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Russian Studies in Philosophy, vol. 41, no. 1 (Summer 2002), pp. 4664. 2003 M.E. Sharpe, Inc. All rights reserved. 10611967/2003 $9.50 + 0.00.


Talion and the Golden Rule

A Critical Analysis of Associated Contexts
Talion and the Golden Rule are usually considered expressions of successive historical stages in the development of morality. The conventional wisdom is that talionlex (jus) talionisis a form of social control corresponding to a fairly early (but not primitive, as some would have it) stage of the development of human communities. From a purely historical point of view, talion (from the Latin talioretribution equal to the crime, from talisof such a kind) is a rule of punishment for crime according to which the retribution should strictly correspond to the harm inflicted.1 The rule goes back to the archaic custom of blood vengeance which it supplanted. In contemporary normative research, talion is frequently interpreted more broadly as a rule of equal recompense. This is historically incorrect, but in theoretical analysis it is permissible as a general idea of a special type of control of human interrelations. It is precisely in this context that we understand the accepted opinion that as social relations develop and become richer talion is pushed to the periphery of human relations by another, more refined normative form, the Golden Rule, the appearance of which marks the emergence of morality in the contemporary sense of the word.2 Thus, talion is seen as a premoral form of social control, although if it is taken in the indicated strict sense then, historically, it antecedes not so much morality as institutionalized law.3
English text 2003 by M.E. Sharpe, Inc., from the Russian text 2001 by the Presidium of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Talion i zolotoe pravilo: kriticheskii analiz sopriazhennykh kontekstov, Voprosy filosofii, 2001, no. 3, pp. 7284. A publication of the Institute of Philosophy, Russian Academy of Sciences. Ruben Grantovich Apresian is a doctor of philosophical sciences and head of a sector at the Institute of Philosophy of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Translated by James E. Walker.



However, as experience shows, far from disappearing with the development of morality, actions prescribed by the logic of talion continue to be an important part of the behavior of civilized man to this day and are by no means merely a vestige (although at times that too). In the living moral consciousness, talion and the Golden Rule can be distinguished but, frequently, they are not distinguished and this is certainly not due to a mere deficiency of liberal education or moral insensitivity. In reality, both talion and the Golden Rule, even in the more developed and defined form of the commandment of love, function in contemporary normative culture in different imperative-evaluative contexts that are superimposed on one another. Contrary to the ethical-philosophical and moralizing criticism leveled at it, talion is actively used in peoples practical relations as a vital regulative tool for resolving conflicts and restraining excessive, destructive aggression. On the other hand, belief in the existing ethical rationalizations that distinguish the Golden Rule and talion as moral and extramoral rules disarms anyone who is concerned about the moral determinacy of his decisions and thereby drives him into an ethical impasse. The formal closeness of the rules fosters their integration. Their closeness is based on the fact that the Golden Rule historically (as I have already noted) and normatively-logically (as I shall show) grows out of talion in its progressive normative reinterpretation. But combinations of the rules run the risk of mixing them badly. A critical analysis of the associated and intersecting contexts of talion and the Golden Rule allows us to rethink these regulative formulas and reassess their real place in contemporary normative culture. In this article, I develop a view of talion and the Golden Rule significantly different from that which I presented in my article The Golden Rule [Zolotoe pravilo],4 although the fluidity of various existing interpretations of the Golden Rule can already be seen in the analysis of its deviations and variations undertaken in that article. Here, by way of reconceptualizing talion and the Golden Rule and using some of the illustrative material from that article, I intend to show that (a) the ethical content of talion and the Golden Rule can be refined and specified if their normative context is expanded; (b) in particular, if they are more clearly correlated with the Christian commandment of love; (c) the Golden Rule is a generalization of talion as well as the Old-Testament commandment to love ones neighbor; (d) talion, even in its original form, can be considered not only as immediately preceding morality, but also as an essentially moral form of control; (e) talion or post- and para-talion imperative forms continue to play an important and irreplaceable positive role even at higher stages of moral development.


Formulas of rules and modality of actions There are unquestionable differences between the rule of talion and the Golden Rule. However, the differences between them pointed out in the literature actually belong to different levels: sometimes they apply not only to rules, but also to supposed personal qualities of the individuals who are included in the space in which these rules are effective as well as to characteristics of social relations that are reflected in these rules or are based on them. In this discussion, I shall concentrate only on characteristics of talion and the Golden Rule precisely as requirements, but taken in broader normative contexts. In doing so, I believe that there is no clear correspondence between a rule (talion or the Golden Rule) and the qualities of the person or the levels of moral development of the person who uses the rule, or between a rule and the characteristics of the social community in which it is operative. It is customary to think that there are two forms of the Golden Rulethe negative (Do not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you) and the positive (Do unto others as you would have them do unto you). A.A. Guseinov, who devoted several pages to distinguishing different formulations of the Golden Rule, points to G. Funke as perhaps the only researcher who did not see the difference between the negative and positive formulations of the Golden Rule. Most researchers (such as C. Thomasius and H. Reiner) not only note the existence of different formulations, but also see this difference as a reflection of various aspects of morality other than the socionormative control of behavior. The negative formulation is associated with the law and the autonomy of the person; the positive one, with universal morality, respect and regard for another person.5 The basic classification from an ethical point of view was suggested by V.S. Solovev. Without resorting to the term Golden Rule, he considered both formulations as separate expressions (different aspects) of the principle of altruism. In the negative formulation he saw the rule of justice and in the positive one, the rule of mercy.6 Let us remember these distinctions. It is also customary to think that the essential difference between the Golden Rule (in its positive formulation) and talion is that the Golden Rule appeals to a persons feeling and intention, while talion appeals, as it were, to the established situation, to an action performed by another person. Thus, the Golden Rule assumes an initiatory action, that is, it determines how (and with what) one should enter into relations with others. Talion assumes a responsive or reactive action, that is, it indicates how to act in relations established by others. If we accept the point of view that talion and the Golden Rule constitute different normative systems7 and, historically, that is the way it has been, then an essential question arises: how to interpret this difference



