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The Evolution of Psychological Altruism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2022


We argue that there are two different kinds of altruistic motivation: classical psychological altruism, which generates ultimate desires to help other organisms at least partly for those organisms’ sake, and nonclassical psychological altruism, which generates ultimate desires to help other organisms for the sake of the organism providing the help. We then argue that classical psychological altruism is adaptive if the desire to help others is intergenerationally reliable and, thus, need not be learned. Nonclassical psychological altruism is adaptive when the desire to help others is adaptively learnable. This theory opens new avenues for the interdisciplinary study of psychological altruism.

Cognitive Sciences
Copyright © The Philosophy of Science Association

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We thank the referees and our audience at PSA 2016 for useful comments on prior drafts of this article. This material is partially based on work supported by the National Science Foundation under grant SES-1654982 to Gualtiero Piccinini.


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