Just as there are rational requirements on thought, there are rational requirements on action. This book defends a conception of ethics, and a related conception of human nature, according to which altruism is included among the basic rational requirements on desire and action. Altruism itself depends on the recognition of the reality of other persons, and on the equivalent capacity to regard oneself as merely one individual among many.
We begin, in section 2, with a brief sketch of a cluster of assumptions about human desires, beliefs, actions, and motivation that are widely shared by historical and contemporary authors on both sides in the debate. With this as background, we’ll be able to offer a more sharply focused account of the debate. In section 3, our focus will be on links between evolutionary theory and the egoism/altruism debate. There is a substantial literature employing evolutionary theory on each side (...) of the issue. However, it is our contention that neither camp has offered a convincing case. We are much more sanguine about recent research on altruism in social psychology, which will be our topic in section 4. Though we don’t think this work has resolved the debate, we will argue that it has made illuminating progress – progress that philosophers interested in the question cannot afford to ignore. (shrink)
Altruism is a malleable notion that is understood differently in various disciplines. The common denominator of most definitions of altruism is the idea of unidirectional helping behaviour. However, a closer examination reveals that the term altruism sometimes refers to the outcomes of a helping behaviour for the agent and its neighbours – i.e. reproductive altruism – and sometimes to what motivates the agent to help others – i.e. psychological altruism. Since these perspectives on altruism (...) are crucially different, it is important to use a clear terminology to avoid confusion. In particular, we show that the notion of altruism used by biologists profoundly differs from the ones used by philosophers, psychologists and economists in cross-disciplinary debates about human altruism. (shrink)
Sober and Wilson have recently claimed that evolutionary theory can do what neither philosophy nor experimental psychology have been able to, namely, "break the deadlock" in the egoism vs. altruism debate with an argument based on the reliability of altruistic motivation. I analyze both their reliability argument and the experimental evidence of social psychology in favor of altruism in terms of the folk-psychological "laws" and inference patterns underlying them, and conclude that they both rely on the same patterns. (...) I expose the confusions that have led Sober and Wilson to defend a reliability argument while rejecting the experimental evidence of social psychology. (shrink)
To understand the human capacity for psychological altruism, one requires a proper understanding of how people actually think and feel. This paper addresses the possible relevance of recent findings in experimental economics and neuroeconomics to the philosophical controversy over altruism and egoism. After briefly sketching and contextualizing the controversy, we survey and discuss the results of various studies on behaviourally altruistic helping and punishing behaviour, which provide stimulating clues for the debate over psychological altruism. On closer analysis, (...) these studies prove less relevant than originally expected because the data obtained admit competing interpretations – such as people seeking fairness versus people seeking revenge. However, this mitigated conclusion does not preclude the possibility of more fruitful research in the area in the future. Throughout our analysis, we provide hints for the direction of future research on the question. (shrink)
"The chief problem of human life", wrote Auguste Comte, is "the subordination of egoism to altruism". This collection examines the nature and value of altruism as a moral virtue, restoring it to its proper place at the centre of our moral and political thinking. The first five essays in the collection explore the relationship between altruism and other moral concepts such as self-interest, autonomy, community and impartiality. The five essays in the second part show how altruism (...) is invoked in practical moral problems, including aid to developing countries, the market for human body parts, multiculturalism and the politics of recognition, and medical ethics. Through these discussions, the central role of altruism in moral thinking is brought into sharper focus. (shrink)
In this paper, I reframe the long-standing controversy between ‘psychological egoism’, which argues that human beings never perform altruistic actions, and the opposing thesis of ‘psychological altruism’, which claims that human beings are, at least sometimes, capable of acting in an altruistic fashion. After a brief sketch of the controversy, I begin by presenting some representative arguments in favour of psychological altruism before showing that they can all be called into question by appealing to the idea of an (...) unconscious self-directed motive. I will then point out that this argumentative strategy not only debunks the reasons for favouring psychological altruism, but also those for favouring psychological egoism; hence it is no use in settling the dispute between the two views. In the second part of the paper, I will try to break this deadlock by reframing the whole controversy, shifting it away from the concept of motive, towards the broader notion of motivation. As it turns out, this shift enables the debate to centre on altruistic emotions and their motivational power, thereby allowing evolutionary arguments to enter the debate and tilt the balance in favour of psychological altruism. (shrink)
Separated from its anchorage in religion, ethics has followed the social sciences in seeing human beings as fundamentally characterized by self-interest, so that altruism is either naively idealistic or arrogantly self-sufficient. Colin Grant contends that, as a modern secular concept, altruism is a parody on the self-giving love of Christianity, so that its dismissal represents a social levelling that loses the depths that theology makes intelligible and religion makes possible. The Christian affirmation is that God is (...) characterized by self-giving love (agape), then expected of Christians. Lacking this theological background, the focus on self-interest in sociobiology and economics, and on human realism in the political focus of John Rawls or the feminist sociability of Carol Gilligan, finds altruism naive or a dangerous distraction from real possibilities of mutual support. This book argues that to dispense with altruism is to dispense with God and with the divine transformation of human possibilities. (shrink)
Darwin's inner voice -- Living the virtuous life -- Of altruism and free riders -- Knowing our immediate predecessors -- Resurrecting some venerable ancestors -- A natural Garden of Eden -- The positive side of social selection -- Learning morals across the generations -- Work of the moral majority -- Pleistocene ups, downs, and crashes -- Testing the selection-by-reputation hypothesis -- The evolution of morals -- Epilogue: humanity's moral future.
