Why do you choose these rules over others?
After reading the Lesson Seven material, go the the following link and read the essay by Carl Sagan entitled The Rules of the
Afterward, please write an essay addressing the following questions.
1.Which rule(s) do you live by personally? Give specific examples of how you apply the rules you identified in your life. Why do you choose these rules over others?
Defend your personal position with sound reasoning.
2. Red Corp hires you to consult on an ethical issue they are facing. Red Corp recently discovered that its customer database has been hacked and published online,
along with the customer database of one of its competitors, Blue Corp. Red Corp had no knowledge of or involvement with the hacking until a Red Corp employee stumbled
upon the files published on the internet. Blue Corp and Red Corp have always operated with respect for one another, with no prior instances of underhandedness. Red
Corp doesn’t believe that Blue Corp has discovered the hacking yet, but it believes that if Blue Corp does discover it (or if Red Corp tells Blue Corp about it), Blue
Corp will almost certainly use Red Corp’s customer information against it (i.e. try to steal Red Corp’s customers). What do you advise Red Corp to do? Use the
information and go after Blue Corp’s customers? Ignore it and hope that Blue Corp doesn’t find it? Something else? On which of the rule(s) discussed in the Sagan
essay do you base your recommendations, and why?
3. Suppose that Red Corp decides to use the database, and begins under-bidding Blue Corp and taking its customers. Witnessing this, Blue Corp investigates and
discovers the customer databases (both Blue Corp’s and Red Corp’s) online. If Blue Corp does nothing, it believes that Red Corp will continue to steal customers. Blue
Corp hires you to consult on a response. What do you advise Blue Corp to do? Retaliate? Ignore the information and the attack by Red Corp? Something else? On which of
the rule(s) discussed in the Sagan essay do you base your recommendations, and why?
4. Did you rely on the same rules in your advice to question #1 and #2?
If you did, can you think of a different set of circumstances in which you would have given different advice (and relied on different rules)?
If you did not, why not? How were these situations different such that the difference caused you to change your basis of morality?
IMPORTANT NOTE: For the sake of these questions, you may assume that the published customer databases cannot be removed from the internet, and that law enforcement
cannot help. While in reality, these options would be perfectly reasonable, they aren’t relevant to the purpose of the assignment.
This assignment should at a minimum contain 2,000 words of content (double spaced) and should be in APA format including a properly formatted cover page (abstracts are
optional) and a reference page with at least three (3) NEW references (“new” here means references that you have not already used in previous assignments in this
course). Providing additional references to your assignments demonstrate your desire to conduct additional research on the topic area, and can improve your research
With all assignments, include properly formatted in-text citations within the body of your work for each of your listed references so the reader can ascertain your
original thoughts or ideas as well as the portion of your work that is credited to credible sources. It is very important to identify work from other sources to ensure
that proper credit is provided to researchers in the field. This assignment uses Turn It In for originality verification.
Submit the weekly written assignment as an MS Word attachment (.doc or .docx format). A recommended font is 12pt Times New Roman. DO NOT include discussion board
answers with your formally written assignment submission.
Rubric for this assignment found in the Resources section.
Lesson Seven: Moral Codes
Lesson Six discussed some of the types of power wielded by leaders, as well as the dichotomy between transactional and transformational leadership. Lesson Seven will
introduce the different codifications of moral precepts over the course of human history which have attempted to simplify moral prescriptions.
Codification of Moral Precepts
Early on in this course, we defined the concept of ethics as determined by the morality of maximizing well-being for all individuals involved. However, it should be
quite clear at this point that determining what is right and what is wrong, and identifying the course of action that maximizes well-being for all individuals
involved, is rarely simple or easy. Thus, in an effort to demystify this problem for laypersons, great philosophers over the centuries have made considerable efforts
to try to codify certain moral rules of thumb (think of them as guidelines for moral conduct) that can be applied universally to different situations and always yield
the best choice). The long and short of this now-millennia-old work is that there aren’t any such rules which always render the best result. Too much of the mechanics
of morality relies on the circumstances of each unique situation. However, acquiring a basic understanding of the competing philosophies for moral codes will help
anyone deliberating about the ethics of their own behavior—or the behavior of others—to reason about the alternatives in a more informed way. With that said, below
as a brief summary of these different “rules”. To assist the reader with further reading in this area, the great astronomer and public educator Carl Sagan wrote at
length about these rules in his book Billions and Billions (2011).
