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The Falacy of Altruism

  • Date Submitted: 03/14/2010 03:16 PM
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December 4, 2008
The Fallacy of Altruism

      I was born on a crisp Virginia Thanksgiving Day to hard working parents and a loving community.   Both of her parents had a military background and were stationed at the Pentagon at the time of her birth.   Wanting to get back to their southern roots, the Dennard family moved to Texas, where she was raised in a predominantly Christian, white, upper-middle class suburb of Houston.   Under a parenting philosophy that influenced travel and service, Dennard was exposed to cultures and lifestyles very different from her own.   This lead to her interest in solving the social injustices she observed while traveling and in her community.   After graduating early from high school, she traveled to South Africa where she taught swimming and worked at a church foster home. Her interest in activism and heart for service continued through college, where she studied sociology, psychology, and dispute resolution.   Although Dennard takes a realist perspective on altruism, she does not discount the importance and nobility of good deeds.

      Driving through a tollbooth, a man pays for the person behind him, after work a woman buys dinner for a homeless child, and a busy college student spends one night a week playing cards in a retirement home.   Although these good deeds might go unnoticed by the masses, they perpetuate the benevolent society we live in and contribute to the development of individuals who are willing to do something for someone else.   On the surface, kind actions appear to be free of selfish motives, and could be considered altruistic. In 1851French philosopher Auguste Comte coined the term altruisme, as meaning, “self sacrifice for the benefit of others”.   Two years later, it entered the English language as altruism.   Merriam- Webster defines this debatably existent term as an “unselfish concern for the welfare of others; selflessness (2008)”.   Many idealistic theorists argue that some actions can be described as...


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