I'll now be speaking about the booklet "The Way to Happiness", which I'll call the "WTH", by L. Ron Hubbard (who I'll call "LRH"). Philosophers distinguish theories of happiness into hedonistic theories (narrow or preference), desire fulfilment, and objective lists.
The WTH guide is more of an objective list approach, though it does at times recommend you pursue your passions, which is desire fulfilment. It talks about changing the world as well as changing your own behaviour.
Contrast : Buddhism and Bahai
Buddhism does not in fact believe in a God. So, the claim "it may be the first non-religious secular code of ethics" is a strange one.
Buddhism focuses on our desires causing unhappiness in a transient and impermanent world, with not so much a moral goal as practical goal of shedding our desires. Supplementing this goal are the five precepts of Buddhism, which have strong echoes in the WTH, and themselves comprise an "objective list".
- To refrain from taking life (non-violence towards sentient life forms)
- To refrain from taking that which is not given (not committing theft)
- To refrain from sensual (including sexual) misconduct
- To refrain from lying (to always speak the truth)
- To refrain from intoxicants which lead to loss of mindfulness (specifically, drugs and alcohol)
The Bahai faith contains a list of sentiments about the world :
- Unity of God
- Unity of religion
- Unity of humankind
And then a set of goals for society / the world :
- Equality between men and women
- Elimination of all forms of prejudice
- World peace
- Harmony of religion and science
- Independent investigation of truth
- Universal compulsory education
- Universal auxiliary language
- Elimination of extremes of wealth and poverty
And some precepts for individual behaviour :
- Obedience to government and non-involvement in partisan politics
- Prohibition of Backbiting and gossip
- Prohibition on drinking alcohol or taking drugs, unless prescribed
- Obligatory Prayer
- Annual Fasting
- Sexual relationships are permitted only between a husband and wife, and thus premarital and homosexual sex are forbidden.
- Gambling is forbidden.
- Fanaticism is forbidden.
- Adherence to ritual is condemned, with the notable exception of the obligatory prayer, which has a fixed form.
Bahais follow a mostly positive faith, though elements of their position are intolerant - eg. of homosexual acts, and some thing are "forbidden" rather than discouraged. It is a strange combination of progressive ideals of equality tied to strong limits on behaviour.
Comparisons to Christianity
WTH has some overlap with the ten commandments, with different versions in Judaism, Anglican, Reformed and other Christian, Orthodox, Catholic and Lutheran :
- I am the Lord your God
- You shall have no other gods before me
- You shall not make for yourself an idol
- You shall not make wrongful use of the name of your God
- Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy
- Honour your father and mother
- You shall not murder
- You shall not commit adultery
- You shall not steal
- You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour
- You shall not covet your neighbour's wife
- You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbour
In fact, there are three main lists of commandments in the Hebrew Bible, and just how the commandments are selected is somewhat arbitrary. One list, that of Exodus 34:11-27, talks of a prohibition against boiling a kid goat in its mother's milk.
There's some subtlety in the translation. One sentiment is not to "murder", while the Catholics and others have translated that as "though shalt not kill", a somewhat broader sense. One criticism of the ten commandments is that they put not killing (or murdering) on the same level as much milder transgressions, such as making idols.
Peter Singer has developed a secular code, there's also one in "How to Want What you Have" - there's a set in "Lucy's Lore" - by a Tasmanian author - and there's also a set contained in "How to Want What You Have" by Timothy Miller.
Mere overlap is not of itself a problem. It is a matter of how much genuine creativity you have in deriving your particular set of principles, and how much you gain in making your particular synthesis. Perhaps people derive similar things because they are all seeking the same goal.
Scientology and LRH
Now, it is time to speak of two Elephants in the room : Scientology and L. Ron Hubbard.
There is some tension over the relationship between the WTH book, the WTH foundation and Scientology. How separate are they? What would be the significance of a link?
