the fundamentals of India:

“O King, dharma is the best quality to have, wealth the medium and desire (kāma) the lowest. Hence, (keeping these in mind), by self-control and by making dharma (right conduct) your main focus, treat others as you treat yourself.”

— Mahābhārata Shānti-Parva 167:9

Egypt’s Ma’at, the goddess of truth, enjoins to follow the golden truth that, to impel a behavior onto others, one better embrace it first.

The Golden Rule is completely obvious, it’s a matter of basic logic: even Capuchin monkeys are familiar with it. Capuchins expect some reciprocity standards, and if they get violated, those intelligent monkeys get very angry, experiments have shown. 

So the Golden Rule is the essential cement to hold together a society. When buffaloes charge lions who have seized a youngster, they use a version of the Golden Rule. Thus, if it’s a basic principle of buffaloes, it should be one of humans. However, the Golden Rule is often used as a supreme philosophical principle, for humans… reducing humans at bovid level. The Golden Rule as a philosophical principle is terribly flawed.

A general principle should resist particular counterexamples. Indeed, what does the Golden Rule imply, when applied to masochists who want to be eaten alive piece by piece? Do we want masochists to do onto others what they want done to themselves? Before scoffing consider this: it’s called sadomasochism for some reason… (There have been even contemporary examples, say in Germany, of guys eating guys, consensually). Some may still scoff, because they like to scoff. However, as Salvador Dali pointed out the entire launch into a World War by the Nazis was an exercise in sadomasochism: the Nazis launched the war so they could lose it. I have argued the details of what exactly happened before, when I researched the plausibility of Dali’s assertion (At what point did German Commanders realize the war (WWII) was lost for Germany?)… which initially stunned me (and made me scoff, before I thought twice about it; now I consider Dali correct).  

In Eighteenth Century England, children as young as seven were hanged for setting a fire deliberately (fire was feared at the time, cities being made of wooden high rises pressed on each other). Deeply religious people were all for hanging children. They would also have liked to be hanged, as children, had they sinned that way, to partly attune for their crimes (thus opening to themselves the gates of heavens a bit wider…) 


Chinese philosopher Mengzi (“Mencius”) has his own version of the Golden Rule: his motivation may have been to differentiate himself from Confucius, who advocated the Golden Rule, two centuries prior. Mengzi suggested, 24 centuries ago, that if one wants to treat nicely neighbor x according to principle p, one should extend that kind treatment p to more distant person y. In Mengzi original example, a king had treated well a frightened ox, and was asked to extend this courtesy to the People he ruled over. 

Mengzi’s version of the Golden Rule has been the moral engine of globalization: one had to be as nice to Chinese workers and leaders as one would be to European, or American workers or leaders. It’s, superficially a moral idea, and it has been used as cover for the so-called “left”, when in power, in America or Europe, to foster the plutocratization of the planet. 

Is this great moral progress? No. It endorses unwittingly deep psychopathy. Indeed Mengzi’s Golden Rule is very well known of serial killers, in its mirror image version: if a serial killer K, wants to kill person x, but can’t, he may as well kill person y, who reminds him of x, however more distantly related to x is y. (The most basic version of this is found in Lafontaine, Le Loup et l’Agneau, an improvement on the older original. The lamb shows to the wolf he is innocent, so the wolf concludes that:”if it’s not you, it’s your brother.” After these words, he eats him.) 

Golden Rule in action, or when the gold beasts go at each other… Do onto others as they do onto you, can turn into another version of a tooth for a tooth, an eye for an eye, etc. We humans are smarter than that!

 The Golden Rule, especially in Mengzi’s version, ignores that loving depends upon discernment. It’s easier to discern those who are close-by, starting with oneself. Ignoring the lack of discernment that loving those who are far way implies, is to be blind to a reduction in knowledge, and its impact on one’s emotional intelligence.

Actually, it’s exactly what happened to the real Mengzi. Unbeknownst to the professional philosopher who wrote the adulating piece in Aeon (linked to above) about Mengzi, the latter gave the green light to the mass murdering invasion of the kingdom of Yan by Qin (where Mengzi was an official) [1].

To extend altruism at an arbitrarily large distances brings contradictions, especially in the age of globalization. 



Ethics is not a flat, but curved, even twisted, space, with variable local metric (the local morality). A curved space has an event horizon, beyond which, one cannot see, let alone act. Thus straight segments parallel here, when parallel transported along different histories, will end up not parallel. This is true in differential geometry, it should be true in differential morality.  

