Universalizability and the Golden Rule
Variations on the familiar "Golden Rule" are found in most world religions:
- Christian version: "Treat others as you would like them to
treat you" (Luke 6:31, New English Bible).
- Hindu version: "Let not any man do unto antoher any act
that he wisheth not done to himself by others, knowing it to be painful
to himself" (Mahabharata, Shanti Parva, cclx.21).
- Confucian version: "Do not do to others what you would not
want them to do to you" (Analects, Book xii, #2).
- Buddhist version: "Hurt not others with that which pains
yourself" (Udanavarga, v. 18).
- Jewish version: "What is hateful to yourself do not do to
your fellow man. That is the whole of the Torah" (Babylonian Talmud,
- Muslim version: "No man is a true believer unless he desires for his
brother that which he desires for himself" (Hadith, Muslim, imam 71-72).
Collected by C. Harris, M. Pritchard, and M. Rabins, in Engineering
Ethics: Concepts and Cases, second edition (Wadsworth, 2000), p. 86.
One explanation for the universal acknowledgement of such a standard
would be that it provides a common sense expression of the requirement
Universalizability: "whatever is right (or wrong) in one
situation is right (or wrong) in any relevantly similar situation"
(Harris et al., p. 37).
Universalizability as described above is a basic logical feature
of all moral discourse. That is, in making a distinctively moral
judgment, you commit yourself to its universalizability. If in making
a judgment you refuse to recognize its universalizability, then you are
actually refusing to make a moral judgment.