of orientation? How does it come about that in one case priority is given to reactive action and, in the other, to initiatory? We can grant that the normative value system based on talion as a historically early system was indifferent to initiatory action. But how can we explain the lack of attention to reactive action in the normative value system based on the Golden Rule, a system that qualifies as a moral one with good reason? Misunderstandings are unavoidable here. But they can be overcome if we change the framework of our examination. As for talion, its exclusive orientation to reactive action may indicate either that we do not have complete information about this system or that this rule is not paradigmatic for the corresponding normative system. The former hypothesis per se is improbable. There are enough reliable descriptions of the mores and customs of various peoples in the clan and late clan stages of development. This material seems practically exhaustive for reconstructing the normative and moral (i.e., relating to mores) context of talion. The Pentateuch can also be considered sufficient. There the ethics of talion is presented as, if not predominant, then at least essential, for Mosaic ethics. The second hypothesis needs to be explained. In descriptions of talion and discussions of it, it is understood as if by default that talion is an allencompassing rule at a certain stage of the development of social control of behavior and normative consciousness. Talion really was the primary rule of late tribal and early historical society, since it was the most important mechanism for restricting individual self-will, particularly for keeping in check the vindictiveness stemming from mans savagery. However, it could not have been an all-encompassing or even the dominant rule, if we assume that relations with strangers were not reduced simply to hostility, but also included trade, alliances, hospitality, and so on. Judging from the Pentateuch and the Homeric epic literature, talion was the rule that governed relations not only between strangers as representatives of different tribes, but also between different clans. On the basis of historical and ethnographic material, we should make it clear that it governed relations between representatives of the competing clans of one half of an exogamous social organization and this survived in later epochs in the relations between individual and, as a rule, neighboring family-clans. In relations with strangers as well as neighbors talion was called upon not only to restore equality, but also to protect the positive relations of cooperation (partnership), alliance, hospitality, and so forth. Special attention was given to restricting a retaliatory action, since it is precisely in the feeling of vengeance as a feeling provoked by concrete circumstancesa crime or an insult committed by a concrete otherthat an individual seemed to be unrestricted by


anything. All other positive actions were regulated more or less strictly by various customs. However, actions following the model of talis, that is, of sameness and requital, or rather of commensurability and mutuality, were governed not only by talion as the rule of retaliation. It is enough to look at retaliation as a particular case of a responsive action or recompense in general; namely, one that inflicts punishment, to discover alongside and in opposition to retaliation a place for a responsive action to a positive act. This is gratitude, a requirement that was also formulated in the epoch of savagery. It is no coincidence that A. Dihle cites the following as the general rule in respect of talion: Return good for good and offense for offense.8 We have more evidence of this retrospective view of gratitude as part of the principle of equal recompense in the repeated elucidations (not to say refinements) of gratitude undertaken by various thinkers, primarily philosophers. Gratitude is the expression in appropriate actions of the feeling of approval, respect, and love for another person for his beneficence. And as such, gratitude, of course, goes back to the most ancient ceremonial exchanges of gifts. A gift always presupposed a repayment, a gift in return. More generally, gratitude goes back to the reciprocity of services. This contractual-exchange source of gratitude is hinted at, for example, in Aristotles comment that gratitude is to serve in return one who has shown grace to us and another time to take the initiative in showing it.9 The Greek word charis, in addition to meaning gratitude and its close relatives gift, favor, charm, and beauty also meant giving pleasure or service (compare the Latin gratio, the English gratitude, and the Russian gratsiiakrasota [grace-beauty]). Gratitude as a special kind of giving is arrived at gradually; at the same time, the understanding of gratitude as nothing more than reciprocity characterizing functional, advantageous relations is always preserved. It is not surprising, therefore, that Seneca, for example, specifically explains that gratitude is voluntary giving, a manifestation of generosity, and that only the wise man can be genuinely gratefulfor him to give is a greater joy than it is for an ordinary man to receive. And although Seneca in his reasoning about gratitude still resorts to prudential arguments to which the reader of his time, in all likelihood, was quite accustomed and which he expectedthat our security depends on maintaining reciprocity of services;10 that unfailing gratitude is good for us; that the good returned to someone comes back to us according to the law of justice,11 and so on the main thing for him was to show that gratitude, like virtue, is good in itself and the benefit of a virtuous act is that it was done. These comments of Aristotle and Seneca on gratitude obviously indicate an initial utilitarian understanding of gratitude in relations of the type do as it is



