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Ethical theory that regards the good of others as the end of moral action; by extension, the disposition to take the good of others as an end in itself. The term (French, altruisme, derived from Latin alter: other) was coined in the 19th century by Auguste Comte and adopted generally as a convenient antithesis to egoism. Most altruists have held that each person has an obligation to further the pleasures and alleviate the pains of other people. The same argument holds if happiness, rather than pleasure, is taken as the end of life.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on altruism, visit Britannica.com.