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Egoism and Altruism in Medicine

  • Barbara MaierEmail author
  • Warren A. Shibles†
Chapter
Part of the International Library of Ethics, Law, and the New Medicine book series (LIME, volume 47)

Abstract

The definitions of altruism and egoism are shown to be vague and ambiguous and so is our language. A clarification of altruism and egoism requires an analysis of ethics, the self, causes of action, motivation, and emotion. The problem of altruism versus egoism is seen to be a pseudo problem. So altruism and egoism have to be redefined and based on a naturalistic, humanistic theory of ethics in order to make sense in contexts of medicine as well as in our whole lives. A rational, humanistic altruism based on a naturalistic theory of ethics welcomes positive altruism and positive egoism in terms of positive consequences. Schweitzer wrote, “According to the responsibility in me, I have to decide what I have to give away from my life, my possessions, my quietness, and what I may keep.” A physician must decide that.

Keywords

Altruism egoism self other emotion selfishness sympathy rational altruism rational egoism humanism 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Gynecology and ObstetricsParacelsus Medical University SALKSalzburgAustria
  2. 2.University of Wisconsin–WhitewaterWhitewaterUSA

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