Some Observations on Altruism


M. Saadat Noury
by M. Saadat Noury



Cambridge Dictionaries Online defines Altruism as "willingness to do things which bring advantages to other people, even if it results in disadvantage for yourself". In Persian, Altruism may be translated as Enssaan Doosti, Bashar Doosti, Nou@ Dousti (in which @ stands for the letter Ain), Az Khod Gozashtegi, Eissaar, etc.Oxford Dictionary identifies it as a term meaning "disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others". Webster Dictionary describes Altruism as the "consideration for other people without any thought of self as a principle of conduct". According to the Free Encyclopedia of Wikipedia, the "Altruism is a concern for the welfare of others". In this article,the Various Views on Altruism, Examples of Altruistic People, and the Altruism in Persian Culture will be briefly pointed out, and Some Quotations about Altruism, and few Altruism Poems will be presented.

Various Views on Altruism
The term Altruism was invented in the 19th century by the French philosopher Auguste Comte, who devised it as the opposite of egoism. Herbert Spencer and John Stuart Mill, English contemporaries of Comte, accepted the worth of altruism but argued that the true moral aim should be the welfare of society, rather than that of individuals (Columbia Encyclopedia, 2007).
In her essay on the Reality of Altruism, Blogger Jeannette wrote that, "Altruism is a somewhat magical concept that we desperately believe to be true. Yet, with the natural tendencies of humanity as an entity, and the deliberation of cruel behavior that is witnessed throughout the world, it is difficult to assume altruism is a reality if not on the verge of extinction. I propose that altruism does indeed exist and that it must be nurtured to survive.
we must rely on the fact that it does show up in life. And when it does, it lights up our belief system in such a way that it multiplies courage and perpetuates altruism to spread in generous ways. So how do we know when altruism is genuine rather than a façade? When celebrities donate to causes or exert themselves in humanitarian endeavors, is it just for publicity or is it truly for the cause without any care for how they are perceived in doing such acts? It seems that faith is the only way to truly discern the existence of altruism, and if it really is not evident, at least good deeds are being tended to.

In a world in which we are all guilty of acting upon reward and doing only what promotes personal success or gratification, it is refreshing to have such a concept as altruism alive in the study of psychology. I submit that this is not merely a myth or a fantastical proposition, but that altruism is in fact a part of humanity whether it is uncovered or not. It seems that it must be pruned and cared for so that when it occurs, it will be embraced more readily and cherished as a privilege of being a part of the human race" (Jeannette, 2009).
Examples of Altruistic People

Some good examples of altruistic people could be Martin Luther King, who recognized the need of basic civil rights for all people and was willing to place himself in great danger to support his beliefs. He was ultimately killed for trying to improve the lives of other people. Another example could be Mother Teresa who was a well-known figure for the help and work she did in under developed countries, and who’s activity seemed to always be at the altruistic end of a spectrum of motivations. More recent examples of altruistic people could be, Bob Geldof and Midge Ure, for their work with the live aid concerts which raise money for poverty in Africa, or Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela for the many things he has done throughout his life, most recently, his support in the fight against aids or his opposition to the Iraq war (D. McDonnell, 2009).
Altruism in Persian Culture
Altruism behavior has been always considered as a very significant part of Persian culture. The great Iranian Sufi poets like Mawlana Rumi, Saadi, Hafiz, and Attar in many occasions praised altruism in their poetry. In Sufism, the concept of Eisaar is the notion of 'preferring others to oneself'. For Sufis, this means devotion to others through complete forgetfulness of one's own concerns.
Iranian resrarchers Abdollahi and Amini in their article published in the Iranian Journal of Sociology found that the altruistic actions performed by a group of Iranians in the city of Tehran may be related to the various levels of capital, social belief, and religious views (Abdollahi and Amini, 2007).