It's logically possible that the WTH booklet can be distributed without it leading to Scientology. Certainly, some religious groups have taken it up. It's also possible the links are stronger, and it does lead to Scientology.
Still, that's a separate issue to its inherent worth. I'm not therefore going to look at this in detail.
Then, there's it's relationship to its author, LRH. A work is separate to its author, in the same way as a rose can grow from a dung heap.
However, if you claim that something is worthwhile because of its author, then the competence, reputation and ethics of the author become relevant.
Some of the justification of WTH is through the author's wisdom - so we can, then, examine the author's competence. Not to review the book as such, but rather to examine such justifications.
Also, if it is claimed the document contains good ethics because the author was ethical, then we can review the author's ethics. It is possible that someone with poor ethics and could write something on good ethics, but you'd expect they'd be relying on "raw analysis" rather than inspiration from their own experiences and perspective.
We might reflect : when is it that we know something is valid, worthwhile? It can make sense to us. But, other questions are : is it scholarly? Does it put forward experimental results and relevant statistics to back up its claims? Does it draw on relevant philosophical traditions in a worthwhile way?
However, ultimately, a document is worthwhile or not on its own terms, and that's where I'll focus.
Claims about the book, on itself
The WTH Foundation promotes the book as an "antidote" to societal problems, and part of a social reform program.
The Way to Happiness Foundation International was established in 1984 with the mission of reversing the moral decay in society by restoring trust and honesty in the world through the publication and widespread distribution of The Way to Happiness. Today the book is published in 90 languages.
The first moral code based wholly on common sense, first published in 1981, its purpose is to help arrest the current moral decline in society and restore integrity and trust to Man.
Written by L. Ron Hubbard, the book fills the moral vacuum in an increasingly materialistic society. This code of conduct contains 21 basic principles that guide one to a better quality of life.
Exactly what's wrong with society isn't really clear. Materialist principles and moral decay are linked - but there's no detailed description of the problem. The question remains : just what is wrong with society? Is it about us being animals? Evolved animals? Are we inherently good or evil? Are there structures in society which act to increase inequity?
Some material suggests LRH originally connected declining religious instruction in schools to increases in crime. Of course, this is contradicted by the fact that Sweden, which is 85% atheist, also has a quite low rate of crime. To be fair, they might have embedded secular ethical norms - but if this is the case, it deserves investigation as an alternative to LRH's approach.
For all its talk of "moral decay" it is in fact quite "conservative" in its support of existing world institutions - laws - governments - people in governments.
WTH looks at habits which assist in your own happiness. However, it also embarking on a social reform program - changing the ways others behave, making the world a better place and to presumably improving your own happiness.
It also claims that it "may be the first nonreligious moral code based wholly on common sense". While other words are defined, the phrase "Common Sense" is not. Is it something everyone can see? If so, why was LRH uniquely placed to articulate something derived from common sense? There's a tension between being derived from "common sense" and at the same time being a unique synthesis by a particular individual. Some aspects are derived from other ethical systems, which would suggest the origins are in history and philosophy, not just "common sense".
There's a claim of its universal applicability :
Entirely nonreligious, it can be followed by anyone, of any race, color or creed and works to restore the bonds that unite humankind.
Well, I do find things to disagree with; I expect that my disagreements would be shared by many people familiar with ethical philosophy.
The website also states :
But the real power of the booklet is realized when it is distributed to others, hand to hand. Since the actions of those around you can profoundly affect your life, you are improving your own survival when you present copies of The Way to Happiness to friends, associates, employees and customers. In this way, you help others survive better and lead happier lives. They, in turn, pass copies of the book to those whose lives they influence, encouraging others to treat their fellows with kindness, compassion and respect.
So, happiness is not just dependent on your own choices, but rather on the world around you. You need to change the world in order to improve your chances of being happy, and not surprisingly, further promotion of the principle in the book is the thing that represents positive change to the world.
