Altruism and Human Reciprocity Term Paper

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Altruism and Human Reciprocity

The purpose of the present study is to explore, both conceptually and empirically, the relationship between human connectedness to nature dimensions, various conservation behaviors, and altruism. This study is unique in that while attempting to explore the relationship between connectedness to nature and conservation, the role of altruism will also be looked at as a possible moderator within the relationship.

Additionally, this study developed a new and more comprehensive measure of individual conservation behaviors. To further clarify how connectedness to nature, conservation and altruism will be examined in this dissertation, a brief explanation of connectedness to nature and conservation, along with a working definition of altruism human reciprocity.

Altruism and Human Reciprocity


Altruism is a phenomenon existing on the very simplest of planes in nature. Modern examples of such are the Boy Scout helping the elderly person cross the street or an individual opening a door or holding an elevator for another without gaining any apparent reward for such behavior. (Henrich & Boyd, 2001, pp79-89) We generally learn of altruism at a young age and examples are often those of one animal in the natural world participating in an act to help another animal without any anticipation of formal gain or recognition. These types of acts transcend the hierarchy of being and occur in human lifestyles also. (Bowles, 2001, pp155-90)

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Term Paper on Altruism and Human Reciprocity Assignment

A study conducted by Hartig (1991) begins to explain the dynamic that occurs when individuals have the opportunity for mental restoration facilitated in natural settings. (Gachter & Falk, 2002, pp1-25) He notes that many daily activities in our contemporary society require directed attention. Hartig, (1991) theorizes that the reduction of mental fatigue is a crucial element in self- restoration. This theory suggests that in the face of continual demand over time, a person's capacity for directed attention can become depleted, necessitating the need for self-restoration. (Yamagishi, 1992, pp267-87) the restorative settings mentioned the current study refers to should promote fascination and some sense of being away. It is imperative that the extent and type of setting be compatible with the individual. (Bewley, 2000, pp80-96)

Though a wide variety of intermediate positions exist, such broad human nature concerns as sociality are often presented as conflicts among mutually exclusive notions, stressed in an "either-or" framework. The issues of good vs. evil, freedom vs. determinism, reason vs. passion, are further examples of aspects of human experience singled out by political philosophers and treated as distinct elements of human nature. According to some formulations, the core of the human nature issue revolves around the role of altruism and its opposite, egoism, as mainsprings of human behavior. (Andreoni et al., 1998, pp818-60)

Though the distinctiveness of this issue has a long tradition in political philosophy, it bears important resemblance and logical connection to many of the human nature issues cited above, and to some degree embraces all of them. (Bowles, 2001, pp155-90) Though the philosophic argument which posits egoism and altruism as opposing motivational forces is a modern one and does not appear fully-fledged until the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the roots of this debate date back to ancient Greece. (Henrich & Boyd, 2001, pp79-89) Plato's rejoinder to Thrasymachus is a statement of a different view of human nature in which pursuit of the 'good as such' and the pursuit of 'my' good necessarily coincides.

The argument presented by medieval Christian thought stresses a tension between the body and the soul, the former seeking self-gratification, the latter aspiring toward good works (including acts of charity) and those directed toward the glory of God. Only in the after life when prior altruism is rewarded is the tension between egoism and altruism ultimately resolved. But these early positions were not immediately concerned with matters of internal motivation, matters which most clearly characterize the modern argument. (Henrich et al. 2001, pp73-78)

The modern restatement of the altruism-egoism controversy comes with Machiavelli, but is perhaps most forcefully advanced as a full-blown theory by Thomas Hobbes. (Foster et al. 2001, pp229-38) Man is pictured as a bundle of appetites and passions, a truly self- interested animal that can consistently be counted on to selfishly seek his own ends in the absence of social restraint. Altruism is rendered incompatible with man's true nature. (Bewley, 2000, pp80-96) With Darwin, new light is brought to bear on this issue by relating biology to human nature, even if misguided followers misunderstood and distorted important revelations he introduced. (Falk et al. 2002, pp117-28)