'Altruism' was coined by the French sociologist Auguste Comte in the early 1850s as a theoretical term in his 'cerebral theory' and as the central ideal of his atheistic 'Religion of Humanity'. In The Invention of Altruism, Thomas Dixon traces this new language of 'altruism' as it spread through British culture between the 1850s and the 1900s, and in doing so provides a new portrait of Victorian moral thought. Drawing attention to the importance of Comtean positivism in (...) setting the agenda for debates about science and religion, this volume challenges received ideas about both Charles Darwin and Herbert Spencer as moral philosophers. Darwin saw sympathy and love, not only selfishness and competition, throughout the natural world. Spencer was the instigator of an Anti-Aggression League and an advocate of greater altruism in Britain's dealings with the 'lower races'. It also sheds light on the rise of popular socialism in the 1880s, on the creation of the idealist 'altruist' in novels of the 1890s, and on the individualistic philosophies of Friedrich Nietzsche, Oscar Wilde, and G. E. Moore - authors considered by some to be representative of fin de siècle 'egomania.' This wide-ranging study in the history of ideas is highly relevant to contemporary debates about altruism, evolution, religion, and ethics. (shrink)
The question on how the diverse forms of cooperative behavior in humans and nonhuman animals could have evolved under the pressure of natural selection has been a challenge for evolutionary biology ever since Darwin himself. In this chapter, we briefly review and summarize results from the last 50 years of research on human and nonhuman cooperativeness from a theoretical (biology) and an experimental perspective (experimental economics). The first section presents six concepts from theoretical biology able to explain a variety of (...) forms of cooperativeness which evolved in many different species. These are kin selection, mutualism, reciprocity, green-beard altruism, costly signaling, and cultural group selection. These considerations are complemented by two short examples of evolved cooperative behavior, one from microbiology and one from ethology. The second main section focuses on recent experimental research on human cooperativeness. We present a brief review of factors known to impact individual human decision-making in social dilemmas, most prominently communication, punishment, reputation, and assortment. Our conclusion then draws attention to tasks for further research in this area. (shrink)
Economic theory has tended to reduce all social bonds and relations to forms of contract, whereas social theory has seen contracts as opposed to, and destructive of, genuine social bonds. Bruni sees these contrapositions as ideological (‘left’ against ‘right’, p. xi). His main goal is to overcome them; to show that three forms of reciprocity, covering the ideological spectrum from left to right, are complementary and simultaneously required in a healthy society. These three forms are, in his words: ‘(1) the (...) reciprocity of contract or ‘cautious’; (2) the reciprocity of friendship or philia and (3) the ‘unconditional’ reciprocity, the one more controversial . . .’ (p. x). (shrink)
Behavioural scientists show altruism to exist as a distinctive personality. Yet when subjected to philosophical scrutiny, and altruistic personality is prima facie paradoxical. To motivate herself to help others, the altruist needs ?extensivity?, the capacity to compassionately identify with others. To aid others effectively, however, the altruist must have individuation, the possession of highly developed autonomy and self-efficacy. We assert that a better understanding of the relationship between concern for others and concern for self reveals the paradox to be (...) merely apparent. We find that, in extending themselves in caring behaviours, altruists actually enhance their individuality. Moreover, given the differences between compassion and empathy and the way empathy medicates between compassionate co-feeling and individuation, extensivity and individuation do not necessarily conflict. We conclude therefore that despite appearances the altruistic personality is a coherent construct. (shrink)
The problem of altruism is to determine intellectually compelling grounds for allowing others' interests and desires to weigh with us as well as our own. Two considerations impact on that problem. One concerns the clustering of particular interests and desires. The doctrine of the distinctness of persons gives prime importance to their origin in a particular individual. But clustering across individuals, rather than within individuals, may be more reasonable in the light of meta-attitudes towards our interests and desires and (...) the interconnection of individuals' interests. The other concerns individuals' identification with the interests and desires of a collectivity to which they belong, for its own sake. This identification, while in some ways resembling altruism and self-interested motivation, is sui generis. It leads us to rethink the polarity of self and others by remainding us that the polarity does not adequately reflect an important aspect of human social relations. (shrink)
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. (shrink)
Advocates of altruism maintain that altruism is an inherently beneficial and, therefore, morally desirable motivational disposition towards furthering other people's good. In this essay I dispute this claim by showing various ways in which altruism might come into conflict with plausible moral demands. The underlying problem is always one of moral myopia, an altruistic blind spot that interferes with altruism's capacity to track moral demands. To resolve the moral dilemmas associated with altruism, I argue, we (...) need to embed altruistic dispositions in a more comprehensive moral framework. I propose that a theory of impartiality might succeed in embedding altruism in way that avoids the problems outlined in this essay, in addition to allowing room for altruistic motivations to play a genuine part. The main purpose of this essay is to draw attention to the complexities associated with the moral assessment of altruistic acts and choices. (shrink)
The essay argues that the most influential liberal accounts of moral theory (utilitarianism and deontology) assume that human material nature is the seat of desire, and that desire is essentially unsociable. Moral systems are then interpreted as a means of counteracting the essentially self-interested desires that are assumed to ordinarily drive human beings. The essay challenges the normative presuppositions of these arguments. It maintains that liberal moral philosophy must be interpreted in the historical context of the rise of a competitive (...) market society. It then contends that contra liberal moral theory, human beings are neither essentially egoistic nor altruistic, but interdependent. Moral theory is better seen as following from a recognitions of this material interdependence than as an ideal limit on ?naturally? self-interested and competitive behaviour. (shrink)
This paper defends the position that the supposed gap between biological altruism and psychological altruism is not nearly as wide as some scholars (e.g., Elliott Sober) insist. Crucial to this defense is the use of James Mark Baldwin's concepts of “organic selection”and “social heredity” to assist in revealing that the gap between biological and psychological altruism is more of a small lacuna. Specifically, this paper argues that ontogenetic behavioral adjustments, which are crucial to individual survival and reproduction, (...) are also crucial to species survival. In particular, it is argued that human psychological altruism is produced and maintained by various sorts of mimicry and self-reflection in the aid of both individual and species survival. The upshot of this analysis is that it is possible to offer an account of psychological altruism that is closelytethered to biological altruism without reducing entirely the former to thelatter. (shrink)
In the moral philosophy of the last two centuries, altruism of one kind or another has typically been regarded as identical with moral concern. When self-regarding duties have been recognized, motivation by duty has been sharply distinguished from motivation by self-interest. I think this view is wrong: self-interest can be the motive of a moral act. My chief concern is to argue that self-interested action -- i.e., action motivated by rational self-interest -- can be moral, but the data I (...) use to argue for this also provide compelling empirical evidence that all human motives do not reduce to self-interest, that altruism is possible. (shrink)
A discussion of egoism and altruism as related both to ethical theory and moral psychology. Williams considers and rejects various arguments for and against the existence of egoistic motives and the rationality of someone motivated by self-interest. He ultimately attempts to give a more Humean defense of altruism, as opposed to the more Kantian defenses found in Thomas Nagel, for example.
Internal rewards are the psychological benefits one receives by performing certain other-regarding actions. Internal rewards include such benefits as the avoidance of guilt, the avoidance of painful memories, and the attainment of warm, fuzzy feelings. Despite the limitations of social psychology, Sober and Wilson believe that evolutionary theory can show that it is more likely for benevolent other-regarding motivational mechanisms to have evolved, thereby supporting the altruist’s claim. Here, I will argue for two related theses. First, if internal reward explanations (...) pose a problem for social psychology, then they also pose a problem for evolutionary theory. Second, there is no need to think that internal reward explanations pose a problem for altruists because these explanations either do not inform us about what our ultimate motives really are or they unreasonably define out of existence the possibility of altruism. (shrink)
In their book Unto Others, Sober and Wilson argue that various evolutionary considerations (based on the logic of natural selection) lend support to the truth of psychological altruism. However, recently, Stephen Stich has raised a number of challenges to their reasoning: in particular, he claims that three out of the four evolutionary arguments they give are internally unconvincing, and that the one that is initially plausible fails to take into account recent findings from cognitive science and thus leaves open (...) a number of egoistic responses. These challenges make it necessary to reassess the plausibility of Sober & Wilson’s evolutionary account—which is what I aim to do in this paper. In particular, I try to show that, as a matter of fact, Sober & Wilson’s case remains compelling, as some of Stich’s concerns rest on a confusion, and those that do not are not sufficiently strong to establish all the conclusions he is after. The upshot is that no reason has been given to abandon the view that evolutionary theory has advanced the debate surrounding psychological altruism. (shrink)
A simple and general criterion is derived for the evolution of altruism when individuals interact in pairs. It is argued that the treatment of this problem in kin selection theory and in game theory are special cases of this general criterion.
Genuine altruism would appear to be incompatible with evolutionary theory. And yet altruistic behavior would seem to occur, at least on occasion. This article first considers a game-theoretical attempt at solving this seeming paradox, before considering agroup selectionist approach. Neither approach, as they stand, would seem to render genuine, as opposed to reciprocal, altruism compatible with the theory of evolution. The article concludes by offering an alternative game-theoretical solution to the problem of altruism.
