I have it in my head it was "moderation in all things", but it's been a while since I was at the academy. (Possibly my memory is incorrect, but I recall this idea presented by a respected Classical scholar.)

I apologize if this question is perceived as silly or overly simplistic--I'm very interested in early philosophy since I work on symbolic systems, and neither I nor my automata are very smart at present.

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    "Moderation in all things" was suggested by Cleobulus. "Love thy neighbour as thyself" is the 2nd greatest commandment according to the synoptic gospels. The golden rule, similar to this, is found in a variety of cultures. Without specifying a specific context, it is impossible to answer the question what the golden rule was before this, unless you ask this from a sociological perspective in which case it isn't really on-topic here.
    – user2953
    Apr 7, 2017 at 18:00
  • @Keelan very useful! Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. My interest in the golden rule relates to artificial general intelligence and evolutionary game theory. Not sure if "natural philosophy", here extending the term to include to the mathematical analysis of equilibria, is strictly on-topic, but as an engineer, I'm seeing a very direct correlation between moral philosophy and algorithms, and hope I will be able to utilize the brain trust on Stack Philosophy.
    – DukeZhou
    Apr 7, 2017 at 18:11
  • Okay, but can you clarify from what perspective you are asking this question? For example: if from a Christian perspective, do you mean to ask what the Jewish 'golden rule' was? I'm having a hard time figuring out what you actually expect in an answer here.
    – user2953
    Apr 7, 2017 at 18:16
  • @keelan I'm trying to determine if this idea of a previous "golden rule" was widely held. (More of a fun question, hopefully, on the history of philosophy, per my natural curiosity and simplistic approach.) Functionally, it relates to the difficulty (and subjectivity) of optimal decision making in a condition of mathematical intractability, and the accessibility of "simple wisdom" (common sense) as it relates to both humans and general (currently weak) Artificial Intelligence.
    – DukeZhou
    Apr 7, 2017 at 18:29

1 Answer 1


Amazingly (for me) the Golden Rule, as it seems, has always and ever been the same. In Germany it is taught as a well known rhyme: Was du nichts willst, dass man dir tu', das füg auch keinem andern zu. (What you don't want to suffer, you must not do to others.) In the following some excerpts from Wikipedia.

Egypt: From the story of The Eloquent Peasant, which dates to the Middle Kingdom (c. 2040–1650 BC): "Now this is the command: Do to the doer to make him do." A Late Period (c. 664–323 BC) papyrus contains an early negative affirmation of the Golden Rule: "That which you hate to be done to you, do not do to another.

India: "... your main focus, treat others as you treat yourself." — Mahābhārata Shānti-Parva 167:9

Greece: The Golden Rule in its prohibitive (negative) form was a common principle in ancient Greek philosophy. Examples of the general concept include: "Avoid doing what you would blame others for doing." – Thales (c. 624–546 BC) "What you do not want to happen to you, do not do it yourself either. " – Sextus the Pythagorean. "Do not do to others that which angers you when they do it to you." – Isocrates (436–338 BC)

Persia: "That nature alone is good which refrains from doing to another whatsoever is not good for itself." Dadisten-I-dinik, 94,5, and "Whatever is disagreeable to yourself do not do unto others." Shayast-na-Shayast 13:29

Rome: Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC–65 AD), a practitioner of Stoicism (c. 300 BC–200 AD) expressed the Golden Rule in his essay regarding the treatment of slaves: "Treat your inferior as you would wish your superior to treat you."

The Christian love of the other as the self is in principle the same, here expressed in the positive (as in the oldest Egyptian text): What you want to enjoy that do to others.


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