Altruism is a complicated subject and one that has long been seen as a fundamental component of the human condition. Self-interest is often taken as the default attitude for human beings. This has become entrenched through the pervasive influence of evolutionary theory, with the concept of 'selection of the fittest' undermining the possibility of genuine altruism.
Altruism can be seen as a successful strategy, whereby individuals can ultimately benefit themselves or their genes through cooperation with others. Many religions, philosophies and social science theories have sought to understand, justify and promote altruism, which is commonly seen as a desirable characteristic – that is, to be encouraged.
This module explores the multifaceted nature of altruism, examining the motivations that propel us to help others, even when we may incur a cost to ourselves.