Karen Armstrong: Let’s revive the Golden Rule

The Golden Rule in its prohibitive form was a common principle in ancient Greek philosophy. Examples of the general concept include:

  • “Do not do to your neighbor what you would take ill from him.” – Pittacus[13] (c. 640–568 BCE)
  • “Avoid doing what you would blame others for doing.” – Thales[14]
  • “What you do not want to happen to you, do not do it yourself either. “ – Sextus the Pythagorean.[15] The oldest extant reference to Sextus is by Origin in the third century of the common era.[16]
  • “Do not do to others what would anger you if done to you by others.” – Isocrates[17]
  • “What thou avoidest suffering thyself seek not to impose on others.” – Epictetus[18]
  • “It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and well and justly (agreeing ‘neither to harm nor be harmed’[19]), and it is impossible to live wisely and well and justly without living a pleasant life.” – Epicurus[20]
  • “…it has been shown that to injure anyone is never just anywhere.” – Socrates, in Plato’s Republic. Plato is the first person known to have said this.[21]

Ancient China

The Golden Rule existed among all the major philosophical schools of Ancient China: Mohism, Taoism, and Confucianism. Examples of the concept include:

  • “Zi Gong asked, saying, “Is there one word that may serve as a rule of practice for all one’s life?” The Master said, “Is not RECIPROCITY such a word?” – Confucius[22][23]
  • “Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.” – Confucius[24]
  • “If people regarded other people’s families in the same way that they regard their own, who then would incite their own family to attack that of another? For one would do for others as one would do for oneself.” – Mozi
  • “The sage has no interest of his own, but takes the interests of the people as his own. He is kind to the kind; he is also kind to the unkind: for Virtue is kind. He is faithful to the faithful; he is also faithful to the unfaithful: for Virtue is faithful.” –Laozi[25]
  • “Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.” –Laozi[26]




Categories: Law and Religion

5 replies

  1. Different formulations of the Golden rule in different traditions
    Surely, the mercy of Allah is near those who do good to others (Al Quran 7:57).
    No one of you is a believer until you desire for your neighbor that which you desire for yourself. (The Holy Prophet Muhammad)
    He sought for others the good he desired for himself. (Egyptian Book of the Dead)
    Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. (Law of Moses)
    Do not do to your neighbor that you would take ill from him. (Grecian instruction)
    Do as you would be done by. (Zoroaster, Persia)
    What you would not wish done to yourself do not unto others. (Confucius, China)
    One should seek for others the happiness one desires for oneself. (Buddhist instruction)
    The law imprinted on the hearts of all men is to love the members of society as themselves. (Roman Law)
    All things therefore whatsoever you would that men should do unto you, even so you do unto them; for this is the law of the prophets. (Jesus Christ)
    Think of God first, think of others second and then put yourself third. (Robert H Schuller)
    A great man shows his greatness, by the way he treats little men. (Sir Thomas Carlyle).
    The hand that gives gathers. (An English Proverb).
    “Woe to those . . . who, when they have to receive by measure from men, exact full measure, but when they have to give by measure or weight to men, give less than due.” (Al Quran 83:2-4)
    By God Who holds my life in His Hand, none of you can be a truly faithful Muslim, unless he liked for his brother what he liked for himself. (The Holy Prophet Muhammad)


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