However, we could equally say that having more people embrace the positive aspects of the different religions, and tolerating each other, would also make the world a better place. We could even have them embrace the ideals of Humanism. Or perhaps a viewpoint informed by modern ethical philosophy, maybe drawing from Peter Singer.
In times past, we had the idea of the "Age of Aquarius". This was the idea that once the number of people in society who embraced hippie values reached a critical point, the world would undergo a dramatic change for the better. It wasn't clear how much resulted from shared values, or how much was the result of some astrological phenomenona.
It also informed the Human Potential Movement - though it is not clear whether we are talking about individuals changing, or some mass change as more people experienced their human potential. Such movements resulted in entities like the Landmark Forum.
In any case, the idea that "once a large number of people endorse principle X, the world will be a better place" - has been around for a while.
It is advertised as a guide for "making good choices". We're separating out "good choices" from "being happy" - but presumably good choices will make us more happy, or at least increase the odds.
The web site claims many successes as the result of the introduction of the booklet. I'm not sure on the details, but I'd prefer a peer reviewed analysis of the results in a respected journal. Further, a control would be good - how would it compare to the introduction of Buddhism, or general ethics education in schools that is intellectually separate to the WTH? It's possible that distribution of the WTH has caused some good, and improved the depth of some people's ethical awareness; but that does not mean it's the only or best way of causing that sort of improvement.
These instructions seem way too detailed. We could see them as either broadening the audience or being patronising.
"I gave you this book because your survival is important to me". Well, someone may have that sentiment, but that does not mean that reading this book will necessarily improve your survival.
Happiness can be something we contemplate after the fundamentals are taken care of; but we can reflect on those fundamentals. This introduction makes some points which are partly true but don't seem to lead anywhere.
Trying to survive in a chaotic, dishonest and generally immoral society would be difficult if it were that way. I think society has both good and bad parts, and it seems too sweeping a generalisation.
The actions of others can influence your survival and happiness. True. However, by your own choices and actions, you can make yourself less susceptible to the actions of others.
Happiness cannot be guaranteed, but the book suggests you can improve your odds. Seems reasonable, we'll be considering the detail.
Now let's look at the principles themselves. Contrary to what the titles suggest, the details often go in a different direction. The commentary often makes the rule a lot narrower, or only applicable to a small part of the population. We might wonder whether the claimed philosophical quandaries are really quandaries, and whether the proposed solutions really are solutions.
Often, the claim seems superficial in the light of broader things going on in the world. You might make the defence that a concise summary must necessarily leave things out, but I think this is not the case. WTH seems to try to gain greater support for its assertions by making them decisively without engaging with the greater depth of the world; in this sense, I think that saying "that's all the writer had time for" is no defence. I do in fact see a lot material that could have been expressed differently to make room these qualifiers and additional statements; leaving this extra material out does distort the picture.
Some claim it is "carefully worded", so the principles can be reasonably adhered to. However, this different from things being carefully reasoned - we need to do more that just define our coverage. Still, it's a fair point that a moral code needs to feasible for humans to embrace it. I do, however, feel that other moral codes, such as those behind Buddhism and Peter Singer's works, are more rationally coherent and are also things humans can adopt.
1. Take Care of Yourself
It may be prudent to take care of yourself, but do you have the right to harm yourself?
The sentiment seems to be "If you wish to be happy, then you should take care of yourself". In fact you need to take care of yourself for a longer life - but your version of happiness might be focused on a short, brief, intense, unhealthy life.
Maybe this will directly contribute to you being happy, rather than merely create its preconditions. But the section seems to focus on avoiding harming others, rather than showing how these things will make you happy.
The second last sentiment - eat properly - asserts that ill fed people can be ill-tempered - that is unhappy. So, we do have a link to our own happiness here.
2. Be Temperate
This section makes generalisations about drug users. Some do go off the rails; but some effective people hold down jobs and live valid lives, and are also drug users. Some people use hallucinogenic drugs regularly, some may have used them only once, but they testify to what they've learnt from them.