The ‘Iron’ Rule: The iron rule is perhaps the crudest of all the rules, and rests on a premise of blind self-interest. The iron rule is generally written as “do unto
others as you please before they do unto you.” In this sense, the iron rule embraces something of a ‘Theory X’ philosophy about the nature of human beings, and the
inevitable threat that we pose to one another. To put each of these rules into context, we can use the relatable example of World War II and the actions taken therein.
With an iron rule lens, we could actually justify the actions of both Nazi Germany and imperial Japan. Assuming that competitors cannot be trusted to respect the
sovereignty of others, the iron rule would clearly suggest that Germany and Japan were justified in attacking first, lest they become the victims of their own
procrastination when they are inevitably attacked by their enemies at some later point in time. One thing to notice is that while the iron rule might appease selfish
motives, it is neither a mutually-compatible nor a sustainable moral prescription. In other words, any two (or more) individuals that co-exist and adopt an iron rule
philosophy will inevitably find themselves in conflict with one another until one or both (or all) are destroyed. The end game of the iron rule would be the survival
of one human being who, after slaying his last fellow man, has no one left to pre-emptively conquer. For these reasons, the iron rule is rarely a moral precept that
has any practical value in 21st century human affairs.
The ‘Brass’ Rule: Next in our list of precepts comes the brass rule. The brass rule is usually stated as “do unto others as they do unto you.” The main premise of the
brass rule was perhaps most famously enshrined in The Hammurabi Code, the justice philosophy of the ancient Babylonian people of Mesopotamia (Mar, 2000). The Hammurabi
Code was one of the first legal doctrines in recorded history, and it consisted of hundreds of different tenets, but one of its most essential was the principle that
people should be made to pay in-kind for their debts and misdeeds. The Hammurabi Code is in fact the source from which the Christian Bible derived the notion of “an
eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” (King Hammurabi predated the story of Jesus Christ by almost 1,800 years). On it’s face, the brass rule sounds fair and equitable,
but when followed to its logical conclusion, serious flaws arise. Consider our example of World War II. If we can agree that Germany and Japan executed unprovoked
attacks, then the brass rule would support the right of the Allied forces to respond with force in-kind, and that should theoretically rebalance the scales and
conclude the execution of justice. However, to assume all parties would agree that these attacks were truly unprovoked is to seriously err in one’s assessment of human
psychology and world history, and to completely ignore documented evidence to the contrary. Neither Adolf Hitler nor Emperor Hirohito truly believed that their
military attacks were unprovoked; there were long strings of historical events that (in their own view) compelled these two men to take the military actions that they
did (defeat in WWI and the humiliation of Germany for Hitler, and western imperialism for Hirohito). However, this yields a problem. If the attacks by Germany and
Japan were in fact retaliatory, and justifiable under the brass rule as a means of rectifying past indiscretions, then the Allied responses to those attacks were in
fact additional, separate offensive acts, against which Germany and Japan should respond (per the brass rule) again. From the differing perspective of the Allied
powers, they are simply correcting their own perceived balances. So each side sees their own actions as justice, and the exchange of justice (in this case violence)
never ends until there is nothing and no one left to suffer in retribution. As Gandhi famously said, “an eye for an eye ends up making the whole world blind.”
