Levels of Altruism

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Zwick, Martin; Fletcher, Jeffrey Alan
Altruism; Cooperation; Reciprocity (Psychology); Kin selection (Evolution); Empathy; Philosophy; Psychology
lecture / presentation description
The phenomenon of altruism extends from the biological realm to the human sociocultural realm. This paper sketches a coherent outline of multiple types of altruism of progressively increasing scope that span these two realms and are grounded in an ever-expanding sense of "self." Discussion of this framework notes difficulties associated with altruisms at different levels. It links scientific ideas about the evolution of cooperation and about hierarchical order to perennial philosophical and religious concerns. It offers a conceptual background for inquiry into societal challenges that call for altruistic behavior, especially the challenge of environmental and social sustainability.