In comparison, Buddhism recommends avoiding drugs which reduce mindfulness.
I have a commitment to several libertarian notions, in particular the freedom of others to take actions, so long as they do not harm others. Can we recommend that people do not do something, while at the same time granting them the right to? I think it's possible, but the case needs to be made with finesse. It's too easy for a coercive "we know what's best for you" to contaminate our prescriptions.
How might drugs directly influence someone's happiness? If you're not making crucial decisions, it doesn't really matter. If you are making crucial decisions, you need a clear head. You're perhaps more likely to offend others if you don't have a clear head, but the social setting also has an influence.
You're more noticed if you do something different to others around you. Further, you would not want to be intoxicated while running a machine or driving a car - on the one hand you might get caught, but also you might injure yourself and/or others. Here, we're assuming that you want to avoid bad judgements because they might hurt yourself or hurt your reputation, both of which would cumulatively undermine your chance of sustaining happiness.
On a separate level, drugs may harm our body. But so too can many risky things we embark on. And we may in fact gain something in the transaction. Point is, this is a factual matter, and I think it too ambiguous to justify a general prohibition.
So what's the conclusion we might draw?
"Maintain a state of awareness commensurate with your responsibilities and potential for causing offence or your potential for taking offence and becoming either verbally or physically violent. So long as you keep this in mind, the situation permits it, and you are not doing yourself undue harm, you may alter your state of awareness by taking mind altering drugs (including alcohol and caffeine, but also stronger drugs) without harming your chances of being happy in the short or long term."
3. Don't Be Promiscuous
There may be a moral argument, but it is separate to any health risks. WTH seems to ignore the effectiveness of condoms in preventing the transmission of Sexually Transmitted Infections, or STIs. To merely warn against promiscuity, without the details of how harm might come about seems odd. Some people might choose promiscuity but arrange things so they do not cause harm.
There's been some controversy over whether to distribute condoms in Africa, and the trade off between promiscuity and harm reduction. The book does not seem to properly engage with this reality.
Strangely, the book states that the misuse or abuse of sex carries with it heavy penalties and punishments; nature seems to have intended it that way. This attributes "nature" with a "moral intent". STIs evolved because people had sex with multiple partners. Many non-sexual diseases evolved because of agriculture and animal husbandry. I really see the evolution behind the development of diseases as an "opportunistic" thing on the part of microbes, not something we can label with "intent", or draw moral conclusions from. (Note by "opportunistic" I'm not trying to label microbes with "intent" - it is something of a metaphor.)
Being promiscuous might cause longer term harm or frustration as a result of the attitudes or approaches to life that might thereby result. Well, maybe. But that requires a detailed case.
Buddhism suggests not causing sexual (and other) harm. But the WTH makes a further dramatic claim about Buddhism :
The problems of sexual misbehaviour are not new. The powerful religion of Buddhism in India vanished from there in the seventh century. According to its own historians, the cause was sexual promiscuity in its monasteries.
It is a provocative claim to make, particularly given that Buddhism promotes the avoidance of sexual harm, and many Buddhist Monks undertake to avoid sexual activity. If you are saying that certain things are the case because of your interpretation, well, fair enough, but this sort of claim obliges you to cite references.
My reading of "A history of Civilisation" by W Durant, however, suggests that the disappearance of Buddhism in India was caused by the influx of Islam.
I have contacted people associated with the Sydney Buddhist Library and the Santi Forest Monastery at Bundanoon for further information. SB tells me that the Muslim invasions of the 11th Century eliminated Buddhism in India - quite different to the narrative in the WTH. He also tells me that Buddhism does not have any of its own historians, which is contrary to the WTH.
However, some things might have formed the basis for WTH's assertion, if the original author heard about Buddhism second or third hand.
Buddhism had gone into decline prior to its eventual elimination. SB (and presumably other Buddhists) say this resulted from Buddhism becoming a religion for the elite with less relevance for villagers. At the same time, there was an increase in Tantra, or ritualised sex. However, this is considered to be a separate development to mainstream Buddhism, and to the extent it influenced Buddhism, it is thought to have come from Hindu or even Shamanistic influences.