done to you. In this context, gratitude could also be prompted by the logic as I do to you, so you will do to me or I will do to you so that you will do to me. In ancient texts, talion exists in formulations indicating the necessity of concrete actions in response to concrete actions (Exod. 21:2325; Lev. 24:20; Deut. 19:21). The generalized formulations of talion analogous to the Golden Rule that are found in the contemporary literatureDo unto those around you (strangers) as they do unto you and your relatives12are the result of philosophical generalization and special normative construction. But strictly speaking, the cited formulation includes both talion and gratitude with the following difference that talion restricted actions that exceeded what was necessary to restore formal equality, while gratitude restricted actions that fell short of what is necessary to restore formal equality. I have resorted to this version of the generalized expression of talion in order to demonstrate that within the framework of early normative value systems talion was a rule in which a more general principle was concretizedthe principle of equal recompense, equal responsive action. In other words, talion was a typical but not paradigmatic rule of the normative value system of the late clan era. It can be taken as paradigmatic only if it is subsumed under a more general principle. It would seem that the ethics of equal recompense is actually oriented only to responsive actions (the word recompense indicates as much). But is it not possible to reconstruct a principle of initiatory action on the basis of the rule of equal recompense and even on the basis of talion as such? I think it is. In the strict sense, talion could be formulated as Respond proportionately to evil that has been done to you. From this we can derive the following maxim: Remember that the responsive action must be proportionate: whatever evil you do people, they will respond in kind. Therefore, a rule of initiatory action is also formulated here: Whatever you do not wish to receive from others [in response], do not do unto others or Do not do unto others what you do not wish them to do unto you. As you see, what we have here is a negative formulation of the Golden Rule itself! John Chrysostoms interpretation of talion precisely in the spirit of the Golden Rule is characteristic in this regard. For him, talion was an expression of humanity. But that is not all: reinterpreted in the spirit of the Golden Rule, or rather the commandment of love, talion is presented by him precisely as a principle of initiatory action: The ancient law (talion) is the greatest law of Gods love of man. He did not establish this law so that we would tear out each others eyes, but so that we would not do evil to others for fear of suffering the same from them. He wanted only to instill fear . . . in those insolent ones who are ready to poke out the eyes of others. He specified the pun-


ishment so that at least fear would prevent them from depriving their neighbors of sight if by their good will they did not refrain from cruelty.13 The contemporary researchers mentioned above clearly point out the connection between the Golden Rule and talion.14 I would like to emphasize something else: in its negative formulation the Golden Rule is a direct inference from talion, the result of rethinking or, perhaps, only reformulating talion in terms of initiatory action. What makes the Golden Rule refined and developed in comparison to talion is, first of all, its positive formulation and, second, to an even greater extent, the altered normative context. It is no coincidence that P. Ricoeur tries to show that the real content of the Golden Rule is manifested in his interpretation that outside of the specific imperative-evaluative context, namely, the one we know from the New Testament, the Golden Rule can be reduced to the rule of reciprocity and in its most pragmatic, if not self-serving, expression at that. Without seconding Ricoeurs last remark (even outside the New Testament context, the Golden Rule is more than reciprocity and cannot be reduced to it), I cannot help but agree that the Golden Rule as a rule of morality gets its real humanistic content not only from the exegetic, but also from the normative-ethical and ethical-philosophical contexts. Thus it turns out that talion, reinterpreted in the spirit of initiatory action, is transformed into a negative formula of the Golden Rule. But if we take the other component of the rule of recompense, for example, in the version suggested by Dihle, Return good for good and offense for offense, namely, the requirement of gratitude, then its transformation into a rule of initiatory action will also lead to the Golden Rule. But, in contrast to talion, which limits punitive actions that exceed the offense, the rule of gratitude which prompts responsive actions to the good that is done, warns against setting the measure of recompense too low. So the possible syllogism here looks like this. The rule of gratitude implies the maxim (obviously more prudential-egoistic than moral), Remember that in response to your good people may do you good. This leads to another formula of initiatory action: If you wish good from people, do them good or Do unto others as you want them to do unto you. As could be expected, what we have here is a positive formulation of the Golden Rule, only in a weak (nonuniversal) version. Of course, historically, the transition from controlling reactive actions to controlling initiatory actions required both time and spiritual effort. But we can trace this transition well enough in other books of the Old Testament. The Book of the Proverbs of Solomon represents an ethics that can in no way be called the ethics of talion. On talion Solomon took a position very close to the one that Jesus would preach a thousand years later! This is an ethics that rejects the unavoidable necessity of absolutely equal retribution. Say not, I



