Altruism

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    Brannan, Daniel K.

     (126K)

    Evolutionary Explanation and the Ideal of Altruism: the Incommensurability of the Christian Love Command

    "The integration of an evolutionary origin of human behaviors with the capacity to symbolically idealize seemingly unattainable and paradoxical concepts such as altruism (e.g. devotion to others’ interests as an ethical principle leading to self-sacrifice and forgoing genetic progeny) is an imperative for theories of biological adaptation and for understanding our religious yearning for transcendence. Our ethical and spiritual attraction to aesthetics, purpose, and altruism as self-sacrifice seem to be rooted in these two pursuits. By understanding how biological adaptation has created a mind that yearns, in a social setting, for religious transcendence we are led to idealizations of behavior beyond our capability. Of all creatures on earth, we seem to uniquely yearn for perfection of behavior, purpose, and utopian ideals. Is altruism a result of both biological processes and cultural influence, particularly religious ideals of behavior?"
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    Burnes, Charlene P. E.

     (442K)

    Altruism in Nature as Manifestation of Divine Energeia

    "Christian theological attempts to integrate scientific claims about altruism in nature have not been completely successful largely because Western theologies—particularly some Protestant versions— lack a theologically grounded ontological basis for speech about altruism, agape, and other forms of love. Patristic theologies of divine essence, energeia and logoi, most fully developed in Eastern Orthodox thought, provide just such an ontological basis upon which Christian thought can stand in order to demonstrate that altruism in nature does not challenge religious claims that moral behavior has transcendent meaning but rather suggests that it is itself a manifestation of the divine will."
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    Meisinger, Hubert

     (93K)

    The Phenomenon of “Love”: The Significance of its Biblical Account and its Sociobiological Reconstruction

    "This paper argues that there are three basic motives in sociobiological research on altruism which are also characteristic for the biblical account of love: (1)An Awareness of Expanding Inclusiveness which pertains to the recipient of love or altruistic behavior and the extension of this circle of recipients beyond the most immediate neighbour, (2) an Awareness of Excessive Demand that deals with the question of the capability of human beings to meet what seems to be an excessive demand for love or altruism, and (3) a Threshold Awareness which concerns the question of whether love or altruism constitutes a step on the way to a 'new human being' and a 'new world'. All three motives appear in characteristic ways in both research on altruism in sociobiology and investigations on the love command in the bible."
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    Mills, John A.

     (146K)

    Should We Love Osama?

    "This paper will explore from whence the ultimate altruistic act of 'love thy enemy' comes. It claims that this ultimate act of loving the one who would destroy us is enabled by both the bottom-up process of naturalistic evolution and the top-down process of religious revelation. Reflecting on Franz de Waal's and others work, the processes of nature provide us with the encouragement to engage in altruistic acts. Evolution is opportunistic and immediate. Evolution gives rise to altruism because there is a naturalistic reward sought, be it personal survival, familial survival, tribal survival, or species survival. Naturalistic reward sets a finite limit to the radius of the circle of inclusion -- this far and no further. Thus, altruism towards an enemy who would destroy us will not develop naturalistically. This last, extravagant step must be given through revelation. It requires a final leap of faith to widen our circle of care to even the one who would destroy us. Through the evolutionary drivers towards altruism, God lays the ground work for this ultimate act of love."
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    Post, Stephen G.

     (112K)

    Regarding the Other: Altruistic Love as Religious Ideal and Scientific Project

    Noted ethicist Stephen Post examines the features of altruistic love - its definition, its ordering, its role in society - and points toward the importance of dialogue with the sciences "if we hope to make any socially relevant progress in our religious understanding."
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    Pruss, Alexander R.

     (3.1M)

    Altruism, Teleology and God

    "There is a long tradition of arguments for the existence of God. Early examples include Aristotle’s cosmological argument in Book Lambda of the Metaphysics, arguing that if there is change, there must be at least one unchanging and perfect being that originates all change, while the first chapter of Romans and chapter 13 of the Book of Wisdom insist that 'from the greatness and the beauty of created things their original author, by analogy, is seen' (Wis. 13:5, NAB). This tradition continues, and indeed starting in the 1950s, analytic philosophy has seen an impressive resurgence of more and more careful formulations and criticisms of arguments for the existence of God. I shall show how the phenomenon of altruism yields a theistic argument."