In their marvelous book, Unto Others: The Evolution and Psychology of Unselfish Behavior, Sober and Wilson identify two distinct problems of altruism.’ The problem of Evolutionary Altruism (EA) “is to show how behaviors that benefit others at the expense of self can evolve;” (17) group selection is the key to the solution of this problem. The problem of Psychological Altruism (PA) is to determine whether people “have altruistic desires that are psychologically ultimate.” (201) After carefully considering the (...) arguments of both psychologists and philosophers, Sober and Wilson render the verdict “not proven.” But just in the nick of time, evolutionary biology rides to the rescue; it succeeds where psychology and philosophy fail in vindicating our good nature. In this paper, I will discuss Sober and Wilson’s treatment of PA. (shrink)
Is human behavior exclusively motivated by self-interest? Common sense indicates that we should flatly deny this, or so it seems to me. Yet the doctrine of universal self-interest, psychological egoism for short, has gained the support of many researchers in science. Common sense also seems to allow the rejection of ethical egoism, the doctrine that human behavior should be motivated exclusively by self-interest. It appears to be at variance with widely endorsed moralities. Yet it is a perennial subject of research (...) in ethics. What stance should we take in the face of these discrepancies? Two views suggest themselves. Commonsensical views of egoism and altruism are flawed or research on the subject in science and ethics is misguided. Considering ethics I argue in this article that research is misguided to the extent that it is conducted at inappropriately high levels of generality. I argue that both ethical egoism and psychological egoism are mistaken. (shrink)
It’s recently been argued that biological fitness can’t change over the course of an organism’s life as a result of organisms’ behaviors. However, some characterizations of biological function and biological altruism tacitly or explicitly assume that an effect of a trait can change an organism’s fitness. In the first part of the paper, I explain that the core idea of changing fitness can be understood in terms of conditional probabilities defined over sequences of events in an organism’s life. The (...) result is a notion of “conditional fitness” which is static but which captures intuitions about apparent behavioral effects on fitness. The second part of the paper investigates the possibility of providing a systematic foundation for conditional fitness in terms of spaces of sequences of states of an organism and its environment. I argue that the resulting “organism–environment history conception” helps unify diverse biological perspectives, and may provide part of a metaphysics of natural selection. (shrink)
The distinction between egoistic and altruistic motivation is firmly embedded in contemporary moral discourse, but harks back too to early modern attempts to found morality on an egoistic basis. Rejecting that latter premise means accepting that others’ interests have intrinsic value, but it remains far from clear what altruism demands of us and what its relationship is with the rest of morality. While informing our duties, altruism seems also to urge us to transcend them and embrace the other-regarding (...) values and virtues constitutive of a good life. This rather wide conception of morality may strike us today as too demanding. At the same time, however, currently popular impartialist accounts of morality can disrupt much everyday altruism in their insistence that each person’s interests are weighed precisely equally. Having sketched this problematic of altruism, the second half of this Introduction outlines the arguments of the four papers and review essay in this collection, each of which, in a different way, negotiates the difficult relationships between egoism, altruism, morality and impartiality. (shrink)
Altruism is generally understood to be behavior that benefits others at a personal cost to the behaving individual. However, within evolutionary biology, different authors have interpreted the concept of altruism differently, leading to dissimilar predictions about the evolution of altruistic behavior. Generally, different interpretations diverge on which party receives the benefit from altruism and on how the cost of altruism is assessed. Using a simple trait-group framework, we delineate the assumptions underlying different interpretations and show how (...) they relate to one another. We feel that a thorough examination of the connections between interpretations not only reveals why different authors have arrived at disparate conclusions about altruism, but also illuminates the conditions that are likely to favor the evolution of altruism. (shrink)
Sober and Wilson have propose a cluster of arguments for the conclusion that “natural selection is unlikely to have given us purely egoistic motives” and thus that psychological altruism is true. I maintain that none of these arguments is convincing. However, the most powerful of their arguments raises deep issues about what egoists and altruists are claiming and about the assumptions they make concerning the cognitive architecture underlying human motivation.
Reciprocal altruism was originally formulated in terms of individual selection and most theorists continue to view it in this way. However, this interpretation of reciprocal altruism has been challenged by Sober and Wilson (1998). They argue that reciprocal altruism (as well as all other forms of altruism) evolves by the process of group selection. In this paper, we argue that the original interpretation of reciprocal altruism is the correct one. We accomplish this by arguing that (...) if fitness attaches to (at minimum) entire life cycles, then the kind of fitness exchanges needed to form the group-level in such situations is not available. Reciprocal altruism is thus a result of individual selection and when it evolves, it does so because it is individually advantageous. (shrink)
Views on the evolution of altruism based upon multilevel selection on structured populations pay little attention to the difference between fortuitous and deliberate processes leading to assortative grouping. Altruism may evolve when assortative grouping is fortuitously produced by forces external to the organism. But when it is deliberately produced by the same proximate mechanism that controls altruistic responses, as in humans, exploitation of altruists by selfish individuals is unlikely and altruism evolves as an individually advantageous trait. Groups (...) formed with altruists of this sort are special, because they are not affected by subversion from within. A synergistic process where altruism is selected both at the individual and at the group level can take place. (shrink)
Rachlin basically marshals three reasons behind his unconventional claim that altruism is a subcategory of self-control and that, hence, the prisoner's dilemma is the appropriate metaphor of altruism. I do not find any of the three reasons convincing. Therefore, the prisoner's dilemma metaphor is unsuitable for explaining altruism.
