Altruism (1850-1855)

Also called (William Donald) Hamilton’s genetical theory of social behavior, altruism is any behavior of an animal that may be disadvantageous for the individual, but that benefits others of its species.

The theory was espoused (as the ‘law of mutual aid‘) by Prince Peter Kropotkin (1842-1921), a Russian philosopher; but the term was coined by Auguste Comte (1798-1857), French philosopher and social reformer.

A bird that warns the flock of impending danger by calling out, thereby making itself obvious to the predator, is nonetheless increasing the likelihood that its own kin (and their shared gene pool) will survive. Prince Peter Kropotkin believed that both animal and human survival depended on mutual aid, and recorded many examples from the animal kingdom.

One thought on “Altruism (1850-1855)

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