What is altruism?

Elias Lafi Khalil

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

109 Citations (Scopus)


The paper defines altruism as charity. The second section of the paper criticizes three rationalistic (what is called "interactional") theories of altruism, viz., the egoistic, egocentric, and altercentric perspectives. The third section criticizes three normative (what is named "self-actional") theories of altruism, viz., the Kantian, the socialization argument, and "warm glow" story. The fourth section elaborates on three implications of altruism qua charity. First, while altruism differs from self-interest, it is still within the domain of rational theory. Second, altruism should not be confused with parental care or, what is the same thing, philanthropy. Third, altruism should be distinguished from honesty. © 2003 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-123
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Economic Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2004


  • Three implications (sentimental foolishness, parental care, honesty)
  • Three normative/self-actional theories
  • Three rationalistic/interactional theories

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