Saturday, October 14, 2017

Quod tibi fieri non vis, alteri ne feceris.

"Quod tibi fieri non vis, alteri ne feceris."

That's Latin for "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." It's in the Bible no less than 3 times: Tobit 4:15, Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31. And it's also pretty similar to Leviticus 19:18.

And the same basic idea is also to be found in ancient texts from China, India, Persia and pre-Christian Egypt and Greece.

So what, basically, is my problem? Just this: although it's a pretty good rule, it can be improved upon. Because not everyone wants and dislikes the same sorts of treatment. "Do unto others as they would have you do unto them" is an improvement over "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." It's more considerate, more sensitive.

But, of course, even that is not perfect, because life is not perfect. A crazed person who is committing mass murder with an automatic weapon may want to be allowed to continue doing what he's doing. But most of us would agree that it's better to stop him. That's just one extreme example of situations where we generally agree that it's right to stop someone, even though that's not what he wants.

Germans, who love to rhyme like nobody's business, have put it into a rhyme:

"Was du nicht willst, dass man dir tu, das füg auch keinem andern zu."

Just now, on Facebook, some German-speaking people were all agreeing with each other about how perfect the Golden Rule -- or, in German, "die Goldene Regel" -- is. I started to write a comment in German, to say to them that I felt that it was not perfect, for the reason I have expressed above.

But then I stopped and considered that, although I would like it when someone would comment in such a way in such a conversation, many people definitely do not like it at all, and that these particular people probably wouldn't like it. And so, instead of doing unto them as I would have others do unto me, I did unto them as I thought they would like me to do unto them, and erased my comment and just left them alone, and instead, I came here and wrote this blog post.

Well, I didn't leave them completely alone: I left a comment which consisted of "Quod tibi fieri non vis, alteri ne feceris." I hope that didn't bother them.

Why Latin? Because I like Latin and would like to see it restored to its former prominence. Not because I have any reason to believe that there is something characteristically Latin or Roman about "Quod tibi fieri non vis, alteri ne feceris."

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