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Author Topic: Negative vs Positive 'Golden Rule'—does it matter?  (Read 508 times)

Hariti

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Negative vs Positive 'Golden Rule'—does it matter?
« on: October 26, 2020, 05:56:57 am »
You're probably familiar with the Christian 'Golden Rule' and probably also know that there are similar teachings in many other traditions.

While studying Confucianism earlier this year, I read several texts that explained that in Confucianism, the rule is negative. Not negative in the sense of bad, but rather in the sense that it is reversed. Rather than imploring you to 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,' Confucius rather asks that you 'Do not do unto others as you would not have them do unto you.'

Mayhaps I'm too simpleminded for this level of philosophy—but personally I don't feel the distinction is very important? The positive rule implies the negative rule to also be true, and IMO the negative rule implies the positive one. It's just a matter of semantics... or is it?

A lot of very well educated scholars seem to have fixated on this point as important, so... is it? Is 'not doing unto others...' so very different from 'doing unto others' if the ultimate takeaway in both cases is the same—to treat other people the same as yourself?

"The worshippers of the gods go to them; to the manes go the ancestor-worshippers; to the Deities who preside over the elements go their worshippers; My devotees come to Me." ... "Whichever devotee desires to adore whatever such Deity with faith, in all such votaries I make that particular faith unshakable. Endowed with that faith, a votary performs the worship of that particular deity and obtains the fruits thereof, these being granted by Me alone." - Sri Krishna

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Re: Negative vs Positive 'Golden Rule'—does it matter?
« Reply #1 on: October 26, 2020, 07:07:51 am »
You're probably familiar with the Christian 'Golden Rule' and probably also know that there are similar teachings in many other traditions.

While studying Confucianism earlier this year, I read several texts that explained that in Confucianism, the rule is negative. Not negative in the sense of bad, but rather in the sense that it is reversed. Rather than imploring you to 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,' Confucius rather asks that you 'Do not do unto others as you would not have them do unto you.'

Mayhaps I'm too simpleminded for this level of philosophy—but personally I don't feel the distinction is very important? The positive rule implies the negative rule to also be true, and IMO the negative rule implies the positive one. It's just a matter of semantics... or is it?

A lot of very well educated scholars seem to have fixated on this point as important, so... is it? Is 'not doing unto others...' so very different from 'doing unto others' if the ultimate takeaway in both cases is the same—to treat other people the same as yourself?

I'm not going to say that the semantics are unimportant, by any means; I think that Jesus had a reason for every word or phrase that he used...or, that he and the Holy Spirit inspired the other Scripture writers to use.

However, I will say that I will take either formulation in preference to the one presently accepted in popular culture. I heard a story where one theologian was asking some teenage youths about their understanding of the Golden Rule. They looked at him with blank stares. He prompted them with, "You know, 'Do unto others...'"

At that, they brightened up. "Oh, yeah! I know that! 'Do unto others...before they do unto you!'" Sigh.
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Hariti

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Re: Negative vs Positive 'Golden Rule'—does it matter?
« Reply #2 on: October 26, 2020, 12:37:48 pm »
At that, they brightened up. "Oh, yeah! I know that! 'Do unto others...before they do unto you!'" Sigh.

A worrying anecdote, to be sure.
"The worshippers of the gods go to them; to the manes go the ancestor-worshippers; to the Deities who preside over the elements go their worshippers; My devotees come to Me." ... "Whichever devotee desires to adore whatever such Deity with faith, in all such votaries I make that particular faith unshakable. Endowed with that faith, a votary performs the worship of that particular deity and obtains the fruits thereof, these being granted by Me alone." - Sri Krishna

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Re: Negative vs Positive 'Golden Rule'—does it matter?
« Reply #3 on: October 26, 2020, 12:54:23 pm »
You're probably familiar with the Christian 'Golden Rule' and probably also know that there are similar teachings in many other traditions.

While studying Confucianism earlier this year, I read several texts that explained that in Confucianism, the rule is negative. Not negative in the sense of bad, but rather in the sense that it is reversed. Rather than imploring you to 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,' Confucius rather asks that you 'Do not do unto others as you would not have them do unto you.'

