The Ethic of Reciprocity

The Golden Rule

The ethic of reciprocity or "The Golden Rule" is a fundamental moral principle found in virtually all major religions and cultures, which simply means "treat others as you would like to be treated." It is arguably the most essential basis for the modern concept of human rights. Principal philosophers and religious figures have stated it in different ways,

bullet"Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the LORD." Torah Leviticus 19:18
bullet"When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God." Torah Leviticus 19:33-34
bullet"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Jesus (c. 5 BC - AD 32 ) in the Gospels, Matthew 7:12, Luke 6:31, Luke 10:27
bullet"None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself." Muhammad (c. AD 571 - 632) in a Hadith.
bullet"This is the sum of duty; do naught unto others what you would not have them do unto you." Mahabharata (5:15:17) (c. 500 BC)
bullet"What you do not wish upon yourself, extend not to others." Confucius (ca. 551 - 479 BC)
bullet"What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man." Hillel (ca. 50 BC - AD 10)


Ethical teaching interprets the Golden Rule as mutual respect for one's neighbor. A key element of the ethic of reciprocity is that a person attempting to live by this rule treats all people, not just members of his or her in-group, with consideration. The rule is meaningless without identifying the recipient and the situation. It has to include an attempt to put yourself in the recipient's shoes and evaluate how you would wish to be treated if you were in their situation. Another way to rewrite the rule would be "treat others as you would like to be treated, if you were they." It is not a "rule" that should be applied to specific personal preferences or eccentricities. It must always be applied first to the overarching desires that all people share, especially the desire to lead one's life without interruption by others.


"Do we not all have one father? Has not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously each against his brother so as to profane the covenant of our fathers?" Malachi 2.10

And one of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, "What commandment is the foremost of all?"  Jesus answered, "The foremost is, 'Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' "The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." Mark 12:28-31


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