ALTRUISM: Dictionary.com defines altruism as: "Unselfish concern for the welfare of others; selflessness." I don't believe that altruism in the classic sense can exist, because for every action taken one of the following is true:
1. The actor made a decision to take action.
2. The actor is irrational and does not make decisions, or the action was otherwise not the result of choice (it was an accicent, perhaps).
If (1) is true, then the actor will, at the very least, receive emotional satisfaction for taking an action that benefits himself or others, aside from any material benefit that he may realize. The actor may also be counting on future reward from God, or may simply derive pleasure from doing what is right. If (2), then altruism is not present because no decision is actually being made, and the action (to the extent that it can even be considered an action) is merely the result of chaotic physical forces.
Actions taken to benefit one's group can be considered a form of localized altruism, but such a concept rests on the existence of external competitive forces that exist between the actor's group and other groups (human or otherwise).
More later, perhaps.