Another pitfall of the Golden Rule

Long-time Crossderry readers may remember my concerns about the Golden Rule.  Michelle at Mission Minded Management — a blog I just found via The Daily Reviewer — re-states the pitfall of the Rule well here:

One of the greatest life lessons anyone can learn is that WE ARE NOT ALL THE SAME. When we treat others as we would like to be treated, it may or may not be well received. If it is not well received, we consider the others to be ingrates, and so the downward spiral begins.

Michelle’s post renews my belief in the wisdom of Karl Popper’s suggested improvement to the Rule:  

The golden rule is a good standard which is further improved by doing unto others, wherever possible, as they want to be done by.

PM Quote of the Day — Many Sources

Treat others as you want to be treated.

It was quite a relief to hear my son reciting the Golden Rule when he came home from preschool yesterday.  Internalizing that saying appears to be a marker of the “Golden Age of Parenthood” — when one’s child enters a period of good, consistent, (mostly) altruistic behavior that stretches from roughly four to ten years of age.

However, reading the wikipedia entry on the ethic of reciprocity reminded of one of the problems with the Golden Rule.  In particular, the Golden Rule can become yet another justification for self-centered behavior.  Karl Popper‘s suggested improvement to the Rule points out one way in which we can get around that pitfall:  

The golden rule is a good standard which is further improved by doing unto others, wherever possible, as they want to be done by.

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