In recent attempts to characterize the cognitive mechanisms underlying altruistic motivation, one central question is the extent to which the capacity for altruism depends on the capacity for understanding other minds, or ‘mindreading’. Some theorists maintain that the capacity for altruism is independent of any capacity for mindreading; others maintain that the capacity for altruism depends on fairly sophisticated mindreading skills. I argue that none of the prevailing accounts is adequate. Rather, I argue that altruistic motivation depends (...) on a basic affective system, a ‘Concern Mechanism’, which requires only a minimal capacity for mindreading. (shrink)
Philosophers often discuss altruism, how it is to be understood, explained, justified, evaluated, etc. Few refer to any experimental data on helping behaviour. I will argue that some of these data seem at least initially to present a challenge to various philosophical accounts of altruism. Put very broadly, when one looks at various philosophical accounts of altruism in light of various data on helping behaviour, one might wonder whether many philosophical accounts fall prey to the 'fundamental attribution (...) error', overestimating people's character and personal dispositions as the basis of their actions and underestimating the role of persons' situations and their construals of them in determining what they do. (shrink)
This paper begins with Thomas Nagel’s investigation of the possibility of altruism.1 Altruism, by Nagel’s definition, is “merely a willingness to act in consideration of the interests of other persons, without the need of ulterior motives.” (Nagel: 79) The fundamental question Nagel investigates is: how is altruism possible? The reason why we need to investigate the possibility of altruism is exactly that an altruistic act is not readily exercised; it requires some effort on the part of (...) the agent. Nagel discusses various cases of “motivational interference,” such as weakness of the will, cowardice, laziness, panic, etc. (Nagel: 66). In addition, we can also imagine that attitudes such as procrastination, apathy, inconsistency, and consideration for one’s future self all pose an obstacle to the causal efficacy of altruistic motivation. Therefore, a successful motivational theory of altruism must explain how altruism is possible under all these motivational interferences. However, in this paper I want to push the question further: how can altruism be realized in our contemporary society? When the pursuit of the gratification of one’s own desires generally has an immediate causal efficacy, how can one also be motivated to care for others and to act towards the wellbeing of others? The paper will begin with an.. (shrink)
Group selection is one acknowledged mechanism for the evolution of altruism. It is well known that for altruism to spread by natural selection, interactions must be correlated; that is, altruists must tend to associate with one another. But does group selection itself require correlated interactions? Two possible arguments for answering this question affirmatively are explored. The first is a bad argument, for it rests on a product/process confusion. The second is a more subtle argument, whose validity (or otherwise) (...) turns on issues concerning the meaning of multi-level selection and how it should be modelled. A cautious defence of the second argument is offered. Introduction Multi-level selection and the evolution of altruism Price's equation and multi-level selection Contextual analysis and multi-level selection The neighbour approach Recapitulation and conclusion. (shrink)
I first argue against Peter Singer's exciting thesis that the Prisoner's Dilemma explains why there could be an evolutionary advantage in making reciprocal exchanges that are ultimately motivated by genuine altruism over making such exchanges on the basis of enlightened long-term self-interest. I then show that an alternative to Singer's thesis — one that is also meant to corroborate the view that natural selection favors genuine altruism, recently defended by Gregory Kavka, fails as well. Finally, I show that (...) even granting Singer's and Kavka's claim about the selective advantage of altruism proper, it is doubtful whether that type of claim can be used in a particular sort of sociobiological argument against psychological egoism. (shrink)
How should we decide when to be altruistic ? who are the poor we ought to help? Empirical evidence reveals that in practice altruistic behaviour is strongly influenced by contextual factors such as the cost of helping, perceptions of the person in need, and the number of other people who are in a position to offer help. Philosophers often argue that we should discount such factors, but I claim that altruism is better understood as doing one's proper share of (...) the work of meeting nee. Three possible mechanisms for achieving this are explored: creating formal institutions to discharge our altruistic duties, imposing a legal duty of rescue on individuals, and fostering norms of responsibility that pick out individuals as salient helpers. (shrink)
In recent years, much has been learned about the strategic and organizational contexts of suicide attacks. However, motivations of the agents who commit them remain difficult to explain. In part this is because standard models of social learning as well as Durkheimian notions of sacrificial behavior are inadequate in the face of the actions of human bombers. In addition, the importance of organizational structures and practices in reinforcing commitment on the part of suicide recruits is an under-explored factor in many (...) analyses. This essay examines the potential applicability of evolutionary models of altruism to the understanding of commitment to suicide on the part of terrorist organizational recruits. Three evolutionary models of sacrificial behavior in nonhuman species and many categories of human behavior are explored cross-organizationally: reciprocity, inclusive fitness theory, and induced altruism. Reciprocal altruism is unlikely to be a major motivator in suicide attacks because the costs exhibited by attackers are too high to be adequately compensated. However, the role of evolved self-deception in perceptions of personal death, and thus of rewards in the afterlife, is potentially illuminating. Inclusive fitness theory can help explain the motivations of attackers because rewards to kin often are offered by organizations to suicide recruits. However, suicide bombers also often act out of revenge for the loss of or injury to relatives, and inclusive fitness theory generally, as well as more specific theoretical models of retaliatory aggression, may not adequately account for the bombers' actions. Predictions from induced altruism theory appear to be well supported because suicide terror organizations tend to be tightly structured around practices intended to maintain and reinforce commitment though the manipulation of kinship-recognition cues. (shrink)
Philosophical accounts of altruism that purport to explain helping behavior are vulnerable to empirical falsification. John Campbell argues that the Good Samaritan study adds to a growing body of evidence that helping behavior is not best explained by appeal to altruism, thus jeopardizing those accounts. I propose that philosophical accounts of altruism can be empirically challenged only if it is shown that altruistic motivations are undermined by normative conflict in the agent, and that the relevant studies do (...) not provide this sort of evidence. Non-normative, purely causal, psychological factors would be empirically relevant only if the notion of altruism is broadened to include the requirement that one recognize certain situations as calling for altruism. But even in that case, the relevant studies are not designed in such a way that could threaten philosophical theories of altruism. (shrink)
Many situations in human life present choices between (a) narrowly preferred particular alternatives and (b) narrowly less preferred (or aversive) particular alternatives that nevertheless form part of highly preferred abstract behavioral patterns. Such alternatives characterize problems of self-control. For example, at any given moment, a person may accept alcoholic drinks yet also prefer being sober to being drunk over the next few days. Other situations present choices between (a) alternatives beneficial to an individual and (b) alternatives that are less beneficial (...) (or harmful) to the individual that would nevertheless be beneficial if chosen by many individuals. Such alternatives characterize problems of social cooperation; choices of the latter alternative are generally considered to be altruistic. Altruism, like self-control, is a valuable temporally-extended pattern of behavior. Like self-control, altruism may be learned and maintained over an individual's lifetime. It needs no special inherited mechanism. Individual acts of altruism, each of which may be of no benefit (or of possible harm) to the actor, may nevertheless be beneficial when repeated over time. However, because each selfish decision is individually preferred to each altruistic decision, people can benefit from altruistic behavior only when they are committed to an altruistic pattern of acts and refuse to make decisions on a case-by-case basis. (shrink)
According to Utpaladeva and Abhinavagupta, a subject who has freed himself from the bondage of individuality is necessarily compassionate, and his action, necessarily altruistic. This article explores the paradoxical aspects of this statement; for not only does it seem contradictory with the Pratyabhijñā’s non-dualism (how can compassion and altruism have any meaning if the various subjects are in fact a single, all-encompassing Self?)—it also implies a subtle shift in meaning as regards the very notion of compassion ( karuṇā, kr̥pā (...) ), since according to the two Śaivas, compassion does not result from the awareness of the others’ pain ( duḥkha )—as in Buddhism—but from the awareness of one’s own bliss ( ānanda ). The article thus shows that in spite of their radical criticism of traditional ethical categories such as merit ( dharma ) and demerit ( adharma ), the two Śaiva philosophers still make use of ethical categories, but not without pro- foundly transforming them. (shrink)
If altruism requires self-control, people must consider altruistic acts as costly, the benefits of which will only be recouped in the future. By contrast, I shall present evidence that altruism is dictated by emotions: Altruists secure an immediate payoff from performing altruistic acts, so no element of self-control is present, and no future reward is required or expected.
