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Andrew Flescher
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(3,030 words)

Altruism pertains to motivations and acts committed by the self, or a group of selves, on behalf of another or others. Auguste Comte coined the term “altruism” in the early nineteenth century in a deliberately self-reflective manner, describing a social behavior that betrays a “desire to live for others,” calling into question — at the inception of the term — the supposed dichotomy between altruism and self-regard that would come to represent the dominant understanding in years to come. The history, methodological appropriation, and theoretical application of “altruism” is in large measure a function of conceptually pinning down the relationship between altruism and self-regard. This entry considers three principal approaches to characterizing this relationship: commonsense morality (the extreme version of which is psychological egoism), radical alterity theory, and a mediating view between these two, which might be termed “practical altruism.” ⸙

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Vocabulary for the Study of Religion Online

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