The definition of altruism given in Wikipedia is ‘..selfless concern for the welfare of others. It is a traditional virtue in many cultures, and a core aspect of various religious traditions, though the concept of ‘others’ toward whom concern should be directed can vary among religions. Altruism is the opposite of selfishness.
Altruism focuses on a motivation to help others or a want to do good without reward, while duty focuses on a moral obligation towards a specific individual (for example, God, a monarch), a specific organization (for example, a government), or an abstract concept (for example, patriotism etc.). Pure altruism is giving without regard to reward or the benefits that recognition of the giving may bring’.
Is there a motive when being altruistic? If so what is it? If there is a motive can the action be altruistic? Is there no reward for someone who has ‘selfless regard for others’? Does the individual receive feedback from the recipient(s) or does s/he have a feeling of satisfaction at having been ‘selfless’? If either of these is true can the act be truly ‘selfless’? If the act is toward a God, monarch or government does not the difference in status suggest the person being ‘altruistic’ has some form of expectation – salvation from the former perhaps and maybe a knighthood or some other form of ‘gong’ from the others?
“We cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening our own.” – Ben Sweetland – (http://thinkexist.com/quotation/we_cannot_hold_a_torch_to_light_another-s_path/12870.html) – thanks to Laura for this quotation received as I was writing this post.