Many recent studies of norm emergence employ the "prisoner's dilemma" (PD) paradigm, which focuses on the free-rider problem that can block the cooperation required for the emergence of social norms. This paper proposes an expansion of the PD paradigm to include a closely related game termed the "altruist's dilemma" (AD). Whereas egoistic behavior in the PD leads to collectively irrational outcomes, the opposite is the case in the AD: altruistic behavior (e.g., following the Golden Rule) leads to collectively irrational outcomes, (...) whereas egoistic behavior leads to Pareto-optimal outcomes. The analysis shows that PDs can be converted into ADs either by increasing cooperation costs or by diminishing marginal gains from cooperation; therefore ADs are as empirically abundant as PDs. In addition, the analysis shows that altruists are not the only type of actors who fall prey to the AD; egoists can fall into this trap as well if they possess a capacity for interpersonal control. Where group solidarity is defined analytically in terms of the extent of cooperation in both PDs and ADs, this paper presents a model based on rational choice to account for variations in solidarity. According to the proposed analysis, levels of group solidarity depend on the balance in the group between compliant control, which increases cooperation, and oppositional control, which reduces it. That balance, in turn, depends on the allocation of power within the group. (shrink)
Operational definitions of biological altruism in terms of actual fitness exchanges will not work because they include accidental acts as altruistic and exclude altruistic acts that have gone awry. I argue that the definition of biological altruism should contain an analogue of the role intention plays in psychological altruism. I consider two possibilities for this analogue, selected effect functions and the proximate causes and effects of behavior. I argue that the selected-effect function account will not work because (...) it confuses the explanation of some altruistic behavior with the definition of all of it and the information needed to justify a selected effect account of function is too often inaccessible. Close attention to the proximate explanations of a behavior is all that is needed to determine if an act is biologically altruistic, returning biological altruism to descriptive ethology, where it belongs. (shrink)
Biologists rely extensively on the iterated Prisoner's Dilemma game to model reciprocal altruism. After examining the informal conditions necessary for reciprocal altruism, I argue that formal games besides the standard iterated Prisoner's Dilemma meet these conditions. One alternate representation, the modified Prisoner's Dilemma game, removes a standard but unnecessary condition; the other game is what I call a Cook's Dilemma. We should explore these new models of reciprocal altruism because they predict different stability characteristics for various strategies; (...) for instance, I show that strategies such as Tit-for-Tat have different stability dynamics in these alternate models. (shrink)
One of the central tenets of Christian theology is the denial of self for the benefit of another. However, many views on the evolution of altruism presume that natural selection inevitably leads to a self-seeking human nature and that altruism is merely a façade to cover underlying selfish motives. I argue that human altruism is an emergent characteristic that cannot be reduced to any one particular evolutionary explanation. The evolutionary processes at work in the formation of human (...) nature are not necessarily in conflict with the possibility of altruism; rather, aspects of human nature are uniquely directed toward the care and concern of others. The relationship between altruism, human nature, and evolution can be reimagined by adopting an emergent view of the hierarchy of science and a theological worldview that emphasizes self-renunciation. The investigation of altruism necessitates an approach that analyzes several aspects of altruistic behavior at different levels in the hierarchy of sciences. This research includes the study of evolutionary adaptations, neurological systems, cognitive functions, behavioral traits, and cultural influences. No one level is able to offer a full explanation, but each piece adds a unique dimension to a much larger puzzle. (shrink)
My aim in this paper is to demonstrate that a very simple learning rule based on imitation can help to sustain altruism as a culturally transmitted pattern or behaviour among agents playing a standard prisoner’s dilemma game. The point of this demonstration is not to prove that imitation is single-handedly responsible for existing levels of altruism (a thesis that is false), nor is the point to show that imitation is an important factor in explanations for the evolution of (...)altruism (a thesis already prominent in the existing literature). The point is to show that imitation contributes to the evolution of altruism in a particular way that is not always fairly represented by evolutionary game theory models. Specifically, the paper uses a simple model to illustrate that cultural transmission includes mechanisms that do not transmit phenotype vertically (i.e. from parent to related offspring) and that these mechanisms can promote altruism in the absence of any direct biological propensity favouring such behaviour. This is a noteworthy result because it shows that evolutionary models can be built to explicitly reflect the contribution of non-vertical transmission in our explanations for the evolution of altruism among humans and other social species. (shrink)
I offer an appreciation and critique of Ernst Fehrs altruism research in experimental economics that challenges the "selfishness axiom" as an account of human behavior. I describe examples of Fehrs experiments and their results and consider his conceptual terminology, particularly his "biological" definition of altruism and its counterintuitive implications. I also look at Fehrs experiments from a methodological perspective and examine his explanations of subjects behavior. In closing, I look at Fehrs neuroscientific work in experimental economics and question (...) his adherence to a subjective expected utility interpretation of subjects behavior. Key Words: altruism Ernst Fehr strong reciprocity neuroeconomics experimental economics. (shrink)
Altruism is a central concept in evolutionary biology. Evolutionary biologists still disagree about its meaning (E.O. Wilson 2005; Fletcher et al. 2006; D.S. Wilson 2008; Foster et al. 2006a, b; West et al. 2007a, 2008). Semantic disagreement appears to be quite robust and not easily overcome by attempts at clarification, suggesting that substantive conceptual issues lurk in the background. Briefly, group selection theorists define altruism as any trait that makes altruists losers to selfish traits within groups, and makes (...) groups of altruists fitter than groups of non-altruists. Inclusive fitness theorists reject a definition based on within- and between-group fitness. Traits are altruistic only if they cause a direct and absolute fitness loss to the donor. The latter definition is more restrictive and rejects as cases of altruism behaviors that are accepted by the former. Fletcher and Doebeli (2009) recently proposed a simple, direct and individually based fitness approach, which they claim returns to first principles: carriers of the genotype of interest “must, on average, end up with more net direct fitness benefits than average population members.” This seductively simple proposal uses the concept of assortment to explain how diverse kinds of altruists end up on average with more net fitness than their non-altruistic rivals. In this paper I shall argue that their approach implies a new concept of altruism that contrasts with and improves on the concept of the inclusive fitness approach. (shrink)
I examine the relationship between evolutionary definitions of altruism that are based on fitness effects and psychological definitions that are based on the motives of the actor. I show that evolutionary altruism can be motivated by proximate mechanisms that are psychologically either altruistic or selfish. I also show that evolutionary definitions do rely upon motives as a metaphor in which the outcome of natural selection is compared to the decisions of a psychologically selfish (or altruistic) individual. Ignoring the (...) precise nature of both psychological and evolutionary definitions has obscured many important issues, including the biological roots of psychological altruism. (shrink)
Altruistic behavior and motivation has traditionally been regarded as a defense mechanism defined by the vicissitudes of instinctual gratification. In this article, we suggest that there exists a substantial body of evidence from the fields of ethology, infant research, and experimental psychology to support the existence of an independently motivated altruism that is nondefensive in nature. We attempt to show how the view of altruism as a universal motivational system stems from the recent developments in evolutionary theory and (...) contributes to our understanding of intrapsychic factors influencing human behavior in general and the process of psychotherapy in particular. It is not our goal to prove the existence of "pure altruism" that can never be derived from selfish motives. Rather, our thesis is that self-oriented and altruistic motivations are equal and essential partners in human evolution and development. It is the optimal balance of these two forces that is necessary for evolutionary advancement and for psychological health. (shrink)
Abstract In this paper, I pursue an interpretive goal and a critical goal. My interpretive goal is to offer a clear restatement of Nagel's argument for a requirement of altruism (as found in The Possibility of Altruism). My critical goal is to explain why this argument is unsuccessful, and to make a case for the thesis that any argument of its kind must fail.
As support for his position, Rachlin refers to the writings of Aristotle. However, Aristotle, like many social psychological theorists, would dispute the assumptions that altruism always involves self-control, and that altruism is confined to acts that have group benefits. Indeed, for Aristotle, as for equity theory and sociobiology, justice exists partly to curb the unrestrained actions of those altruists who are a social liability.
Kin selection, reciprocity and group selection are widely regarded as evolutionary mechanisms capable of sustaining altruism among humans andother cooperative species. Our research indicates, however, that these mechanisms are only particular examples of a broader set of evolutionary possibilities.In this paper we present the results of a series of simple replicator simulations, run on variations of the 2–player prisoner's dilemma, designed to illustrate the wide range of scenarios under which altruism proves to be robust under evolutionary pressures. The (...) set of mechanisms we explore is divided into four categories:correlation, group selection, imitation, and punishment. We argue that correlation is the core phenomenon at work in all four categories. (shrink)
Intertemporal bargaining theory based on the hyperbolic discounting of expected rewards accounts for how choosing in categories increases self-control, without postulating, as Rachlin does, the additional rewardingness of patterns per se. However, altruism does not seem to be based on self-control, but on the primary rewardingness of vicarious experience. We describe a mechanism that integrates vicarious experience with other goods of limited availability.
