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Proceedings of the XXII World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 10, 2008


Mikhail Epstein
Pages 77-89

From the Golden Rule to the Diamond Rule
An Introduction to Stereo Ethics

Aristotle stated one of the most influential postulates in the history of ethics: virtue is the middle point between two vicious extremes: "…excess and defect are characteristic of vice, and the mean of virtue. For men are good in but one way, but bad in many." The paper argues that between two vices there are two virtues that comprise two different moral perspectives as perceived by stereoethics. For example, two virtues can be found between the vices of miserliness and wastefulness: generosity, which is further from miserliness, and thrift, which is further from wastefulness. Just as there are stereo music and stereo cinema, which convey the full volume of sounds and objects, there is stereo ethics, based on the duality of virtues. From the point of view of stereo ethics we can rethink the "golden rule": "Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them." At the basis of both the golden rule and, later, the Kantian categorical imperative, lies the reversibility of moral subjects: you should put yourself in somebody else's place and treat you neighbor as you wish him or her to treat you. Today, however, it has become obvious that only the ethics of differentiation can save us from relativism, which is a negative reaction against traditional morals with their universal norms. It is precisely this irreducibility of the individual to the general that may become a source of new moral energy. Two questions form a moral criterion: Would you wish to become an object of your own actions? Could anyone but you be the subject of your actions? The best action is that which corresponds to the needs of the largest number and the capacities of the smallest number of people. Act in such a way that you yourself would like to become an object of your actions, but no one else could be their subject. It is moral to do for others that which no one else can do except myself : to be for-others, but not like-others.

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