Some Quotations about Altruism
"Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness": Martin Luther King, Jr
"I would rather be kept alive in the efficient if cold altruism of a large hospital than expire in a gush of warm sympathy in a small one": Aneurin Bevan
"If any civilization is to survive, it is the morality of altruism that men have to reject": Ayn Rand
"In brief, egoism in its modern interpretation, is the antithesis, not of altruism, but of idealism": John Buchanan Robinson
"Let us try to teach generosity and altruism, because we are born selfish": Richard Dawkins
"Most men have always wanted as much as they could get; and possession has always blunted the fine edge of their altruism": Katherine Fullerton Gerould
"Altruism is a motive to increase another’s welfare without conscious regard for one’s self-interests": D. Myers

Altruism Poems

"What if we got outside ourselves and there

really was an outside out there, not just

our insides turned inside out? What if there

really were a you beyond me, not just

the waves off my own fire, like those waves off

the backyard grill you can see the next yard through,

though not well -- just enough to know that off

to the right belongs to someone else, not you.

What if, when we said I love you, there were

a you to love as there is a yard beyond

to walk past the grill and get to? To endure

the endless walk through the self, knowing through a bond

that has no basis (for ourselves are all we know)

is altruism: not giving, but coming to know

someone is there through the wavy vision

of the self's heat, love become a decision": Molly Peacock

"Our memories will grow with sensitivity and insight,

Live clean and be yourself;

For, loving yourself first means the love of all mankind

Here we are today,

Love is the power supreme;

True nobility is revealed in selfless unobtrosive service,

Love one another to crown the day.
To the voiceless and the disadvantage,

Do your best to bring smiles on their faces too;

Because, there is no vision except by faith.
Altruism, altruism, altruism

There is no faith except by hope;

So is the voice of hope to the love of one another": Edward Kofi Louis
And here is a link to the Persian poem on Eissaar (as Sacrifice) composed by Attar.

Epilogue: Let us remember that altruism and praising selflessness have been and will be always a part of Iranian beliefs and Persian Cultures.

Manouchehr Saadat Noury, PhD
Abdollahi, M.and Amini, S. (2007): Sociological Analysis of Altruism in Iran, Iranian Journal of Sociology: 8(3):28-50

Blogger Jeannette (2009): Online Article on the Reality of Altruism
Brainy Quote Website (2012): Online Quotations about Altruism
Cambridge Dictionaries Online (2012): Online Note on the Definition of Altruism
Columbia Encyclopedia (2007): Notes on Altruism
Louis, E. K. (2008):

Online Poetry on Altruism
McDonnell, D. (2009):

Online Aeticle on Studies into Human Altruism
Oxford Dictionary (2012): Online Note on the Definition of

Peacock, M. (2002): Online Poetry on Altruism
Saadat Noury, M. (2012): Various Articles on Persian Culture
Wikipedia Encyclopedia (2012): Online Article on Altruism

Read more about Defining Moments on MISSING MOMENTS



more from M. Saadat Noury

مردمی که دلیرانه از جان خود گذشتند


سعیدی سیرجانی در نامه ای سرگشاده خطاب به علی خامنه ای نوشته بود : بگذارید آیندگان بدانند که ‏در سرزمین بلاخیز ایران هم بودند مردمی که دلیرانه از جان خود گذشتند و مردانه به استقبال مرگ رفتند...

M. Saadat Noury

دل چه باشد کز برای یار ازان نتوان گذشت

M. Saadat Noury


با سپاس  مجدد از جمهوریخواه ، دموکرات، همه ی ایرانیان و با اظهار امتنان از دیوانه ی فرزانه، سروده ای از هلالی جغتایی را با یکدیگر مرور می کنیم:

دل چه باشد کز برای یار ازان نتوان گذشت
یار اگر این‌ست بالله می‌توان از جان گذشت
از خیال آن قد رعنا گذشتن مشکل‌ست
راست می‌گویم، بلی، از راستی نتوان گذشت
جز به روز وصل عمر و زندگی حیف‌ست حیف
حیف از آن عمری که بر من در شب هجران گذشت
چون گذشت از دل تیر خدنگش، گو بیا تیر اجل
هر چه آید بگذرد، چون هرچه آمد آن گذشت
پیش از این گر جام عشرت داشتم حالا چه سود؟
از فلک دور دگر خواهم که آن دوران گذشت
خلق گویندم هلالی درد خود را چاره کن
کی توانم چارهٔ دردی که از درمان گذشت؟  هلالی جغتایی


شعار های داغ تنوری!



با حلوا حلوا گفتن تنها اگر هم دهان شیرین شود مزه اش زود گذر است و بی اثر!
با معذرت از استاد نوری.


