Essay on the Golden Rule In the Confucian and the Christian Ethics

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Sewanee University of the South
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The article by Joe Humphreys covers a rationale for the golden rule in the Confucian and the Christian ethics. According to the article, as most people may view the law to belong to the Christian society, it is present in diverse ways in all beliefs across the world. The Chinese concept describes the rule in its negative form. The Chinese refer to it as the Silver rule. According to Dr. Yinya Liu, in her study to establish connections amid Ireland and China, suggests that the golden rule in its diverse perspectives is applicable everywhere (Humphreys). She offers a notion that various cultures usually find a shared ground in the negative form of the rule than the definite form.

According to Liu, the silver rule came from Confucianism where following an inquisition from Zi gong, one of Confucius disciple, he replied in a word shu that meant one should not impose onto others what he or she may not want for themselves. Liu states that the word shu may have many meanings which may include forgiveness and empathy. Therefore, in the Confucian belief, one should prioritize another instead of the self. She adds that the silver rule also exists in the Daoism where the term dao has various translations which include a path, a road, or moral behavior (Humphreys). Further, the metaphysical dao represents a condition of inactivity which may mean to do things appropriately.

In establishing the difference amid the golden and the silver rule, Liu suggests that they both describe the human wants and desires. The golden rule stresses on the nature of the person, however, it does not consider the diversity of every individual. On the other hand, the negative form demands that people do not do to others what they do not want. According to Liu, this statement means that it does not have a similar subjective burden of wants in that people find a shared platform in the negative as compared to the active. According to the article, the bible supports the golden rule in Christianity (Humphreys). Nonetheless, the depiction of the silver rule in Confucianism is different. Confucianism depicts the rule through Analects, which is a documentation of the deliberations amid Confucius and the followers. In contrast to the western manner of recording where translations, arguments, and conclusions occur, Confucianism involves a record of questions and answers between Confucius and his disciples. Confucius does not necessarily offer definitions to the followers but offers them a moral rationale that would direct their behaviors in their human relationships, and this consequently may provide priority to others.

In determining whether it was right for Christians to set the golden rule as a religious philosophy, Liu stated that both rules were universal and as the Christians feature the golden rule through the numerous bible quotations, they have the right to acclaim the golden rule. Nevertheless, Liu suggests that the silver rule is the same as the Confucian golden rule as the religion gave this rule a particular elaboration (Humphreys). The Chinese belief implements the golden rule to the collective life, but it only applies to the family. The silver rule only offers a central way. In regards to the evolutionary nature of the rule, evolution cannot depict the alterations and reasons behind the rules advancement.

In my opinion, Liu was attempting to illustrate the difference between the silver and the golden rule (Humphreys). However, I believe that whether one expresses ethical reciprocity adversely or positively, the underlying matter is still the same. When a person contemplates on the appropriateness or wrongness of an individual behavior or inactivity, they should assess the situation from the perspective of the other people. According to Liu, a selfish person would need more from other individuals if he or she is to apply the golden rule. Liu feels that this may be the underlying problem of the rule. Nevertheless, I believe that this may not be a challenge in the golden rule simply because if the greedy person were to expect the same from other individuals, he or she would end up realizing the harm of their behavior and thereby change.

However, there are other challenges in the golden rule which the silver rule does not tackle. For instance, how does one know the type of treatment another person requires. Some cultural and social values may not approve behaviors that a particular group of individuals may deem as appropriate. Therefore, some people may blindly violate other peoples values in the name of the golden rule. Evidently, making the necessary moral decisions particularly in the intercultural surrounding may be an intricate process. The rule only offers a cautionary standard in that one should question him or herself if they are willing to accept the indifference or treatment from another person and if they are ready to reciprocate it.

Additionally, the Christian origin of the golden rule may inhibit its popularity among several sections people. However, as stated in the article, its representation in the diverse cultures may be different. This existence does not necessarily nullify its challenge that the acceptable behavior in a particular section of people may not be appropriate to others. The general nature of the rule is its principal constraint. On the other hand, the silver rule attempts to narrow down the golden rule by utilizing its negative form. I would follow the silver rule as compared to the golden rule. My main reason is the inspiration that the silver rule motivates from an individual. The silver rule inspires on not to do any wrong while the golden rule inspires just to do something that favors them in the end.

Instructing people on what not to do in a surrounding is likely to bring more effective results as compared to teaching to do something that will favor their interests. For instance, in a classroom setting, when a teacher teaches the students on the things that are not accepted and the consequences of doing them, the student is likely to refrain from the unwanted behavior. On the other hand, when a teacher instructs the students on how they are supposed to act, the students are likely to break the rules. Human beings are likely to rebel towards what particular surrounding requires of them than not what it does not require of them. More people are breaking the rules everywhere than there are following the rules. Confucianism teaches a person to contemplate on the repercussions of their negative behavior and choose not to do the wrong thing. It further teaches one how not doing the wrong thing affects those around an individual. The presence of dialogues in their scriptures represents deliberations that can serve as what most believers experience, that is, an inquisitive mind. Every believer has questions on what to do to become a better individual. Therefore, ironically, by utilizing the rule in its negative form, people get to experience what they need to do.

Nonetheless, the golden rule is still applicable in many situations. Belief often demands people to act positively towards each other. It dictates one to show affection, appreciation, admiration, forgiveness, and value to one another. The active nature of the golden rule aligns with what most beliefs dictate. The silver rule is also a major contributor to most individuals spiritual lives. Whether there are many differences or challenges between the rules, the basic rule is that people should evaluate how they treat each other and understand the consequences of certain behaviors.

Work Cited

Joe Humphreys. Unthinkable: Which golden rule of ethics is best, the Christian or Confucian? The rule of reciprocity can be found in all major religions, but with a different emphasis.Fri, Jan 31, 2014.


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