So, at best, we can see the above link to Buddhism as a distortion based on misunderstanding, or at worst an absurd unreferenced claim, and in ether case hardly any basis for an argument.
4. Love and Help Children
This section seems to focus not on children at large, but rather on your own children, and advocates taking raising children seriously.
It doesn't consider why you'd want to have children in the first place. If we have our own children, taking the process seriously means we might not be overwhelmed and become unhappy. And perhaps we ought to take it seriously, regardless of our own happiness. But what if we don't want children?
Our society has a lot of hypocrisy. Children are our greatest resource, but once you have grown up, you've become the very thing we were all waiting for, but you're on the scrap heap.
Separately to this hypocrisy, should we take raising children seriously, and love and help them? Normally, kin selection kicks in and we need no prompting to be concerned. Maybe we need consciously focus on it too.
Perhaps more broadly we should help the deserving, those unable to care for themselves. Why children in particular? Or our own children?
5. Honor and Help Your Parents
A good idea, but parents can be enmeshed and cause harm without realising it. What if your parents are dead and you can't? The advice seems targeted at a particular subgroup. It is not qualified with "Honor and Help your parents if they are still alive".
6. Set a Good Example
A good idea. Certainly, doing what you feel right, having resistance to criticism is worthwhile. Still, you need to be able to accept valid criticism. The problem is figuring out what that is.
How does it make you happy? Having the emotional courage to do your thing in the face of criticism might mean you're also happy, but it seems tangential.
I'd suggest : do what you feel is right, but think carefully about criticism and thoughts from others, particularly those which are thought out and not merely emotional attacks. Other's comments may originate in self-interest, but it worth being open to genuine feedback.
7. Seek to Live with the Truth
Yes, a good idea, but the book's notions of "false data" and "what's right for you" seem problematic. Knowledge as "justified true facts" and similar such ideas are a part of mainstream philosophy, but are ignored. It's not clear how the books ideas are superior to those of mainstream philosophy.
What about happiness? Wrong ideas about the world means we can make bad decisions. It can be advantageous to make irrational decisions if everyone else is too, they are then "good but irrational".
But I can't see a direct connection. Believing in Creationism, and indeed God is to believe in something false. But I can't see that those beliefs necessarily make people unhappy.
8. Do Not Murder
This endorses the legal framework naively. State condoned killing may not be ethical.
A better sentiment would be "Do not kill for self-interest, except in self defence where you have done everything possible to avoid being in circumstances where killing someone is necessary. If you are to kill on behalf of the state, ensure in your own mind that the state is operating from just principles."
9. Don't Do Anything Illegal
Some laws may be immoral - for example, boys kissing each other, indeed having sex at one stage. They also capture class differences.
Norrie May Welby, an androgynous Sydney Activist, now identifying as female, tells me that in WA in decades past, there was a prohibition against males kissing (3 years), fellating or wanking (7 years) or fucking (14 years) - this was in the Criminal Code of WA, as in other states. These laws were used by police in attempts at intimidation; the education dept used this criminality to impose a blanket ban against gays becoming teachers.
Norrie say that had she not broken this law, she would have been driven to suicidal despair.
Here's one historical unjust law; there may be other such laws today.
WTH is quite naive about the law. Laws can capture something worthwhile, and we should not recklessly break the law, or do so in self interest. However, we should not assume that the law is perfect, either.
I would say "One should not do anything illegal, unless you are making civil disobedience against an unjust law, where you should take care that self interest is not masquerading as the pursuit of justice."
10. Support a Government Designed and Run For All the People
This presumes a false dichotomy between corrupt governments and good governments run for the people. In fact, a government might be problematic but between the two extremes. It may not be obvious that a government should or should not be supported.
