Discussion 1 Does Altruism Exist?
Philosophers, psychologists, and scholars have long argued about whether true altruism really exists or if it is, in fact, just another manifestation of egoism, albeit a veiled one. These skeptics argue that altruism is actually a form of self-interest, including aspects of pride, satisfaction, or the reinforcement of one’s self-worth. Still others, like author and philosopher Ayn Rand, outright reject altruism and instead consider selfishness a virtue.
What do you think? Does altruism exist? Is it a “good” thing or is it destructive to the self-sacrificing individual?
View the following videos and identify three views (real and fictional) on the virtue (or lack of ) helping others.
- Ayn Rand – The Morality of Altruism (09:22) (Links to an external site.)
- The Hunger Games: Katniss and Peeta Reeping Scene (03:59) (Links to an external site.)
- The Bystander Effect is Complicated – Here’s Why (16:57) (Links to an external site.)
After you have viewed the videos, post a thoughtful critique addressing the following questions:
- What are the different opinions about helping others and/or sacrificing that are portrayed in each of these video clips? What do you agree with? What do you disagree with? Why?
- Is altruism real? Common? Are people, by nature helpful or selfish?
- Is altruism morally “right”? Or morally “wrong”? Explain your perspective.
- Can a selfish person be a moral person? A self-interested person? What is the difference, if there is any, between being selfish and being self-interested? Between acting prudently and acting morally?
- Is there a difference in sacrificing for a loved one (as in the Hunger Games scenario) and sacrificing for a stranger? Is one more altruistic than the other? Explain your perspective.
- How is the bystander effect related to issues of altruism and/or egoism?