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Altruism in Humans$
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C. Daniel Batson

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780195341065

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195341065.001.0001

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Summary and Conclusion

Summary and Conclusion

(p.228) Summary and Conclusion
Altruism in Humans

C. Daniel Batson

Oxford University Press

The significance of any claim that altruism plays a prominent role in human life depends on what is meant by altruism. If one means helping behavior, or helping in order to gain subtle self-benefits such as esteem enhancement or guilt avoidance—which is what most behavioral and social scientists mean by altruism—the existence of altruism cannot be doubted. But these definitions trivialize the centuries old egoism-altruism debate. Only by adhering to the notions of altruism and egoism that lie at the heart of that debate do we face head on the fundamental issues it raises about human potential and human nature. The question of the existence of altruism is, at heart, about valuing. Are we humans ever, in any degree capable of valuing the welfare of another, or is our capacity to value limited to our own welfare? It seems we do have the capacity to value another’s welfare.

Keywords:   altruism, esteem enhancement, guilt avoidance, egoism, egoism-altruism debate, human nature, human potential, valuing

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