Selflessness, selfullness, and the concept of generosity
Altruism is the idea that we need to have concern for the happiness of others, resulting in a higher quality of life both material, mental, emotional, and spiritual. It is a traditional virtue in many cultures and a core aspect of various religious traditions and secular worldviews, though the concept of “others” toward whom concern should be directed can vary among cultures and religions. In an extreme case, altruism may become a synonym of selflessness, which is the opposite of selfishness.
Altruism in biological observations in field populations of the day organisms is an individual performing an action which is at a cost to themselves (e.g., pleasure and quality of life, time, probability of survival or reproduction), but benefits, either directly or indirectly, another individual, without the expectation of reciprocity or compensation for that action. Another definition for altruism is behaviors and actions, the goal of which is to enhance the welfare of another person in the absence of any personal benefits to be gained or any external rewards. It might be said that the opposite of altruism is a spiteful action that harms another with no self-benefit.
Altruism is not the same as having feelings of loyalty. This is because, loyalty is predicated upon social relationships, whereas altruism does not consider relationships. Much debate exists as to whether “true” altruism is possible in human psychology. Looking at this question carefully indicates that no act of sharing, helping, or sacrificing can be described as truly altruistic, as the actor may receive an intrinsic reward in the form of personal gratification. The validity of this argument depends on whether intrinsic rewards qualify as “benefits”.
The term altruism may also refer to an ethical doctrine that claims that individuals are morally obliged to benefit others. Used in this sense, it is usually contrasted with egoism.
Many evolutionary biologists question if pure altruism is possible? They speak more of reciprocal altruism, a behavior whereby an organism acts in a manner that temporarily reduces its fitness while increasing another organism’s fitness, with the expectation that the other organism will act in a similar manner at a later time.
The concept was initially developed by Robert Trivers to explain the evolution of cooperation as instances of mutually altruistic acts. The concept is close to the strategy used in game theory and HAGT (Harrison’s Applied Game Theory). Trivers’ examples of Reciprocal Altruism are actually examples of a similar concept called delayed return altruism.
It would seem based on what we know, that few humans are purely altruistic. Reciprocal altruism in humans seems more likely. Here we are referring to individual behavior that gives benefit conditionally upon receiving a returned benefit, which draws on the economic concept — ″gains in trade″. Human reciprocal altruism would include the following behaviors (but is not limited to): helping patients, the wounded, and the others when they are in crisis; sharing food, implement, knowledge.
Author: Lewis Harrison is an Independent Scholar with a passion for knowledge, personal development, self-improvement, and problem-solving. He is the creator of Harrison’s Applied Game Theory.
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