Saturday, January 7, 2023

 559. From gold to copper

 According to a classic ethical injunction, often attributed to the18-th century philosopher Kant but much older, one should (not) do to anyone what one would (not) like to be done to oneself, It is called ‘the ‘Golden Rule’. Yong (2005) changed this into what he called ‘the Copper Rule’, which says that one should do to the other what he would want to be done. I am happy with this. I have always thought that the Golden Rule was too self-centred. I would not be pleased to receive tickets for a soccer match, but I know people who would be delighted with them.

 How do you  know what the other wants? You can simply ask him. But if the other is an addict, it may be better for him not to give the money he begs for, sitting on the pavement, but a cup of coffee or a hot meal. With the Golden Rule, I should not hit even a masochist, but with the Copper Rule I might.

 As Yong indicated, the move from gold to copper is a move from universalism to particularism; in an old debate between the two that has occupied philosophy since antiquity. According to universalism, a rule should apply to everyone and always. According to particularism people and situations vary, and one should vary a rule accordingly. I have discussed that debate before, in this blog


H. Yong 2005. ‘Between generalisation and particularism, the Chang brothers’, in: S.C. Angle and M. Slote, Virtue ethics and Confucianism: pp. 162-70, New York: Routledge.

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