While the golden rule is widely touted as timeless wisdom, its lack of conceptual sophistication leaves philosophers cold. Its ancient origins should make us wonder if it is nothing more than perennial hot air, or if it might actually be misrepresenting our moral philosophy framework. In this article, I’ll explore Kant’s Golden Rule, consider its critics, and examine its rationale. I hope you find this article useful.
Alternatives to Kant’s Golden Rule
A key distinction between the categorical imperative and the golden rule is that the latter is a universal imperative, while the former is a personal duty directed at another person. These distinctions allow for the golden rule to be more powerful than it may appear, because it can be applied to a wide variety of situations and can be made explicit. Even though the golden rule was a founding principle of classical pragmatism, many contemporary philosophers question its merits.
The First Formulation of the Categorical Imperative is a more modern alternative. It is more consistent with the Biblical “Golden Rule,” but avoids the subjectivity associated with it. Ultimately, the categorical imperative is an effective moral principle because it emphasizes what is right, while the Golden Rule can be applied to any situation. Here, the patient’s autonomy must be protected in order to maintain a relationship with the physician.
The golden rule has a common and intuitive appeal. However, it may not be appropriate to enact it when a patient has a dire prognosis. A doctor must make a patient aware of the disease’s prognosis, and this may involve preparing for death and explaining it in detail. In such a case, a doctor must remain objective in evaluating the patient’s medical care.
A common philosophical approach to the rule is maximum generalization. However, this approach has many drawbacks and is incompatible with highly layered institutions. For instance, the general principle is impossible to apply to non-humans with brain malfunctions, illnesses, and persistent vegetative coma. In addition, the Kantian approach also ignores the concept of discretion. These are just a few of the main concerns of an alternative approach to the Golden Rule.
In addition to preventing infeasible behavior, the golden rule is also based on the concept of agape, or love. Love, as the golden rule requires, aims to counter egocentrism and promote other-directedness. In fact, the golden rule would read, “Treat others as you would like to be treated.”
But some critics of Kant’s Golden Rule point out that the categorical imperative is incompatible with compassion. For example, if a person commits murder, it would be wrong to lie to him. This critique relates to the fact that Kant himself said that it is wrong to lie to a murderer. Therefore, the categorical imperative is not universal. It is also impossible to be completely ethical without a strong sense of compassion.
In contrast to the universal law of utility, another theory of morality is utilitarian. Both view the world as a system of rights, wherein the benefits of a given action are greater than those of the alternative. Hence, it is important to consider the utility of a particular action in the light of its benefits and costs. This theory requires careful consideration of the alternatives and to consider the interests of all involved parties.
Criticisms of Kant’s Golden Rule
Immanuel Kant claimed that lying is always wrong. He is the most prominent defender of an absolute prohibition against lying in the history of Western philosophy. Unfortunately, Kant never appealed to the categorical imperative to defend his position. He simply interpreted the Rule in an overly literal way and missed many of the subtle nuances of the intended moral setting. In Criticisms of Kant’s Golden Rule, we’ll look at two of the major flaws of Kant’s ethical system.
First, critics of the Golden Rule question its universalisability and impartiality. Thomas has already proposed an existential and religious perspective on the Rule before Kant, which he believes to be a misinterpretation of the Categorical Imperative. The difficulty with eliciting a universalised account of the rule rests in the fact that it is heteronomous. Because of this heteronomous aspect of the rule, it cannot be transformed into a theoretical law.
The second major flaw in Kant’s golden rule comes from the way he interprets it. Rather than focusing on what the golden rule does not say, he fails to explore the value of what it does say. As Kant noted, a criminal might appeal to the golden rule to escape prison, yet a judge would probably want to keep him out of jail. The latter critique was Kant’s Categorical Imperative, which is similar to the golden rule but is often misunderstood.
Another critical issue with the Golden Rule is its personal nature. This is in stark contrast to Kant’s concept of practical love. Although the Golden Rule can be equated with the Categorical Imperative in its role as a moral law, it cannot stand alone in a world of value pluralism. There are other flaws in the Golden Rule that need to be addressed. And, as with many moral principles, a strict application of the rule will not be appropriate in some circumstances.
Critics of Kant’s golden rule argue that it is too idealistic and unrealistic to apply in the real world. However, this over-ideal nature of the golden rule has not necessarily weakened its principles. Many general theories focus on explaining the principle and applying it to the concrete. Rather, they emphasize its practical use. But, even if a person does not have a saintly disposition, they still need to practice the golden rule in order to live up to it.
While the universality of the golden rule is problematic, it is also possible to view it as a super-principle that encompasses all of ethical virtue, reasoning, and behavior. It is this universalization that makes it so useful in the fight against secular criticism. If it is indeed universal, then Kant’s theory of the golden rule may prove to be a powerful ally. If applied correctly, the golden rule can serve as a bulwark against skeptics of this moral philosophy.
Rationale for Kant’s Golden Rule
The “golden rule” is a principle of ethical behavior that is not specific to a particular action or situation. The golden rule does not prescribe a particular type of action or behavior but rather provides a rationale for generating rules. Singer, who has been called the “father of generalization” in ethics, asserts that the golden rule is a procedural principle directing perspective-taking.
The dominant philosophical approach to rules is maximum generalization, but this approach has several shortfalls. It is also inapplicable to highly layered institutions like governments. But the golden rule can do more than is anticipated when it is made explicit. By revealing the shortcoming of this generalization, the golden rule can be better understood and used as a procedural standard. In a way, the project of universalization has revealed the flaws of Kant’s Golden Rule.
While the Golden Rule is an important moral principle, it is not universal or formal. It encourages hypothetical imperative thinking. It assumes that all rational beings value helpfulness. That assumption is not realistic. Accordingly, the categorical imperative, which Kant referred to as “a higher standard”, is more rigorous and binding. As such, it binds all rational beings. Although Kant defended the Golden Rule as a moral principle, there were several objections to the principle.
Ultimately, the Golden Rule is universal in its application. Its universality eliminates petty theft. It is the basis of morality. This universal law enables us to evaluate opposite acts, and even rule out the original action. By the same token, Kant argued that we must never lie to anyone. Therefore, lying is not moral. The Kantian Principle forbids this type of action.
The ‘need for authority’ criticism has been a common critique of Kant’s work. The need for authority undermines the categorical imperative by assuming that humans are dependent on another person’s will. If this is true, the Golden Rule would be a profoundly misguided ethical principle. The example given is a 20-year-old college student driving to Lookout Point.
According to the principle of universality, it is morally immoral to ignore the categorical imperative. This means that we must act in a manner that is consistent with universal law. This means avoiding rudeness in relationships and acting in a manner that is not only appropriate but also universally lawful. The ‘golden rule’ also aims to make us feel good about ourselves, others, and society.