Does Altruism Exist?

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Philosophers, psychologists, and scholars have long argued about whether true altruism really exists or if it is, in fact, just another manifestation of egoism, albeit a veiled one. These skeptics argue that altruism is actually a form of self-interest, including aspects of pride, satisfaction, or the reinforcement of one’s self-worth. Still others, like author and philosopher Ayn Rand, outright reject altruism and instead consider selfishness a virtue.

View the following YouTube TED Talk videos about the essence of altruism:

After you have viewed the videos, address the following questions:

  • What are the different opinions about helping others and/or sacrificing that are portrayed in each of these video clips? What do you agree with? What do you disagree with? Why?
  • Is altruism real? Common? Are people, by nature helpful or selfish?
  • Is altruism morally “right”? Or morally “wrong”? Explain your perspective.
  • Can a selfish person be a moral person? A self-interested person? What is the difference, if there is any, between being selfish and being self-interested? Between acting prudently and acting morally?
  • Is there a difference in sacrificing for a loved one (as in the Hunger Games scenario) and sacrificing for a stranger? Is one more altruistic than the other? Explain your perspective.
  • How is the bystander effect related to issues of altruism and/or egoism?

Post your initial response by the third day of the module week. Return to this discussion activity throughout the week and reply with meaningful comments to a minimum of two of your peers.

In your replies, identify an opinion expressed that you disagree with or a point that you see differently. Respectfully discuss your alternate view and your reasons.

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