Social relations instead of altruistic punishment. Comments on Ernst Fehr's altruism research

Experimental economists have been trying for some time to discover the laws of behaviour in micro-social situations. Fehr's experimental research on altruistic behaviour attempts to correct the egoistic version of the concept of homo oeconomicus by resorting to the notion of altruistic dispositions. This article discusses Fehr's results from two points of view, namely in regard to the conception of social acting that is associated with altruism, and in regard to the research strategy associated with the laboratory method. The author argues that Fehr's concept of altruism distorts the representation of social acting and that, due to a lack of clarity concerning the motives of action, Fehr's empirical results pertain to phenomena of social recognition rather than to altruism. The charge against the research strategy is that it makes visible only local phenomena within the far wider field of general social conditions. Therefore, this approach presupposes more than it can explain
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C. Daniel Batson (1992). Experimental Tests for the Existence of Altruism. PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1992:69 - 78.
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