The divide between oneself and others has made altruism seem irrational to some thinkers, as Sidgwick points out. I use characterizations of grief, especially by St. Augustine, to question the divide, and use a composition-as-identity metaphysics of parts and wholes to make literal sense of those characterizations.
Altruism is a deep and complex phenomenon that is analysed by scholars of various disciplines, including psychology, philosophy, biology, evolutionary anthropology and experimental economics. Much confusion arises in current literature because the term altruism covers variable concepts and processes across disciplines. Here we investigate the sense given to altruism when used in different fields and argumentative contexts. We argue that four distinct but related concepts need to be distinguished: (a) psychological altruism , the genuine motivation to (...) improve others’ interests and welfare; (b) reproductive altruism , which involves increasing others’ chances of survival and reproduction at the actor’s expense; (c) behavioural altruism , which involves bearing some cost in the interest of others; and (d) preference altruism , which is a preference for others’ interests. We show how this conceptual clarification permits the identification of overstated claims that stem from an imprecise use of terminology. Distinguishing these four types of altruism will help to solve rhetorical conflicts that currently undermine the interdisciplinary debate about human altruism. (shrink)
Geoffrey Miller argues that we can account for the evolution of human art and altruism via the action of sexual selection. He identifies five characteristics supposedly unique to sexual adaptations: fitness indicating cost; involvement in courtship; heritability; variability; and sexual differentiation. Miller claims that art and altruism possess these characteristics. I argue that not only does he not demonstrate that art and altruism possess these characteristics, one can also explain the origins of altruism via a form (...) of group selection and traits with the five characteristics in terms of a process I call "cultural sexual selection.". (shrink)
This paper begins with Thomas Nagel's (1970) investigation of the possibility of altruism to further examine how to motivate altruism. When the pursuit of the gratification of one's own desires generally has an immediate causal efficacy, how can one also be motivated to care for others and to act towards the well-being of others? A successful motivational theory of altruism must explain how altruism is possible under all these motivational interferences. The paper will begin with an (...) exposition of Nagel's proposal, and see where it is insufficient with regard to this further issue. It will then introduce the views of Zhang Zai and Wang Fuzhi, and see which one could offer a better motivational theory of altruism. All three philosophers offer different insights on the role of human reason/reflection and human sentiments in moral motivation. The paper will end with a proposal for a socioethical moral program that incorporates both moral reason and moral sentiments as motivation. (shrink)
Pathological Altruism Content Type Journal Article Category Book Review Pages 1-2 DOI 10.1007/s11673-012-9362-2 Authors Katrina A. Bramstedt, Bond University School of Medicine, University Drive, Gold Coast, Queensland, 4229 Australia Journal Journal of Bioethical Inquiry Online ISSN 1872-4353 Print ISSN 1176-7529.
Rachlin uses the word “choice” 80 times, whereas “emotion” does not appear. In contrast, “Empathy: Its ultimate and proximate bases” by Preston and de Waal, uses the word “emotion” 139 times and “choice” once. This commentary compares these ways of approaching empathy and altruism, relating Rachlin's approach to Gilligan's Morality of Justice and Preston and de Waal's to the Morality of Caring.
Rachlin shows that experiments about social cooperation may fruitfully be grouped with experiments on self-control, and that this suggests interesting possibilities for practical behavioral controls. The concepts of selfishness and altruism, however, that inform his theorizing about these experiments, do not serve to provide understanding of the behavior that commonly is referred to, derogatorily, as selfish.
Altruism by definition involves the self's evaluation of costs and benefits of an act of the self, which must include cost to the self and benefits to the other. Reinforcement value to the self of such acts is greater than the costs to the self. Without consideration of a self-system of evaluation, there is little meaning to altruistic acts.
Internal mechanisms, especially those implicating the self, are crucial for the egoism-altruism debate. Self-liking is extended to close others and can be extended, through socialization and reinforcement experiences, to non-close others: Altruistic responses are directed toward others who are included in the self. The process of self-extension can account for cross-situational variability, contextual variability, and individual differences in altruistic behavior.
We agree with Rachlin's argument that altruism is best understood as a case of self-control, and that a behavioral analysis is appropriate. However, the appeal to teleological behaviorism and the value of behavioral patterns may be unnecessary. Instead, we argue that altruism can generally be explained with traditional behavioral principles such as negative reinforcement, conditioned reinforcement, and rule-governed behavior.
In this article, I defend the thesis that selfishness and altruism can be intrapersonal . In doing so, I argue that the notions of intrapersonal altruism and selfishness usefully pick out behavioural patterns and have predictive value. I also argue that my thesis helps enrich our understanding of the prudential, and can subsume some interesting work in economic and psychological theory.
It is the purpose of this paper to examine the position of the Treatise on this subject [of altruism]. The result, as the writer believes, will show that Hume admits the existence of an original altruism as fully in his earlier as in his later work.
There is a long tradition of arguments for the existence of God. Early examples include Aristotle’s cosmological argument in Book Lambda of the Metaphysics, arguing that if there is change, there must be at least one unchanging and perfect being that originates all change, while the first chapter of Romans and chapter 13 of the Book of Wisdom insist that “from the greatness and the beauty of created things their original author, by analogy, is seen” (Wis. 13:5, NAB). This tradition (...) continues, and indeed starting in the 1950s, analytic philosophy has seen an impressive resurgence of more and more careful formulations and criticisms of arguments for the existence of God. I shall show how the phenomenon of altruism yields a theistic argument. Some arguments for the existence of God proceed by pure reasoning alone and yield ontological arguments like Anselm’s, while others depend in part either on particular empirical claims (e.g., the argument from miracles or the argument from religious experience), or on general empirical claims, such as that there is motion, consciousness or life. The pattern of the arguments based on general claims is usually simple: (A) There is a general fact about reality, say that there is change or that there are complex organisms. (B) One argues that either the best or the only explanation is to be found in some state of affairs that includes the existence of a God-like being. And so (C) one concludes that a God-like being.. (shrink)
I argue that Rachlin's notion of self-control is imprecise and not well suited to the discussion of altruism. Rachlin's broader agenda, to improve collective welfare by identifying behavioral mechanisms that increase altruism, neglects the fact that altruism is neither necessary nor sufficient for desirable social outcomes.
Abstract. Few American scientists have devoted as much attention to religion and science as Harvard geologist Kirtley Fletcher Mather (1888–1978). Responding to antievolutionism during the 1920s, he taught Sunday School classes, assisted in defending John Scopes, and wrote Science in Search of God (1928). Over the next 40 years, Mather explored the place of humanity in the universe and the presence of values in light of what he often called “the administration of the universe,” a term and concept he borrowed (...) from his former teacher, geologist Thomas Chrowder Chamberlin. Human values, including cooperation and altruism, had emerged in such a context: “the administrative directive toward orderly organization of increasingly complex systems transcends the urge for survival.” He was also active in the early years of the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science, an organization created by his good friends Ralph Wendell Burhoe and Harlow Shapley. (shrink)
The primrose path and prisoner's dilemma paradigms may require cognitive (executive) control: The active maintenance of context representations in lateral prefrontal cortex to provide top-down support for specific behaviors in the face of short delays or stronger response tendencies. This perspective suggests further tests of whether altruism is a type of self-control, including brain imaging, induced affect, and dual-task studies.