will do so to him as he hath done to me: I will render to the man according to his work (Prov. 24:29). Talion is prohibited and it seems that nothing is directly counterposed to it. But it is clear not only from the spirit of the Solomonic sayings that one should act mercifully and righteously. On the basis of the separate sayings, we can draw the definite conclusion that Solomons ethics is already paying attention to initiatory action and that such action is unquestionably preferable. The righteous is more excellent than his neighbor. . . . (Prov. 12:26). Unconditionality is conferred by association with the ideal; initiatory action is perfect, for it is the lot of the righteous. But even ordinary people should remember, The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself (Prov. 11:25). Here we have a version of what was suggested above as a maxim (the middle term) in the syllogism of gratitude. I should emphasize that this is merely a version, since shall be watered also himself can be interpreted as an allegory of gratitude; most likely what Solomon had in mind was a reward for charity coming from the Lord. And to a significant extent this assumption does away with the prudential-egoistic motive for a good deed done in the expectation of responsive beneficence. The words virtue is its own reward have not yet been spoken. But we can see a gradual movement toward these words in the notion that the reward for good works may come not from ones neighbor, but from the Lord, and hence not directly and not in material form. The transition from talion to the Golden Rule is reflected also in scraps of popular wisdom (it is not important how original they are) such as Like cry, like echo or Dont dig a hole for someone else, youll fall into it. From a normative point of view, these sayings only tend toward the Golden Rule in its negative formulation; the logic of their construction is similar in principle to that of talion: As you do, so will others do to you or What you do will also happen to you. In the latter, as in the proverb Dont dig a hole for someone else, youll fall into it, the source of the responsive action can be assumed to be (as in Solomons saying) either a neighbor, fate, cosmic justice, or the Lord Himself. In any case, the recommendation not to do something bad is reinforced by a reasonable warning about the possibility of a responsive action. As I have already noted,15 this pattern is found in the commandment Judge not, that ye be not judged (Matt. 7:1). It expresses, though not very strongly, a warning about the possibility of a commensurate responsive action and this makes it similar to talion. In later interpretations of the commandment that are prevalent in our time, it is seen as a warning about the impermissibility of condemning ones neighbors. But in its content it is opposed precisely to talion. In essence, it forbids self-willed retribution: do not take upon yourself the role of judge and do not bring upon yourself


thereby the judgment of the vengeful. Moreover, this implicit opposition to talion is placed in a quite explicit imperative-evaluative context: be humble and meek (Matt. 7:3), generous and merciful (Luke 6:3738). We see that, regardless of the possible direct transformation of talion into the Golden Rule, there are modulations of the normative-ethical and normative-logical base of talion itself that lead to its transformation and reorientation toward initiatory action. It is obvious, however, that initiative is a formal characteristic of action and as a moral quality it is neutral. In order to take on morally positive content, initiative must be placed in an ethically specific perfectionist context. This will become clear below in connection with the commandment of love. Is it possible to invert the Golden Rule on analogy to the inversion of talion, keeping in mind that the Golden Rule governs initiatory action and, therefore, says nothing about reactive actions? Armed with the experience of transforming talion into the Golden Rule, we can try, at first, to do the reverse to see whether it is possible to go directly from the Golden Rule (oriented toward initiatory action) to talion (as a rule of reactive action). It turns out that there are several reverse procedures and there is no unequivocal return to talion. The formula of talion can be obtained by selecting only one of the possible ways of transformation. This is because there is an essential point in the formula of the Golden Rule that is completely missing in the formula of talion. Taken in itself, the Golden Rule allows for different individual goals of action, as is indicated by the words, as you would (not). The Golden Rule of reactive action might sound like this: Respond to others actions as you would have them respond to your actions. Reactive actions can be done out of vengeance, a sense of justice, or magnanimity (leniency). Common sense or even the instinct of self-preservation can prompt us not to want to draw vengeance upon ourselves. Out of an impartial sense of righteousness or certain convictions, we want justice; in Platos Gorgias Socrates develops a special philosophy according to which to receive just punishment is a condition for salvation. In the end, we can wish, or rather hope, for forgiveness. Only in the first version do we return to talion in the specific (usually not discussed) negative formulation: In responding to evil done to you, do not exceed the evil done to you. In the last version, we turn to the commandment of forgiveness, which is assumed by the commandment of love. In the second version, the appeal to justice can assume talion, but with developed systems of law we can also rely on the law, on positive law, not on talion as a rule of proportionate recompense, in our expectations of justice. Thus, it is precisely because the key words as you would appear in the Golden Rule that we cannot go unequivocally from it to talion.



The commandment of love Any comparison of talion and the Golden Rule is incomplete without one more normative formula that is fundamental to moralitythe commandment of love.16 What is the significance of the commandment of love in respect to talion and the Golden Rule? There are several approaches to answering this question about the status of the commandment of love. There is a fairly widespread point of view according to which the commandment of love is a particular expression of or another name for the Golden Rule. Thus, Jesus sets the commandment of love in opposition to the rule of talion (Matt. 5:3839, 44); and in Western editions of the Gospel according to Matthew, the column with the text devoted to the commandment of love (Matt. 22:39) is marked with the heading The Golden Rule. Similarly, Augustine calls the Golden Rule a law imprinted by nature on the human heart, and the commandment of love is characterized in the same way.17 According to another point of view, the commandment of love is not so much a particular as it is a higher expression of the Golden Rule. Similarly, in a certain sense the second practical principle of Kants categorical imperative supercedes the first practical principle. While it preserves the first practical principle, the second principle of the categorical imperative fills it with a specific normative content: act not simply universalizably, but also humanely, so that every man is for you also an end in itself. In his time, Kant was reproached for only reconceptualizing in the categorical imperative the well-known Golden Rule. This would be a fair criticism had Kant not gone beyond the first practical principle of the categorical imperative, which really does merely reproduce the Golden Rule, although with greater definition (in relation to the principle of universalizability). But with the second practical principle Kant introduces precisely the normative content that correlates the categorical imperative with the commandment of love. According to one more point of view, the commandment of love is a higher moral requirement formulated on the basis of the Golden Rule, but partly also overcoming it on analogy to the way the Golden Rule is formulated on the basis of talion and, historically, overcomes it. This point of view is assumed by the line of thinkers (T. Hobbes, A. Schopenhauer, P.D. Iurkevich, P.A. Kropotkin, M. Scheler, P. Ricoeur) running through the history of moralphilosophical ideas (conceptualized in various ways) that represents justice and mercy as the two fundamental virtues or principles of morality.18 In all of these approaches, the Golden Rule is connected with the Christian, rather than the Old Testament, commandment of love. A distinctive feature of the Christian commandment of love is its complexity: it combines the two commandments given in the Pentateuch, namely, the commandment to