Thus if we want European or US workers to have work and be treated according to the Rights of Man, Bill of Rights, etc. we should want the same for Chinese workers. However the latter having work and dignity, may mean the former don’t, so, it’s seems to be a zero sum game: the rights given to them are removed from us… Actually, it’s worse: the rights removed from here aren’t even given there.

A related application of Mengzi’s Golden Rule is when Democratic candidates want illegal aliens forcing their way into the USA to receive free medical care. Is that because they would like their neighbor to get free medical care too? It’s another case of stealing those around us to give at a distance.

When the Huns (who originated in north-central Mongolia) were roaming around western Europe, it was not only hard to want to treat Hunnish babies just like European babies, but it turned out to be impossible (for reason of agricultural productivity, the Huns wanted what the Europeans had). Ultimately the Huns had to be massacred into submission. 

The most basic objection to the Golden Rule is that we are what we eat, and if we can’t eat, we can’t be. Sometimes, historically speaking, one has to eat another, and better a distant one than a neighbor.

The main problem with claiming the Golden Rule as the last word, is that it reduces us to Capuchin Monkey level. Sorry, we are above that. Imposing on humanity the Golden Rule is like imposing upon us the “moral” principle that we ought to breathe. Real human morality, the debate, is at a much higher level, and we need to impose upon all the desire to commit to the work out to reach there. This is what Obama basically said when he criticize the recent craze of the “woke”, “call-out” and “cancel” “cultures found in today’s so-called youth. Youth in body, old in obsolete culture. To contradict Obama, all the New York Times could do was to roll out a youngster who called Obama old and a “boomer“. I pointed out that the argument was ageist thus racist: calling Obama “old“, thus wrong, is the essence of judging from appearance, not substance. Of course the New York Times censored my (very polite) comment.

Next Bill Gates declared “I’m all for super-progressive tax systems. I’ve paid over $10bn in taxes. I’ve paid more than anyone in taxes. If I had to pay $20bn, it’s fine… But when you say I should pay $100bn, then I’m starting to do a little math about what I have left over… [Scratching his head]… Sorry, I’m just kidding. So you really want the incentive system to be there and you can go a long ways without threatening that.”

This is a grotesque myth out there: nobody would do anything anymore if we lost the possibility of being worth a billion dollars someday. Gathering enormous wealth is gathering enormous power on other people, thus an incentive worth having only in a sadomasochist society.

Top Roman republicans had much more incentive than a half boiled squid such as bill Gates. They could go, unflinching towards certain, horrible death, at the hand of their enemies. One could argue that the 100% wealth tax made them stronger.

Great creators of humanity were obviously not motivated by being one million times wealthier than the average citizen… I just computed this is the rough quotient of (Gates wealth)/(Average US citizen wealth). Power onto the rest of the monkeys was not, never is, the incentive of humanity’s greatest creators: only satanic dimwits think that way… plutocrats. Plutocrats are not just too powerful, they are too dumb. And, moreover, their power enables them to leverage, not just their power, but also their stupidity, including their version of the Golden Rule (whatever looks golden should rule).

Yet, a society where billionaire rule, is a society where wealth is perceived as the greatest incentive. Because the rule of wealth percolates down: it costs roughly of the order of a million dollars, around twenty times the median US family income, to get a top “college” (first four years university) education in the USA.

A society where money, let alone evil, rules, twists even the Golden Rule: when the only thing one can do to others, or from others to you, is through money, that is, through the rawest power, you get a gold plated Golden Rule. Just as with lions the meaning of action upon and from others, has been perverted. 

Patrice Ayme



[1] Mencius held office in the legally minded state of Qin (I have argued that it is the importance given to law which enabled Qin to unify China). During this tenure, he was involved in Qi’s invasion of Yan, although the precise nature of his role was disputed (as Mengzi/Mencius is the number two Confucian after Confucius, one doesn’t want to accuse him of being a war criminal, in the Joachim Von Ribbentrop style…). The state of Yan was in turmoil due to a succession crisis. Mencius was asked, “unofficially”, whether it might be legitimate to invade Yan to “restore order”.

Mengzi replied that it was. However, after Qin successfully invaded and annexed Yan, the invasion turned into a fiasco (a full century of war between Qin and Yan, part of present day Manchuria, would follow). Mencius complained that he had not encouraged the specific actions that Qin took, which apparently included widespread killing of noncombatants and taking spoils of war… Anyway, so much for at-a-distance morality. It was actually an explicit strategic doctrine of Qin, one of “36 stratagems”, to make war with those in the distance, after allying the state with neighbors… Like Hegel, Plato, Aristotle, Heidegger, Mengzi leaves a strange taste of plutocratically inclined philosophy… no wonder the contrived Golden Rule…


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