A Saint’s Ode

"Such a saint you are," said she, "The way you help your lady friends." "Thank ye very much," said he. And then bespoke a dusty, lusty grin   In truth, to saints I claim no kin So why not have a little gin And just a bit o’ sin Once upon again   Before the… Continue reading A Saint’s Ode



On Human Altruism INTRODUCTION Most people believe that self-interest is antithetical to altruism. Actually, self-interest is one of three necessary motivations that, working together, evoke altruistic behavior. My 12 posts “On Human Altruism” explain the role of “altruistic self-interest.”

Part 1: When Is a Horse Not a Horse?

PART 1: WHEN IS A HORSE NOT A HORSE? Most of us think we know a horse when we see one. Most of us recognize a gift when we receive one. Most of us cherish altruism when we see it displayed. As the Trojans would warn us, we would be wise to examine the entirety… Continue reading Part 1: When Is a Horse Not a Horse?

Part 2: I Have a Formula for That

PART 2: I HAVE A FORMULA FOR THAT The conventional definition of altruism can be displayed in a simple formula: A = c + u + s, where A stands for altruism, c stands for concern, u stands for unselfishness, and s stands for selflessness. In this definition, concern for others refers to a personal… Continue reading Part 2: I Have a Formula for That

PART 3: Some ‘Splaining To Do

PART 3: Some ‘Splaining To Do “But hold on there, Quicksdraw!” you say. “You’re just using the trick-term ‘self-interest’ instead of “egoism,” which one of your dictionaries says is the opposite of altruism. As Ricky would say to Lucy, “You’ve got some ‘splaining to do.” Yes, I suppose I do, especially since some contemporary philosophers… Continue reading PART 3: Some ‘Splaining To Do

PART 4: More ‘Splaining To Do

PART 4: More ‘Splaining To Do Let’s start with that mischievous word egoism. Human altruistic self-interest is not egoism, which too strongly connotes a self-importance that values the superiority of oneself above all other persons, at all times. Neither is altruistic self-interest the same as psychological egoism. While my use of the term “altruistic self-interest”… Continue reading PART 4: More ‘Splaining To Do

PART 5: What I ‘Splained

PART 5: WHAT I 'SPLAINED To summarize, in contrast to conventional uses of “self-interest,” altruistic self-interest is distinctively different. To repeat, instead of the conventional formula “Altruism = unselfish concern for another + selflessness,” I substitute “self-interest” for “selflessness” to yield “Altruism = concern for another + self-interest + unselfishness.” Here, self-interest is at least… Continue reading PART 5: What I ‘Splained

PART 6: Going to the Dogs

PART 6: GOING TO THE DOGS Let’s start with a couple of examples illustrating human altruism in behalf of man’s and woman’s best friend. Let’s go to the dogs. While walking to his own car in a shopping center parking lot on a hot summer afternoon in Athens, Georgia, a Desert Storm veteran happened upon… Continue reading PART 6: Going to the Dogs

PART 7: The Pope and the Mother

PART 7: THE POPE AND THE MOTHER Inspired by Pope Francis’s 2015 visit to the United States, a woman pledged to donate one of her kidneys to a needy recipient. By coincidence, the recipient turned out to be a member of her own parish, whom she didn’t know. After the surgery, both the donor and… Continue reading PART 7: The Pope and the Mother

Part 8: Follow the Yellow Footprints

PART 8: FOLLOW THE YELLOW FOOTPRINTS A Marine corporal under attack in Afghanistan throws himself between an exploding grenade and his subordinate. Both miraculously survive, with the officer suffering life-threatening injuries, as well as the loss of an eye, permanent damage to mobility of his right arm, and plastic surgery to replace most of the… Continue reading Part 8: Follow the Yellow Footprints

Part 9: Perceived Self-Interest

PART 9: PERCEIVED SELF-INTEREST Self-interest and perceived self-interest may seem redundant or hair splitting. It’s helpful, however, to distinguish the terms in order to understand the emotional power and fluidity of our constructed selves, of our vision of who we are. Who are we—or whom do we want to be—when we act in certain situations?… Continue reading Part 9: Perceived Self-Interest

Part 10: Maladaptive and Pathological Altruism

PART 10: MALADAPTIVE AND PATHOLOGICAL ALTRUISM At other times, seeming acts of altruism result in consequences contrary to a person’s perceived self-interest. In these situations, future distress follows from an impulsive or expedient response to a situation where emotion overwhelms foresight, where perceived self-interest plays a shadowy role. The altruist’s response is to over-empathize with… Continue reading Part 10: Maladaptive and Pathological Altruism

Part 11: Self-Negation, Selflessness, and Pathology

PART 11: SELF-NEGATION, SELFLESSNESS, AND PATHOLOGY One consequence of self-harmful altruism is a propensity to repudiate the Existential responsibility of the individual self. This self-negation is the primary property of selflessness as I define it and the primary reason that I exclude it from my characterization of human altruism. Rather than digress too far from… Continue reading Part 11: Self-Negation, Selflessness, and Pathology

Part 12: Knowing Horse from Arse

PART 12: KNOWING HORSE FROM ARSE The inclusion of perceived self-interest among the necessary motivations of human altruism values the human in the display of altruism. It also removes the motivation of selflessness while honoring the roles of will, choice, self-determination and concurrently demystifying the implications of spirt and supra-human determinants of “goodness.” In the… Continue reading Part 12: Knowing Horse from Arse