Altruism Definition Sample – Term Paper

What is altruism

Morality is an issue that is important in society and our day-to-day lives. It is the differentiation of what is right from that which is wrong (Peffer, R.G., 2014). Both altruism and egoism are ethical principles that are used to set the standards for morality in society. Altruism is different from egoism since their foundations are different. Altruism considers the morality of an action based on its significance and benefit to other people without considering its effect on the individual agent. Therefore, an action would be justified to be morally right if it serves the interests of other people in society even if it has detrimental or untold effects on the person themselves. On the other hand, egoism is an ethical principle that suggest that the morality of an action is dependent on the benefits on the individual. An action would be justified to be morally right if it serves individual interests even if it has untold effects on other people in that society (Machan, T.R., 2017).

For instance, parents have the responsibility of bringing up their children. This usually comes at a cost. Parents have to set aside their personal interests and needs so that they satisfy those of their children. The action of denying oneself of selfish gain is important in raising up children; paying their school fees, buying them clothes, food and any other leisure materials. This action is therefore morally right according to the principle of altruism (Batson, C.D., 2014). Conversely, egoism, if considered by parents would deter upbringing of children. Parents would put their own interests on the forefront like purchasing vehicles and taking vacations while ignoring their children’s needs. This would affect society negatively but would be considered to be morally right on the basis of egoism.

People often find themselves in situations in which they have to choose between themselves and others. For example, in the case of a shipwreck as most commonly occurs among marine soldiers. Life-saving equipment is rarely enough or adequate for everyone’s access. The limited equipment has to be shared among the victims involved in the accident. Considering altruism, the morally right action would be to offer your equipment to another victim who is in dire need of one even if this puts your life at an even greater risk. The interests of other soldiers is put at the forefront while individual interests are not considered. On the basis of egoism, the morally right action would be survival of the fittest. Each soldier is to strive to get access to the life-saving equipment and once they do, keep it for their own use without considering their counterparts even if they are in dire need of one. 

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Both these principles have real life applications in society. In some situations, it would be important to put your own interests first so you can satisfy your own self even if this is in the detriment of others. Similarly, in other situations, self-interests should be put aside for the larger benefit of society. Though they have different bases of argument, both principles should be applied modestly and moderately.


Peffer, R.G. (2014). Marxism, morality and social justice. Princeton University Press.

Machan, T.R. (2017). The morality of gregarious egoism. Annals of Spiru Haret University, Journalism Studies, 18 (1)

Batson, C.D. (2014). The altruism question: toward a social-psychological answer. Psychology Press.