love God (Deut. 6:5) and the commandment to love ones neighbor. It must be said that the commandment to love ones neighbor appears in the Book of Leviticus in two contexts that are so different that we can talk about two versions of the commandment. One commands benevolence to ones neighbor as a fellow tribesman and it is unequivocally opposed to the rule of talion: Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself (Lev. 19:18). The other commands goodwill toward strangers: And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him. But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt (Lev. 19:3334). There is no talk as yet about loving ones enemies, only about loving nontribespeople or foreigners who are neighbors or members of the same household. Let us note here that the admonitions to love ones neighbor and a stranger are given in the same chapter of Leviticus, and the rule of equal recompense is also mentioned in that chapter (Lev. 19:21). So, judging from the sources, the commandment of love as a commandment to love ones neighbor is not as ancient as talion (it is set in opposition to talion), but it is older than the Golden Rule. When I said above that Old Testament ethics is not exhausted by the ethics of talion, I had in mind, in particular, that it holds within it the ethics of love. True, this is the ethics of love as love of ones neighbor in the Old Testament sense of the word: ones neighbor is a comrade (reeha, comrade-in-arms), someone living nearby, or a neophyte. The commandment of love is not accentuated in the Old Testament in any way; it is given in a series of other diverse, practicalprudential, customary-legal, economic, and ritual admonitions and recommendations. Only in retrospect, in the light of later ethical innovations, do we pay special attention to the presence of the commandment of love in the Old Testament. This potentially special nature of the commandment of love appears also in the Golden Rule. It is widely believed, and I showed this normativelylogically above, that the Golden Rule grows out of talion as a transformation and generalization of it (from retaliation to recompense). But at the same time, we can say that in its positive formulation the Golden Rule is also a generalization of the commandment to love ones neighbor. The dynamics from Love thy neighbor as thyself to the Golden Rule in its positive formulation is mediated by such imperatives as, Treat another as yourself and Treat another so that he will love you. Thus, Old Testament ethics contains talion as a rule of responsive action to the evil actions of strangers and the commandment of love as a rule of initiatory action towards ones own people. This situation is found not only



in Old Testament ethics. It was also typical of ancient classical ethics all the way up to the Stoics. Thus, in Xenophons dialogues, Socrates almost enunciates the Golden Rule (while in ancient philosophy, in contrast to early prephilosophical moralizing, the Golden Rule is not articulated until the late Stoics): if you want something from someone else, you must first do it for him or he who is first to do his friends good is considered worthy of the greatest praise.19 But this precept is suggested as a rule governing relations with friends. At the same time, according to Socrates, it is just as praiseworthy to be first to do ones enemies evil. The Socratic principle of goodwill toward friends is like the Old Testament command to love ones neighbors as ones own people. While both talion and the commandment to love ones neighbor are generalized in the Golden Rule, the relations within this triad of imperatives are not balanced. In generalizing talion, the Golden Rule opposes it and, on the other hand, in generalizing the commandment of love, the Golden Rule reinforces it. What is more, in opposing talion the Golden Rule and the commandment of love merge. Of course, the Golden Rules opposition to talion differs from that of the commandment of love, and differs essentially too. The difference is significant enough that in light of the subsequently developed ethics of love the Golden Rule in some ways begins to merge with talion: both talion and the Golden Rule assume reciprocity and both talion and the Golden Rule assume equality. But neither reciprocity nor equality is necessary for the commandment of love. This is revealed in the fundamental link between the commandment to love ones neighbor and the commandment to love God, a link that is established only in Christian ethics. The generalized nature of the Golden Rule contains the possibility of its universality.20 Both talion and the commandment to love ones neighbor indicate concretely what has to be done. But the generalized nature of the Golden Rule conceals the possibility of being interpreted in such a way as to be acceptable even to a malefactor (a sadist or a tyrant, for example). Equality and reciprocity are necessary but not sufficient characteristics of the morality of actions. In order to become the basis of moral action, the Golden Rule must be substantively rethought: the possibility of subjective arbitrariness must be eliminated from as you would. In Kants ethics, this is guaranteed by the transition from the first practical principle of the categorical imperative to the second. Spinoza accomplishes this ethical job in his own way. Thus, proposition 37 of part IV is constructed, in principle, on the analogy of the Golden Rule, but it has a significant additional nuance. The version of the Golden Rule, Desire for others that for which you yourself strive, is enriched by Spinoza as follows: The good which every man, who follows after virtue, desires for himself he will also desire for other men, and so


