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What does it do to treat me as you do

There Golden Rule is an ethics of reciprocity, the fundamental principle of which is stated in almost all large and cultures: or.This form of universal morality is found as well in the philosophical precepts of ancient Egypt and of the oriental religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism …), Near oriental or Western (Judaism, Christianity,Islam) or even in an atheist humanism.

What does it do to treat me as you do

The most widespread formulation of the Golden Rule in the West is, commandment of the (or old will) expressed in Leviticus (), developed by Hillel and by the Pharisee circles then by Jesus of Nazareth, who quotes it () asBeing the essence of the six commandments of the Decalogue which relate to human relations ().

This rule constitutes an essential source of inspiration for the deepening of the modern concept of human rights.


The “golden rule” can be understood on several levels:

  • It can be limited to stating the basic rule of social morality that is reciprocity, in the form of a simple agreement, “do not do what you would not want to be done” (TB 4: 15).
  • It can express a socially laudable attitude, what a good man is socially, “whatever you want men to do for you, do it the same for them” (Mt 7:12).
  • She can finally express that morality is not necessarily a constraint, but can be an choice of personal life, an active attitude, the radical choice to give priority to “the love of the other” in relation to “the’Self-love “:” You will love your neighbor as you yourself “(Leviticus 19: 18).

The relationship of man to his neighbor asks the question of the social limit: “Who is my neighbor?”(LC 10:29).

The meaning of the word “near” or “next” is not explained in the command of Leviticus.The term used comes from the root רעה.It signifies close,, friend or the other,, the interlocutor.However, the definition of the one that must be loved as oneself according to Leviticus extends to the foreign host a few verses later: “You will treat foreigners staying among you as a native of you;You will like it as yourself because you have been foreigners in the country of Egypt.»»

In the New Testament, Jesus indirectly answers this question by the parable of the good Samaritan.

In a primitive form, “do others that they have done to you”, the law of the Talion, ordered in the Pentateuch, is a law of progress, insofar as it is opposed to uncontrolled revenge anddisproportionate.Revenge is not condemned, but must be “fair”.
The elementary golden rule which is the pendant, “do not do what you would not want to be done to you”, is a formulation found in the book of Tobie (4:15).

Radical Judaism insists on strict compliance with the law, to the point of wanting to “make a hedge around the Torah” (Pirké Avot 1,1), to take a word from the Talmud.The Torah however invites in parallel to overcome this principle of a just proportion, to lead to the idea of action devoid of any idea of return, and guided by altruism.

This prescription is the reference formulation of what is called “golden rule”:

  • ואהבת לרעך כמוך, “You will love your neighbor as you yourself” Torah, Leviticus 19:18.(v.).

The golden rule has gradually taken on fundamental importance in Judaism.Even before the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, Hillel, in the century, in fact the source of the principle of reciprocity, which sums up the whole Torah, if it is completed by the study.It is this rule which is commented by Hillel, to a man who asks him to explain the meaning of the Torah to him, “the time to stand on a foot”: “what you would not want to be done to you, do not inflict it to others.This is the whole Torah, the rest is only comment.Now go and study.»»

Rabbi Akiva comments, in the century, this golden rule: this “basic principle of the Torah” is the “most important law”, during the discussion which opposes it, and compares the central location of this precept-In the center of Leviticus, itself in the center of the five books of the Torah-on the site of the Tabernacle in the center of the Hebrew procession.

Since Origen, Christian theology has interpreted the principle of the Golden Rule as the foundation of a universal morality that God destine in the whole of humanity.

The golden rule is taken up in these terms in the New Testament: “Everything you want men to do for you, do it the same for them, because this is the law and the prophets.»(Matthew 7:12), and also Matthieu 22:39, Luke 6:31, Luke 10:27.It is developed by Jesus by the parable of the good Samaritan in the Gospel according to Luke (6:31), by which he shows that the love of “neighbor” goes beyond the strict application of the law, and s’extends to every man.

