Annotated Bibliography : Altruism Solved

Annotated Bibliography : Altruism

(600 Words)


Moore, Jim (1984). The evolution of reciprocal sharing. Ethol. Sociobiol. 5: 5-14.

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Moore (1984) particularly discusses the evolution of reciprocal altruism while also clarifying that sharing and helping are two very different behaviours. The author argues that altruistic behaviours may be purely selfish in origin. He emphasizes that human sharing and reciprocity stem from reciprocal exchange, barter or sale and nonreciprocal giving. These actions have emotional connections. For the animals, specifically chimpanzees, kinship and helping each other is apparent but when it comes to food they do not share at all. Sharing among the chimpanzees therefore is not an outcome of altruism but being possessive. This action is seen as a compromise which requires exchange. Unlike humans, the willingness to help and to share is inbuilt. The article provides a list of human behavior that can be considered altruistic such as caring, sharing knowledge, food and implements and helping in times of danger. From this, Moore (1984) explains the differences of human and animal altruism.


Holt, Jim (2008). Good Instincts – Why is anyone an altruist? NY Times Magazine, March 9, 2008.

Holt (2008) discusses modern altruism with Darwin’s theory of evolution as the basis. For him, there are four reasonable reasons for altruism: kinship selection, reciprocal altruism, reputation for generosity and the Potlatch effect. The dynamic of natural selection dictates people to act selflessly in order to survive and propagate. The strength of the article is on providing a practical example of altruism which is the modern-day philanthropy. For instance, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is one of the most powerful forces in relieving worldwide suffering through fighting disease and poverty. Bill Gates, however, does not benefit in the process. Holt (2008) discusses the four reasons of altruism with Bill Gates and his foundation as examples. The author explains that Gates has no genetic relationships to the beneficiaries of the foundation and that he does not expect them to reciprocate.


Okasha, Samir (2003). Biological Altruism, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy,

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Okasha (2003) provides a detailed explanation about the concepts of kin selection and reciprocal altruism. He noted that biological altruism exists only because of the necessity of ‘fitness’ or survivability of humans and animals. Okasha (2003) believed that altruistic behaviour is common in the animal kingdom. One of the strong points of the author’s argument is that higher degrees of altruism depend on how close the relationship is. Okasha (2003) explains that interaction and recognition are requirements of reciprocal altruism among animals whom are non-relatives. In this article, the author also discusses the conceptual differences of altruism, cooperation and mutualism; weak and strong altruism and short and long term fitness consequences. Whether the evolution of biological altruism could be applied to humans is another issue. Okasha (2003) believes that humans behave more altruistically than animals towards their close kin and even non-relatives.


Warneken, Felix (2006). Spontaneous Altruism by Chimpanzees and Young Children, PLOS Biology.

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Warneken (2006) claims that debates about altruism focus on the assumption that altruism is unique to humans. Another side of the debate is human altruism differs from that of animal altruism in important ways. The argument is always tended on the side that human are the only specie capable to act on behalf of others even toward genetically related individuals and without personal gain. In this article, Warneken (2006) provide evidences that humans’ close relative, which is the chimpanzee, also acts altruistically toward genetically unrelated conspecifics. The strength of this article lies on the fact that it relates how people and animals act altruistically without giving emphasis on kin selection or reciprocal altruism. The author concluded that the evolutionary roots of human altruism may go deeper than previously thought.