The Platinum vs. The Golden Rule

The standard of ethical behavior has often been reduced to the Golden Rule:

Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

But business strategy suggests that there is a different, and better rule to follow:

Platinum Rule: “Do unto others as they would do unto themselves.”

Which of these seem more ethical, and what are the moral consequence of each? There seems to me a universalizing, homogenizing ethic behind the Golden Rule, that how we ideally would like to be treated is ideally how others should ideally be treated. The Platinum Rule rather seeks to preserve diversity, perhaps at the expense of normative values. For instance, an alcoholic that has been dry for a while and under stress wants a drink. Would one respond differently to such a person under the Golden Rule, rather than the Platinum Rule? Or are they really just the same rule stated differently?


Hmm good question.

If I can focus on the platinum rule for a sec…

this part gives me pause, and here is why: Just how easy is it to determine what a person would do to themselves?

For instance, say two people worked at a company, and for whatever reason there was a project which needed to be done that night or both of these people would get into trouble. Now only 1 of the 2 people knows about this project, but both of them are capable (and are the only ones capable) of completing this project.

Person A: is the one who knows about the project because he fucked up, and forgot about it. he’s intelligent, naturally good at his job, but it takes him a while to do things and he sometimes makes stupid little mistakes.

Person B: Doesn’t know about the project yet, but he is somewhat of a perfectionist, he works at an effecient mannor and often burns the mightnight oil for seemingly no reason, just to ‘get it right’. He’s not as naturally creative as person A, but he makes up for it by being effecient.

Is it ethical for Person A to trick Person B into thinking that the boss told him to do this project because he (person b) will make sure it’s done, and correct no matter how late he has to stay. Whereas Person A might mess it up, or take too long, thus getting them both in trouble.

The golden rule seems to imply that you wouldn’t want people tricking you… so you shouldn’t trick them. But the platinum rule in this case, could be interpreted as something along the lines of ‘Well the perfectionist seems to prefer staying late to make sure everything is running smoothly… so I’m just saving us time, and grief by getting him/her to do something he mighta done anyways’

I know this is full of holes, but do you see what I’m getting at? How do you decide what someone would do to themselves? Cause often times it’s such a mystery. Why do people drink themselves into the ground? Why do the guys from jackass continually hurt themselves…? Can we use these instances when trying to take an ethical standpoint?

So in this regard, I think the two are very different… I don’t think I can say right now which one is ‘more ethical’ I’ll have to give it some thought. I like your point about preserving diversity though Dunamis… if we expand our lens a bit, perhaps it is ultimately more ethical to act like a jackass, or without reason sometimes simply to preserve the diversity which would otherwise have been lost… hmmm


I know this is full of holes, but do you see what I’m getting at?

I don’t think its full of holes at all, and points to an interesting aspect of the two rules. The Platinum Rule is essentially an economic rule of providing perceived value. If the person gets what they think they want, and continues to perceive it as value over time, then I would think that the Platinum Rule is effect. There is a sense in which if you stretch that time out infinitely, to an ideal state, the two rules might converge. Take cigarettes. A lab scientist that forges data about addiction or cancerous effects under the Golden Rule might be acting unethically, but under the Platinum Rule, perhaps not. Only after years of addiction and then cancer might the Platinum Rule suggest that such behavior is unethical. That smokers choose to smoke, even in full knowledge of the facts, even that is unsure.

The partner that tricks the other might by the Platinum Rule be obligated to keeping him in the dark as to the knowledge of the deception.



Heh… yeah I’m so used to talking to ppl that respond with something like ‘the security guard knows the other worker and would see him and he’d eventually find out… etc’ that I unconsciously try to protect against semantical counterattacks :astonished:

Anyways… interesting thread, I’m gonna ponder it some more

Naturally I would approach this from a sales and marketing perspective.

On one level the difference between the two is market research.

Whether one thinks that, on a deeper level, the two rules converge would depend I think on whether one believes companies discover needs, or create them.


