Altruism or selflessness is the principle or practice of concern for the welfare of others. It is a traditional virtue in many cultures and a core aspect of various religious traditions and secular worldviews, though the concept of “others” toward whom concern should be directed can vary among cultures and religions. Altruism or selflessness is the opposite of selfishness. The word was coined by the French philosopher Auguste Comte in French, as altruisme, for an antonym of egoism. He derived it from the Italian altrui, which in turn was derived from Latin alteri, meaning “other people” or “somebody else”.
Altruism in biological observations in field populations of the day organisms can be defined as an individual performing an action which is at a cost to themselves (e.g., pleasure and quality of life, time, probability of survival or reproduction), but benefits, either directly or indirectly, another third-party individual, without the expectation of reciprocity or compensation for that action. Steinberg suggests a definition for altruism in the clinical setting, that is “intentional and voluntary actions that aim to enhance the welfare of another person in the absence of any quid pro quo external rewards”.
Altruism can be distinguished from feelings of loyalty, in that whilst the latter is predicated upon social relationships, altruism does not consider relationships. Much debate exists as to whether “true” altruism is possible in human psychology. The theory of psychological egoism suggests that no act of sharing, helping or sacrificing can be described as truly altruistic, as the actor may receive an intrinsic reward in the form of personal gratification. The validity of this argument depends on whether intrinsic rewards qualify as “benefits”. The actor also may not be expecting a reward.
The term altruism may also refer to an ethical doctrine that claims that individuals are morally obliged to benefit others. Used in this sense, it is usually contrasted with egoism, which is defined as acting to the benefit of one’s self.
Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, that is, the capacity to place oneself in another’s position. There are many definitions for empathy that encompass a broad range of emotional states. Types of empathy include cognitive empathy, emotional empathy, and somatic empathy.
Regard for others, both natural and moral without regard for oneself; devotion to the interests of others; brotherly kindness; selflessness; contrasted with egoism or selfishness.
Action or behaviour that benefits another or others at some cost to the performer.
Identification with or understanding of the thoughts, feelings, or emotional state of another person.
“She had a lot of empathy for her neighbor; she knew what it was like to lose a parent too.”
Capacity to understand another person’s point of view or the result of such understanding.
A paranormal ability to psychically read another person’s emotions.