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Nov 2, 2010

"Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others, and in their pleasure takes joy, even as though 'twere his own." --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Is Pure Altriusm Possible?

All around us we see evidence of human beings sacrificing themselves and doing good for others. Still, doubting altruism is easy. It's undeniable that people sometimes act in a way that benefits others, but it may seem that they always get something in return - at the very least, the "warm glow" of having their desire to help fulfilled. Biological altruism attempts to explain how unselfish behavior might have evolved but it implies nothing about the intentions of the agent. Even when we appear to act unselfishly, there may be other hidden motives. Conversely, if we didn't desire the good of others for its own sake, then attaining it wouldn't produce the warm glow. Whatever else is true of altruism, perhaps the only kind of altruism with staying power is the kind that's satisfying to those who practice it.

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