I think (and this often means I’m wrong) just because D referred to is as the standard… doesn’t mean that it actually is the answer.

So the question is, do -you- think that moral princiaps can solve all moral dilemmas?

Dunamis, would you accept this restatement of the rule:

“Help people to get what they want.”

It seems equivalent because people do things in order to get what they want. So if you’re doing what they would do for themselves, you’re helping them get whatever they want. Right?

And if this is an adequate restatement, would it be moral to help someone get something you think is good for them, but which they don’t want? What implications would that have for parenting – i.e. getting kids to eat their vegetables? Would that become morally wrong?

No, i do not. I say that there is no morality. Any moral theory cannot be consistent. ‘Treat others as you would lile to be treated’ is not consistent, what if i see a man about to commit suicide…i presume if i were in his position then i would not like to be saved so it is moral of me to just leave him? Or perhaps someone has some ‘weird’ fetishes…i’m sure you would not like him to treat you as he likes to be treated. Poor examples but i’m sure you get the general jist of it, this inconsistency applies to all moral theories.


I agree partly. I would say that no moral thoery is 100% consistent, but neither are scientific laws. I would also say that without exposure to some sort of moral discourse, the general populace might embrace a type of lifestyle which would basically boil down to just chaos.

To say there is no morality might be taking it a little too far.

But yeah you’re right, I don’t think the answer will be found in 1 theory or the other… but in the discourse between the different theories which are out there, and are playing out at the same time.

but the point of Morality is to find one theory or principle which we can all live/act by. If it is not possible to find one ‘golden rule’ or moral theory that we can all live by then there is no morality which i/we can live by.


I don’t think it’s black and white though… can’t you at least partly suscribe to a morality in an attempt to move towards this end goal you speak of?. Science does it all the time, none of the theories in science hold up under every condition… they always break down after a while, but we still see what most would perceive to be a success in science.

I see morality as more of a spectrum i guess… rather than a dichotomy

They are both horribly simplicst a fail.

One has you injecting heroin into the heroin addict.

The other has you injecting heroin into everyone.

I suppose the platinum is in that sense better than the golden, but only by a slight margin. If you must have a rule in this form it would be more like.

Do on to others, as [Socrates] would do onto himself.

= Insert any smart guy you currently perfer.

In which case all where saying is go look for an ethical theory that isn’t composed of a single sentance.


I see what you’re saying, I was trying to play along a little bit; for instance do you think Dun’s post almost looks like a test question? Perhaps he wants us to spark conversation like we’re doing right now.

For instance, maybe… adding onto theories and making them more complex like you suscribe will envitably make utilizing your morality very difficult. You’d be weighed down by exceptions and complexities which would most likely be doing more harm than good over the long run.

Look at Kant to illustrate this point. He describes the categorical imperative twice in his workings, and there is alot of debate as to if either actually equate to one another when it comes down to it. Now Kant’s a pretty smart guy, and if he got caught up in his own logic then perhaps the simpler the better.

Obviously a sentance can’t quite do it now, but what if one day a sound, or an interactive picture or whatever else you can imagine was to be the culmination of our efforts to create a solid morality. There is a movie called ‘Equilibrium’ which tackles this concept fairly well through the use of drugs as the perfect tool for peace and logic, at the expense of emotion. In the end it’s just another morality with it’s flaws… mainly the loss of emotion. So this begs the question, if we ever did find a true, perfect morality would we actually want to take it?


would you accept this restatement of the rule:

“Help people to get what they want.”

That seems like a fair restatement, but some alteration does appear present, (you would have to allow turning the Golden Rule into “help people get what you would want to get”. And the example of parenting does present something of interest, because it enlightens the nature of the Golden Rule a bit. We are to parent others in our morality in a sense. There is, assuming an ideal state of adult subjects fully responsible for their actions, a line of thinking that helping people get what they want is a basis for moral action because the “what they want” bears the full consequence of their actions, and only the full consequence of actions really do “teach” lessons. If something is “bad” for you, only its lived “badness” will cure you of its desire - or kill you. The ethical is a domain of perceived value, and the experience of value by the subject must play a major part in it. It’s interesting, because if the Platinum Rule is unethical, the primary basis upon which all of our economic exchanges, and many of our interpersonal exchanges is unethical, that is letting the other’s perceived value rule.

