Monday, June 17, 2013

Pathological altruism

From James Taranto on Best of the Web Today for June 14, 2013, looking at the concept of pathological altruism as developed by Barbara Oakley:
Oakley concludes by noting that "during the twentieth century, tens of millions [of] individuals were killed under despotic regimes that rose to power through appeals to altruism." An understanding that altruism can produce great evil as well as good is crucial to the defense of human freedom and dignity.
When something bad happens, people often assume that someone with evil motives--especially greed--is the cause. The notion of pathological altruism is an alternative explanation. Bad results can come from what appear to be good motives--altruism. And people with suspect motives, such as greed or lust for power, often are very good at finding ways to exploit the altruism of others to further their own goals.