The Effects of Altruism
Altruism is one force that is generally thought to be a good and virtuous thing. On a basic level, it is the act of forgoing yourself and performing an act of kindness for someone else. But, like most things, altruism seems to be much more complicated than its surface would suggest. In most cases, the doer of such an act can easily derive a feeling of satisfaction, superiority, and even redeem their sins. It can also take on a larger role and spread like a benevolent virus, infecting people with the goodness of humanity. I believe that altruism can benefit both the receiver and the giver. With an act of altruism there comes a sense of self-satisfaction; the likes of which can only come from an (almost) selfless deed. In Albert Camus’ The Fall, the main character, Jean-Baptiste Clamence tells of various good deeds he did and the self-value he derived from them: “Indeed, good manners provided me with great delights. If I had the luck, certain mornings, to give up my seat in the bus or subway to someone who obviously deserved it… it was a red-letter day.” If, as John Locke suggests, humans are basically good and strive to be good, then altruistic acts should provide us with a feeling of moral correctness and content, which would make selfless deeds part of our biological imperative as individuals, just as they are for Jean-Baptiste. Along with this comes a desire for redemption. In the film The Fisher King, the protagonist commits various altruistic acts for a homeless man in an attempt to remove the guilt he feels for indirectly killing the man’s wife. This is something we all do. In a way, being on the receiving end of an altruistic act is almost an inconvenience, as we now feel that we somehow owe the giver. Altruism can also be used as means of individual validation. You have just given freely out of the kindness of your heart, and shouldn’t that make you a good person? When one thinks with this mentality, a “good person” can quickly...
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