Last time we suggested that someone following the Golden Rule would be faced with the impossible task of trying to please everyone. If so that would seem like a fatal objection to the Rule, whatever Confucius or Jesus might say.
If you are in the neighbourhood the Museum der Dinge (‘Museum of Things’) in Kreuzberg, Berlin is well worth a visit. It boasts a huge and articulately presented collection of everyday objects of the 20th and 21st Centuries. The earliest Dinge I saw were from the First World War, but my pictures here are of what seem to be art deco artefacts from the Weimar period, plus a few rather more spooky memorabilia from a bit later.
In the Neue Wache (‘New Guardhouse’) in Berlin is a copy of a small sculpture by Käthe Kollwitz. It stands beneath a circular open skylight, or oculus, which exposes it to the elements.
Kollwitz made the original in the late 1930s as a memorial to her son Peter who was killed in the First World War. In 1993 Chancellor Helmut Kohl commissioned sculptor Harald Haacke to make a considerably enlarged copy which was installed at the centre of the ‘Central Memorial of the Federal Republic of Germany to the Victims of War and Tyranny’ at the reopened Neue Wache.
Last time we suggested that value pluralism1 should only pose a problem for the Golden Rule if we apply the Rule simplistically, which the Rule itself should steer us away from. We will now consider another aspect which, ironically, could imply the Golden Rule might often be impossible to obey in practice, and particularly when we need it most.
We said last time that Kant did not want his readers to think his notion of duty – formulated as the categorical imperative – was just a rewrite of the Silver Rule (the Golden Rule in its negative formulation). He saw the Silver Rule as both banal and flawed.