Faith and altruism

by divaneh on

It seems that faith is the only way to truly discern the existence of altruism.

Really? People who do not believe in some fairy tales cannot be altruistic? Well, in fact there is no altruism in the faith as the good deeds are done for a payback from the god or for the fear of him; i.e. selfish in either case. I think Blogger Jeannette is a deeply religious person.

Thanks Dr Saadat Noury for this discussion.


از جان خود گذشتن


  از جان خود گذشتیم ، با خون نوشتیم، یا مرگ یا آزادی


Resurrecting Msg.!

by Demo on

روزی برآید دست حق چون قرص خورشیداز شفق‏
بی‏ ترس و بیم از طعن و دق آسان کند اشکالها
این ناله ی شبگیرها بُرنده چون شمشیرها
هم بگسلد زنجیرها هم بشکند اغلالها
از خون این غدارها و زخاک این بد کارها
جاری کند انهارها بر پا کند اتلالها!!!!!!!

تکان دهنده از جهت ایجاد فوران خون و امیدی تازه در روانی سرد و مرده!

با سپاسی بیش از بیش از جناب استاد.


M. Saadat Noury

Dear Demo

by M. Saadat Noury on

Thank you for your thoughtful commet; please accept this insightful poem in return

ایام بر من چیره شد چشم جهان بین خیره شد
وین آب صافی تیره شد بس ماند در گودالها
دل پر اسف از ماضیم وز حال بس ناراضیم‏
تا خود چه راند قاضیم تقدیر استقبالها
نقش جبین درهم شده فر جوانی کم شده‏
شمشاد قامت خم شده گشته الف ها دالها
گوئی که صبح واپسین رخ کرد و منشق شد زمین‏
وین برق‏های قهر و کین برجست ازان زلزالها
مغلوب شد هر خاصیت برگشت هر خلق و صفت‏
مانند تغییر لغت از فرط استعمالها
هم منفصم شد وصل‏ها هم منهدم شد اصلها
هم منقلب شد فصل‏ها هم مضطرب شد حالها
شب گرد ظلمت گستری و ان چشم شب‏کور از خری‏
نشناخت نور مشتری از شعله جوالها
چون ریشه بندد خوی بد بهتر نگردد خود بخود
سخت است دفع این رمد بی‏نشتر کحالها

روزی برآید دست حق چون قرص خورشیداز شفق‏
بی‏ترس و بیم از طعن و دق آسان کند اشکالها
این ناله ی شبگیرها برنده چون شمشیرها
هم بگسلد زنجیرها هم بشکند اغلالها
از خون این غدارها و زخاک این بد کارها
جاری کند انهارها بر پا کند اتلالها : حسن وثوق


Such An Insightful Word!

by Demo on

Al-true-ism! Summarizes all in one word! Simply amazing!

Thanks much, Professor Noury. Regards.


M. Saadat Noury

Song of Altruism

by M. Saadat Noury on

Dear AI   Thank you for the link; please accept this in return



The Morality of Altruism

by All-Iranians on

M. Saadat Noury

Must Listen:The Price of Altruism

by M. Saadat Noury on

M. Saadat Noury

Dear AI

by M. Saadat Noury on

Thank you for the poem; please accept this in return



M. Saadat Noury

Dear Republican

by M. Saadat Noury on

Thank you for your note and for your kind conclusion; please accept this in return

چشم به ر ا ه معجزه
همچون اسیر _ کشمکش و بلو ا : چشمم به ر ا ه _ معجزه ی فر د ا ست
رقصنده ، بس پرنده ، بر ا ین آ و ا : کآ ز ا دی ست و صبح_ رها یی ها ست



Heroism vs. altruism

by All-Iranians on

Republican جمهوریخواه


by Republican جمهوریخواه on

Altruism by definition, should exclude Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela, since they had personal stake in what they tried to achieve, or indeed achieved respectively....... in my humble opinion the only example of an altruist person is our late King AryaMehr who led the way toward the destruction of our Kingdom by violating the terms and conditions stipulated in the constitution and finally let his nation to overthrow selflessly......... :)

But seriously..........another good blog by our Ostad; thank you very much...