- noun the behaviour of an animal that reduces its chances of survival or of producing offspring, but increases those chances for another closely related individual of the same species
- (written as Altruism)In economics this is usually understood as a form of utility interdependence in that one person gains utility from the knowledge that another's lot in life is improved. In some versions the utility may come from the act of improving the other's lot rather than the achieved improvement. Where the motive is merely to be seen to be contributing to the improvement, it would seem inappropriate to describe the behaviour as altruistic. Some people have a difficulty in describing any utility-maximizing altruism as truly altruistic, though having unselfish prefer ences seems altruistic enough in so far as altruism can be held to have anything at all to do with preferences (as distinct, for example, from 'doing one's duty').
Origin & History of “altruism”
Etymologically as well as semantically, altruism contains the notion of ‘other people’. It was borrowed from French altruisme, which was apparently coined in 1830 by the philosopher Auguste Comte on the basis of Italian altrui ‘that which belongs to other people’. this was the oblique case of altro ‘other’, from Latin alter. Littré’s Dictionnaire de la langue française suggests that the coinage was based on such French legal phrases as le bien d’autrui ‘the welfare of others’ and le droit d’autrui ‘the rights of others’ (autrui corresponds to Italian altrui).