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By Robert Wuthnow

Robert Wuthnow unearths that those people who are such a lot eager about acts of compassion aren't any much less individualistic than a person else--and that those who find themselves the main intensely individualistic are not any much less concerned about taking good care of others. Robert Wuthnow reveals that those people who are so much thinking about acts of compassion are not any much less individualistic than somebody else--and that those people who are the main intensely individualistic aren't any much less considering taking good care of others.

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Sometimes he even reaps tangible rewards, such as special dispensations from the police and local businessmen. “Like one of the cops will come along and say I won’t ticket your car, I know what you do. Well, that’s just a payback for what you do. ” These are all gratifications that come from being altruistic, but Jack carefully brackets them from playing too large a role in his account of himself. To focus only on the more selfish or individualistic side of his behavior does a disservice to the extensive caring activity in which he is involved.

Although Janet is a devoted mother and wife, it is also hard to find evidence in the rest of her life of a deep sense of caring toward anyone outside her immediate family. When asked to think of some special time when she had shown compassion to someone, she recounts a story of a dead man. “It was when I was still working and had no children, probably fifteen years ago. I was working in a nursing home. I had a very kindly old man die, and he was just a wonderful patient. They were going to bury him in potter’s field, which is for paupers; it’s mass graves, unmarked graves.

The first interlocutor wishes the relation between caring and individualism out of existence by focusing on rationality. Imagine the following situation, this interlocutor would suggest. Two prisoners are being held in separate cells and are incommunicado. Each has been accused of committing a major crime. But there is insufficient evidence. Without a confession from at least one it will be impossible to convict either of them. A surprising thing happens. Both confess! Apparently they are genuine altruists.

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