International Journal of Applied Philosophy

Volume 36, Issue 2, Fall 2022

Alan Tapper
Pages 251-261

What is Wrong with the Golden Rule?

The Golden Rule (“what you want done [or not done] to yourself, do [or don’t do] to others”) is the most widely accepted summary statement of human morality, and even today it continues to have philosophical supporters. This article argues that the Golden Rule suffers from four faults, the first two related to the ethics of justice and the second two related to the ethics of benevolence. One, it fails to explain how to deal with non-reciprocation. Two, it fails to make clear that my obligations are obligations regardless of how I would wish to be treated by others. Three, it lacks any special value in explaining the right occasions for benevolence. And, four, it has no power to motivate benevolence.