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Early morning philosophy...

The reason a good citizen does not use such destructive 

means to become wealthier is that, if everyone did so, we would
all become poorer from the mutual destructiveness. This is Kantian
ethics; or, the Golden Rule. Since I do not like the consequences
that result if everyone hoards information, I am required to
consider it wrong for one to do so. Specifically, the desire to be
rewarded for one's creativity does not justify depriving the world
in general of all or part of that creativity.

Stallman arguing Kantian ethics in the GNU manifesto.


I like Kantian ethics, they are rational, not emotional, so I was pleased when I read this this morning.
But, Stallman, rather embarrassingly, confuses the Golden Rule with the Categorical imperative (but argues with the later).

The Golden Rule is based on reciprocity, it states:
"Never impose on others what you would not choose for

yourself." (Confucius :))

Or in the positive:
Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do

to you, do ye even so to them (Matthew 7:12)


I remember discussing the Christian version of the Golden Rule with my teacher in 4th grade. She claimed that following the Golden Rule would mean we would be all nice to each other. Being the logical thinker that I am I argued that this is not necessarily true, if someone for example likes to be hit, this would mean this person can go around hitting others. I remember because I was surprised that I had managed to make a grownup blush.

While the Golden Rule is personal the Categorical Imperative is political (as is the GNU manifesto). One should behave in a way, that if the behaviour is universalised it does not "create incoherent or impossible states of natural affairs". Or how my mom used to put it: "What if everyone would do that?"
Societies are created by individuals and by our individual action we state in which kind of society we want to live in. For some this means founding the free software movement.



Comments:

Glad I'm not the only one who noticed this.   Posted on 21 May 2016, 11:45 by alf42red
This has bugged me since I read the GNU manifesto for the first time. There's another mistake that he makes when he confuses Kantian ethics with the Golden Rule: The Categorical Imperative doesn't apply to actions! It applies to unconditional (=categorical) and general principles that you explicitly choose to follow, i. e. it applies to maxims. The question "What if everyone would do that?" still doesn't explain the Categorical Imperative invented by Kant. There's no mention of a choice to follow your own first principles and there's no mention of intentions at all. It should be more like "What if everybody would want that?".

This is just as important as the distinction between personal and universal rules because the Golden Rule is contradictory and the Categorical Imperative is designed to avoid (self-)conflicting intentions.

An example for a conflict of the Golden Rule, just to explain this difference: The judge who can send a dangerous murderer to prison. This is what you get when you take the Golden Rule literally and unconditionally: The judge doesn't want to go to prison so he shouldn't send the murderer to prison.
On the other hand the judge doesn't want to be threatened by the dangerous murderer and shouldn't impose this danger on other people. So the Golden Rule also tells him to send the murderer to prison.
These are two contradicting conclusions of the unconditional Golden Rule and the example isn't even far-fetched.
Immanuel Kant might have said: There's no moral value in either choice if there's no maxim behind them. If you send the murderer to prison because you want to protect human life, then this choice will be of moral value because its maxim generalizes without conflict.