[extropy-chat] Is the Golden Rule rational?

Thomas Thomas at thomasoliver.net
Mon Dec 11 22:42:05 UTC 2006

Jef Allbright wrote:

>Thomas wrote:
>>Perhaps you could comment on a personal
>>problem:  I was once told by a Rational
>>Emotive therapist that I held an irrational
>>belief that was causing me problems.  It
>>was the golden rule.  Do "effective
>>interaction" and "cultivating a cooperative
>>environment" imply a need for empathy
>>and/or a ban on aggression?  
>What a powerful question! I assume you are referring to "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
>The short answer is that following the Golden Rule is not rational, in the same narrow sense that altruism is not rational.
>You can easily see this if you consider in terms of game theory, where for each play you must cooperate, but the other player may sometimes cooperate and sometimes defect, tending to your net detriment. Note that as traditionally stated, the Golden Rule is not a positive-sum game. The best you can do is to receive as good as you gave.
>But, decisions, actions and consequences in real life are never actually contained within an isolated context, and this makes all the difference in the world.
>Real life is, for all practical purposes, a positive-sum game where the subjective context of decision-making and the objective scope of interaction both tend to increase. So the name of the game is Growth, and any longer-term winning strategy involves effectively discovering and exploiting synergies.  
>Regarding "empathy":
>As this game of Growth is all about effective interaction over increasing scope between Self and Other (the adjacent possible), "empathy" is important in the broad sense of deeply understanding Other, but not necessarily in the narrower popular sense of feeling the other's emotions. In the environment of evolutionary adaptation, empathy as mirrored feelings was a useful adaptation, just as instinctive feelings of fear of outsiders was a useful adaptation, but in the expanded context of contemporary decision-making we require awareness broader than our instinctive feelings.
>Regarding "ban on aggression":
>As morality is all about promoting one's increasingly shared values over increasing scope, there is a moral imperative to defend one's interests. Further, since all decision-making is necessarily within a subjective context, disputes between agents will arise, and resolution will involve one party "winning" and other party "losing" in the near term. However, when conducted rationally, such conflict actually strengthens the broader system within which all the parties interact. When conducted irrationally, conflict can unreasonable damage and destroy Other resulting in detriment to the larger system. So "aggression" is to some extent an inherent part of the process, and moral to the extent that it promotes *increasingly shared* values over *increasing scope*.  Careful reading of the above should reassure those who on first glance might take it as justifying wanton destruction of one's opponent or justifying "might makes right".  It most certainly does not.  As an aside, I very!
>  much appreciate the Japanese word for opponent, 相手 , "aite" in roman characters, which has all the following connotations: partner, companion, competitor, opponent, rival.
>>Is the golden rule consistent with
>>a rational society or a free market?
>>From the foregoing, I think you can see that the Golden Rule, when understood in the broader sense of ethical reciprocity within a positive sum game of increasingly shared values that work over increasing scope, is consistent with a rational society and a free market. 
>- Jef
Thank you for an illuminating and fairly comprehensive response.
I wonder how an extropic Golden Rule would read. I think its essence is
equal justice.

What little I know of systems theory seems to favor sacrificing smaller
systems (individuals) to the good of larger systems. As an individual
I'm interested in avoiding the "tyranny of the majority" and in
contributing to an expanding "cooperative environment." The break point
between these two goals seems to be the willingness to use coercion.
I've been struggling to conceive a society of unanimous spheres wherein
each individual can fully identify with the larger sphere-system and
where the variety of spheres could interact sans coercion. Paul Wafker's
Natural Social Contract <http://morelife.org/ssip/solutions/NSC.html> is
an example of a tool that might help establish safe social spheres. I
like the idea of citizenship by agreement rather than by default.

I think I would like to live in a sphere with no collective property
title and, thus, no public treasury, no corporate veil nor community
property disputes. Our brainstems' territorial impulses might be muted
to a sub violent level when each of us is solely responsible (and
liable) for what we have and what we do with it. I've moved in this
direction in my personal life and thereby distanced myself from some
infantile impulses (mine and others'). Now, how do I expand the scope of
my interactions in a sphere that seems to oscillate between altruism and
solipsism with little in between? -- Thomas

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