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Altruism

Rational choice theorists believe that decisions are based on rational thought. For the most part, rational decisions are made with the intention of receiving some type of benefit or reward. However, people sometimes make decisions that have no obvious remuneration. From a rational choice theorists’ perspective, altruism provides an explanation for decisions in which the rationale is not quite clear. Because selfish acts and decisions with apparent self-benefit clearly demonstrate rational thought, altruism can be thought of as the rationale for selfless decisions.

Howard Margolis divided altruism into two categories: “goods altruism” and “participation altruism.” Goods altruism is the idea that we want other people to have things. Therefore, we give to charity and support government decisions that benefit others. Sometimes we gain satisfaction from participating in an activity for nonselfish reasons; an emotion derived from participation altruism. Donating blood is an example of participation altruism.

For the most part, I believe that altruistic behavior is rational. On a conscious or subconscious level, people act altruistically for intangible rewards. In no way does any type of reward negate the nobility of altruistic behavior. Rather, I think that doing good or contributing to society makes any individual feel virtuous and, therefore, is fundamental to humanity. Sometimes, altruistic behavior can even become habit forming. For example, my aunt has donated blood once a month for as long as I can remember. Although she may not recognize the same sense of self-satisfaction over the course of many years, at one point she made a rational decision. For the past year, I have volunteered a few hours a week to my parish youth group. My rationale for making this decision regards how it will benefit my career in the future since many companies look for volunteer work on r?sum?s. By demonstrating altruistic behavior in this manner, I am acting in hope of reciprocity.


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