Altruism - a philosophical analysis

eLS (2012)
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Abstract

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.

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Christine Clavien
University of Geneva

References found in this work

The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex.Charles Darwin - 1898 - New York: Plume. Edited by Carl Zimmer.
The ethical project.Philip Kitcher - 2011 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Leviathan.Thomas Hobbes - 2006 - In Aloysius Martinich, Fritz Allhoff & Anand Vaidya (eds.), Early Modern Philosophy: Essential Readings with Commentary. Blackwell.

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