If we take the ambiguous nature[1] (in its current form) of the sixth commandment...

Thou shalt not kill

...we must remember that Jesus instructed his followers to forgive[2], that none are perfect before the law, i.e. "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone (at her)." Jesus also told his followers "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another." So, it is clear that even among academics and scholars there is still division as to what morality brings but, there should not be.

Jesus himself, who when asked by the Pharisees which commandment was most important, and to which he replied..”Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”[3]

If these same precepts can be taught, then there is hope that it will stand with good morality. I am sure that there is no reasonable scholar or academic who can say that they are wrong.

Does philosophy show that these precepts are wrong?

The argument is elsewhere extended that these precepts should be taught as embedded commandments to AI to ensure morality.

[1] Cline, Austin. "Analysis of the Sixth Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Kill." ThoughtCo, Jul. 23, 2017, thoughtco.com/sixth-commandment-thou-shalt-not-kill-250905.

[2] Perkic, Albert. "Why did Jesus gave authority to his disciples to forgive sins?" ebible.com, Oct. 13, 2013, ebible.com/answers/6975

[3] "roger". "10 strange verses in the Bible" Amidst a tangled web, Jan. 9, 2012, dan.hersam.com/2006/12/06/10-strange-verses-in-the-bible/#comment-149634

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    What is your question? Does what philosophy prove what precepts wrong? Also note the original text was more akin to "Thou shalt do no murder", which is different since murder is: premeditated unwarranted killing of a human being.
    – MichaelK
    Apr 25, 2018 at 5:33
  • And besides that there are so many problems with this. 1) What is sin? 2) What is an act of sinning? 3) What is the relationship between the people involved after sinning? 4) What does it mean "to forgive"? 5) Why am I obliged to forgive? 6) Is reciprocity a good thing, if so: why? 7) Are there examples of where reciprocity is a warrant to do things I do not want done for me (say, for instance, a masochist that enjoys pain and humiliation but I do not)? 8) Is killing always wrong; what about self-defence; what about willing euthanasia? These issues are just from the top of my head.
    – MichaelK
    Apr 25, 2018 at 6:33
  • Perhaps this is not about sin but just about how best to live. After all, in the Gospel of Thomas Jesus tells us that sin, as such, does not exist. In relation to AI this seems an interesting and topical question, but philosophy can have little to say about it until it has a fundamental theory.
    – user20253
    Apr 25, 2018 at 9:21
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    Just a tongue in cheek comment: Take a masochist and apply the Golden Rule (”Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”) and you will have a problem. This is actually an argument in philosophical literature.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Apr 26, 2018 at 10:55

3 Answers 3


Yes, it can

Your headline question is:

Can philosophy say that these precepts are wrong?

Philosophy has the ability to do that, yes, by pointing to ambiguities, unclear definitions, and contradictions/counter-examples.

Especially in the case of "Thou shalt not kill"; there are plenty of counter-examples where it is justified to kill and therefore invalidating the precept.

Same thing with reciprocity; all you need to do is show that not all persons want the same done to them, and not all persons find the same set of actions abhorrent if done to themselves.

So: can philosophy be used as a tool to invalidate those precepts, or at least force them to be clarified/refined in order to be usable? Yes, with ease.

  • 1
    I see your point. I suppose to a person with an entire reading of the quoted works, to gain context and reference example, it should be clearer in light of the main precepts in the question but, alone they barely define any particular behaviour as wrong depending upon the original perspective of a reader.
    – Willtech
    Apr 25, 2018 at 7:46

I am a little concerned that you see 'philosophy' as a world view, or even a set of beliefs.

Especially your question:

Does philosophy show that these precepts are wrong?

almost seems to be asking: Jesus said killing is wrong ... but what does 'Philosophy' say?

The problem with this is that philosophy is not a set of beliefs, but the pursuit of knowledge and truth. So, just because one is a 'philosopher' does not imply that one beliefs one thing or another. Rather, it means that one thinks very carefully about the issue, and tries to come up with reasons and arguments why some claim may be better than others, that's all.

