Sunday, October 15, 2017
Triggers for altruism: Guido Verbeck
At a book signing…
Author: He did a lot of things: moved from Holland to America, became an engineer, resolved to become a missionary, moved to Japan, became a teacher, learned the language, established universities, became an advisor to the government; some of his students became prime ministers. He was a hard worker.
Reader: I'm curious how Verbeck was motivated. Were there triggers in his life?
Author: I'd say there is evidence for that. When he was an engineer in Arkansas he saw the effects of slavery, and he nearly died of cholera. He even said these things made him look for a more spiritual path.
Reader: I liked your book. Would you sign my copy?
Altruism, first proposed by Auguste Comte, is the doing good for the benefit of others without expectation of reciprocity. One reason is that the giver may feel some intrinsic satisfaction. But there may be other reasons. Verbeck moved from Holland to the United States and then to Japan. Becoming a missionary may have provided him with the means to explore a fascination with cultural exoticism. Whatever the reasons, he achieved much, did good works, and was fortunate in the students he taught.