The ‘Golden’ and ‘Silver’ Rules: The next two rules are discussed together, as they are in fact one in the same. First, the golden rule is perhaps the best-known
“rule” of all those we will discuss in this lesson. Some interpretation of the golden rule can be found in almost every major religion on the planet, although, like
the brass rule, there is historical evidence of the golden rule’s inception nearly 4,000 years ago…much earlier than the establishment of any of the world’s main
religions today (Singer, 1963). The golden rule is typically written as “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Now, the silver rule is actually an
implied derivative of the golden rule (i.e. it could be said that the silver rule is just the golden rule written another way). The only actual distinction between the
golden rule and the silver rule is the negation of the active verbs; the silver rule is written “do not do unto others as you would not have them do unto you”. For
many who read the golden rule and silver rule in sequence for the first time, it may be difficult to see any meaningful distinction (i.e. why bother with this
separation at all?). However, it is important to note that the main philosophy of the silver rule is simply to prohibit conduct which the subscriber would not wish
done to him or her (i.e. it is about the omission of action). By contrast, the golden rule implies an affirmative duty to perform positive acts in service to others,
so long as those acts are consistent with the type of behavior that the actor would want others to do to him or her. Now, we may be tempted to think that the golden
rule is flawless…especially because of its widespread teaching in faith systems (most notably, Christianity). However, closer examination in context reveals obvious
weaknesses. Let us look to our World War II example yet again. Suppose that we are members of the Allied forces who have just witnessed attacks by Germany and Japan.
If violence is not the sort of conduct that we desire from others, then both the silver and golden rules demand that we refrain from any type of military response; the
golden and silver rules do not admit of exceptions for revenge, retaliation, or even self-defense. If we were to maintain rigid compliance with these rules, we would
be left with no option but to “turn the other cheek” and stand idly by as Nazi Germany and imperial Japan slaughtered their way around the globe. Gandhi was quoted
earlier in this lesson, and as a pacifist this absurd silver/golden rule conclusion was something with which Gandhi struggled intensely, in terms of reconciling value
and discerning the most-right response. As a pacifist, Gandhi admonished any type of violence, even in self-defense. However, Gandhi eventually revealed some serious
flaws in his own reasoning when he was asked about what Jews in holocaust concentration camps should do, and he responded that they should commit mass suicide in a
celebration of martyrdom. Clearly, no one is perfect, and in fairness to Gandhi, he was very humble and honest about the fact that this was a point of conflict and
difficulty for him.
The ‘Tin’ Rule: One special conglomeration of two of the above-described rules is called the tin rule. The tin rule suggests that individuals should behave with brute
callousness toward those who are inferior to the actor, and behave with careful consideration and compassion toward those who are superior (Kizza, 2010). In this
sense, the tin rule is a sort of melding of the iron rule (toward those below) with the golden rule (toward those above). This is commonplace behavior for individuals
who are commonly referred to as bullies (toward the inferior) or suck-ups (toward the superior). Using our World War II example, historians might justifiably argue
that Mussolini’s Italy adopted a tin rule policy, whereby they respected and allied themselves with the militarily-superior Nazi Germany, but used their power to help
conquer smaller and weaker European and North African countries. Although we obviously frown upon this type of behavior in civilized societies, it’s worth noting that
most of the animal kingdom, including the rest of our primate brethren, practice the tin rule with regularity. As unjust as it may be, it holds significant survival
The Nepotism Rule: This final rule is actually a caveat on the rest of the rules discussed previously in our lesson. The nepotism rule is simply a condition by which
priority in treatment and consideration is given to those who are close to the actor personally (people, groups, etc.) at the expense of those who are not. This is
also called favoritism, and it obviously violates the objectivity that should underpin sound moral reasoning.
In this lesson, we discussed the different codifications of moral precepts over the course of human history which have attempted to simplify moral prescriptions.
Lesson Eight will discuss the various stages of moral development within individuals, as well as the way moral intensity is rationalized on a case-by-case basis.
Dunhua, Z. (2002). Reconstruction and the modern significance of the value classification in Chinese ancientry. Philosophical Researche, 1.
Kizza, J. M. (2010). Morality and the Law. Ethical and Social Issues in the Information Age, 15-30.
Mar, G. (2000). Evolutionary game theory, morality, and Darwinism. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 7(1-2), 322-326.
Sagan, C. (2011). Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium. Ballantine books.
Singer, M. G. (1963). The golden rule. Philosophy, 38(146), 293-314.