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The Causes Of Altruism Essay

1148 words - 5 pages

How do humans actually behave when faced with the decision to help others? The innate desire that compels humans to help is called altruism by psychologists. Through this feeling, humans transform from a selfish jerk to a more compassionate and caring person. Some psychologists believe that this feeling stems from nature itself. Despite the fact that some altruistic acts originate from the pressures of society, altruism predominantly comes from the survival of the fittest, the feeling of empathy, and the selfish desire to benefit your own kin.

Before a case can be made for the causes of altruism, altruism itself must first be defined. Most leading psychologists agree that the definition of altruism is “a motivational state with the ultimate goal of increasing another’s welfare.” (Batson, 1981). The only way for a person to be truly altruistic is if their intent is to help the community before themselves. However, the only thing humans can see is the actions themselves, and so, selfish intent may seem the same as altruistic intent. Alas, the only way that altruism can be judged is if the intent is obvious. Through that, we must conclude that only certain intents can be defined as altruistic, and as intent stemming from nature benefits the group while other intent benefits yourself, only actions caused by nature are truly altruistic.

Some psychologists believe that altruism stems from evolution, or the survival of the fittest. They point to examples where ants will willingly bury themselves to seal the anthill from foreign attacks, or the honeybee’s sting. That sting rips out the honeybee’s own internal organs, and has been described as “instruments of altruistic self-sacrifice. Although the individual dies, the bee’s genes, shared in the colony of relatives, survive.” (Rushton, 141). This behavior proves that even the most fundamental forms of life willingly lay down their lives for the benefit of society. Because death is the ultimate sacrifice, as it is the “most complete and permanent change”, no action that directly leads to death can possess selfish influences (White, 233). We want not only for ourselves to succeed, but for the entire species to exist peacefully.

Altruistic acts are often seen through the benevolent acts of family members express towards each other on a regular basis. Because of the significant amount of genes we share with our kin, the survival of a family is prioritized equally to the survival of the individual. Each member of the family will therefore behave altruistically towards each other, due to the evolutionary drive for survival. The reason that parents behave this altruistically towards their offspring is because “parents (adults) are in a maximally favorable position to dispense inexpensive aid to offspring (eggs) that maximally resembles the parents genetically” (Alexander, 462). Even through altruism is perhaps highest between family members, people also feel more empathetic towards others...

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