Psychology Dictionary of Arguments

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Altruism: In philosophy, altruism is a moral theory and ethical concept that advocates selfless concern for the well-being and interests of others, often at the expense of one's own self-interest.
Annotation: The above characterizations of concepts are neither definitions nor exhausting presentations of problems related to them. Instead, they are intended to give a short introduction to the contributions below. – Lexicon of Arguments.

Author Concept Summary/Quotes Sources

Ernst Mayr on Altruism - Dictionary of Arguments

I 319
Behavior/Genes/Mayr: genes also contribute to the behavior and personality of man. E.g. mathematical gifts, craftsmanship, musicality, clumsiness.
, >Personality, >Personality traits.
I 323
Natural selection: if it only rewards self-interest, how could ethics and, for example, altruism develop?
Huxley was right with his presumption that the self-interest of the individual somehow contradicted the benefit of society.
Cf. >Altruism.
I 324
Def altruism: (Trivers, 1985)(1): action that benefits another organism at the expense of the actor, with the costs and benefits being defined as reproductive success.
Altruism/Comte: Care for the welfare of others.
>A. Comte.
Altruism/Mayr: is not limited to cases of danger or harm to the altruist.
Three things need to be distinguished (already Darwin):
Selection/Individual: An individual is the object of selection in three respects: as an individual, as a family member (reproducer), and as member of a social group.
The human dilemmas are only to be understood with regard to this triad.
I 325
Altruism/Overall Suitability: is found in many animals, especially with parental care and large families. Defense of the offspring by the mother. This behavior is favored by natural selection, since it improves the fitness of the common genotype of the altruist and its beneficiaries. Selection of relatives. Indirectly rather self-serving. Seemingly altruistic.
Some authors believe that human ethics replaced altruism directed towards overall suitability.
Mayr: I recognize many actions directed toward overall suitability in the behavior of humans: for example mother's love, moral attitude towards strangers. However, only a small part of today's ethics systems.
Social animals: possess a remarkable ability to recognize their relatives.
I 327
Reciprocal altruism: in solitary animals. Synergy of two non-related animals for mutual benefit. E.g. cleaner wrasse, alliance of two individuals fighting a third.
For primates: a kind of consideration: if I help this individual, it will help me.
Perhaps a root of human morality.
Human/Mayr: all the great achievements of mankind were accomplished by less than one per cent of the total population. Without reward and recognition our society would soon break apart.
I 328
Human: The entire history of the hominids is characterized by strong group-selection (already Darwin).
I 329
Altruism/Behavior/Mayr: In contrast to individual selection, group selection can reward genuine altruism and other virtues. Ethical behavior is adaptive in humans.
Sociality: not all collections of animals are social. E.g. schools of young fish and the huge herds of African ungulates are not.
Real altruism: can be extended to non-relatives. For example, baboons.
Some hominids must have discovered that larger groups have more chances.
I 330
Norms: To be able to apply group norms, the brain had to develop the ability to think.
>Norms, >Thinking.
Ethics: two conditions for ethical behavior (Simpson, 1969)(2):
1) There are alternatives
2) The alternatives can be assessed 3) The person can decide freely
This means that consequences are anticipated and responsibility is assumed.
>Responsibility, >Prediction.
Ethics/Cause: it is not possible to determine the cause and effect of ethics.
>Ethics, >Morals.

1. R. L. Trivers (1985). Social evolution. Menlo Park: Benjamin/Cummings.
2. G. G. Simpson (1969). On the Uniqueness of Man: Biology and Man. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World.

Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Concept/Author], [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] resp. "problem:"/"solution:", "old:"/"new:" and "thesis:" is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.

Mayr I
Ernst Mayr
This is Biology, Cambridge/MA 1997
German Edition:
Das ist Biologie Heidelberg 1998

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