Much as WTH makes the worthwhile suggestion that civics should be taught and is worth understanding, it also says "it is not a very difficult subject if you look up the big words".
Now, you'd normally think of that as patronising, though elements of the Scientology doctrine do emphasise learning by looking things up in a dictionary. But, in any case, it is a strange thing to say out of the blue.
11. Do Not Harm A Person of Goodwill
You'd think it would be best to avoid harming anyone. In fact, this section focuses on un-appreciated public figures who are doing their best. That's a point. It is too easy to make superficial criticism of all politicians, when some may be making a good effort.
Still : how many public figures are in fact involved in corruption and dodgy dealings? How endemic is it? It's not clear. It is an interesting contrast to the earlier idea that we are living in a "chaotic, dishonest and generally immoral society".
My own version :
"Do not criticise public figures superficially, or embrace superficial notions such as criticising all politicians just because they are politicians. At the same time, be willing to make criticisms if they are structured and supported by objective evidence, and do not originate in a particular political standpoint."
12. Safeguard and Improve Your Environment
Yes; such notions have been developed by philosophers such as Peter Singer.
This section advocates being "of good appearance". An interest in your appearance is normally considered one part of being sane. WTH puts the value judgement that being of poor appearance indicates a lack of self respect. WTH also emphasises that the effort involved is minimal, and that it can improve your own happiness.
There's some truth here. However, it is worth reflecting that society can discriminate unfairly based on appearance. You can get caught up in a vicious circle of concern about your own appearance - "The Beauty Myth" by Naomi Woolf. Excessive concern for your own appearance can be dysfunctional - but this flip side of the coin is ignored.
The next sentiment is to take care of your own area, preaching the virtues of being structured and organised. Certainly, I'll agree with this sentiment.
There's some sentiments about available resources; the magnitude of the "surplus" - but what about problems with materialism? What about analyses of injustices built into the economic system? The prescriptions seem superficial in this light.
13. Do Not Steal
Property rights are problematic. I'm not suggesting we steal, but injustices may be built into the fact that ownership is unevenly distributed. This may be the result of moral effort - or it may be the result of pre-existing injustices. But underlying justice is presumed in the WTH.
A better sentiment would be : "Develop a philosophical standpoint with respect to property rights. Understand the injustices that can result, but at the same time maintain an ethical dialogue and do not steal for its own sake or in self-interest."
WTH claims stealing harms the stealer, and stolen goods must be hidden. I do not approve of stealing, but that's just plain wrong. Many stolen goods can be used effectively. Many things are stolen, not for one's own use, but rather for the purpose of selling them on.
It is not clear that thieves are less happy. I cannot comment on their world as an outsider. Certainly, it is a life with different risks - of being caught, and perhaps being imprisoned - or perhaps being shot and injured or killed in a gang war. Some people, however, are drawn to legal risky professions, and indeed participation in war can be very risky. It is a different world, and I'd rather there were fewer people in it. But I don't claim those in it are necessarily less happy.
WTH also claims that all those who steal are either insane or making the admission that they are not capable enough to make it honestly. This is a simplistic dichotomy, and pretty much assumes the duality it claims. While I do not approve of crime, some criminals are competent and skilled in their way. To claim they are not capable enough to make it honestly is simplistic.
14. Be Worthy of Trust
Yes; Being worthy of trust has its benefits. Does it make you happy? Certainly, losing yourself in lies means you're on a downwards spiral.
The section talks of human relationships. We can see this as leading into the worth of friends, though it does not seem that the WTH explicitly mentions the worth of friends.
Friends you can trust can be a source of Happiness - that is one part of the Epicurean prescription for Happiness - and for you to have friends you can trust, they need to be able to trust you.
Alain de Botton incorporated the Epicurean view in his "Philosophy : A Guide to Happiness". In fact, that's another prescription for happiness which draws from the ideas of philosophers in times past; something of a competitor for the target audience of the WTH, I guess. I wonder what the WTH foundation would think of Alain de Botton's works?
