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A Scientific Search for AltruismDo We Only Care About Ourselves?$
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C. Daniel Batson

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190651374

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190651374.001.0001

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What We’re Looking For

What We’re Looking For

(p.12) (p.13) 2 What We’re Looking For
A Scientific Search for Altruism

C. Daniel Batson

Oxford University Press

Whether a search for altruism is worth pursuing depends on what is meant by altruism. In recent years, seven different things have been called altruism. Four refer to specific forms of behavior, not to our motivational concern: (a) helpful behavior, (b) helping behavior, (c) high-cost helping, and (d) moral behavior. Three refer to motivation rather than behavior, but the first two of these view altruism as a special case of egoism: (e) helping in order to gain internal rather than external rewards and (f) helping in order to reduce one’s own distress caused by witnessing another’s distress. The altruism we’re looking for is (g) a motivational state with the ultimate goal of increasing another’s welfare. Altruism in this sense is juxtaposed to egoism, a motivational state with the ultimate goal of increasing one’s own welfare. This last definition is the only one that focuses on the human–nature question raised in Chapter 1.

Keywords:   altruism, egoism, inclusive fitness, instrumental goal, moral behavior, reciprocal altruism, reproductive success, self-sacrifice, ultimate goal, unintended consequence

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