On altruism

I often complain that people don’t understand altruism. So I might as well clarify what it actually is. There are three necessary elements:

1. Significant personal cost to the altruist
2. Correct diagnosis of the recipient’s real needs
3. Significant benefit to the recipient

These three elements rule out a lot of the things people attribute to altruism.

Virtue signalling is not altruism because it doesn’t involve significant personal cost. The modern practice of “volunteering” is not altruism because it is considered a high-status behavior and you can put it on your resume to get a high-paying job. That’s just investing. “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.”

Pathological altruism is not altruism because “pathology” means it’s a maladaptive behavioral artifact that persists in the absence of effective results. So there is often a significant personal cost, but altruism requires the intelligence and social perceptivity to be effectively helpful. Pathological altruism is driven more by solipsistic personality features than by keen observation, and the motivation may be selfish if the pathological altruist receives an endorphin rush for their self-sacrifice.

Enabling bad behavior is not altruism because it doesn’t benefit the recipient. This is typically an excuse by weak personalities to avoid the conflict that is necessary for tough love. Many enablers are emotionally dependent on the people they enable. The rest are typically pathological altruists who are “helping” because it gives them the endorphin reward.

There are also cases where other behaviors masquerade as altruism. Subversion often uses real aid to consciously weaken the target’s ability to fend for himself. For example, foreign aid is often used to undercut other countries’ production by lowballing them on price for manufactured goods. If the Chinese government uses tax revenue to finance a Chinese company’s car factory in India, the Chinese company can sell their cars at factory cost and drive out their domestic competitors. Afterward, the Indian car industry is dependent on Chinese capital.

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15 Responses to On altruism

  1. mobiuswolf says:

    1. Significantly small personal cost/benefit ratio? How small?

    • Aeoli Pera says:

      That’s not altruism, it’s intelligence. Also good, but different.

      • mobiuswolf says:

        “1. Significant personal cost to the altruist” What, and no benefits?
        It has to be cost /benefit, no? And thus subjective.

        • mobiuswolf says:

          I can’t walk by someone with a knife at their throat. I can see no benefit, but I have to go back, even if it’s bums in the bushes in the middle of the night. I have to, the cost of walking away is too great. I don’t understand it, but it’s a net benefit to me.
          How about throwing myself on a grenade? I don’t know. the decision has never been that stark. But I have a feeling. ;)

          And no, no death wish. Though that would be a benefit were it the case.

          Or maybe I’m scrambled. I’m not used to trying to think so fast.

  2. glosoli says:

    What about if the cost to the altruist is negligible, but the benefit to the recipient is significant?

    It is very hard to love one’s neighbour I have realised.

    How do you actually do that, in our modern society, when local bonds just don’t exist, and most neighbours are heathens anyway?

    (My next door neighbours are Indian, been there for 9 months, and I have yet to even see them, let alone speak to them.I really don’t want to love them. They’re Indians).

  3. SirHamster says:

    What about if the cost to the altruist is negligible, but the benefit to the recipient is significant?

    Intuitively, I think altruism has to be normalized. Compare such an altruist to another one who pays a significant cost to provide the same benefit to the recipient.

    The one who sacrifices more has practiced a greater altruism. Objectively, the cost reflects the altruist’s value of the recipient.

    So a negligible cost reflects negligible altruism involved – but that low cost/significant benefit also puts an obligation on said altruist to do it if he desires to be good/do good.

    Altruism is a form of treating others as oneself in a good way. The altruist treats his personal benefit/other’s benefit as the same sort of thing, and is willing to pay personal cost for other’s benefit. This is opposite of the parasite who inflicts costs to others for personal benefit.

    One measure of altruism is that it should create a greater benefit than the cost. Ex: $100 of altruist cost to create $1000 of recipient value. Spending $1000 altruist cost to create $100 recipient value is a more questionable act, when altruist could have just paid $1000 directly to recipient.

    • bicebicebice says:

      altruism in the hands of r-selected people such as women ooga boogas and cucks becomes the most destructive weapon on the planet inb4 not real altruism and specifics etc etc you know what i mean.

      if you are really altruistic you even run the risk of being nailed to a cross.

  4. Pingback: Succor for invaders is not altruism | Aeoli Pera

  5. Pingback: On Vox Day’s foray against the Alt-White, part 4 | Aeoli Pera

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