Mayhaps I'm too simpleminded for this level of philosophy—but personally I don't feel the distinction is very important? The positive rule implies the negative rule to also be true, and IMO the negative rule implies the positive one. It's just a matter of semantics... or is it?

A lot of very well educated scholars seem to have fixated on this point as important, so... is it? Is 'not doing unto others...' so very different from 'doing unto others' if the ultimate takeaway in both cases is the same—to treat other people the same as yourself?

Maybe it would be clearer if you think of the variant made, (IIRC---I could be wrong and am not quite wanting to go look it up) by George Bernard Shaw?  "Do not do unto others as you would have them do unto you---their tastes may not be the same."  I do agree in *most * cases it's a fairly small distinction, but as a neurodivergent person, I am constantly running up against people who assume that things that make them comfortable will do the same for me, and who usually end up triggering anxiety and/or sensory hell in the process.  But *not* committing acts of willful cruelty or dishonesty is much more universally helpful.  That said, if viewed as "Do unto others as you would have them do, by finding out specifically what is helpful for them and then doing that.", then it still works.  But that is not what most people hearing the saying will do.

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Re: Negative vs Positive 'Golden Rule'—does it matter?
« Reply #4 on: October 30, 2020, 04:23:22 pm »
Maybe it would be clearer if you think of the variant made, (IIRC---I could be wrong and am not quite wanting to go look it up) by George Bernard Shaw?  "Do not do unto others as you would have them do unto you---their tastes may not be the same."  I do agree in *most * cases it's a fairly small distinction, but as a neurodivergent person, I am constantly running up against people who assume that things that make them comfortable will do the same for me, and who usually end up triggering anxiety and/or sensory hell in the process.  But *not* committing acts of willful cruelty or dishonesty is much more universally helpful.  That said, if viewed as "Do unto others as you would have them do, by finding out specifically what is helpful for them and then doing that.", then it still works.  But that is not what most people hearing the saying will do.

Seek first to understand, it seems to me  :)
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Re: Negative vs Positive 'Golden Rule'—does it matter?
« Reply #5 on: October 30, 2020, 05:53:07 pm »
as a neurodivergent person, I am constantly running up against people who assume that things that make them comfortable will do the same for me, and who usually end up triggering anxiety and/or sensory hell in the process.  But *not* committing acts of willful cruelty or dishonesty is much more universally helpful. 

This is a really good point. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and all that.

SirPalomides

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Re: Negative vs Positive 'Golden Rule'—does it matter?
« Reply #6 on: November 06, 2020, 03:18:58 pm »
You're probably familiar with the Christian 'Golden Rule' and probably also know that there are similar teachings in many other traditions.

While studying Confucianism earlier this year, I read several texts that explained that in Confucianism, the rule is negative. Not negative in the sense of bad, but rather in the sense that it is reversed. Rather than imploring you to 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,' Confucius rather asks that you 'Do not do unto others as you would not have them do unto you.'

Mayhaps I'm too simpleminded for this level of philosophy—but personally I don't feel the distinction is very important? The positive rule implies the negative rule to also be true, and IMO the negative rule implies the positive one. It's just a matter of semantics... or is it?

A lot of very well educated scholars seem to have fixated on this point as important, so... is it? Is 'not doing unto others...' so very different from 'doing unto others' if the ultimate takeaway in both cases is the same—to treat other people the same as yourself?

I've recently been reading a lot of Confucian material and this question did come up somewhere... I believe it was in a Tu Weiming essay that I read it. Basically Tu's opinion was the same as Ashmire- that the advantage of the negative version is that it holds us back from presuming to know what is best for others, respecting their autonomy and self-development.

In terms of ethos Christianity and Confucianism are different in that Christianity advocates a universal love (perhaps comparable to the Confucians' rival Mozi) whereas Confucianism emphasize graded love, that is, love that starts with one's immediate family, friends, etc., and then extends outward to others. The two are not irreconcilable but the approach is different.

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