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Altruism & Altruistic Love: Science, Philosophy & Religion in Dialogue [Hardcover]

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Pages   522
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.62" Width: 6.32" Height: 1.44"
Weight:   2.15 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Mar 28, 2002
Publisher   Oxford University Press
ISBN  0195143582  
EAN  9780195143584  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
The concept of altruism, or disinterested concern for another's welfare, has been discussed by everyone from theologians to psychologists to biologists. In this book, evolutionary, neurological, developmental, psychological, social, cultural, and religious aspects of altruistic behavior are examined. It is a collaborative examination of one of humanity's essential and defining characteristics by renowned researchers from various disciplines. Their integrative dialogue illustrates that altruistic behavior is a significant mode of expression that can be studied by various scholarly methods and understood from a variety of perspectives in both the humanities and the sciences. Altruism and Altruistic Love establishes a framework for scholarship on altruism by presenting definitions, a historical overview, a review of contemporary research, and debates in various disciplines, as well as a discussion of directions for future work.

Buy Altruism & Altruistic Love: Science, Philosophy & Religion in Dialogue by Stephen G. Post, Lynn G. Underwood, Ph.D., Jeffrey P. Schloss & William B. Hurlbut from our Christian Books store - isbn: 9780195143584 & 0195143582

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More About Stephen G. Post, Lynn G. Underwood, Ph.D., Jeffrey P. Schloss & William B. Hurlbut

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Stephen G. Post is professor of preventive medicine and director of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care, and Bioethics at Stony Brook University. He is a leader in the study of altruism, compassion, and love and president of the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love. Post is the author (with Jill Neimark) of the widely praised "Why Good Things Happen to Good People."

Stephen Garrard Post was born in 1951.

Stephen Garrard Post has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Religion, Marriage, and Family

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
A balanced debate between proponents and critics of evolutionary accounts of behavior  Jun 15, 2006
The concept of altruism, or disinterested concern for another's welfare, is a common human characteristic, and has been discussed by everyone from theologians to biologists. This volume brings together renowned researchers from various disciplines to examine the evolutionary, neurological, developmental, psychological, social, cultural, and religious aspects of altruistic behavior.

Altruism is most famously recognized as occurring within a biological family, often called kin-altruism. However in human societies altruism goes well beyond mere familial relations and is "widely lauded and is commonly considered the foundation for a moral life." (pg. 3) Altruism is recognized as affirmation and care for another person for their own benefit, regardless of how their benefit impinges upon one's own success.

But can true altruism be explained under evolutionary theory? E.O. Wilson claims that "Human behavior--like the deep capacities for emotional response which derive and guide it--is the circuitous technique by which human genetic material has been and will be kept intact. Morality has no other demonstrable function." Under this account, real altruism does not exist, for there is always some mechanistically based "selfish" behavior guiding any altruistic act.

For example, Darwinian philosopher Michael Ruse argues that a Darwinian interpretation of social behavior and of the morality that underlies it requires that they be reproductively beneficial. Thus Ruse writes that "all organisms including ourselves are the products of evolution" and "animal behavior must itself be subject to natural selection." (pg. 153) Natural selection often rewards cooperation; however, Ruse maintains that genetically "selfish" behaviors do not necessarily entail consciously selfish behavioral motives. But ultimately, these behaviors must exist due to an evolutionary past where they enabled their underlying genes to reproduce. Under evolution, "human moral behavior ... has to be such that it is going to serve the individual." (pg. 158). Under Ruse's view, "Darwinian evolutionary biology is nonprogressive, pointing away from the possibility of our knowing objective morality" and thus "Darwinian evolutionary theory leads one to a moral skepticism, a kind of moral nonrealism." (pg. 165)

Discovery Institute fellow Jeffrey P. Schloss argues that there are some behaviors that remain unaccounted for under Neo-Darwinism:
"Human beings often manifest radically sacrificial, consequentially altruistic behavior that reduces reproductive success without compensatory reciprocation or kinship benefit. Behaviors such as voluntary poverty, celibate orders of benevolence, Holocaust rescuers, and religious asceticism or martyrdom are examples in humans that have provoked reconceptualism or substantial refinement of evolutionary approaches to human altruism. And even less extreme behaviors, such as adoption of non-kin, anonymous philanthropy, and costly investment in reproductively inert endeavors such as art or funeral caches have stimulated the extension or nuancing of initial sociobiological accounts." (p. 221; internal citations omitted)

According to Schloss, highly sacrificial acts or reproductive sacrifice are unaccounted if "the calculus of biological benefit ... remains tied to fitness." (pg. 235) Schloss concludes that "in the last analysis, either we deny the existence or importance of the human propensity toward counterreproductive behavior or we invoke accounts of its origin that posit some measure of uncoupling from genomic evolution and concomitant transcendence of biological constraints." (pg. 235-236)

This is a lively debate that is unlikely to be settled soon. However, Altruism and Altruistic Love provides a wide range of views from leading thinkers in this diverse field.
Richly Diverse Essays on Other-Regard  Aug 31, 2004
This volume includes the work of some of the leading figures in the science and religion love dialogue. The essays are the product of a conference entitled "Empathy, Altruism and Agape: Perspectives on Love in Science and Religion." Major funding for this 1999 conference came from the John Templeton Foundation and John Fetzer Institute.

