CHAPTER 9
Actual altruism

While altruism has come to be treated with suspicion in some academic circles, either because it is taken to be basically contrary to human nature for some or because it is seen to be detrimental to human prospects as an ideal for others, the general perception of altruism seems not only to regard it as good, but as so obviously good that it is inconceivable that there could ever be too much of it. The significance of these academic and popular perceptions will be considered, in conclusion, by relating what we have seen about the nature of altruism to central issues at stake in it: the “truism” of altruism, the question of how far the assumption of the obvious goodness of altruism is justified; the “ism” of altruism, the question of the merits and liabilities of the prominent ways in which altruism has been assessed; and the “alter” of altruism, the question of the significance of otherness that is most characteristic of the focus of altruism.


THE TRUISM OF ALTRUISM

In spite of the high moral tone the term tends to evoke, “altruism” is not without its difficulties, as we have seen. Looked at in theoretical terms, there are the paradoxes, if not outright contradictions, that we identified: the psychological dilemma that any pleasure, including pleasure in the good of others, is our own pleasure; the moral dilemma, by which the more altruism is seen to be a reality, the less urgency it has as an ideal, and the more it is seen in ideal terms, the less base it is seen to have in reality; and the religious dilemma that deliberate

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Altruism and Christian Ethics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • New Studies in Christian Ethics *
  • Title Page *
  • Content *
  • General Editor's Preface xi
  • Preface xiii
  • Part One - Alien Altruism 1
  • Chapter 1 - Explanations for Altruism 3
  • Chapter 2 - Evidence of Altruism 34
  • Chapter 3 - The Elusiveness of Altruism 57
  • Part Two - Ideal Altruism 89
  • Chapter 4 - Contract Altruism 91
  • Chapter 5 - Constructed Altruism 110
  • Chapter 6 - Collegial Altruism 135
  • Part Three - Real Altruism 165
  • Chapter 7 - Acute Altruism: Agape 167
  • Chapter 8 - Absolute Altruism 190
  • Chapter 9 - Actual Altruism 218
  • Select Bibliography 251
  • Index 263
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