Altruism is not about me

Altruism is a word coined in 1830 by the French philosopher, Isidore Auguste Marie François Xavier Comte, better known as Auguste Comte. He was born 20 January 1798 (according to the French calendar) and died in 1857.

Altruism is the principle or practice of unselfish concern for, or devotion to, the welfare of others. It is the opposite of egoism, the valuing of everything only in reference to an individual’s personal interest. Altruistic actions put the needs of others or another first, without regard to oneself. In animals, altruistic behaviour helps the group but may harm the individual.

Comte took the word, altruism, from the French word, autrui, meaning of or to others. He is thought to have derived it from the French legal phrase l’autrui, an abbreviaton of le bien, le droit d’autrui, the good, the right of the other. Comte believed that the great human problem was to reverse the natural order and to learn to live for others. He saw individuals dealing with a choice between personality or sociability.

Comte also invented the word sociology, for the discipline that he helped to create. Comte was also highly influential in the 19th century as the founder of positivism, a philosophical and political movement. His ideas did not survive into the 20th century although he did influence people such as Karl Marx.