"It is in the context of the dialogue between science, philosophy and spiritual traditions that this book addresses various views of the roles of altruism and egoism," writes editor Stephen G. Post (5). " Our intent in this book is to grapple honestly with current scientific questions about the existence of genuine altruism and to explore the nature of human other regarding motives and acts" (6). Among the tasks that the book addresses is the effort to understand better the emergence of altruism and empathy and how these contribute a greater capacity to love.

The book is organized into five sections. In the first, four essayists wrestle with the definitions of altruism, agape, and love. Elliott Sober defines altruistic behavior in his essay as enhancing the fitness of someone else at some cost in fitness to the donor. Sober's own position on the emergence of altruism and egoism is a pluralistic one in the sense that Sober recognizes that humans and other organisms have both egoistic and altruistic inclinations. Edith Wyschogrod writes as a phenomenologist who claims that moral experience begins with a claim upon the self to engage in other regarding acts. In this sense ethical meaning arises in the encounter with another human. Jerome Kagan, a psychologist, asserts that the human being is utterly unique emergent from evolution with a moral sense. It was with the evolution of the human brain that humans could evaluate vice and virtue. Stephen G. Post examines the tradition of agape in light of altruism and altruistic love. According to Post, altruistic love does not eclipse the care of the self, but it effectively affirms participation in the being of the other. "Altruism is other regarding, either with regard to actions or motivations; altruistic adds the features of deep affirmative affect to altruism; agape is altruistic love universalized all humanity as informed by theistic commitments" (56). Despite universalization, however, "agape forces us to honestly the ordering of our love and care with respect to both the nearest and the very neediest on the face of the earth" (59).

The second section of the book takes up the social scientific research and addresses this in this relationship to altruism and love. This section notes that observing or measuring motivations with regard to love is very difficult. Lynn Underwood addresses data from selected studies and attempts to map a conceptuality of love from the social science perspective. She wrestles with basic notions of love, self, context and freedom among other things. In his essay, C. Daniel Batson challenges the common assumption that all behavior is selfish. Batson's "empathy/altruism" hypothesis is that other-oriented emotional response evokes a motivational state with the ultimate goal of increasing the other's welfare. Batson looks at more than 25 experiments to distinguish between self-directed motives and truly altruistic motives. Batson says that the tentative conclusion from his studies is that feeling empathy for a person in need does evoke altruistic motivation to help that person.

Kristen Renwick Monroe defines altruism in terms of actions rather than motives. Monroe suggests that perception of the self in relation to others strongly affects decisions to be altruistic. Finally, Samuel Oliner analyzes altruistic behaviors of rescuers of Jews during WWII and volunteers working with the dying. He characterizes altruism as actions that are (1) directed toward another, (2) involve a high risk or sacrifice to the actor, (3) are accompanied by no external reward and (4) voluntary. After examining data of the two groups, both the rescuers and those involved in hospice, Oliner concludes that there is no single motivating explanation that triggers people to behave compassionately for the welfare of others. However, Gentile rescuers who risked their lives for Jews had learned compassion, caring norms, and responsibility for diverse others from parents and others in authority. Hospice volunteers exhibited a higher degree of intrinsic religiosity, despite a lower incidence of affiliation with mainstream religious traditions. Oliner suggests that social institutions, whether they be religious, educational or in the workplace, need to reconsider their roles and responsibilities so that they might foster kind and loving acts.

