Altruism & Altruistic Love: Science, Philosophy, & Religion in Dialogue

Altruism & Altruistic Love: Science, Philosophy, & Religion in Dialogue

Altruism & Altruistic Love: Science, Philosophy, & Religion in Dialogue

Altruism & Altruistic Love: Science, Philosophy, & Religion in Dialogue

Synopsis

The concept of altruism, or disinterested concern for another's welfare, has been discussed by everyone from theologians to psychologists to biologists. In this book, evolutionary, neurological, developmental, psychological, social, cultural, and religious aspects of altruistic behavior are examined. It is a collaborative examination of one of humanity's essential and defining characteristics by renowned researchers from various disciplines. Their integrative dialogue illustrates that altruistic behavior is a significant mode of expression that can be studied by various scholarly methods and understood from a variety of perspectives in both the humanities and the sciences. Altruism and Altruistic Love establishes a framework for scholarship on altruism by presenting definitions, a historical overview, a review of contemporary research, and debates in various disciplines, as well as a discussion of directions for future work.

Excerpt

Robert Frost once wrote, “Something there is that doesn't love a wall. ” We would like to thank the John Templeton Foundation for the courage and vision to engage such a wide group of scholars from various disciplines on the topics of altruism, love, empathy, and compassion in a dialogue that overcomes walls of division. Its financial support made possible an initial conference, titled “Empathy, Altruism and Agape: Perspectives on Love in Science and Religion, ” in October 1999. The task of chapter preparation and editing took place over the course of the following year, involving further efforts at integration of the sciences and humanities. This further evolution was also made possible with support from the foundation. Abundant gratitude goes to Sir John Templeton for his belief that love and altruism are at the core of “ultimate reality” and human nature and for his willingness to commit funds to allow the scholarly community to explore the scientific, psychological, and theological dimensions of love. His enthusiasm encouraged Dr. John M. Templeton Jr. and Charles L. Harper Jr. to build on this core belief by proposing the project that gave rise to this book. Judith Marchand, Allyson McHugh, and the entire foundation staff are also commended for facilitating the work so positively. The challenge presented by the John Templeton Foundation has planted the seeds for subsequent research and scholarship at this union of disciplines.

We thank the Fetzer Institute for its support and commitment to this project and to the fields of study touched by this book and the late John Fetzer for his willingness to initiate a nonprofit foundation that has the bold intention to be based on unconditional love. Fetzer's public financial commitment to pursue this area of study provides an opportunity to bridge various perspectives and to build a deeper . . .

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