Biology and Philosophy 9 (1):75-84 (1994)

Altruistic behavior is often regarded as sociobiology''s most central theoretical problem, but is it? Altruism in biology, bioaltruism, has many meanings, which can be grouped into two categories. The first I will callcommon bioaltruism. It is primarily of ethological relevance. The second,evolutionary bioaltruism, is a special category in evolutionary respects in that it may indeed pose a problem for evolutionary theory. These categories are logically independent. Moreover, both of them are logically different from altruism in its everyday psychological or moral sense. Sociobiological examples of bioaltruistic behavior concern bioaltruism in the first sense only, so the theoretical problem altruism is supposed to pose, is indeed nothing but a theoretical problem and the bioaltruism that actually occurs has no evolutionary relevance. Nevertheless, evolutionary theory is relevant to our understanding of the possibility of common bioaltruism, and that possibility — even though bioaltruism is conceptually different from ethical altruism — is relevant for ethicists: it sheds light on what we can ask people to do or not to do.
Keywords Altruism  ethics  ethology  evolution  sociobiology
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DOI 10.1007/BF00849915
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References found in this work BETA

Sociobiology: The New Synthesis.Edward O. Wilson - 1975 - Journal of the History of Biology 33 (3):577-584.
Chance and Natural Selection.John Beatty - 1984 - Philosophy of Science 51 (2):183-211.
Evolutionary Altruism, Psychological Egoism, and Morality: Disentangling the Phenotypes.Elliott Sober - 1993 - In Matthew Nitecki & Doris Nitecki (eds.), Evolutionary Ethics. Suny Press. pp. 199--216.

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Citations of this work BETA

Parting with Illusions in Evolutionary Ethics.David C. Lahti - 2003 - Biology and Philosophy 18 (5):639-651.
The Accidental Altruist.Jack Wilson - 2002 - Biology and Philosophy 17 (1):71-91.

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