The third section of the book takes up the debates within evolutionary biology and psychology with regard to egoism and altruism. Michael Ruse outlines the genecentric sociobiological perspective on altruism. He asserts that a Darwinian interpretation of social behavior and morality requires that organisms be reproductively beneficial. Stephen Pope addresses the varieties of love from the perspective of theology and biology and speaks of an ordering of loves. Pope suggests that appropriate altruism comes out of who we are rather than being an imposition that occurs contrary to our deepest native needs and desires. "I believe the goods valued by both the moral egoists and the moral altruists can be assimilated and properly coordinated within a balanced interpretation of the ordering of love" (170). David Sloan Wilson and Elliott Sober consider the history of altruism and evolutionary biology. They note the fluctuation that the history of altruism has had but hope that altruism will find a permanent place in dominant evolutionary thinking.
Melvin Konner reviews data from evolutionary biology, primatology, and anthropology. He describes obstacles to altruism and notes that evolutionary theory makes most disinterested forms of altruism problematic. In particular, aggression in both non-humans and humans makes altruism problematic. Jeffrey P. Schloss surveys evolutionary approaches to human cooperative behavior and notes that the good news is that current theory is conciliate in its affirmation of that natural basis for genuine other regard within kinship or social groups. The challenging news, however, is that the counterpart of such affiliation is exclusion towards those outside those groups. There is no biological theory proposed for how out-group sacrifice and "love your enemy" altruism can come about. "If the struggle for existence is the engine of natural selection and survival of the fittest is the direction of travel, then those organisms that sacrifice their biological well-being for the good of another will be kicked off the train" (214).

The fourth section of the book considers the emotional aspects of altruistic love by focusing on the role of empathy in both humans and non-humans. This section discusses the evolutionary advantages of particular anatomical, physiological, and psychological developments. Essayists considers how developments in these fields provide a basis for varied forms of altruism. Neuroscientist Thomas Insel discusses his work in neurochemistry and neurophysiology in rodent species. His findings point to the possibility that in human beings subtle genetic variations may underlie individual differences in the capacity and inclination for attachment and other forms of altruistic behavior. Neurologist Antonio Damasio discusses evolutionary origins of emotions and feelings, their fundamental adaptive value, and the extension in the empathetic processes that allow human sociality and altruism. He notes that the emotions use the body as their theater. The foundational processes of emotion and feeling, coupled with an individual's ability to know of the existence of such emotions and feelings in the self and others, are the basis of what is best in humans, including conscience, ethical rules and the codification of law. Hanna Damasio discusses case reports of patients with damage to the portion of the brain that appear critical in the foundational processes of altruism. She concludes that there is a system in certain sections of the prefrontal cortex that is critical for the learning and maintenance of certain aspects of social behavior that pertain to interpersonal relationships. Damage to this results in defective decisions regarding altruism. Her work underscores the claim that the capacity for altruism has a physical foundation.

Primatologists Stephanie Preston and Frans deWaal consider the behaviors and linkage between humans and non-humans. They report on what appears to be a degree of cognitive empathy among the great apes. Empathy is a general class of behavior that exists across species to different degrees of complexity. The data from primatology warns against drawing demarcation lines between humans and other animals with respect to emotional aspects of empathy. The basis in emotional and social connectedness is crucial to an understanding of empathy and altruism because is creates the bridge between ultimate and proximate explanations and between philogeny and ontogeny. William B. Hurlbut concludes the section with his own chapter on empathy, evolution , and altruism. He claims that the beginning of sociality are seen even in the most primordial configurations of living matter. "Among the earliest lifeforms, organisms drew information from one another to pattern and coordinate such basic biological functions as reproduction and nourishment" (310). Empathy is a form of intersubjectivity in which the observer actually participates in the feelings of the other. Hurlbut notes that the idea the human life has a moral dimension and this is in some sense a product of the universe is at odds with prevailing scientific culture. To assert an objective ethical order within nature would be to affirm teleology, the reality of human freedom, and the unique status of our species. Hurlbut argues that "for all the controversy concerning the possibility of genuine generosity and altruistic love, at the levels of life, amid the sounds of the street and the strivings and struggles, there is everywhere, in small or greater degrees, the evidence of love. Many people, perhaps most, in some way give the effort and energy of their lives from a belief in love and the desire to build a better world. If there is a natural sentiment and hope, it is that love is real" (325).

The fifth section looks at altruistic love from a religious context. Don S. Browning suggests that evolutionary biology is moving religious thinkers toward a synthesis model in which love is understood as having both altruistic and egoistic aspects. Browning argues that the moral theologian "would finally ground the sacrificial element in love on the Christian's belief in the infinite value of the other and on the sense that some acts of self sacrifice are both willed and empowered by God, even though self-sacrifice, as such, might not be seen as the central goal of Christian love" (344). Gregory L. Fricchione interprets human religious expression as an outgrowth of evolutionary developments centered around separation and attachment theory. Fricchione claims "separation/attachment is a common referent conferring extensional identity across different conceptual levels of complexity" (354). Agape is a healthy synthesis of self-affirming/self-realizing love with self-giving love. Reuben L. F. Habito concludes the volume by speaking of compassion and love from a Buddhist perspective. The compassionate life from a Buddhist perspective is an outflow of the wisdom that truly sees the way things are. The view of reality that overcomes the separation of self and other. Habito suggests that Buddhism offers a valuable contribution in forging a common future as the earth community.

Thomas Jay Oord

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