Encyclopedia of Animal Cognition and Behavior

Living Edition
| Editors: Jennifer Vonk, Todd Shackelford


  • Chana K. AkinsEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-47829-6_1373-1

Origins of Altruism

The earliest conceptualization of altruism can be traced back to the Ancient Greeks and forward to more contemporary behaviorists (Rushton and Sorrentino 1981 for review). The first view was from some of the writers of the old and new testaments and Freud who thought of human nature as essentially bad. A second view was popular among Socrates, Aristotle, and Carl Rogers, who thought of human nature as essentially moral and altruistic. The third view was commonly held by Plato, Locke, Watson, and Skinner who believed that human nature was neutral.

The term “altruism” was coined by French sociologist Auguste Comte (1858) in a description of his ethical doctrine indicating that individuals had a moral obligation to renounce self-interest and love for all others. Not long after Comte coined the term altruism, Darwin published his Descent of Man (1871), in which he proposed that humans are biologically disposed to behave socially, cooperatively, and helpful to one...

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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of KentuckyLexingtonUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Peggy Mason
    • 1
  • Yuri Sugano
    • 2
  1. 1.University of ChicagoChicagoUSA
  2. 2.NeurobiologyUniversity of ChicagoChicagoUSA