Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Golden Rule as a high-order moral principle

The Golden Rule says that we should treat others as we would like to be treated. I think this is a candidate for an absolute moral principle.

The clever thing about the Golden Rule is that in a sense it makes every action altruistic while at the same time being selfish. If we are obliged to treat other people as we would like to be treated, the distinction between altruism and selfishness seems to dissolve away.

It is true as you suggest that application of the Golden Rule effectively leads us to impose our morals on other people and I think this is a valid criticism. I can envisage a situation where for example a doctor is against abortion on moral grounds and therefore refuses to help patients who chose to have an abortion.

Some people might think it is not a bad thing if we impose our morals on others (absolutists) whereas others would find this abhorrent (relativists).

In this example I think you would still want to say that the doctor believed himself to be acting morally. Perhaps the Golden Rule inevitably results in moral absolutism. For me this is not a problem as I voted for high order absolutism in the course poll smile. The choices were:

I am an individual relativist.I am a cultural relativist.I am a lower order moral absolutist.I am a higher order moral absolutist.I am a particularist absolutist.

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