Wednesday, 3 September 2008


Political Dictionary: altruism
Benefiting other persons or interest-bearers. The common contrast with selfishness reveals some variations in the understanding of altruism, which may refer to a disposition, to an intention, or to behaviour. Hence an altruistic person might intend to benefit others, but fail to do so when executing that intention. Altruism is sometimes understood as giving more consideration to others than oneself, and sometimes as giving equal consideration to oneself and others. Since there are commonly more ‘others’ than the decision-maker, the distinction usually lacks practical importance, but it may be significant in two-person cases. In discussions informed by game theory, a contrast is drawn between reciprocal altruism and universal altruism. Reciprocal altruists display that behaviour towards those from whom they have received it, or from whom they expect to receive it. Universal altruism, often seen as the central ethical prescription of Christianity, is unconditional. In sociobiological applications, it can be shown that the survival chances of individuals and groups depend not only on the incidence of selfishness and altruism, but also on the type of altruism in question.
Andrew Reeve

No comments: