Empathy and altruism

Authored by: Thomas Schramme

The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Empathy

Print publication date:  February  2017
Online publication date:  February  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138855441
eBook ISBN: 9781315282015
Adobe ISBN: 9781315282008


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Altruism is the opposite of egoism. In a philosophical context altruism and egoism are regularly discussed as contrasting theories regarding the ultimate motivation of human behavior. Psychological egoism claims that any conduct, even if on the surface it promotes the welfare of others, can ultimately be traced back to the motive of promoting an agent’s self-interest. Altruism is hence not a reality, according to psychological egoism. Once the debate is reduced to such a contrast, focusing on ultimate motives of human conduct, important theoretical decisions have been made, which then also affect the discussion around the impact of empathy on altruism. Even where psychological egoism is rejected, discussions are aligned along the problem whether a person’s motive is to benefit or increase the welfare of another person.

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