Altruistic Obligation

Altruism, or the practice of increasing another’s well being at the expense of one’s own, is thought of as a noble act above and beyond the call of duty in most situations. But in certain situations many of us feel obligated to behave altruistically, such as when someone with their hands full needs to go through a doorway, or when a community is struck by a devastating natural disaster. When is being altruistic something that we ought to do instead of being something that is merely good to do? Under what conditions should other people switch from behaving selfishly to behaving altruistically? Do those conditions depend on the need of others and the extent of our abilities? How do we compare our own needs to those of others? Do the conditions change for small groups, like fellowships? What about large or highly organized groups, like states and religions?

As an individual, how much should you try to help out other individuals? How much should you spend on supporting groups? As a rich nation, how much should you try to help people of other nations? How much should you spend on furthering the interests of other nations instead of your own?