This rule constitutes the second part of the great command.The epistle of Jacques describes it as “royal law” or “law of the kingdom”.
It is the basis of Christian life, and Jesus confirms its necessary and sufficient character: “If you want to enter life, applies commandments” ().

Beyond that, “if you want to be perfect” (), Jesus also offers a radical Christianity in his teaching for his disciples.In this context, the golden rule is supplemented by rules of life which aim to refuse the use of violence;The law of the Talion is then abolished in favor of non-Vengeance, of non-resistance to the villain:

“If someone strikes you on the right cheek, also present the other.If someone wants to plead against you, and take your tunic, let them still your coat.If someone forces you to make a thousand, do two with him.Give the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.You have learned that it was said: you will love your neighbor, and you will hate your enemy.But me, I say to you: love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and who persecute you, so that you are son of your father who is in theheavens ;Because he makes his sun rise on the bad guys and on the good, and he rains on the righteous and on the unjust.()

For those who do not try to apply it literally, the spirit of this principle of non-aggression, “if someone strikes you on the right cheek, tends to him the left cheek”, is a call not to bePut at the same moral level as the attacker, but it does not claim to exclude a self-defense or a criminal sanction.

The golden rule does not appear in the Koran, but there is its equivalent in:

  • “”None of you really believe as long as he doesn’t like for his brother what he loves for himself.», Hadîth 13 of Al -Nawawi – Muhammad (570 – 632).

According to the commentary of Muhaddith (collector of traditions attributed to the Prophet of Islam) Chafi’ite, An-Nawawi and in the minds of another remarks attributed to Ali Ibn Abi Taleb, fourth caliph of Islam: “RespectThe human being, because if he is not your brother in religion, he is your brother in humanity. ”

Regarding the Koran, however, this rule is only applicable in believers, because the Koran specifies among many similar passages: “Mohamed is the Messenger of God and those who are with him are hard towards the disbelievers, mercifulbetween them.(Koran, 48:29).

The philosophies and religions of history have long contributed to the reflection and the formulation of concepts proposing an approach to the ethics of reciprocity according to different approaches:

  • Buddhism: “Do not hurt the others so that you would find yourself hurtful.-Udana-Varga 5:18 (around 500 BC);
  • Confucianism: “What you do not want for you, do not extend it to others.(己所 不欲 勿施于 勿施于) – Confucius (around 551 – 479 BC);
  • Hinduism: “This is the sum of duty;Don’t do others what you wouldn’t want them to do to you.” – Mahabharata (5:15:17) (about 500 BC);
  • Humanism: according to the secular humanist chaplain at Harvard University, “Don’t do others … is a concept that no religion is essentially missing.But none of these versions of the golden rule need a god. ”
  • Jainism: “Nothing that breathes, that exists, which lives, or which has the essence or the potential of life should be destroyed or directed, or captivated, or injured, or denied its essence or its potential.To strengthen this truth, I ask you a question: are despair or pain something desirable for you?If you answer yes, it would be a lie.If you answer no, you express the truth.Just like despair and pain are not desirable for you, it is the same for everything that breathes, or exists, lives or the essence of life.For you and for all, this is not desirable, and painful, and repugnant.»;
  • Philosophy in ancient Greece: “Don’t do to your neighbor what you would take badly on him” – Mytilene Pittacos (640 – 568 BC) and”Avoid doing what you would blame others to do » – Thalès (624 – 546 BC)
  • Taoism: “Look at your neighbor’s gain as your own gain, and the loss of your neighbor as your own loss“You Shang Kan Ying P’ien,”The sage has no own interest but takes the interests of his people as his own.It is good with the right one;It is also good with the villain, because virtue is good.He is believing with the believer;He is also believing with the unbeliever, because virtue is a believer.-Dao de Jing (about the years 600 BC), chapter 49;
  • Zoroastrism: “Nature is only good when it does not do others anything that is not good for yourself.“-Dadistan-i-Dinik 94: 5 (about 700 BC).

