Reciprocity principle

Reciprocity principle asserts that reciprocation should be expected in response to many actions. Perhaps the most famous wording of it is this:

Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

This statement comes in many forms and flavors and doesn’t not really need much of an explanation.

Not “an eye for an eye”

“An eye for an eye” principle asserts that suffering damage justifies comparable damage in retaliation. Its popularity reinforces the reciprocity principle in that unwanted response isn’t just possible, but very likely.

And yet, there is a very eloquent retort to it:

An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.

— Mahatma Gandhi

Which exaggerates things a little, but conveys the message that damage in response may have unwanted consequences.

This may be due to a “chain reaction” that this principle is prone to causing. This principle can seem fair under the premise that once equal damage has been suffered for all parties, retaliation will stop. However, it often doesn’t because different sides may perceive differently the amount of damage done. Very often one side overestimates damage done to themselves and/or underestimates damage done to others, solely due to the fact that they may be more informed of consequences of damage to their side.

Basically, Gandhi asks us to be forgiving. And while he doesn’t explain why (not in this quote at least), the above is one very good reason.


See also:

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