much the more, in proportion as he has greater knowledge of God.21 From proposition 24, we know that the man who follows after virtue is one who is guided by reason, the one for whom knowledge is a good. It cannot be said that Spinozas additions to the Golden Rule are correct in every way; sometimes they are pregnant with measures that provide no guarantee against paternalism in relations between people. But the main thing is that Spinoza refines the as you would of the Golden Rule in the direction of as you would rationally,22 and what is more, in the spirit of a rationalistically modified commandment to love God: as you would rationally while always progressing in the contemplation of God. The Golden Rule generalizes the Old Testament commandment to love ones neighbor. But in its normative-ethical aspect, the Golden Rule itself is superseded by the New Testament commandment of love. The commandment to love ones neighbor differs from the Golden Rule only in its substantive determinacy: do not simply treat another as yourself, but love him. Furthermore, as thyself in the commandment of love as well as as you would in the Golden Rule can be interpreted subjectively and can express in practice the individual limitations of those who use the measure of selflove. But in the Christian commandment, love of ones neighbor is connected with love of God. Love of God as perfection, is the key to love of man. And although it is written, Love thy neighbor as thyself, in the New Testament the prototype for love of ones neighbor is not self-love, but rather Gods mercy. This gives the commandment to love ones neighbor an elevating perfectionist context and, in principle, rules out any paternalistic or hedonistic interpretations of it. The ethical rehabilitation of talion For all of the supercedences, generalizations, and elevations that are traced in the movement from talion to the Golden Rule and the New Testament commandment of love, it would be incorrect to leave talion outside the bounds of morality. It is important to pay attention to this, since, while no one doubts the historical role of talion, its significance as a real regulator of human interrelations within the framework of contemporary morality is, as a rule, ignored. Talion unquestionably should be considered a rule of morality. It needs to be ethically rehabilitated. But to rehabilitate it ethically we have to expand the conceptual space of morality and to rethink ethics itself. The disregard of talion is the result not of misunderstanding, but of a bias toward morally ideal content in ethics and moral consciousness. This is the result of latent or indirect moralizing inherent in ethics, which is expressed in the fact that



the preferred object of research is pure and ultimate normative content morality in its unclouded, ideal incarnation. All the rest is seen as an expression of imperfection or, what is the same thing, a sign of perfectibility; in any case, an expression of noncorrespondence with the imperative, evaluative, or logical- integral moral model formulated by ethical consciousness. The practical weakness of practical philosophy is due to the fact that it is blinded by the ideal, by a theoretically constructed standard, and is inattentive to forms that are transitional to this standard and especially those that depart from it. This peculiarity of the philosophical interpretation of morality has characterized moralizing and philosophical ethics from the beginning. It can already be detected in Aristotle, although he did not yet draw a strict distinction between, to use contemporary terms, the moral and the extramoral. In medieval Christian ethics, this distinction becomes clearer. And vice versa, the ethics of the Renaissance takes a radical, in comparison to theological ethics, turn toward the living individual, who seeks, transcends, and discovers himself. What to the later, post-Kantian philosophical mind may seem to be an expression of a nonspecific understanding of morality or even ethical naivety in the moral philosophy of the Enlightenment was a natural manifestation of a more or less holistic perception of man. In contemporary textbooks on ethics, Schillers famous epigram regarding Kants categorical imperative is cited as an example of the misunderstandings sparked by Kants ethical theory. The problem is whether moral philosophy, having established the essential disjunction of the moral and the extramoral, is ready to treat this disjunction only as a methodological principle, albeit a fundamental one, and not rely on it as a theoretical explanatory schema. As a schema it leaves the researcher suspended in pure and, in this sense, nonliving morality and turns him away from the complications of the moral life of real men. This prompted A. Schweitzers criticism, for example, of the ethics of perfection, although it is clear that without the perfectionist component no powerful ethics is possible. Intoxication with the Golden Rule and skepticism toward talion comes exactly, to use Schweitzers words, from life- and world-denying perfectionism. Another possible theoretical and conceptual factor in the disregard for the role of talion in contemporary morality is a one-dimensional perception of morality in the context of the ethics of perfection and personal choice. The problematic of social ethics, in which man appears mainly as a holder of rights and duties, as a subject of actions and an object of recompense (rewards and punishments), as a participant in contractual, corporate, communitarian, and other such relations, is displaced from moral philosophy to other disciplines: the theory of law, social theory, and human stud-


