Stephen Stich, John M. Doris and Erica Roedder

in Collected Papers, Volume 2

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780199733477
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199949823 | DOI:

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This chapter focuses on an issue that has vexed philosophers since Plato: is genuinely altruistic behavior possible, or is all human behavior ultimately selfish? It begins in Section 2 with a brief sketch of a cluster of assumptions about human desires, beliefs, actions, and motivation that are widely shared by historical and contemporary authors on both sides in the debate. Section 3 considers links between evolutionary theory and the egoism/altruism debate. There is a substantial literature employing evolutionary theory on each side of the issue. However, it is argued that neither camp has offered a convincing case. Section 4 looks at recent research on altruism in social psychology. While this work has not resolved the debate, it has made illuminating progress—progress that philosophers interested in the question cannot afford to ignore.

Keywords: altruistic behavior; human behavior; evolutionary theory; egoism; social psychology

Chapter.  24469 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy

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