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Extra resources for Altruism (Concepts in the Social Sciences)
Some instances of altruism are a matter of duty. If I witness a road accident, and I am a qualified first aider, I have a moral obligation to help (Fabre 2004). Even if I am not so qualified, I ought at least to call an ambulance and give such assistance as I can until it arrives. This latter duty is underwritten by good Samaritan laws in some countries where one can be penalized for failing to help. ) If in this accident, a fire is started in the car and the driver is trapped, rescuing them would involve me in considerable risk to myself, illustrating that it is not merely the good one can do, but also the risks one incurs that determines whether an act is supererogatory or morally obligatory.
The advantage of his approach is that in accepting emotional sources of obligation he seems to provide us with a more complete picture of what altruism actually involves, one that is closer to our common moral experience. In contrast to Kant’s approach, Blum thinks that there are different types of goodness and that they do not all conform to a single, unitary principle. We cannot always reason consistently, and contradictions do – and should be permitted to – occur in moral systems. In fact, Blum’s more open, pluralistic approach Kerrypress Ltd – Typeset in XML A Division: chap02 F Sequential 7 JOBNAME: SM − MSEL PAGE: 8 SESS: 11 OUTPUT: Wed Aug 8 12:23:15 2007 SUM: 3EECC040 /production/mcgraw−hill/booksxml/scoseg/chap02 28 Altruism does not make any categorical distinctions between moral and non-moral standpoints.
It is debatable whether there is anything intrinsic to the idea of reciprocity that returns must be comparable but, having said that, a market-led as opposed to a more altruistic social ethos may encourage reciprocators to be on the lookout for comparable exchanges. What is more certain is that if social relationships are shaped by felt obligations to return ‘favours’ or similar feelings of indebtedness to the giver, the commendable voluntary nature of altruistic giving is seriously damaged. I may repay you a favour, because I feel bound by your kindness beyond mere gratitude.