Chapter

Is Pathological Altruism Altruism?

Bernard Berofsky

in Pathological Altruism

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199738571
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199918669 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199738571.003.0184
Is Pathological Altruism Altruism?

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Ethical altruism can be defined either as the view that we have obligations to others or that altruism is a virtue. Ethical egoists deny both propositions. Psychological egoists deny that altruists exist. Since there are clearly people who act with the intention to help others at their own expense, psychological egoism seems to be false. Since a conscious intention to help can conceal an unconscious motivation to harm, a deeper conception of psychological egoism is the view that no one is really motivated to sacrifice his or her own interests to help others. If the psychological egoist is right and there are no altruists, how can there be pathological altruists? First, any pathology is marked off by common characteristics—compulsiveness, destructiveness, ignorance of motivation. More importantly, the pathological altruist’s altruistic intention is an essential expression of his or her destructive, self-regarding motivation.

Keywords: ethical altruism; ethical egoism; intention; motivation; ordinary language philosophy; pathology; psychological altruism; psychological egoism; virtue

Chapter.  5127 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social Psychology

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