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A Scientific Search for AltruismDo We Only Care About Ourselves?$
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C. Daniel Batson

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190651374

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190651374.001.0001

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How Can It Be?

How Can It Be?

(p.188) (p.189) 12 How Can It Be?
A Scientific Search for Altruism

C. Daniel Batson

Oxford University Press

To conclude—even tentatively—that empathy-induced altruism is within our motivational repertoire poses a puzzle: How is it possible? This question demands an answer at two levels. We need to know (a) the conditions necessary to produce empathic concern and altruistic motivation in our lives today and (b) how altruism could have become part of our nature. The direct antecedents of empathy-induced altruism seem to be perceiving another as in need and valuing the other’s welfare. The most plausible distal (evolutionary) antecedent is generalized parental care. This care is different from the evolutionary biologists’ idea of inclusive fitness (care proportional to degree of kinship). An experiment that tested for generalized parental care is described. Finally, three limits to empathy-induced altruism are considered: the scope of empathic concern, empathy avoidance, and the strength to competing concerns.

Keywords:   direct antecedents, distal antecedents, empathy avoidance, extrinsic valuing, inclusive fitness (kin selection), imagine–other perspective, intrinsic valuing, parental care, tender emotion

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