This chapter focuses on an issue that has vexed philosophers since Plato: is genuinely altruistic behavior possible, or is all human behavior ultimately selfish? It begins in Section 2 with a brief sketch of a cluster of assumptions about human desires, beliefs, actions, and motivation that are widely shared by historical and contemporary authors on both sides in the debate. Section 3 considers links between evolutionary theory and the egoism/altruism debate. There is a substantial literature employing evolutionary theory on each side of the issue. However, it is argued that neither camp has offered a convincing case. Section 4 looks at recent research on altruism in social psychology. While this work has not resolved the debate, it has made illuminating progress—progress that philosophers interested in the question cannot afford to ignore.
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