ies, including applied psychological studies. Meanwhile, in social ethics both morality itself and the individual corresponding to it appear differently than in the ethics of individual choice and personal perfection. This difference between the two levels of real morality is reflected in its own way in the pair of virtues singled out abovejustice and mercy. We can easily pronounce the words the ethics of the Pentateuch. But if we proceed from the assumption that morality originates only with the formulation of the Golden Rule, then the imperative-evaluative system that can be isolated in the Pentateuch has to be seen as a system of an extramoral or premoral type: among the 613 laws of Moses you will not find the Golden Rule or any rules like it.23 Nevertheless, if we take the Pentateuch, no one will say that, since there is no Golden Rule in it, there is no ethics in it, not even in the narrower sense of ethics as simply a set of communally accepted standards of interrelations between members of the community. Let me note that for O.G. Drobnitskii the absence of the Golden Rule among the laws of Moses was not only a sign that the Golden Rule is historically later than this monument, but also that, historically, it was not the original moral requirement. He believed that by the time men became aware of the Golden Rule there were already imperatives stated in the form of unconditional obligation.24 To this I should add that, as we saw, by the time people became conscious of the Golden Rule there were also requirements whose imperative contents were assimilated in the Golden Rule. If we take into account Drobnitskiis primary theoretical interest in the functional peculiarities of morality, then his emphasis on the unconditionally obligatory nature of the imperatives that preceded the Golden Rule is understandable. And, sharing his view of morality as the sphere of unconditional (absolute) and universal obligation, I can say that, according to this criterion, morality actually arose earlier than the Golden Rule proper. In particular, talion is an imperative whose universal as well as universalizable nature is obvious. Strictly speaking, the situational nature that is attributed to talion is a characteristic not of talion as an imperative, but rather of the concrete actions that are performed in response to concrete actions and according to the general principle assigned by talion.25 From a formal-functional point of view, talion is unquestionably a moral rule, if only to the limited extent to which, first of all, it is suprasituational and universal and, second, it appeals to the active individual (albeit as a member of some broader community). But the ethical rehabilitation of talion is not limited to establishing its conformity to the formal-functional characteristics of morality. What is more, this conformity is immaterial outside the framework of a strict formalfunctional approach to morality.



A proper rehabilitation must consist in establishing the real place of talion in the space of morality. Taking into account the two-dimensional nature of morality, its division into the ethics of justice and the ethics of mercy as well as the traditional association of the Golden Rule with the ethics of justice and the commandment of love with the ethics of mercy, talion should be assigned precisely to the ethics of justice. And there it functions simultaneously as a counterweight to the Golden Rule and a guarantee of its efficacy. As we saw, the Golden Rule has no unequivocal correlate in the form of a rule of reactive action. In the ethics of mercy, there is such a correlate of the commandment of love. In particular, these are the commandments of nonresistance and forgiveness. Both commandments contradict the ethics of justice. The principle of justice requires that injustice be punished. In a civilized society organized according to the rule of law, the function of punishing injustice to the extent to which the injustice assumes socially dangerous forms is carried out by the law. However, even in the most legally developed society a great many actions take place that do not fall within the jurisdiction of the law. The law is not omnipotent. There are forms of injustice that a person as the agent of morality is morally bound to counteract. But there is also a moral obligation to counteract forms of evil that do come under the letter of the criminal law but in their concrete manifestations for various reasons do not lend themselves to legal and, especially, criminal identification. The Golden Rule provides a principle for initiatory action. But it neither overrules nor repeals talion as a principle of reactive action. The rehabilitation of talion gives man a morally legitimate means of fighting blind, insensible evil in the spirit of John Chrysostoms comment cited above. In encounters with active and implacable evil, the commandment of love, the Golden Rule, and the requirements of nonresistance, forgiveness, and harmlessness, at times cannot suggest anything. Perhaps there is some sense in nonresistance to evil when only I myself am the object of injustice and crime (although does not the toleration of injustice and evil in respect to oneself show a most genuine indulgence for injustice and evil?). But is it permissible to tolerate (and hence indulge) injustice done to my child, parents, or loved ones? And if not, then what can be the response to injustice here? Without talion, a moral person is morally helpless in the face of evil. Historically, talion is the first form of justice. But it is a specific form of justice, of repressive justice in relation to those who do not want to recognize or share the equality and reciprocity (mutual benevolence) proposed by the Golden Rule, or the magnanimity, generosity, and openness proposed by the commandment of love. Talion is reserved for social intercourse with those who seem to believe that morality is weakness in action, that morality is


the cunning of the weak. And the experience of everyday, especially impersonal, interrelations shows that to counteract insolence, malice, and aggression it is sometimes enough to show only a readiness to speak the severe language of force. Talion is the last possibility of preserving humanity in circumstances inhospitable for humanity like those conveyed by the normative model of war of all against all, regardless of whether this model is understood as a metaphor or a tested descriptive conception. Talion is entirely relevant when the threat of a decisive rebuff is the only way to limit and quell a potential malefactor. Of course, the rehabilitation of talion takes place under the protection of the Golden Rule and the commandment of love, in correlation with them. This is not the historically original talion of unconditionally equal recompense: death for death, violence for violence. If we talk about normative priorities and a hierarchy, any reactive action must first rely on the ethics of love, then on the ethics of rights and obligations in its liberal version (mediated by effectively functioning social legislation). And when these responses prove to be ineffective, we have to turn decisively to the ethics of punishment, punishment appropriate to the deed. There are situations in which the ethics of punishment has to be invoked quickly, as V.S. Solovev showed in his Three Conversations [Tri razgovora]. It is another matter that such a change in attitude toward talion and its ethical status requires that we develop a supplementary ethics analogous to that which was developed by I.A. Ilin who, in his polemics with L.N. Tolstoy, asserted that the demand to resist evil has ethical priority over the demand of nonviolence. The rehabilitation of talion also requires that we develop a special pragmatics of moral action; namely, a pragmatics of justice, one of the developed precedents of whichin relation to the pragmatics of social actioncan be found in the second part of J. Rawlss A Theory of Justice. But these are precisely analogies and precedents. The task of localizing their problems and objects lies ahead of us. Notes
1. P. Lafarg [Lafargue], Ekonomicheskii determinizm Karla Marksa (Moscow: Moskovskii rabochii, 1923), pp. 10923. Lafargue especially emphasized, Talion is only the implementation of the equality of insult, an atonement equal in scope to the offense, only a loss precisely equal to the damage (p. 116). 2. This point of view was expressed, for example, by A. Dihle (Die goldene Regel: eine Einfhrung in die Geschichte der antiken und frhchristlichen Vulgrethik [Gttingen: Vandenhoeck/Ruprecht, 1962]). It was taken up, for example, by A.A. Guseinov (Sotsialnaia priroda nravstvennosti [Moscow: MGU, 1974], pp. 65, 81 87) and P. Rikior [Ricoeur] (The Golden Rule: Exegetical and Theological Perplexities, New Testament Studies, 1990, vol. 36, pp. 39394).



