Altruism, Pathology, and Culture

John W. Traphagan

in Pathological Altruism

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199738571
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199918669 | DOI:
Altruism, Pathology, and Culture

Show Summary Details


This chapter explores the influence of culture in defining what is meant by the concept of altruism and how notions of pathology are shaped by cultural values that are used to define what is deemed “normal” in a given context. Although emerging research suggests “psychopathic” or “evil” behavior may have a genetic basis, this work also forces us to consider how there can be a fundamental biological basis for moral action, or even some type of biological foundation that shapes our ideas about right and wrong, when human interpretation of moral action is not universally agreed upon across different cultures. It is argued that pathological altruism represents behavior that deviates from norms of action that define the limits and structures of altruistic acts—but those acts themselves have absolutely no moral value and are not necessarily parallel from one culture to another.

Keywords: altruism; culture; pathology; good and evil; moral value; moral relativism; cultural relativism

Chapter.  8536 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social Psychology

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.