The expression “(Golden rule) is formulated in the century in England:

In 1615, by, theologian and Anglican.
In 1671, when a work was for the first time devoted entirely to this theme, under the pen of.

(1896-1991), German philosopher, proposes to distinguish different formulations from the Golden Rule:

  • The rule of empathy which starts from our desires or our fears: “What you fear does not do it to others;What you want to be done to you, do it yourself for others ”;
  • The rule of equity which starts from our value judgments: “What you blame others, do not do it yourself;As you judge that others should act in your regard, act yourself vis-à-vis him ”.

The interpretation of the term is enriched:

  • This ethics makes no sense if it is taken without empathy, that is to say without taking into account the needs and feelings of the other person.Another way to express it would be: “Treats others as you would like to be treated if you were in their place.».This is why some rather call it “ethics of reversibility”;
  • It is therefore not a rule to impose a particular system of thought, which would be an unconstruction action.It implies tolerance and (an application of this rule to all men and not only to the group of which we are a part, the).

There “Is used as an anti-slavery slogan by them, when they discover the fate of blacks in America.This perhaps explains its subsequent success in the United States where it gives rise to an abundant literature, including in the field of management (Arthur Nash, J.C. Penney) and even politics [see the presidential speeches of John Fitzgerald Kennedy againstRacial segregation (1963) and Barack Obama in Cairo (June 2009) or Oslo (December 2009)].

In the 1970s, the American philosopher Thomas Nagel proposed to think altruism objectively, on the basis of an ethics of reciprocity: the formulation “what you do not want you to do, do not do itTo others “seems to restrict the field of ethics to a consideration of prudence:” If I want to avoid reprisals and feeling of guilt, it is better that I avoid making others undergo behaviors that I would not like myselfbe the victim.”Nagel adds:” Instead of putting others in our place by lending him our feelings, it is for us to put ourselves in his place by applying the rule of reciprocity.(…) In other words, when we complain to the misfortunes of others, we lend the latter our ability to feel.When we judge in terms of reciprocity, we judge our actions as others would.”Thus, selfish is” the one who reformulates all the maxims of his actions in the first person singular.“The altruist,”Conversely, reformulates all its third -person actions in the singular.»»

In his novel , the writer, however, highlights a limit inherent in the golden rule which is the definition, necessarily arbitrary, of the “others”, by the way in which we place what he calls the solidarity bar.Thus, nationalism could claim the Golden Rule with regard to the only nationals of a nation.The body of body even limits it to its only group.And would we take into account the whole human species that it would be important to define to which other species we decide that it is immoral to do what we would not accept that we are done.

The serious game The Evolution of Trust Inspire the theory of the games and the prisoner’s dilemma to stage the conditions of confidence in the interaction with different characters obeying specific behaviors, and which also react to the actions of the player.He offers a reflection on the ethics of reciprocity or golden rule.

  • Luke epoch, Hobbes and the omnipotence of God, Paris, PUF 2000.
  • Luke epoch and George Wright, New Critical Perspective On Hobbes’s Léviathan, Milan, Franco Angeli, 2004.
  • Mireille Hadas-Lebel, Hillel, a sage in the time of Jesus, Albin Michel, 2005 (ISBN)
  • Thomas Nagel, The possibility of altruism, Princeton University Press, 1970.
  • Olivier du Roy, The golden rule.The return of a forgotten maxim, Paris, Editions du Cerf, 2009.
  • Olivier du Roy, The golden rule.History of a universal morality, 2 volumes, Paris, Editions du Cerf, 2012.
  • Bauschke, Die Goldene Regel.Staunen, Verstehen, Handeln, Berlin, EB Verlag, 2010.
  • Jeffrey Wattles, The Golden Rule, New York, Oxford University Press, 1996.