Can economics, which is based on the notion of individual optimization, really model individuals who have a sense of exteriority? This question, derived both from Marcel Mauss's sociological analysis of the social norm of gift-giving and from Emmanuel Levinas's phenomenological analysis of the idea of 'otherness,' leads to the problem of whether it is possible to model altruism with the tool of optimization. By investigating the ways in which economic theory can address this challenge, and by introducing a postulate (...) of methodological altruism following Levinas's theory of the constitution of subjectivity through otherness, this paper uncovers an alternative foundation for the very notion of optimizing calculation - no longer as a self-centered initiative, but rather as an other-centered response. This makes it possible to clarify the implicit content of usual economic individualism, and to see on the basis of which ethical arguments the economic method of optimization may be upheld. The paper studies the consequences of this renewed foundation of optimization for the organization of a fair and efficient interaction between altruists. (shrink)
It is argued that to possess the concept of distress is to be able to apply the concept to others, and that this implies a qualified form of altruism, in the sense that to perceive another as being in distress is, other things being equal, to see them as in need of help.
Despite its virtues, lay decision-making in medicine shares with professional decision-making a disturbing common feature, reflected both in formal policies prohibiting high-risk research and in informal policies favoring treatment decisions made when a crisis or change of status occurs, often late in a downhill course. By discouraging patient decision-making but requiring dedication to the patient's interests by those who make decisions on the patient's behalf, such practices tend to preclude altruistic choice on the part of the patient. This eclipse is (...) to be regretted not just because widescale altruism has the capacity to provide important social goods and correct injustices in distribution, but for intrinsic reasons as well. It is argued that preserving the possibility of altruism obliges patients – and future patients – to make decisions about dying and other medical matters in advance, thus avoiding that displacement of decision-making onto lay and professional second parties which results in altruism's eclipse. Keywords: altruism, medical decision-making, patient's interest, self-interest, autonomy, death and dying decisions, refusal of treatment, prolongation of life, allowing to die, high-risk research CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
Evolutionary theorists have encountered difficulty in explaining how altruistic behavior can evolve. I argue that these theorists have made this task more difficult than it needs to be by focusing their efforts on explaining how nature could select for a strong type of altruism that has powerful selection forces working against it. I argue that switching the focus to a weaker type of altruism renders the project of explaining how altruism can evolve significantly less difficult. I offer (...) a model of weak altruism that can avoid many of the difficulties that evolutionary accounts of altruism have traditionally faced. (shrink)
Human cooperation is a key driving force behind the evolutionary success of our hominin lineage. At the proximate level, biologists and social scientists have identified other-regarding preferences – such as fairness based on egalitarian motives, and altruism – as likely candidates for fostering large-scale cooperation. A critical question concerns the ontogenetic origins of these constituents of cooperative behavior, as well as whether they emerge independently or in an interrelated fashion. The answer to this question will shed light on the (...) interdisciplinary debate regarding the significance of such preferences for explaining how humans become such cooperative beings. We investigated 15-month-old infants' sensitivity to fairness, and their altruistic behavior, assessed via infants' reactions to a third-party resource distribution task, and via a sharing task. Our results challenge current models of the development of fairness and altruism in two ways. First, in contrast to past work suggesting that fairness and altruism may not emerge until early to mid-childhood, 15-month-old infants are sensitive to fairness and can engage in altruistic sharing. Second, infants' degree of sensitivity to fairness as a third-party observer was related to whether they shared toys altruistically or selfishly, indicating that moral evaluations and prosocial behavior are heavily interconnected from early in development. Our results present the first evidence that the roots of a basic sense of fairness and altruism can be found in infancy, and that these other-regarding preferences develop in a parallel and interwoven fashion. These findings support arguments for an evolutionary basis – most likely in dialectical manner including both biological and cultural mechanisms – of human egalitarianism given the rapidly developing nature of other-regarding preferences and their role in the evolution of human-specific forms of cooperation. Future work of this kind will help determine to what extent uniquely human sociality and morality depend on other-regarding preferences emerging early in life. (shrink)
Fluctuations in endogenous opioid activity in the brain, controlled under ordinary conditions by attachment, are capable of producing patterns of dependence in social behavior resembling those appearing in substance abusers. Withdrawal symptoms arising in relation to these fluctuations, short of producing dependence, ordinarily fuel everyday social interaction, and interaction then serves to modulate opioid activity within a range associated with comfort. Comfort-constraints in this sense operate in all settings of social interaction, part of an innate caregiving mechanism conserved by evolution (...) in human behavior. In this paper we present a formal model of the neurosociological mechanism embodying these comfort constraints. Conceptualized as a hyperstructure, the mechanism grounds thinking about social interaction in recent biological discoveries about the brain, and enables sociologists to study how activity in core brain systems constrains deep patterns in social life, including the human tendencies to altruism and reciprocity. Using computational methods, we undertake simulations to study the mechanism, deriving implications about moral behavior. The theory of the hyperstructure leads to new conclusions about reciprocity and altruism, and bears upon sociological understanding of related subjects such as justice and social comparison. (shrink)
Since we have learned that human organs can be used to treat severe health problems, only donation has been considered for organ procurement. Among the other possibilities that can be used after a person’s death, purchase or systematic removal have been a priori rejected. However, we will show that the appeal to individual altruism have resulted in some of the aporias of the present situation. Subsequently, we will consider how systematic organ removal from deceased persons can be made acceptable (...) in liberal and democratic societies. Finally, we will suggest that individual choices with regard to systematic organ removal could well be registered in a way that allows proper implementation of present French legislation. (shrink)
Atran & Norenzayan (A&N) fail to address several problems with commitment theory as it relates to non-kin altruism in religious contexts. They (1) provide little support for the contention that religious sacrifices function as signals, (2) do not distinguish between religious specialists and lay believers, and (3) conflate definitions of cooperation and sacrifice.
It has become common to distinguish between altruistic and commercial contract motherhood (or ‘surrogacy’). Altruistic arrangements are based on the ‘gift relationship’: a woman is motivated by altruism to have a baby for an infertile couple, who are free to reciprocate as they see fit. By contrast, in commercial arrangements both parties are motivated by personal gain to enter a legally enforceable agreement, which stipulates that the contract mother or ‘surrogate’ is to bear a child for the intending parents (...) in exchange for a fee. She is required to undergo medical examinations and to refrain from behaviour that could harm the foetus. The intending parents are the child's legal parents from the outset. The parties to the contract can, but are not expected to, maintain contact after the transaction is completed. We argue that contract motherhood should not be organized according to the norms of the gift relationship, and that contract mothers should be compensated for their labour. However, we accept that there are good reasons for rejecting the commercial model as a suitable framework for contract pregnancy, and argue, instead, in favour of viewing it as a profession. (shrink)
Rachlin provides an impressive integrative view of altruism and selfishness that helps us correct older views. He presents a highly general theory, even though he is aware of context-dependence of key notions, including altruism. The context-dependence should extend much farther than Rachlin allows it to go. We had better replace theoretical notions of altruism and selfishness by common sense.
Henrich et al. propose that humans are genetically equipped with learning mechanisms that enable them to acquire the preferences and beliefs related to economic prosocial behaviors. In addition to their cross-cultural data, they cite developmental evidence in support of this theory. We challenge Henrich et al.'s interpretation of the developmental data in a discussion of recent work which suggests that preferences for altruism and fairness may have an innate basis.
