Video: Karen Armstrong: Let’s revive the Golden Rule

Weeks from the Charter for Compassion launch, Karen Armstrong looks at religion’s role in the 21st century: Will its dogmas divide us? Or will it unite us for common good? She reviews the catalysts that can drive the world’s faiths to rediscover the Golden Rule.

TEDTalks is a daily video podcast of the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world’s leading thinkers and doers give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes. Featured speakers have included Al Gore on climate change, Philippe Starck on design, Jill Bolte Taylor on observing her own stroke, Nicholas Negroponte on One Laptop per Child, Jane Goodall on chimpanzees, Bill Gates on malaria and mosquitoes, Pattie Maes on the “Sixth Sense” wearable tech, and “Lost” producer JJ Abrams on the allure of mystery. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design, and TEDTalks cover these topics as well as science, business, development and the arts.

The Golden Rule or law of reciprocity is the principle of treating others as one would wish to be treated oneself. It is a maxim of altruism seen in many human religions and human cultures.[1][2] The maxim may appear as either a positive or negative injunction governing conduct:

  • One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself (positive or directive form).[1]
  • One should not treat others in ways that one would not like to be treated (negative or prohibitive form).[1]
  • What you wish upon others, you wish upon yourself (empathic or responsive form).[1]

The Golden Rule differs from the maxim of reciprocity captured in do ut des—”I give so that you will give in return”—and is rather a unilateral moral commitment to the well-being of the other without the expectation of anything in return.[3]

The concept occurs in some form in nearly every religion[4][5] and ethical tradition.[6] It can also be explained from the perspectives of psychology, philosophy, sociology, and economics. Psychologically, it involves a person empathizing with others. Philosophically, it involves a person perceiving their neighbor also as “I” or “self”.[7] Sociologically, ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ is applicable between individuals, between groups, and also between individuals and groups. In economics, Richard Swift, referring to ideas from David Graeber, suggests that “without some kind of reciprocity society would no longer be able to exist.”[8]

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