(Fr. altruisme, from It. altrui, of or to others, from L. alter, another). Concern for and happiness at the well-being of others, even at one’s own expense, and out of purely humane motives. Involves service for the good of others and a willingness to sacrifice one’s personal interest for the sake of others.
This term was introduced into scientific and philosophical language by Auguste Comte, who used it in formulating the moral doctrine of Positivism. In the experience of a. Comte saw, moreover, a criterion of experience capable of counteracting not only ordinary selfishness but that selfishness defended by Liberalism as a factor of progress. A., like solidarity and reciprocity, are characteristic of the humanist ethic, because these attitudes contribute to the progress of humankind and to the favorable and just resolution of interpersonal and social conflicts.