An Altruistic Exit……

12 Apr

‘Altruistic acts are not uncommon in nature.  Humans display altruism as do insects, only insects don’t understand philosophy……’



  1. The belief in, or practice of, disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others.
  2. Behaviour of an animal that benefits another at its own expense.



Acts of nonreciprocal altruism in humans proved difficult to explain in the early days of Darwinian evolutionary theory even with the consideration of the species to understand abstract concepts, philosophy and the ability to communicate them.  Understandably, before the dispassionate implications of evolution by natural selection were fully understood, altruism did not appear to fit within the theory.  This problem was amplified when nonreciprocal altruistic acts in insect colonies were observed.  Put simply, one can quantify why someone may put themselves literally ‘in the firing line’ to protect another; why an insect would sacrifice itself for the greater good of a colony is harder to explain.  However, an explanation of nonreciprocal altruistic acts has been well defined for humans and insects alike (I would recommend ‘The Selfish Gene’ by Professor Richard Dawkins, which gives a good explanation of evolution by natural selection; altruism included) but humans are the only animals, as far as we are aware, who can apply philosophy, logic and reasoning to such acts……

Considerations of an Altruistic Death……

On a personal level, despite having reasoned what the immediate emotional effects of an act of self-sacrifice would have on those directly affected would have, in evolutionary terms my death would, in totality, prove less detrimental, if not beneficial, to the genetic proliferation of my family ‘blood line’.  After all, the continuation of the strand of DNA from which I come is the ultimate goal of evolution by natural selection; survival of the fittest.  Absent the human ability to exhibit empathy and project a subjective emotion into the future any decision taken to persist in survival would become an equation with fewer elements and one with an easily calculable answer.  In short, my existence poses a threat, albeit indirect, to the persistence of the DNA upon which I am built……

Philosophical Considerations…….

Any parent would gladly sacrifice themselves to preserve the life of their child.  Although they may have the cognitive ability to rationalise such a decision there is, arguably, a predetermined mechanism within their DNA which may make it an easier choice than that of sacrificing themselves for someone else’s child.  Faced with no alternatives, an act of nonreciprocal altruism to save a genetically related child appears an easy choice.  However, if faced with an alternative, considerations of leaving the child without a parent upon which it depends would probably be viewed as the wrong choice.  If the direct impact of ones self-sacrifice for the greater good carries only emotional concerns it should be an easier choice for the protagonist.  Being the protagonist in an emotional decision between the continued impact one may be having upon those immediately affected and any potentially damaging longer term effect, taking the decision to make an altruistic exit must ultimately be the better choice……


Although all emotive considerations may be telling you to continue with the status quo, practical realities dictate that an early exit is a better option, regardless of the accusation that it causes emotional pain to those directly affected.  Rationale dictates that your actions are logically less damaging, particularly when placed within the framework of a society which demands conformity…….


DT_Triangle_Banner‘To be, or not to be’; a question which has an easier answer than is immediately apparent…..’


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