Embracing the Other: Philosophical, Psychological, and Historical Perspectives on Altruism

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All but buried for most of the twentieth century, the concept of altruism has re-emerged in this last quarter as a focus of intense scholarly inquiry and general public interest. In the wake of increased consciousness of the human potential for destructiveness, both scholars and the general public are seeking interventions which will not only inhibit the process, but may in fact chart a new creative path toward a global community. Largely initiated by a group of pioneering social psychologists, early questions on altruism centered on its motivation and development primarily in the context of contrived laboratory experiments. Although publications on the topic have been considerable over the last several years, and now represent the work of representatives from many disciplines of inquiry, this volume is distinguished from others in several ways.

Embracing the Other emerged primarily as a response to recent research on an extraordinary manifestation of real-life altruism, namely to recent studies of non-Jewish rescuers of Jews during World War II. It is the work of a multi-disciplinary and international group of scholars, including philosophers, social psychologists, historians, sociologists, and educators, challenging several prevailing conceptual definitions and motivational sources of altruism. The book combines both new empirical and historical research as well as theoretical and philosophical approaches and includes a lengthy section addressing the practical implications of current thinking on altruism for society at large. The result is a multi-textured work, addressing critical issues in varied disciplines, while centered on shared themes.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Intelligently addresses several of the most important unresolved issues and controversies about altruism."

-The Journal of Politics

Combining both new empirical and historical research, as well as theoretical and philosophical approaches, an international and multidsciplinary group of scholars examine altruistic behavior, focusing largely on non-Jewish rescuers of Jews during World War II. They challenge several prevailing conceptions of the definitions and motivational sources of altruism, and explore possible paths to promoting altruism in society at large. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814761908
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 7/1/1995
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 474
  • Product dimensions: 5.81 (w) x 8.89 (h) x 1.15 (d)

Meet the Author

Pearl M. Oliner and Samuel P. Oliner are Professor of Education and Professor of Sociology, respectively, at Humboldt State University and co-authors of The Altruistic Personality: Rescuers of Jews in Nazi Europe.

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Table of Contents

Pt. 1 Preface and Introduction
Preface 3
Introduction 6
Pt. 2 Philosophical, Definitional, and Conceptual Issues
Introduction 19
1 Empathy and Protest: Two Roots of Heroic Altruism 22
2 Altruism and the Moral Value of Rescue: Resisting Persecution, Racism, and Genocide 30
3 Rescue, Righteousness, and Morality 48
Pt. 3 Sociobiology and Moral Altruism
Introduction 69
4 Altruism and Human Nature: Resolving the Evolutionary Paradox 73
5 Altruism and the Evolution of Civil Society 104
Pt. 4 The Development and Enactment of Altruism
Introduction 133
6 The Development of Altruistic Personality 142
7 The Self in Moral Agency: Toward a Theoretical Model of the Ideal Altruistic Personality 170
8 Self, We, and Other(s): Schemata, Distinctiveness, and Altruism 194
9 Motivations of People Who Helped Jews Survive the Nazi Occupation 213
10 Predicting Prosocial Commitment in Different Social Contexts 226
11 Helping in Late Life 253
Pt. 5 Embracing the "Outsider"
Introduction 279
12 The Question of Altruism during the Armenian Genocide of 1915 282
13 The Dutchness of Dutch Rescuers: The National Dimension of Altruism 306
14 The Role of Polish Nuns in the Rescue of Jews, 1939-1945 328
15 Political Altruism: A Case Study 335
Pt. 6 Promoting Altruistic Bonds
Introduction 363
16 Promoting Extensive Altruistic Bonds: A Conceptual Elaboration and Some Pragmatic Implications 369
17 The Origins of Caring, Helping, and Nonaggression: Parental Socialization, the Family System, Schools, and Cultural Influence 390
18 Altruism among Alcoholics 413
19 Altruism and Extensivity in the Baha'i Religion 420
20 Altruism in the Socialist World 433
Index 455
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