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Altruism and Self-transcendence
Altruism is the act of doing good for others without expecting anything in return. It is often seen as a noble and admirable quality, but what motivates people to be altruistic? One possible answer is Self-transcendence, which is the ability to go beyond one’s own Ego and connect with Something greater than oneself. Self-transcendence can take many forms, such as Spirituality, nature, art, or social causes. In this article, we will explore how Altruism and Self-transcendence are related, and how they can benefit both individuals and society.
Altruism in detail
Altruism is the quality of being concerned about the wellbeing of others, even if it means sacrificing one’s own interests or benefits. This can be seen as a form of unselfishness, selflessness, self-sacrifice, or self-denial. It is also a type of behaviour that benefits other members of the same species, sometimes at a cost to oneself.
Some examples of Altruism in human society are:
- Donating money, blood, or organs to help strangers in need.
- Volunteering for a cause that benefits the community or the environment.
- Helping someone who is in danger or distress, even if it puts oneself at risk.
- Sharing one’s resources, knowledge, or skills with others who lack them.
- Expressing empathy, Compassion, or kindness to someone who is suffering.
Some examples of Altruism in the animal kingdom are:
- Bees stinging predators to protect their hive, even though they die in the process.
- Vervet monkeys giving alarm calls to warn their group of predators, even though it draws attention to themselves.
- Meerkats taking turns to act as sentinels while others forage for food.
- Vampire bats regurgitating blood to feed their hungry roost mates.
- Dolphins supporting injured or sick members of their pod to keep them from drowning.
Altruism and Self-transcendence
Altruism is the “unselfish regard for or devotion to the welfare of others”. It is a form of Prosocial behaviour that may benefit others at the expense of oneself. Self-transcendence, on the other hand, is the “ability to go beyond one’s own Self-interest and Ego”. It is often associated with spiritual or religious experiences that expand one’s sense of identity and Connection.
One might wonder if a self-transcendent person needs to be altruistic. After all, if one can transcend one’s own Ego and Self-interest, does that not imply a concern for others as well? However, this is not necessarily the case. Self-transcendence does not always lead to Altruism, and Altruism does not always require Self-transcendence.
There are different types and levels of Altruism and Self-transcendence. For example, one might act altruistically out of empathy, reciprocity, moral obligation, or Social norms. These motives may or may not involve Self-transcendence. Similarly, one might experience Self-transcendence through meditation, art, nature, or drugs. These experiences may or may not inspire Altruism.
Therefore, it is possible to be self-transcendent without being altruistic, and vice versa. However, there may be a positive correlation between the two. Some studies have suggested that Self-transcendence can increase Altruism by enhancing empathy, Compassion, and Perspective-taking. Likewise, Altruism can foster Self-transcendence by reducing egocentrism, materialism, and isolation.
In conclusion, Altruism and Self-transcendence are related but distinct concepts that can influence each other in various ways. A self-transcendent person does not need to be altruistic, but may be more likely to be so. Similarly, an altruistic person does not need to be self-transcendent, but may benefit from being so.
Altruism: The Science and Psychology of Kindness – This article explores the definition, origins, and benefits of Altruism, as well as some examples and tips on how to practice it. https://positivepsychology.com/Altruism/
What is Altruism? – This page provides a brief overview of Altruism, its types, and its implications for human behaviour and society. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Altruism
Altruism – This entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy examines the philosophical debates and issues surrounding Altruism, such as its nature, motivation, measurement, and morality. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/Altruism/
The Evolution of Altruism – This article discusses the evolutionary origins and mechanisms of Altruism, as well as the challenges and controversies in explaining altruistic behaviour in animals and humans. https://www.nature.com/scitable/knowledge/library/the-evolution-of-Altruism-13622883/
Altruism: Why We Risk Our Own Well-Being to Help Others – This book by Matthieu Ricard explores the scientific, psychological, and spiritual aspects of Altruism, and offers practical guidance on how to cultivate Altruism in oneself and in society. https://www.amazon.com/Altruism-Risk-Well-Being-Help-Others/dp/031620823X