Psychology, early in this century, seemed the appropriate place to turn for a scientific evaluation of philosophic issues confronting altruism. Explorations into instinct and the psychoanalytic theory of Freud offered clarification and expansion of the Hobbesian premises. But contemporary psychology has taken a variety of directions and presents conflicting evidence on this topic from competing methodological camps. (Bingham, 1999, pp133-69)

One problem involved in evaluating these approaches has been the lack of any critical tests which can readily adjudicate among contrasting viewpoints. (Yamagishi, 1992, pp267-87) This is partially due to the conceptual confusion which continues to plague psychological accounts of altruism as well as to the fact that different approaches seem to speak to different aspects of the phenomenon and not to confront the same issues. (Bingham, 1999, pp133-69)

Some like Hobbes, following the Newtonian model, explained behavior by reference to covering laws which apply uniformly to all individuals; while others claim that such nomothetic procedures misconstrue human behavior, and search instead for full specification of contextual variables which account for human diversity. (Henrich & Boyd, 2001, pp79-89) Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we found disagreements over the motivational base of altruism, with some like Rousseau claiming an emotive spring, and others, like Kant, specifying that true altruism emerges only from the conscious recognition of the rights of men. (Henrich et al. 2001, pp73-78) Turning our sights toward modern psychology in an attempt to discover empirical resolution of these concerns, we found little consensus on any issue, with different psychological schools approaching the question from different methodological and conceptual perspectives not themselves subject to empirical adjudication. (Andreoni, 1995, pp891-904) Having noted both the basic approach and application of sociobiology to human altruism, we now turn toward extracting from socio-biological accounts answers to these philosophic queries which continue unresolved. (Yamagishi, 1992, pp267-87) the rhetorical claims made by some socio-biologists suggest that sociobiology will be more successful than psychology in resolving these issues. (Bewley, 2000, pp80-96)

However, in the case of sociobiology, confusion may result not so much from a clash of various behavioral level models which remain unresolved, but from a fundamental difference in the ways genetic level and behavioral level explanations proceed. (Gachter & Falk, 1999, pp341-69) After all, an understanding of genetic function does not automatically yield apparent implications for human behavior. As we will see, although sociobiology may be well suited to address genetic level questions, the transition to behavioral level queries of philosophy is not easily made on the basis of genetic function alone. (Gachter & Falk, 2002, pp1-25)

As will be seen, many of the incongruities which are identified arise because of the very different ways in which sociobiologists and philosophers classify, conceptualize, and analyze behaviors. The fact that these two disciplines appear to often be speaking past each other about different phenomena and in different ways is not merely incidental or a problem which will soon be overcome. While we should not demand sociobiology at this early stage of its development to offer a complete resolution of those concerns which have plagued philosophers for centuries, we should at least expect a discipline which boldly calls for the "biologizing of philosophy, as sociobiology does, to be able to speak to the relevant issues with some clarity. (Foster et al. 2001, pp229-38) There is a conceptual fuzziness which arises in sociobiological accounts with reference to the true direction of the altruistic impulse. (Henrich et al. 2001, pp73-78) Barash and Wilson appear ready to consider acts guided by kin selection and parental manipulation as revealing some other-regarding properties of behavior, while those issuing from reciprocal exchanges are pictured as far more selfserving. Dawkins and Trivers, on the other hand, appear more forthright (or, cynical, depending on one's perspective) in their appraisal of all human behaviors as essentially guided by self-interest. (Falk et al. 2002, pp117-28)

This difference may represent more a difference in emphasis rather than actual division and conflict. Nevertheless, it reveals a basic ambiguity inherent in the sociobiological conceptualization of altruism which needs to be explored. (Andreoni, 1995, pp891-904) Let us probe deeper into the sociobiological conceptualization of altruism and attempt to understand exactly what sociobiologists mean when they talk about altruism and selfishness. (LukeF, 2000, pp27-33) Dawkins' position, utilizing the metaphor of the "selfish gene," implies that sociobiological logic necessitates the classification of virtually all forms of cooperative behavior as selfish. (Andreoni et al., 1998, pp818-60)

Human Reciprocity

Reciprocity Soft-core altruism is the major conceptual alternative to the hardcore variety proposed by sociobiologists. It differs from hardcore altruism in a… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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