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The Evolution of Altruism in Humans

The Americans . . . are fond of explaining almost all the actions of their lives by the principle of self-interest rightly understood, how an enlightened regard for themselves constantly prompts them to assist one another . . . In this respect I think they frequently fail to do themselves justice; in the United States as well as elsewhere people are sometimes seen to give way to those disinterested and spontaneous impulses that are natural to man; but the Americans seldom admit that they yield to emotions of this kind.

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

(1958[1835]) Vol. 2, chapter VIII

Like Alexis de Tocqueville’s Americans, a distinguished tradition in biology and the social sciences has sought ...

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