What is Altruism?

Meaning of Altruism

The word altruism was coined by the French philosopher Auguste Comte , who in 1830 defined it as the group of human dispositions, whether individual or collective, that inclined human beings to dedicate themselves to others .

Therefore, altruism is not synonymous with solidarity as many think, it is a much broader concept. It is a concept that is opposed to egoism (specific and exclusively individual inclination).

In the everyday definition, altruism as a virtue is the attitude of living for others . For a person to be altruistic, he must master the selfish instincts that naturally exist in every human being, giving rise to benevolent inclinations, which are also always present.

An altruistic man acts to reconcile his personal satisfaction with the well-being and satisfaction of his fellow men, his family and his community. The natural instincts of benevolence by themselves do not constitute altruism.

They will constitute only if the person can give character of habit. The benevolent instincts emerge sporadically in human behavior. Altruism must become a habitual state that continually diminishes and replaces selfish instincts, making them less active and more controllable.


Corn farming can illustrate this process of replacing selfish attitudes with altruistic attitudes . Because as the plant grows and grows, constant attention is required to eradicate the weeds, but after the plants grow, they suffocate the weeds with their vigor.

Understanding the concept of altruism has the philosophical relevance of referring to the natural dispositions of the human being, which indicates that the human being can be naturally good and generous without divine or supernatural intervention.

Categories of Altruism

According to Comtian thought, altruism is presented in three fundamental categories: attachment, veneration and kindness.

From the direction of attachment to kindness, the intensity of altruism decreases, and thus its importance and nobility increase. Attachment refers to the bond that equals have with each other.

Veneration , on the other hand, refers to the bond that the weaker have with the stronger (or the bond between those who came after and those who came before).

And finally, kindness is the feeling that the strongest have towards the weak (or those who came after).

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