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The Golden Rule

  • Marcus G. Singer (a1)


The Golden Rule has received remarkably little philosophical discussion. No book has ever been written on it, and articles devoted to it have been exceedingly few, and usually not very searching. It is usually mentioned, where it is mentioned at all, only in passing, and most of these passing remarks have either been false, trite, or misleading, though some of them, as we shall see, have certainly been interesting enough. Considering its obvious importance and its almost universal acceptance, this dearth of philosophical discussion is unfortunate, and also somewhat surprising. One of the things I hope to show about it, though only incidentally, is that there are problems connected with it of the utmost subtlety, worthy of the attention of even the most minute philosophers



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page 294 note 1 Thomas, Hobbes, Leviathan (Everyman's Library; London: J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd., 1914),ch. XV, par. 35, page 82; ch. XIV, par. 4, p. 67. See also ch. XVII, par. 2, p. 87: 'For the Lawes of Nature (as Justice, Equity, Modesty, Mercy, and (in summe) doing to others, as wee would be done to,) …”.

page 295 note 1 From an interview with Haley, Andrew G., general counsel of the American Rocket Society, in The New Yorker, December 29, 1956, p. 19.

page 297 note 1 Emmanuel, Kant, Preface to the Metaphysical Elements of Ethics, trans, by Abbott, T. K., in Kant's Theory of Ethics (6th ed.; London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1909), p. 304.

page 298 note 1 , L. J.Russell, , ‘Ideals and Practice’, Philosophy, vol. 17 (1942), pp. 109110.

page 298 note 2 Walter, Lippmann, Public Opinion (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1922), pp. 121–2.

page 301 note 1 Frank Chapman, Sharp and Fox, Philip G., Business Ethics (New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc., 1937), p. 3.

page 302 note 1 Generalization in Ethics (New York: Knopf, Alfred A., 1961), chs. II and III and passim.

page 306 note 1 Kurt, Baier, The Moral Point of View (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1958), pp. 202–3. Cf. pp. 208–9, 211, and 228. On ‘contrary to reason’, see pp. 315-17, 89-92.

page 308 note 1 Richard, Whately, Lessons on Morals (Cambridge, Mass.: John Bartlett, 1857), ch. IV.

page 310 note 1 Cf. Baier, op cit., p. 202: ‘When we teach children the moral point of view, we try to explain it to them by getting them to put themselves in another person's place: “How would you like to have that done to you!” ’

page 312 note 1 John, Dewey and Tufts, James H., Ethics (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1908), p. 334 (2nd ed., 1932, pp. 309–10).

page 314 note 1 A somewhat abbreviated version of this paper was read to the Oxford University Philosophical Society in February 1963. Mr Hare, R. M., who opened the discussion, raised some very acute questions in his reply. But, with some minor exceptions, I have not attempted to deal with them here, mainly because to do so would have required undue expansion. The same goes for many of the very good points made in the ensuing discussion.

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  • ISSN: 0031-8191
  • EISSN: 1469-817X
  • URL: /core/journals/philosophy
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