Altruism and freedom

Though people value altruism, they also value freely choosing if and when to be altruistic. They essay explores the question of whether a society that is more altruistic would be one which is more free or less. It begins by considering cases where altruism is legally enforced, the paradigm example of which is good Samaritan legislation. I argue that coercively enforcing altruistic duties submerges people's altruistic motives under the demands of justice (which is not to say that these intrusions on our freedom may not be justified). It goes on to consider state-encouraged altruism and examines our attachment to individual freedom which stands in its way. The strength of this objection is weakened once we distinguish between the different freedoms ? some more significant than others ? to which we are attached. Though altruism cannot be coerced, there remain compelling reasons to encourage it. The essay concludes by sketching a few of the social and political benefits of a more altruistic society: one benefit is that an altruistic society may contain more social opportunities in which people can freely engage
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DOI 10.1080/13698230410001702782
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