Stephen Stich, John M. Doris, Erica Roedder

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter focuses on an issue that has vexed philosophers since Plato: is genuinely altruistic behavior possible, or is all human behavior ultimately selfish? It begins in Section 2 with a brief sketch of a cluster of assumptions about human desires, beliefs, actions, and motivation that are widely shared by historical and contemporary authors on both sides in the debate. Section 3 considers links between evolutionary theory and the egoism/altruism debate. There is a substantial literature employing evolutionary theory on each side of the issue. However, it is argued that neither camp has offered a convincing case. Section 4 looks at recent research on altruism in social psychology. While this work has not resolved the debate, it has made illuminating progress-progress that philosophers interested in the question cannot afford to ignore.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationCollected Papers, Volume 2
Subtitle of host publicationKnowledge, Rationality, and Morality, 1978-2010
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780199949823
ISBN (Print)9780199733477
StatePublished - Sep 20 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


  • Altruistic behavior
  • Egoism
  • Evolutionary theory
  • Human behavior
  • Social psychology


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