Indeed, I similarly cringe when I hear: "Scientists say/science says ...". Yes, I understand there is a highly well-confirmed 'body of knowledge' that forms a big part of what we refer to as 'science', and yet, ultimately, science is the method and the process by which we obtain that body of knowledge, and not the body of knowledge itself. And of course that 'body of knowledge' is organic: theories get modified, and sometimes completely rejected or replaced. But it would be silly to then say "Aha, science was wrong!" ... when in fact it was of course science itself that showed certain theories to be wrong.

Using "Philosophy" or "Science" as a stand-in for "what this group of people believes" leads to hasty and sweeping generalizations, straw man fallacies, appeals to authority and intimidation, ad hominems, and silly 'stand-offs' like "science vs religion". In the end it should of course just be about the arguments and the evidence, not whatever label we slap onto things.

  • Examining the commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' I can see several views, some in its justification and, some in its admonishment. I suppose that I presume these views have been philosophically examined. Similarly the concept that none are perfect before the law and, love one another as I have loved you / do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The intended premise of the question is, given scrutiny do these precepts not stand and, hence the follow-up question where it is further clarified that the intention behind each must be well understood.
    – Willtech
    Apr 25, 2018 at 21:40
  • I have my view and find it difficult to evaluate the counterpoints. The whole premise could be a fallacy.
    – Willtech
    Apr 25, 2018 at 21:40
  • Philosophy is not a method. Philosophy is the love, study, or pursuit of wisdom, or of knowledge of things and their causes, whether theoretical or practical. (Oxford English Dictionary) "Thinking carefully" and "trying to come up with reasons and arguments" are not intrinsic to philosophy in any way.
    – Wildcard
    Apr 25, 2018 at 22:10
  • I would upvote this answer for your very accurate point that philosophy is not a world view nor a set of beliefs, but you go on to give your own very limited and really inaccurate definition of philosophy.
    – Wildcard
    Apr 25, 2018 at 22:17
  • I am not sure that I view philosophy as has been suggested, it is probably just my choice of phraseology in the question that gives that impression. "knowledge of things and their causes, whether theoretical or practical." is very much what I am looking for to be applied. @Wildcard
    – Willtech
    Apr 26, 2018 at 8:59

Just War Theory is about when institutional murder can be justified.

'Do Unto Others - ' presupposes being an accurate judge of what they would wish. Research shows a stable percentage of psycopaths across different societies, probably because when well adjusted this provides key benefits, to surgeons, some business roles, in the military etc https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/the-pros-to-being-a-psychopath-96723962/ But not good for empathy.

It is interesting that right wing folk tend to be the most vocally Christian, somehow easily reconciling contradictions between what they call for and actual commandments from Jesus. I would point to the phenomena of post hoc rationalisation, that people reason from values, not consequences https://www.skepticink.com/tippling/2013/11/14/post-hoc-rationalisation-reasoning-our-intuition-and-changing-our-minds/

So more broadly, I would say both commandments offer very little guidance in practice.

  • "... of what they would wish" upon themselves? I am sure that I do not see where the need for empathy ties in when it is first held in regard to self so to do unto others. Mind you, as has been explained in other answers what some want to be done to themselves may be quite astonishing and outside the point of the precept.
    – Willtech
    Apr 26, 2018 at 9:04
  • Ok, self-insight or self-awareness,
    – CriglCragl
    Apr 26, 2018 at 19:30
  • My point was some average level of capacities is assumed, so it's not an appropriate rule for all in practice. Various mental illnesses may manifest in 'doing unto others as they would do unto you', as seen in overconsumption and capitalist exploitation.
    – CriglCragl
    Apr 26, 2018 at 19:45
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    'doing unto others as they would do unto you' - I may still be confused, that seems like a reversal of the precept. Ordinarily, I would expound, 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.' I accept the exceptions that not all have what would be considered reasonable interpretations.
    – Willtech
    Apr 26, 2018 at 22:33

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