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Can humans really be motivated by altruism? My new book, “The Most Good You Can Do,” discusses the emerging new movement called Effective Altruism, and, in doing interviews about the book, I am surprised by how often that question is asked.

Why should we doubt that some people act altruistically, at least some of the time? In evolutionary terms, we can easily understand altruism toward kin and others who can reciprocate our help. It seems plausible that once our ability to reason and reflect has developed sufficiently enough to enable us to understand that strangers can suffer and enjoy life just as we can, then at least some of us would act altruistically toward strangers, too.

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