What is altruism? Consider the following examples and what they may suggest or illustrate about altruism. Feel free to discuss.
Boy begging in Agra, India
The photographer writes that "this guy broke my heart. I was already homesick for my own little boys, and then he came up and smiled and signed how hungry he was." → What would you do?
Another person replies that "there are highly organised profesional agencies operating in and around Bombay that teach children the art and science of begging. This guy you see may own a mobile phone and in another 20 years he would own at least 10 boys like these to do what he does today...Beggers are directed to beg in wealthier towns for short periods and return back to their hometown after about 6 months of service. A beggar boy like the one you see above earns roughly Rs 500 a day. ($11). Tax free."
→ Now what do you think? When do you help? When do you not help? And why - or why not? read more...
The Bridge Builder
...The builder lifted his old gray head.
"Good friend, in the path I have come," he said,
"There followeth after me today
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm that has been naught to me
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be. "
"He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building the bridge for him.
from The Bridge Builder by Will Allen Dromgoole
Worker Bees and Queens Bees
Eusocial bees are commonly cited as providing classic examples of altruistic animal behaviour. However, this is debatable because the bees' behaviour still appears to favour genetic kin selection (because the Queen's offspring are more genetically related to worker bees than their own offspring)
Kurt Hahn on Rescue and Service
"...The passion of rescue reveals the highest dynamic of the human soul.
...The experience of helping a fellow man in danger, or even of training in a realistic manner to be ready to give this help, tends to change the balance of power in a youth's inner life with the result that compassion can become the master motive.
...I regard it as the foremost task of education to insure the survival of these qualities: an enterprising curiosity, an undefeatable spirit, tenacity in pursuit, readiness for sensible self denial, and above all, compassion."