At the bottom of this division though is to me a basic moral movement of treating the other and the same. In the Golden Rule there is a kind of he is the same as me, universalizing oneself. This direction of thinking is quite powerful, and sometimes beautiful in morality. It is included in the phrase, “There but for the grace of God go I”, which in many ways grounds Compassion, but does also seem to presume a kind of “I know better than he does” orientation. The Platinum Rule at bottom has a similar movement, but its “he is different than me, and as I am also different, we are the same”. It has a kind of “I know no better than he” touch, and an unstated faith that things will take care of themselves. I’m not saying that these attitudes are strictly being said by each of the rules, but that the rules seem to be coming from these two direction and heading towards each other. The sameness of others, at least in some manner, lies behind all moral behavior. It is a question of how that sameness it to be conceived.


In each case I would give the man a drink. My logic is that it was his choice to be an alcoholic, and if I was an alcoholic I would want someone to give me a drink. Thus I would give him a drink enacting the Golden Rule. As for the Platinum Rule, the man is an alcoholic, obviously he wants a drink and to buy a drink would be the way he would treat himself, so by buying him a drink I would be enacting the Platinum Rule.

Sorry if I am a bit off current topic, but I thought I’d give my two cents on the original question.


Thanks for your thoughts. Let’s take the thought experiment to another level. A person is suicidal, has been for some time. Would you under the Golden and the Platinum Rule help him or her commit suicide? Would you prevent them?

The Golden Rule seems to lean towards actions that from your perspective might have value, even though the recipient might not see that value immediately, or even ever. The Platinum Rule leans towards the thought that the immediate perception of value by the recipient has its own inherent ethical value.


I have pondered your question and come to the conclussion that neither rules have anything to do with morals. Taking a step back, though I think alcoholism is immoral I would give him the beer because thats how I would want to be treated in his position. As goes the same for the Platinum Rule because though I don’t support him drinking I would give him the beer because he wants it, and I wasn’t put on earth to stop him from drinking. The Golden Rule, the way I look at it, was made to jurisdict human interaction, and the Platinum Rule was made to jurisdict business transaction, though by some offset way may also be applied to living things. Now back to current topic. I believe that by the Golden Rule, I would let the man die, because I would not want outside influence being pressed on me at a time that I was so vulnerable. By the Platinum rule I would do the same because by being suicide he is obviously leaving himself alone in the dark (figuratively speaking) in a vulnerable situation. So I would leave him alone there to take care of what needs to be done himself. The point I’m trying to get across is that neither rules have to do with personal morals they just have to do with interaction with other people.


It seems that the Golden/Platinum distinction doesn’t apply to you because you basically just want to be left alone. The heart of the Golden rule though, the undertext is a kind of idealized state of knowing, what would you want for yourself, knowing all things, which is not the way that you seem to be treating it. The undertext of the Platinum rule is that the “know all things” perspective is not to be taken into consideration. It is a kind of let people’s desires take care of themselves. If you make the Platinum ethic your personal ethic, the Golden/Platinum distinction falls away, just as if you make the “knowledge” implict in the Golden Rule, part of Platinum eventual valuations, the Golden/Platinum distinction falls away as well.


Actually I am a quite social person, and go out of my way to interact with those around me. I am just saying I don’t like the idea of someone having the majority of influence over me as would happen if I was emotional and on the verge of suicide. We are not put on this world to change other people. We may be able to influence them, some more than others, but if a man wants to commit suicide, or if a man wants to drink his life into a hole thats up to them OR if this man wants to go through years of education to become a leading scientist and find a panacea for all sickness that is up to him also. This diversity amongst us is really the beauty of life.