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More thoughts on Golden and Platinum Rules

May 9, 2010

I don’t really have that high of an opinion on the golden rule. I have enjoyed far more a very slight modification that is often called the platinum rule. Can you spot the change?

Do unto others as they would have done unto them.

I think that the failings of the golden rule are that it can be unempathetic and downright egocentric. It doesn’t overtly encourage stepping into another person’s shoes and wading around a bit in them. On the other hand, the other person and his desires are set prominently in the Platinum Rule. Ntrygg agrees in her critique of the golden rule and positing of the platinum rule.

Now, [the platinum rule] is somewhat better because in order to follow this – you have to extend effort to actually get to know and understand the other person. You have to understand what influence their various group identity  signifiers mean – gender, age, ethnicity, belief, and all the other factors that come into play that create stereotypes.

But the bottom line is once you get beyond those cultural trappings to the person, you see them as a person and you will treat them better.

OK, OK. So that’s the platinum rule and the golden rule…yet I have more thoughts.

The first thought is: the golden rule doesn’t seem to want to die.

The second thought is: the platinum rule doesn’t seem to catch on well.

Why are both of these the case?

For the first, I only realized that the golden rule can be taken a little bit deeper (and thus sidestep some of its criticisms) when I read Ray’s article parsing through the demands of the rule.

I submit that all of us, at the most basic level, want little more than acceptance and respect and love for who we actually are – recognition that we are capable of making our own decisions – friendship that is genuine and not tied to certain conditions – etc. In other words, we want to be treated as equals – as important – as valuable – as legitimate deciders of our own fate, and we want that for who we ARE, not for who others want us to be.

So, the next time you start to say something to someone else, ask yourself, “How would I respond if someone said that, in that way, to me?”

So, how we want to be treated is with “respect and love for who we actually are”? How can this be applied to certain criticisms of the rule?

Well, let’s take one. “People just want different things.” If I were an extrovert who aspired to follow the golden rule, then I would want people to reach out to me, talk to me, etc., so as a result, I would reach out to other people…including introverts! The problem? I distinctly violate the introvert’s wishes by assuming he wanted to be treated as an extrovert like myself would.

…So far, that is a superficial look, though. “I want x end result, so I will treat others with x end result.” But what is the thought process?

When my hypothetical extrovert says, “I want people to talk to me” (an end result), then what I am saying behind that is “I want people to take into consideration my personality, which is social and extroverted.”

In other words, as Ray said, I’d want others to accept me for who I am…so I should accept others for who they are, taking into consideration their differing personalities.

…so, with that second look at the golden rule, I can certainly see it as more appealing and challenging…nevertheless, I don’t think the actual rule so bluntly encourages this view as a platinum rule does. Many people won’t get beyond the superficial “I desire x act to be done to me, so I will do x act to others” to the more profound, “I desire x act to be done to me because that would exemplify how others can accept me and my personality, so I will accept others and their personalities.

On the other hand, a platinum rule, that specifically notes that one should do unto others as they want done to them, should include such empathy.

Yet…as Ntrygg raised later in her article, the platinum rule can fail from superficiality.

…the fall down is that some people don’t treat themselves well, either. Some people like to be treated badly, and I am not talking about recreationally with a safe word. I mean they don’t think they are deserving of kind treatment or consideration.

As a result, Ntrygg suggests the Double Platinum Rule.

treat others the way they don’t even know they want to be treated

Upon reading this, warning sirens went off in my head. I thought that such a rule like this could easily be abused. I can quickly think of plenty of occasions when people continued treating me in specific ways because they were sure they “knew what was best” for me, and were just as sure that I was blind to my own needs. Quite frequently, theists and atheists assume that the other group just “doesn’t know what’s best” for them, because they are blinded or deluded or whatever else.

…but I don’t need to yap about this. Instead, like one eternal round, Ray’s article at Mormon Matters also addresses it. I’ll end with his second point of why such a policy is perilous:

2) It totally ignores and discounts the actual desires of the other person – and illustrates an arrogance that is couched in terms of love but, literally, is judgmental and condescending. In essence, it says, “I know better than you what you need, and I’m never going to quit trying to make you see that, no matter what you want.”

While I can begin to see some “deficiencies” of the platinum rule (and especially the double one) and some appeals to the golden rule, I can’t say I’m converted.

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4 Comments
  1. What do you think of just saying, “Don’t be an arsehole?” That’s slightly tongue-in-check, of course.

    Also, still interested in doing a recap of the LDS tech conference?

  2. nktrygg permalink

    Wow Andrew

    I am touched and honoured to be quoted in your blog.

    I can’t take credit for the double platinum rule, it was that workshop guy after he had a bad sales experience – I think he just wanted people to be more “in service” to others – not subservient, since that’s more a do as told position.

    I’d love to read your take on the proposed alternative to the whole metal system of rules:

    Think and Care.

    Nina

  3. Molly,

    The problem I think is…what is an arsehole? As many answers as there are holes, I’m afraid.

    I feel more unqualified than *ever* to do a recap of a tech *conference* that I was not even aware was convened. :3

    Nina,

    Sure you can take credit. This is just blogging!

    I think that “Think and Care” falls into some of the same pitfalls as “Don’t be an arsehole” (although without the tongue-in-cheekiness). What is “thinking” and what is “caring”? I don’t think anyone would ever admit (unless to make some point) that they had *not* been thinking, or that they were *not* caring.

  4. I think it’s difficult to follow any rule that sets the bar too high or demands a lot of care and attention on your part.

    After all, there’s only so much time in a day, only so much mental, emotional and physical energy you have – and it’s difficult to “be on” 24/7.

    Perhaps the simplest is “Do the best you can under the circumstances and information you have”

    I think this is why Mr. Rodgers had such appeal to me – besides the shoe/sweater fetish – Mr Rodgers liked us just the way we were.

    We should all try to be more like Mr. Rodgers.

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