Altruism: Is It A Dirty Word?

Uncommon God, Common Good | 3/30/2019 | Staff
cv2angels (Posted by) Level 3
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Altruism refers to those situations where people presumably pursue the well-being of others freely and selflessly. This notion flies in the face of those who believe natural selection and the survival of the fittest explains fully all human behavior.[1] Given this particular emphasis on natural selection, altruism is basically treated as a dirty word. On the latter view, purportedly selfless acts are at their source self-serving drives that benefit the individual and their kin or larger group’s survival.

E.O. Wilson, for example, argues that Mother Theresa’s noble acts of charity for the poor and leprous were not ultimately selfless but the result of her hoped-for eternal reward or church’s immortality.[2] Without knowing more about Mother Theresa’s explicit aims, I must look elsewhere to respond. Martin Luther King, Jr. asserted that his aim in loving his enemy who sought to harm and even kill King, his loved ones and people was to win his opponent over to friendship and inclusion in the beloved community of agape love. Here’s King in a Christmas sermon just months before his death:

Addition - King - Vision - Community - Altruism

In addition to King’s vision of beloved community involving altruism and agape love for one’s enemies, the Apostle Paul went so far as to claim that if it were at all divinely possible he would rather be accursed and not receive eternal life if his countrymen who, according to the New Testament accounts, vehemently opposed, despised and wanted him dead could be saved (See for example Romans 9:1-5). One cannot explain away such acts and aspirations according to tribalistic drives of natural selection.

Certainly, oxytocin is a vitally important aspect of our humanity. It helps make the world go around. Even so, consideration of oxytocin’s merits does not ultimately suggest that we should be caring or even altruistic toward others, especially those beyond our kin or...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Uncommon God, Common Good
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