|Path Home: Empathy, Altruism and Agape | Presenters or Itinerary
This paper discusses the concepts of morality, altruism, and love by emphasizing the semantic network linked to each term that is dominated by intention, an appreciation of the concepts of good and bad, and the emotional state of self-enhancement. Thus, this discussion awards salience to the meaning networks that refer to human features rather than those shared with other primates.
Morality - Although all animals, including humans, are motivated for feelings of pleasure that originate in changes in sensory modalities, humans are motivated to match their actions, thoughts, and behaviors to cognitive representations called ethical standards. When this consonance occurs, the individual experiences a uniquely human feeling one might call enhanced virtue. The ability to infer the thoughts and feelings of others, to apply the categories good and bad to objects and events, to reflect on past actions, and to decide that a particular action could have been suppressed created a novel biologically prepared competence in humans that begins its growth by the second birthday and is mature by late adolescence. Although there is a biological foundation for human morality, that does not mean that one particular ethical system is more natural or more adaptive than another.
Altruism - The discussion of altruism emphasizes the helping agent's awareness of the need of another rather than refer only to behaviors that benefit another. One basis for altruistic acts serves a moral sense. Another motive is love for another and a third basis for altruism is the desire to create a state of indebtedness in the other.
Love - Love has four distinctive meaning networks and each will be discussed. A key assumption is that a beloved target is likely to possess characteristics that match representations of the ideal in the other.
Finally, the paper will conclude that altruism and love may have become less frequent in contemporary society because of the socialization of youth to regard self, rather than others, as the only significant object to enhance.
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