Course Catalog

UGRD > PHIL > 306

Egoism & Altruism

This course explores the phenomena of egoism and altruism in light of two perennial concerns of ethical theory: Do we always act ultimately only for our own benefit? Do we have an obligation or reason to care about the welfare of others? Topics and readings include: The historical debate (Hobbes, Butler, Freud, Colin Turnbull). The desirability of egoism (Ayn Rand, W Somerset Maugham, The Moon and Sixpence.) Women and altruism (Anna Freud, Jean Baker Miller). "Psychological egoism" (J Rachels, CD Broad). The nature of care and sympathy (Adam Smith, Max Scheler, M Mayeroff). Sociobiology and altruism (EO Wilson, Mary Midgley). Altruism and society: the case of giving blood (RH Titmuss, Peter Singer). Social psychology and altruism (Darley and Latane). Universal and conditional love (Kierkegaard, L Blum). In addition to standard philosophical readings, the course makes use of material from literature, anthropology, biology, psychology, and sociology, exploring their contribution to an understanding of egoism and altruism.

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