Empathy, altruism, and agape are not the same phenomenon. Altruism in the laboratory may differ in significant ways from altruism in what we often call the real world. Altruistic behavior does not correspond to the accepted wisdom in Western ethics in which ethics are a function of agonistic choice. This altruistic perspective consists of a common perception of oneself as an individual strongly linked to others through a shared humanity. Attempts to smuggle self-interest into acts of altruism make clear how difficult it is for disciplines founded on the assumption of self-interest to comprehend and explain altruism. Human beings are highly complex organisms living in a multiplicity of cultures, and any theoretical models designed to predict our behavior must try to allow for this complexity.
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