Definition per Wikipedia: "Altruism is the opposite of selfishness." Altruism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia With Paul Ryan and Ayn Rand top of mind awareness brings "altruism" up. Is there such a characteristic though? I don't think there is altruism IN anyone. Illustration: How many times have you heard someone say especially at Christmas,... "Oh I just love giving gifts.. more then receiving gifts!" That maybe seen as an "altruistic" attitude. MY perspective it is a "selfish" motive. The act of "giving" makes this person "feel good..loved", "appreciated". All actions that are selfish. Why else would someone give a gift if the only currency in return is making themselves feel "good" about giving? Where is the altruism in that? Why do the Gates' of the world give billions? Many call it altruism, me I call it compensation for having more then other people! Guilt. So whenever you read about Mother Theresa type "altruism" consider that at the minimum in the case of Mother Theresa her "altruism" at the minimum made her "feel good" a selfish reason. Ergo.. there is no such thing as a truly "altruistic" act because as in Newton's Third law of motion: "When two bodies interact by exerting force on each other, these forces (termed the action and the reaction) are equal in magnitude, but opposite in direction." So too with "altruism" i.e. an act of altruism generates a sense of well being in the person doing the act.