Graduate Liberal Studies Program

Course Description

GLS 592: Altruism in America

Instructor: Anne Russell

Happy Face  VS. Gorging Pig

The 1980s ushered in The Culture of Me, resulting in Xtreme conspicuous consumption and Xtreme corporate greed. But human selfishness is counterbalanced by an instinct for altruism-selfless concern for the wellbeing of others. Philanthropists Andrew Carnegie, Bill Gates, Oprah, Warren Buffet, Ted Turner, George Soros, Richard Branson, Tracy Gary, Genshiro Kawamoto, and Chapel Hill activist Andrew Pearson demonstrate altruism in action, as do Habitat for Humanity, Doctors Without Borders, and Resource Generation. How does human biology encourage social conscience--the Robin Hood impulse? What incentives does our culture provide to encourage altruism? In the 21st century, how will we use our unprecedented wealth--for making war or for improving society? Utilizing moral psychologist Jonathan Heidt's book The Happiness Hypothesis, we will explore the dynamics portrayed in the 2000 film Pay It Forward.

Last Update: September 8, 2017