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Posted on April 19th, 2014, by

The aim of this work is to analyze the article, which describes the study of altruism and morality, to show its advantages and disadvantages, and to construct the own study based on this particular one.

To begin, we need to mention that the article of our choice is “Adam Smith and Three Theories of Altruism”ť written by Elias L. Khalil in 2001. The article describes three major theories of altruism which we can observe in social sciences: the egoistic (involves sharing income with another to make reciprocal gesture in the future), egocentric (explains the receiving of pleasure from giving something to others) and alter centric (explains such behavior in terms of certain rules). Smith criticizes these theories.  He observes the question of sympathy, which he thinks to be the momentary sentiments and feelings toward certain object or situation. He sees the sympathy as the main foundation for the appearance of the altruism. Considering the existence of benevolence, he explains it as the motive to satisfy self-interest or other-interest. He explains that everyone feels his pain and pleasure more sensible then when it relates to other people. However, the sympathy will be showed in much bigger measure to close people, the ones who person is living with and is in social proximity, than to usual acquainted. Smith is sure that a person can observe his own deeds. But in this case he splits into two different personalities: the one who observes and the other one, who operates. But often this judgment can be subjective due to the person’s false pride or self-aggrandizement. Moreover, society helps person to overview and to judge his own acts. Only with society the agent can observe his deeds from the distance, from the view of this society.

I can agree with the statement that the altruism appears often in a situation when the person can relate to the feelings of another one. Helping to solve others’ problems or to overcome difficult situations, the agent makes easy his own pain which appears due to the human nature, which is exposed to enter into someone’s concerns.

It seems to me that the author of the article recounts the advantages of Smith’s theory, especially the fact that he tries to prove that sympathy is the foundation of the altruism, which I consider to be partly a false statement because it can not explain what stimulate people to give their money or property to absolutely unknown people, or huge donations into different organizations. I think it is more logically to say that not sympathy, but compassion and pity move the altruistic deeds in people. Also the author agrees that sympathy is somehow connected and even influences the behavior in public, which I consider not be related to it at all. I think the only thing which is controlling our behavior in society is norms of morality and etiquette rules which are given to us from the very childhood. I also think that the statement that the person always cares more about his own problems than about others’ is not well-thought-out enough, so I can disagree with it too. All people can not be selfish that much to be nervous about their little bad situations when there is a huge difficulty in lives of others. On this ground, in particular, is constructed the definition of selfishness. Morality and altruism are taking their roots from this problem. If there are such ideas of morality of one’s personality, then those particular personalities must exist, those who possess such features of character. That is why we can not say that all people see the world only from their own desire of profit.

I think the interesting fact that was mentioned, is that the person rather feels sympathy to socially related person: family or close friends then to unknown people. That is why the purpose of the study will be proving that people can make altruistic deeds to totally unknown people. I hope to find that the big part of the interrogated consider making donations and helping the ones who are in need their moral and social duty.

The research will be held in a form of social enquiry. The main questions are about their attitude to people who donate money to child care centers or to the Third World countries, how would they feel if they get needed of help from unknown people, how would they feel if they have an opportunity and resources to make donation and if they do, would they go for it or not.

The research has to be held among as many different people as possible. They should differ in professions, social positions, cultures and age. Only this way the results would show the statistically common attitude to this question.

The importance of the study is the following: to find out what exactly operates those people, who feel compassion to those who are in need, whether they are ready to help when they are capable of doing so and if not how would they feel being on the other side of this situation.

In conclusion, we can sum up, that the study of morality and altruism has a lot of theories. Adam Smith offers to take the sympathy as the ground for the altruism. However, it can not explain the cause, which stimulates people to help those who are not in their social proximity.

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