Sunday, November 30, 2014

What's Wrong With the Golden Rule?

This is an oldish post by Sam Killerman, over at It's Pronounced Metrosexual. One could quibble about whether the problem he's discussing really is one with the Golden Rule as such, but the underlying point is spot-on.

Here's the basic gist:
Ever worked with a "difficult person"? I would bet...that those "difficulties" you faced were exacerbated by your [probably] inadvertent exercising of the Golden Rule. Do unto a difficult (=different from you) person as you would have done unto you (=same as you), and you're going to be done unto with a headache and a screaming sound inside of your head.
This is all by way of trying to understand, and undo, the "Why are you so sensitive?" response we all get, but that seems especially directed at oppressed minorities.

The replacement Killerman proposes is the "Platinum Rule":
Do unto others as they would have done unto them, dudes.
The origins of the Platinum Rule seem unclear. Most people, including Kellmerman, credit Milton Bennett, in a paper from 1979, who was particularly concerned with cross-cultural interactions and who emphasized the importance of empathy. But there is at least one antecedent, according to Wikipedia, which quotes Karl Popper as saying:
The golden rule is a good standard which can perhaps even be improved by doing unto others, wherever possible, as they would be done by. (The Open Society and Its Enemies, Vol. 2, 1966 [1945], p. 386.)
All of this is relevant to (and was linked from) a more recent piece by Kellerman, "Empathy Leads To Understanding", which is about why the former is more important than the latter.

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