However, being "worthy of trust" puts a definite emotional slant on it. There is some worth in this sentiment, but again a single swallow does not make spring.
15. Fulfill Your Obligations
This a worthwhile goal, but there WTH seems to incorporate value judgements around notions like "responsibility". The WTH asserts statements like "I never asked to be born" are merely excuses to evade responsibility. Still, Mecken's sentiment was "I never asked to be here, but now that I am, I'll make the most of it.".
Where do obligations come from? The individual, or the world? Perhaps we should look at the other side of the coin : "Do not make obligations you are unable to fulfil".
16. Be Industrious
Well, circumstances may be unjustly coercing us to work. Equally, it does seem that people are enriched when they are doing a job they enjoy. Perhaps there's some worth in this sentiment.
Based on my experience, you'd want to have hobbies you can feel good about your progress in, and do work where its results are appreciated and you have money to spend as a result. OK, it makes me happy. But it is not clear that should necessarily make everyone happy.
One goal which psychologists talk about is to "have a goal in life". Perhaps that's a better sentiment.
17. Be Competent
In order to enjoy the rewards of a hobby, sport or work, you need to be competent, which will probably make you happy.
Perhaps better put : "be willing to invest time into skills; if you do not spend some time developing yourself you are probably leading an unbalanced life".
18. Respect the Religious Beliefs of Others
Rather than the religious beliefs of other individuals, this seems an endorsement of organised religion. Certainly it's worthwhile to respect the beliefs of others. Respect does not mean letting them hit one over you with what they are saying, but you can accept their right to have their view.
Some exceptions might the case for extreme racism and intolerance, but it is a good general principle.
19. Try Not to Do Things to Others That You Would Not Like Them to Do to You
20. Try To Treat Others as You Would Want Them to Treat You
These are known as the Silver and Golden rules, and have a long history. They're also known as the negative and positive forms of the reciprocity rule.
Ancient Greek Philosophy expresses these principles :
Pittacus : "Do not to your neighbour what you would take ill from him."
Thales : "Avoid doing what you would blame others for doing."
With other Greek philosophers saying similar things. The sentiment is also expressed, mostly in negative form, in religions, particularly Eastern religions, such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism and Bahai. It is expressed in positive form in Christianity.
It's a good rule; both secular and religious variants have been put forward in the past. Is there some benefit to its being in this collection that they do not have in the other sets of rules?
WTH focuses on the Silver Rule as asking us to not do harm to each other, and on the Golden Rule as having us do good things to each other.
However, other commentaries criticise the implicit arrogance of the Golden Rule. It insists on the primacy of your own tastes, which you force onto others. Some people have this problem. In contrast, the Silver Rule is more humble and circumspect.
WTH makes the reasonable suggestion that behaving in a certain way gets other people to reflect that behaviour back at you, and that can be counterproductive.
It also claims top professionals are decent people. My own experience is that they are sometimes arrogant. Some people at the top of politics even have a "born to rule" mentality and look down on the very people who vote for them.
21. Flourish and Prosper
This section talks about the competitiveness of life, and the fact that some people will try to undermine your progress, but as you succeed, you'll be able to power ahead and ignore them. That makes sense, so long as you can distinguish genuine feedback from attempts to undermine you.
Happiness lies in engaging in worthwhile activities. A good sentiment.
The section invites the reader to go ahead with the plan, and get past setbacks. Well, that's good advice for any plan.
WTH encapsulates some worthwhile sentiments, but most of those sentiments have precursors elsewhere. In other cases, its prescriptions are naive, simplistic or just plain wrong; further, they seem to have a taint of the "conservative, authoritarian" outlook.
If you're at the start of your moral journey, the principles in the WTH may be an improvement on a simplistic ethical code with no depth. However, if it is useful it is something to think about and disagree with, and the process may well help increase your depth of understanding of moral ideas, and perhaps then move on to contemporary ethical philosophy, as might be captured in writers such as Peter Singer.