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Ethical altruism is the philosophical doctrine of living for others rather than for oneself. In its most extreme form, altruism calls for self-destruction for the sake of others, but most altruists adhere to Auguste Comte's moderate beliefs. Ethical altruism is more extreme than "normal" or layman's altruism because it does not value the self except as a way of helping others. In common language, altruism is simply any act that helps others out of generosity rather than for one's own interests.
Altruism is criticized a lot for its crippling subjectivity: in a society where each person values himself only as a means for each other person, who in turn value themselves as means for each other person, then nobody will appreciate the help they get and nobody will "receive" the benefits of an exclusively altruistic society. Altruism is also criticized by people who feel the opposite: that one ought to live exclusively for oneself. Most people are neither egoists nor altruists simply because neither philosophy is very practical.