altruism (ăl´trōōĬz´əm), concept in philosophy and psychology that holds that the interests of others, rather than of the self, can motivate an individual. The term was invented in the 19th cent. by the French philosopher Auguste Comte, who devised it as the opposite of egoism. Herbert Spencer and John Stuart Mill, English contemporaries of Comte, accepted the worth of altruism but argued that the true moral aim should be the welfare of society, rather than that of individuals.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

Altruism: Selected full-text books and articles

The Altruism Question: Toward a Social Psychological Answer By C. Daniel Batson Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1991
FREE! Altruism: Its Nature and Varieties; the Ely Lectures for 1917-18 By George Herbert Palmer Charles Scribner's Sons, 1919
Altruism and Christian Ethics By Colin Grant Cambridge University Press, 2000
Altruism & Altruistic Love: Science, Philosophy, & Religion in Dialogue By Stephen G. Post; Lynn G. Underwood; Jeffrey P. Schloss; William B. Hurlbut Oxford University Press, 2002
The Heart of Altruism: Perceptions of a Common Humanity By Kristen Renwick Monroe Princeton University Press, 1996
Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology: Ideas, Issues, and Applications By Charles Crawford; Dennis L. Krebs Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1998
Ethics, Rationality, and Economic Behaviour By Francesco Farina; Frank Hahn; Stefano Vannucci Oxford University, 1996
The Concept of Morals By W. T. Stace Macmillan, 1937
Moral Laws By Edgar Sheffield Brightman Abingdon Press, 1933
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