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If you have ever done something purely out of concern for the welfare of another person, you have performed an act of altruism. Altruism is a genuine willingness to give something of yourself without the expectation of receiving anything, such as reward or recognition, in return. Altruism does not involve a sense of obligation or duty; nor does it include taking action due to fear of punishment. Altruistic acts are done without any concern for the positive or negative effect it may have on you.Altruism is a fundamental aspect of many religions, such as Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, and Sikhism, but is not linked to any organized religious belief system. It is a key aspect of many humanitarian and philanthropic causes, so both religious believers and non-believers can relate to it. While leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi, and Mother Teresa exemplify the idea of altruism, anybody can perform altruistic acts. Altruism need not be done on a grand scale. Performing volunteer work, making a charitable donation, giving one's life for one's nation or just doing a favor for someone can all be acts of altruism.The term altruisme was created in the 19th century by Auguste Comte, a French philosopher and founder of positivism. The term was used to describe the idea that individuals feel a moral obligation to improve the "greater good" of mankind. This belief stands in contrast to egoism, the idea that individual self-interest is the real motive of all conscious action. Altruism also contradicts Darwin's theory of evolution, or the concept of "survival of the fittest," by challenging the belief that people will act only in their own self-interest. There is some philosophical debate over whether altruism, as pure self-sacrifice, truly exists, or whether altruistic actions express love, a feeling that ultimately will benefit both giver and receiver.
- According to Professor Monroe, why do people act altruistically?
- What might one gain by sacrificing for others?
- Do you believe people are truly altruistic? Do you think that doing good makes people feel good? Does this make their actions less commendable? More understandable?
- Can you think of someone you know whom you would describe as altruistic? Explain.