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Does genuine altruism exist?

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Is there such a thing as genuine altruism? Why or why not?

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1. Is there such a thing as genuine altruism? Why or why not?

Different theorists argue that altruism is, or is not, genuine. For those who argue against genuine altruism, they point out that there is always some level of self-interest in every helping behavior. The other side of the argument is that people morally help others for the sake of helping another person, and it is genuine.

Say, for instance, let's say that a person sees a stranger in the middle of a river, flailing helplessly and who is clearly in distress. Without assistance, it is clear that the person in the river ill drown. The rescuer dives into the lake and drags the victim to safety. The question here is if the rescuer acted completely selflessly? Or, is self-interest involved in even the noblest altruistic act? One theory explaining altruistic behavior comes from Biology, which considers how our conception of right and wrong may have been wired into us through evolution. However, another consideration is altruism from the psychological standpoint. This view propose altruism in terms of importance to the role of an individual's psychology and his/her intentions when committing an action, which potentially leaves more possibility for genuinely altruistic acts to occur.

Again it is a matter of theoretical position. For those who think there is always some level of self-interest involved might argue that the Rescuer only helped the person to get some form of recognition as a hero or for some other self-interested reason. Others would argue the opposite, For example, in Washington DC when that jetliner fell into the Patomec River in freezing water, a stranger jumped into that ice water to save a stranger. Proponents of genuine altruism would not question his genuine altruism, and would probably not cheapen his rescue of that woman by saying otherwise (http://able2know.org/topic/13878-1).

Numerous studies have demonstrated that people experience health benefits when treated kindly and compassionately, but do those who provide love ...

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Difference between altruism and selfishness

In her book, The Virtue of Selfishness, Ayn Rand makes the following claim, "If the [drowning] person to be saved is a stranger, it is morally proper to save him only when the danger to one's own life is minimal; when the danger is great, it would be immoral to attempt it. Conversely, if one is drowning, one cannot expect a stranger to risk his life for one's sake, remembering that one's life cannot be as valuable to him as his own."

1. Do you believe that there are any moral (ethical) obligations that you have to other people (friends, family, acquaintances, or strangers) that are not based on your own perceived self-interest?
2. If so, what are these moral (ethical) obligations and what are they based on?
3. If not, does it follow that you do a kind of personal cost-benefit analysis every time you are required to make a decision about what to do or not do? (Notice that an affirmative answer to this question seems to undermine any possibility of genuinely altruistic actions.)
4. If this is what you do, explain the kind of reasoning process that you go through. Can friendships and loving relations be genuine if they are based only on perceived self-interest?
Your initial post should provide a clear explanation for the difference between actions based on perceived self-interest and actions based on something other than perceived self-interest and should define altruism and altruistic behavior.

Rand, A. (1964). The virtue of selfishness. New York, NY: Signet.

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