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Altruism

In: Philosophy and Psychology

Submitted By jtre
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Altruism is the will and intention to help another without regard for oneself. The will or instinct to help others is a driving force for altruistic behavior. Animals can engage in altruistic behavior; however they do not realize that they are being altruistic, therefore the behavior that is exhibited is not altruistic. For a behavior to be altruistic one needs to understand that they are benefiting others at their expense. Humans possess the will necessary to perform altruistic deeds, and can put it to great use. Humans are still animals, and may perform altruistic behaviors without realizing it. Altruism in politics is rare, but it is necessary to prevent social groups from being outcast. A proportional representation system will allow for altruism by helping minorities be represented at all times, while not requiring the current majority to relieve their representative power. Frans deWaal shows that alrutism is actually more natural than it seems, despite the apparent inconsistencies they present.
Altruism is a choice to help others over one’s self. Only humans can be truly altruistic, as humans have the potential to make choices and realize their consequences almost completely, however seemingly altruistic events due occur naturally in the animal kingdom. “Taking on the midwife role another female spent no less than two and a half hours assisting the in experienced mother”(deWaal 688). The helper bat did know actually know and think about its actions and consequences. The event that occurred was a natural reaction to stimuli. Although this example may be biased due to the bats being of the same species, there are other instances where altruistic actions occur among different species. Humans have the ability to process information much better then many animals. Animals perform altruistic acts due to evolution of such behaviors over time. These behaviors may have originally been intended to help the organism or others of its species, but has been applied to different situations. Often these situations put the organism in danger, or offer no real benefit to the organism. In these instances behavior is coined altruistic. Other instance, the behavior is expected. A mother raising her children is considered a natural behavior, while a mother raising children of another species is altruistic. Altruistic behavior is not new, but the reality of life at the moment is that competition rules. Humans tend to be very competitive and ignore many altruistic tendencies or feelings they may encounter to win. When having an argument, one side may try to win by proving that their side is better by pointing out flaws in their opponent. One way of doing this would be to shut them down completely, or use deceiving language to get them to agree or give up. The other would be to politely point out flaws, and help with their argument. The latter method is considered more altruistic, because one is helping their opponent. The first method was purely competitive, and had no concern for the opponent. The second argument is undoubtedly much more pleasant and productive than the first. Humans have altruistic tendencies built into them, like most animals, but may have it masked by their personalities or other social factors.
Proportional representation is a way in which altruism, much more commonly termed cooperation, can be put into effect in areas where minorities have little or no representation due to a large or oppressive majority. In a political system where one representative seat may be available, a minority may not be able to elect candidates who focus on issues important to them. Even in a community where the vote is split, minorities may be poor, “isolated by this poverty, black voters are less able to maneuver around such obstacles as last minute changes in polling places- moving them to locations up to twelve to fifteen miles away, over dirt and gravel roads” (Guinier 236) or oppressed by the majority “In neither the first or second primary did any white person publicly support or endores a black candidate.” (Guinier 236). Many factors can prevent the minority from having their issues heard. However proportional representation will turn a single seat into one for each political party. Together the elected members can compromise on issues that both parties share and each party will have their own unique issues addressed as well. A Proportional representation system can serve as an easy political answer for a misrepresented public. Proportional Representation also has one major long-term benefit, reciprocity. Reciprocity allows for the majority and minority to always play a role in government dealings, with regard to the current population. A current minority may hold a few less seats than a majority at one time. Later on this may change, and the once minority will become a majority. Rather than have the previous majority give up their power, the amount of seats each party holds is adjusted to fit their demand for representation. For a political party, making the switch from a single elected official, to a Proportional Representation system may seem altruistic, as the ruling party is giving some of its power to the minority. Why would one want to share if you were successful at keeping everything to oneself? Looking back on how altruism arose, we see that it was due to species needed to help one another for the common interest. At times cooperation involves the sacrifice of one or all of the parties involved. By coming together under a proportional representation system, all-or-nothing power is sacrificed for shared control. Working together as one unit, more interests and goals can be achieved, with less violence and contempt. Minorities can appreciate getting their foot in the political door, and addressing critical issues. As an added bonus, reciprocity allows for constant representation. This fits the deeper evolutionary meaning of altruism, being that it helps out everybody by having one party sacrifice something to help another. The majority who initially made the sacrifice also gets rewarded later on because of reciprocity, by not being shut out of the power they once controlled. Many would not give up their singular power if they had it. The fact that many parties can be represented at once lowers hard feelings amongst social groups. Two groups may grow more and more distant and hostile should one group repeatedly win an election. The result of long periods of oppression and political outcast may cause the repressed group to act negatively. The minority may disregard laws established by the power in control, or use violence and threats to get their message out into the public. Once a Proportional Representation system is established, communication can open between the two social groups. They can grow closer and less hostile by working out problems together. This benefits all parties involved, as violence and social segregation is not usually one sided, and innocent bystanders or key members of a community may become targeted and elevate conflict and tensions between groups. A proportional representation system can solve many problems faced by communities with overbearing majorities. It can prevent majorities from abusing power as well as preventing minorities from being ignored and repressed. Although it is not true altruism, because the majority who is sacrificing for the minority still has representation proportional to that of the minority in their community, regardless of circumstances in the future that may arise, Proportional representation fits the evolutionary viewpoint of how altruistic behaviors arose. “The impulse to help was therefore never totally without survival value to the one showing the impulse. But, as so often, the impulse became dissociated from the consequences that shaped its evolution, which permitted it to be expressed even when payoffs were unlikely” (deWaal 689). We originally seek to help out others for a reward, for example in proportional representation, the reward is that the majority will continue to be represented even after they become the minority, but may just as well do it for the feeling we get when we help each other out, due to our evolutionary past. The main purpose of evolution is to create organisms that can survive better. This does not necessarily mean making one big self sufficient organism that can overpower all others. Survival can be increase by cooperation between organisms, both of the same and different species. The mechanism for altruism allows certain species to cooperate, empathize, and appreciate with others. Through this we have dogs that are loyal to humans, bats who give birthing lessons, and proportional representation. Proportional representation allows for human cooperation on the political level, ultimately helping social groups get noticed and survive better. Proportional representation also guarantees that its participants will be fairly represented should they lose ground and become a minority, so long as the system stands the test of time. It is altruism for one to not want to leave another behind. Our built in nature allows us to do truly amazing deeds of kindness, such as risking our own lives for strangers. The fact that these events occur, and that altruism is clearly exhibited in some way in the animal kingdom, leaves no doubt that it is a biological survival mechanism. When applied to the new world of politics, old traits such as altruism and cooperation can do a great deal of good.

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