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Shining Ideal and Uncertain Reality: Commentaries on the “Golden Rule” in Confucianism and Other Traditions

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This paper considers a number of problematic issues underlying the seemingly unassailable truth of moral philosophy expressed in the “Golden Rule” in a variety of cultural spheres. These issues include the place of this teaching within its given religious or philosophical context, the defense of this principle as an inviolable tenet of revealed dogma or as a piece of utilitarian advice for the regulation of social life, the manner in which the precise rhetorical structure of a given formulation reflects the specific intellectual underpinnings of its cultural milieu, claims of universal validity as a statement of moral truth for all men and all time or as a culture-specific value understood to apply exclusively within a particular religious community, and modes of commentarial expansion by scriptural exegetes and textual scholiasts seeking to ground this teaching within the logic of philosophical or theological discourse. After outlining several points of uncertainty that emerge in the context of transferring the ideal of human empathy to the messy reality of concrete existence, we then turn to a number of attempts by leading commentators in the Confucian, rabbinic, and other scholastic traditions to grapple with these contradictions and to reconcile them within the framework of their respective value systems.

10.1163/23521341-01010012
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1. Allinson Robert"“On the Negative Version of the Golden Rule as Formulated by Confucius”" New Asia Academic Bulletin 1982Vol 3 223 232
2. Dihle Albrecht Die goldene Regel: Eine Einführung in die Geschichte der antiken und frühchristlichen Vulgärethik 1962 Göttingen Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht
3. Erikson Eric"“The Golden Rule in the Light of New Insight”" Insight and Responsibility 1964 New York W.W. Norton
4. Fingarette Harold"“Following the ‘One Thread’ of the Analects”" Journal of the American Academy of Religion 1979Vol 47 38 373 405
5. Freud Sigmund Strachey James"Civilization and Its Discontents" Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud 1961Vol 21 London Hogarth Press 108 116
6. Gould James A."“The Golden Rule”" American Journal of Theology and Philosophy 1983Vol 4 73 79
7. Harman Gilbert"“Chapter iii: The Moral Law”" The Nature of Morality: An Introduction to Ethics 1977 New York Oxford University Press 57 99
8. Kant Immanuel Paton H.J. Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals 1964 New York Harper and Row
9. Nagel Thomas The Possibility of Altruism 1970 Oxford Oxford University Press
10. Nivison David S."“Golden Rule Arguments in Chinese Moral Philosophy”" The Ways of Confucianism: Investigations in Chinese Philosophy 1996 La Salle, IL Open Court Press
11. Phillipidis Leonidas Die goldene Regel, religionsgeschichtlich Untersuch 1929 Leipzig A. Klein
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/content/journals/10.1163/23521341-01010012
2015-05-27
2018-10-21

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