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On Altruism & Self-Interest

“Oh, tell me, who first declared, who first proclaimed that man only does nasty things because he does not know his own real interests; and that if he were enlightened, if his eyes were opened to his real normal interests, man would at once cease to do nasty things, would at once become good and noble because, being enlightened and understanding his real advantage, he would see his own advantage in the good and nothing else… . Oh, the babe! Oh, the pure, innocent child!” ― Fyodor Dostoyesvsky, Notes from Underground


Are humans inherently self-interested? Can they ever act outside of their own self-interest? Is self-interest good for society, politics, and the economy, or does it pose fundamental problems that must be addressed through ethics and governance? Do altruistic actions necessarily require sacrifice? Are most altruistic actions just a prolonged path to a self-interested end, or do pure altruistic actions exist? 

From Machiavelli to Hobbes to Smith and Dawkins, we will consider the nature of self-interest and altruism as related to the human condition. We will question our operating  assumptions on this topic and explore the implications that these assumptions may have to the way we live our lives. 


Speaker to be announced at a later date. 

Location upon RSVP

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Image Attribution:Jan Wijnants [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Earlier Event: January 13
On Nihilism
Later Event: March 24
On Death