We assume that a statute permitting physician assisted death has been passed. We note that the rationale for the passage of such a statute would be respect for individual autonomy, the avoidance of suffering and the possibility of death with dignity. We deal with two moral issues that will arise once such a law is passed. First, we argue that the rationale for passing an assistance in dying law in the first place provides a justification for assisting patients to die (...) who are motivated by altruistic reasons as well as patients who are motivated by reasons of self-interest. Second, we argue that the reasons for passing a physician assisted death law in the first place justify extending the law to cover some nonterminal patients as well as terminal patients. Keywords: altruism, autonomy, assisted death, euthanasia CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
Altruistic behaviour, where it occurs in nature, is commonly assumed to belong to one or other of two generically different types. Either it is an example of "kin selected altruism" such as occurs between blood relatives – a worker bee risking her life to help her sister, for example, or a human father giving protection to his child. Or it is an example of "reciprocal altruism" such as occurs between non-relatives who have entered into a pact to exchange (...) favours – one male monkey supporting another unrelated male in a fight over a female, for example, or one bat who has food to spare offering it to another unrelated individual who is hungry. (shrink)
In the study of organ and tissue transplantation, the focus tends to be on donation. But where there is giving, there is also getting: receiving help. Altruism, helping behavior, and the exchange of benefits have received extensive attention from social psychological researchers. The gift exchange described by anthropologist Marcel Mauss provides a framework for reviewing this social psychological research on altruism and exchange and applying it to transplantation. An overall conclusion is that altruistic donation is not so ethically (...) or clinically problematic, while receiving help has a complex psychosocial context that needs to be acknowledged and given more attention. (shrink)
Questions concerning the essential nature of altruism, the existence of an altruistic personality, and the genetic, biosocial, and social psychological bases of altruistic behavior have dominated theory and research on the topic. The current paper reconceptualizes financial altruism sociologically as a form of unilateral resource exchanges, or welfare. The alternative definition employs Donald Black's (1979, 2000) analytic approach to describe and explain the behavior of welfare with its location and direction in social space. The paper offers several propositions (...) that purport to explain variations in welfare by drawing upon cross-cultural research. In general, welfare flows in the direction of those who are less integrated and who have lower social status. In addition, welfare varies directly with intimacy, conventionality, and respectability. Finally, welfare varies inversely with relational distance, cultural distance, and group size. The paper concludes with a brief discussion of strengths and limitations of the general propositions advanced. (shrink)
Altruism can be understood in terms of traditional principles of reinforcement if an outcome that is beneficial to another person reinforces the behavior of the actor who produces it. This account depends on a generalization of reinforcement across persons and might be more amenable to experimental investigation than the one proposed by Rachlin.
The act-pattern model of altruism is primarily a brand-equity model, which holds that being altruistic can be traded for social benefits. This is a variant of the “selfish” altruism that Rachlin decries, with altruism being dictated by cold calculations. Moreover, personal and social “self-control” may not be as similar as Rachlin suggests – although we have good (biological) reasons to sacrifice the interests of our current selves in favour of our future selves, we have no such reason (...) to sacrifice ourselves for our neighbours. When we do sacrifice ourselves – giving in to true altruism – we will be repaid with extinction. (shrink)
The author contends that overworking residents cannot be ethically justified. There is evidence that overwork is detrimental both to the resident and to the patient. In addition, thu argument that working long hours is essential to maintain medicine's status as a profession is analyzed. The claim cannot be supported by definitions of professionalism. Although Flexner's definition does specify altruism as an essential component, it does not justify long working hours for residents. Altruism is obligatory in some limited cases, (...) but only when it is required to fulfill some contractual obligation. Keywords: professionalism, altruism, residency, medical education CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
Proposals for increasing organ donation are often rejected as incompatible with altruistic motivation on the part of donors. This paper questions, on conceptual grounds, whether most organ donors really are altruistic. If we distinguish between altruism and solidarity – a more restricted form of other-concern, limited to members of a particular group – then most organ donors exhibit solidarity, rather than altruism. If organ donation really must be altruistic, then we have reasons to worry about the motives of (...) existing donors. However, I argue that altruism is not necessary, because organ donation supplies important goods, whatever the motivation, and we can reject certain dubious motivations, such as financial profit, without insisting on altruism.Once solidaristic donation is accepted, certain reforms for increasing donation rates seem permissible. This paper considers two proposals. Firstly, it has been suggested that registered donors should receive priority for transplants. While this proposal appears based on a solidaristic norm of reciprocity, it is argued that such a scheme would be undesirable, since non-donors may contribute to society in other ways. The second proposal is that donors should be able to direct their organs towards recipients that they feel solidarity with. This is often held to be inconsistent with altruistic motivation, but most donation is not entirely undirected in the first place (for instance, donor organs usually go to co-nationals). While allowing directed donation would create a number of practical problems, such as preventing discrimination, there appears to be no reason in principle to reject it. (shrink)
Altruism and cooperation are explained as learned behaviors arising from a pattern of repeated acts whose acquired value outweighs the short-term gains following single acts. But animals and young children, tempted by immediate gains, have difficulty learning behaviors of self-control. An alternative source of reinforcement, shared by animals and humans, arises from social interaction that normally accompanies cooperation and altruism in nature.
The evolution of economic altruism is one of the most vigorous areas of study at the intersection of biology, economics, and philosophy. The basic problem is easily understood. Biological organisms, be they people or paramecia, have ample opportunity to confer benefits on others at relatively low cost to themselves. If conferring such benefits becomes common, the overall productivity of the population in which it occurs is increased. Presumably, there is no advantage to refusing such benefits, but it is also (...) the case that there is considerable advantage to pursuing a strategy according to which such benefits are accepted, but not conferred. In populations where individuals interact at random with others and when individuals play pure strategies (i.e., they always confer or do not confer benefits), the inevitable outcome is that altruistic behavior is driven to extinction. (Axelrod 1984) Nonetheless, there is ample evidence that self-sacrificing behavior is common in nature. (Sober and Wilson 1998) Consequently, individuals must not be interacting at random. The pressing question is then: what patterns of non-random interaction are responsible for the prevalence of altruistic behavior, and more theoretically, what sorts of plausible mechanisms exist that could generate the right kind of non- 1 The research reported here was supported by Canada ????? grant # ????? and the Centre for Applied Ethics at the University of British Columbia. (shrink)
The concept of altruism is used in very different forms by computer scientists,economists, philosophers, social scientists, psychologists and biologists. Yet, in order to be useful in social simulations, the concept altruism requires a more precise meaning. A quantitative formulation is proposed here, based on the cost/benefit analysis of the altruist and of society at large. This formulation is applied in the analysis of the social dynamic working of behaviors that have been called altruistic punishments, using the agent based (...) computer model Sociodynamica. The simulations suggest that altruistic punishment on its own cannot maintain altruistic behaviors. Altruistic behavior is sustainable in the long term only if these behaviors trigger synergetic forces in society that eventually make them produce benefits to most individuals. The simulations suggest however that altruistic punishment may work as a social investment , and is thus better called decentralized social punishment. This behavior is very efficient in enforcing social norms. The efficiency of decentralized social punishment in enforcing norms was dependent on the type of labor structured of the virtual society. I conclude that what is called altruistic punishment emerges as a type of social investment that can evolve either through individual and/or group selection, as a successful device for changing or enforcing norms in a society. Social simulations will help us in better understanding the underlying dynamic working of such devices. (shrink)