3. It is noteworthy that Lafargue sees no need to move on to the Golden Rule in his examination of talion. In the context of analyzing the genesis of the idea of justice, it was much more important to him to show the role of private property as an essential factor in the mechanism of preserving social justice. 4. In the collection Etika: novye starye problemy. K 60-letiiu A.A. Guseinova (Moscow: Gardariki, 1999), pp. 929. 5. Ibid., pp. 7880. 6. V.S. Solovev, Opravdanie dobra, in Sochineniia v dvukh tomakh (Moscow: Mysl, 1988), vol. 1, p. 168. 7. It should be worded more strongly: different moral systems, bearing in mind not only the difference in their imperative-evaluative content, but also the difference in decision-making principles and rules of choice (compare M. Sheler [Scheler], Resentiment v strukture moralei [Moscow: Nauka, Universitetskaia kniga, 1999], pp. 6567) or the difference in the ways of conforming to the rules and the forms of subjectivization of moral requirements (compare M. Fuko [Foucault], Ispolzovanie udovolstvii. Vvedenie, in his Volia k istine: po tu storonu znaniia, vlasti i seksualnosti [Moscow: Kastal, 1996], pp. 29396). 8. Dihle, Die goldene Regel, p. 82 (quoted in Guseinov, Sotsialnaia priroda nravstvennosti, p. 80). 9. Aristotel [Aristotle], Nikomakhova etika, 1133a 4, in his Sochineniia v chetyrekh tomakh (Moscow: Mysl, 1988), vol. 1, p. 168. 10. Seneka [Seneca], O blagodarnosti, IV, 18, in Rimskie stoiki. Seneka, Epiktet, Mark Avrelii (Moscow: Respublika, 1995), p. 87. 11. Seneka, Nravstvennye pisma k Lutsiliiu (Moscow: Nauka, 1977), LXXX, 19. 12. Guseinov, Sotsialnaia priroda nravstvennosti, p. 65. 13. Ioann Zlatoust [John Chrysostom], Tolkovanie Evangeliia Sviatogo Matfeia Evangelista (Moscow: Palomnik, 1994), p. 155. 14. Thus, Dihle considers the Golden Rule to be a higher expression of talion (see Guseinov, Sotsialnaia priroda nravstvennosti, p. 80). Following Dihle, Ricoeur sees the Golden Rule as a refined expression of the law of retribution (Ricoeur, The Golden Rule: Exegetical and Theological Perplexities, p. 395). 15. Etika: novye starye problemy, p. 16. 16. I give a substantive analysis of the commandment of love in the article Zapoved liubvi, (Chelovek, 1994, nos. 13), which was later included, with certain changes, as a chapter in the book Ideia morali i bazovye normativno-eticheskie programmy (Moscow: IFRAN, 1995). 17. See Guseinov, Sotsialnaia priroda nravstvennosti, p. 71. 18. I also shared this point of view in the book Ideia morali (pp. 2831). A synopsis of this trend in the history of ethical ideas is presented there (pp. 29499). 19. Ksenofont [Xenophon], Vospominaniia o Sokrate, in his Sokraticheskie sochineniia (St. Petersburg: Komplekt, 1993), p. 88. 20. The analysis of the Golden Rule in the light of the principle of universality requires a special investigation. Possible approaches to this question and an outline of a possible investigation can be found in the concluding part of my article Zolotoe pravilo. 21. B. Spinoza, Etika, in his Izbrannye proizvedenniia v dvukh tomakh (Moscow: Gospolitizdat, 1957), vol. 1, p. 550. 22. Ibid., p. 551. 23. See G. Scholem, The 613 Commandments, Encyclopedia Judaica, eds.


C. Roth and G. Wigoder (Jerusalem: Reter Publishing House, 1996), vol. 5, pp. 76091. 24. See O.G. Drobnitskii, Poniatie morali: istorichesko-kriticheskii ocherk (Moscow: Nauka, 1974), p. 367. 25. For more on the universality and universalizability of moral principles, see R. Hare, Universalizability, in his Essays on the Moral Concepts (London: Macmillan/University of California Press, 1972), Drobnitskii, Poniatie morali, pp. 299329, and A.A. Guseinov and R.G. Apresian, Etika (Moscow: Gardariki, 1999), pp. 25557.