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ALTRUISM

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ALTRUISM

Postby Dr. Goodword » Sun Nov 25, 2012 12:14 am

• altruism •


Pronunciation: æl-tru-i-zêm • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass

Meaning: 1. Helping others out of the unselfish goodness of one's heart, doing good without ulterior motivation. 2. (Biology) Behavior among organisms that is disadvantageous to the individual but contributes to the survival of the species.

Notes: It is a sad commentary on contemporary US life that this word has acquired a slightly pejorative tinge. Let's hope that it is not on its way to join do-gooder as a derogatory reference to goodness. The wonderful people who are motivated by altruism are altruists and the adjective is altruistic. If you wish to spend a little more time uttering this word, you may add the suffix -al to the end of the adjective, altruistical, but you must add it to make the adverb, altruistically.

In Play: This word today is jeered mostly in the upper management spaces of corporate America: "None of the altruism in the workplace at Enron and Tyco rose to the level of management." But Dr. Goodword thinks that it is time that we remove any tarnish from today's Good Word and again take pride in it: "Money didn't matter; Joy was motivated by simple altruism in agreeing to manage the center for the homeless."

Word History: Today's Good Word was created by simply knocking the silent E off French altruisme. French seems to have created this word by adding the suffix -(i)sme to Italian altrui "someone else's" to reflect the sense of altruism: showing concern for others rather than oneself. The Italian word comes from Latin alter "other", found in several Latin borrowings, such as alternate and alter ego, someone else who shares your thinking. The root behind alter showed up in English as else. In Greek we see it in allos "other", which went into the making of allegory from allos "other" + agora "marketplace". (Which reminds me: have you visited the Alpha Agora lately, our marketplace for ideas about words?)
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Re: ALTRUISM

Postby MTC » Sun Nov 25, 2012 8:47 am

Recipe explōdere: Mix one tablespoon Altruism with one tablespoon Ayn Rand and stand back!

A controversy has raged in science over "selfish" and "selfless" genes. The emerging consensus now seems to be: "Selfishness beats altruism within groups. Altruistic groups beat selfish groups. Everything else is commentary." E.O. Wilson
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Re: ALTRUISM

Postby LukeJavan8 » Sun Nov 25, 2012 1:49 pm

Lots of altruism going on in the wake of "Sandy".
-----please, draw me a sheep-----
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Re: ALTRUISM

Postby Philip Hudson » Sun Nov 25, 2012 6:34 pm

MTC: you wrote:
'Recipe explōdere: Mix one tablespoon Altruism with one tablespoon Ayn Rand and stand back!" True, but Ayn Rand is explosive enough without any admixture. They say it takes all kinds, but I wonder.
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Re: ALTRUISM

Postby MTC » Mon Nov 26, 2012 6:36 am

Yes, just thought I'd toss that verbal bomb into the forum to see what happened. Rand --who rejected ethical altruism-- has been lionized by the Right, demonized by the Left. Indeed her name is a shibboleth to the two political camps. Here's an article in the Huffington Post which attempts to achieve a balance: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-s ... 61288.html

About the word "altruism," the root "alter" (other) modified to "altr" and closely related "altri" (nurse) shows up tellingly in the words altrices, altrical, and altricious. Altrices are hatchlings which require extended nurturing before they leave the nest. Altrical is the adjective, but applys to any creature, not just birds. Altricious means requiring parental care over an extended period. In contrast, procotial birds, are more independent, requiring little parental care. Presumably Rand would have approved.
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Re: ALTRUISM

Postby Perry Lassiter » Mon Nov 26, 2012 11:25 am

In college we would sometimes discuss whether psychological altruism is even possible. If we decide to be a good Samaritan and no one is around (tree in forest syndrome) are we motivated only by compassion or by the knowledge we get approval from society, God, or someone we will tell about this. My conclusion was the man in the ditch didn't care about the motivation. Just get me outa here!
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Re: ALTRUISM

Postby Philip Hudson » Mon Nov 26, 2012 7:45 pm

Recent studies on babies, I learned in a TV segment, have shown that altruism seems to be innate. Maybe you do have to be carefully taught to hate. If you are of the "total depravity" school, this might disappoint you. On the other hand, the study showed the little buggers to be vindictive with an acute "eye for an eye" bent. The Skinnerian blank page mind of the infant is attacked as being too simplistic. I never understood Skinner, but I sort of liked him. I thought his training chickens to be suicide bombers was sort of exciting. At least he wasn’t Freud.
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Re: ALTRUISM

Postby Perry Lassiter » Tue Nov 27, 2012 12:19 pm

MTC, the Huffington Post article is great. I was raised with teachers who promulgated individualist and creativity, so I interpreted Atlas Shrugged through that filter. Besides, Frank Lloyd Wright and his architecture was/is fantastic!
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Re: ALTRUISM

Postby bamaboy56 » Tue Nov 27, 2012 12:30 pm

True altruism has got to be difficult to achieve. Just my opinion. I enjoy volunteering when I can. I don't do it for merely altruistic reasons. I do it because I can, is helpful to those in need and reminds me of how fortunate I am. This past Thanksgiving day I went to my local Episcopal church (I am not Episcopalian) to volunteer to serve a Thanksgiving meal to those in need. I didn't consider it altruism, at least not at the time. If you haven't volunteered lately at a shelter or food line, I highly recommend it. It's humbling.
Be who you are and say what you feel in your heart. Because those that matter, don't mind. And those that mind, don't matter.
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Re: ALTRUISM

Postby MTC » Tue Nov 27, 2012 12:38 pm

Good for you (and for others,) bamaboy!

Glad you enjoyed the article, Perry. When I lived in Los Angles I often attended lectures given by The Skeptics Society on the Cal Tech campus. Michael Shermer, author of the article in the Huffington Post, hosted the lectures on many fascinating scientic subjects by experts in their fields. I would bet (without proof) that I was the only lawyer in the audience. A very nerdy, professorial set. Think cast of "The Big Bang Theory" in middle age.
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