“When Altruism Isn’t Moral” by Sally Satel: Article Analysis


Main Issues of the Article

Some people cannot help but continue believing in the power of altruism and human intentions to help each other and involve their unselfish behavior (What is altruism, n.d.). Some researchers and philosophers put the idea of altruism under a question and prove that altruism is not always enough to explain human actions. Sally Satel decides to criticize current altruism and discuss this issue in the donation framework when people have to make their own decisions about whether to help for free or for money. The main issues discussed in her article includes the reasons for why people want to believe in donation altruism, the categories of donation altruism (for corruption and consequence), and the misunderstandings of true human altruism.

Get your customized and 100% plagiarism-free paper on any subject done
with 15% off on your first order

Importance of the Project

The article by Sally Satel will be analyzed and criticized to clarify if the author is good at her discussions, abilities to formulate a thesis and choose appropriate methods. “When altruism isn’t moral” is the article with its strong and weak points, and the identification of different aspects of the article is as important as the understanding that altruism has its light and dark sides. Altruism is a tricky issue, and altruism in donation is the question that does not have a clear answer; therefore, it is necessary to investigate the techniques used by Satel in her article and explain if she succeeds or fails in supporting her main thesis that altruism cannot be moral.

Main Body

Identification of the Thesis

The peculiar feature of the article under discussion is that the author does not want to focus on one theme and support it by means of one certain method. The main thesis developed in the article is the necessity to understand a true nature of altruism and explain it in terms of organ donation that is usually presupposed by two types of arguments that are corruption and consequence. There are a number of problems around organ donation like economic straits, abilities of enrichment, and imposing burdens on family members and friends. Even if altruism could be observed in organ donation, it could be misunderstood, neglected, or overstated by different people. The ability to create an opinion and evaluate the worth of altruistic steps should be supported by personal experience. Besides, it is also important to investigate the experiences of other people and compare the conditions and outcomes of the decisions made.

Methods to Support the Thesis

Satel divides the article into several meaningful parts. First, she describes the experience of Sonny Davis, a 65-year-old man, who was in need of a kidney and could not wait for help too much regarding kidney dialysis offered by the transplant programs (Satel, 2011). Matt Thompson was an altruist, who decided to give his kidney to save a man’s life. Still, the program refused the idea of transplantation because the possibility of financial benefits was observed. Then, Satel supports her article with several facts about the number of deaths among people who die while waiting for a donor and the description of her personal experience. Finally, the article is improved by the development of conceptual and theoretical frameworks. Satel (2011) describes two types of arguments against the creation of incentives to donate: arguments for consequences (when compensation of donors is acceptable and explainable) and arguments for corruption (when there is a belief that donation is the reason for social corruption and the importance of material value). The author wants to underline that financial and humanitarian motives cannot be ignored, and people have to understand that their intentions to earn money on donation do not actually differ from the duties teachers or doctors perform day by day.


It seems like Satel develops the article that could be interesting for different groups of people. On the one hand, the article contains a number of philosophical discussions and issues with the help of which it is possible to understand the ideas of altruism better and the worth of altruistic decisions in organ donation sphere. On the other hand, the material offered in the article is based on personal experiences and evaluations. It is hard to say if the author is right or wrong. It is more important to understanding if the chosen methods are appropriate to support such a broad thesis statement that altruism cannot be defined as moral. Therefore, regarding the educational purposes of the article, it is possible to say that the readers with different philosophical backgrounds and experiences in organ donation could find this article interesting and informative. Though some word combinations are not clear and require additional search and explanations, it is easy to get the main idea of the author and decide if the reader supports the chosen position or is ready to introduce some contradictions.


To find a correct tone of writing is an important task that has to be complete by writers. Though Satel uses all declarative sentences, it is still possible to understand that she does not agree with some facts, and, sometimes, she is confused about the facts she has to live with. For example, Satel (2011) writes that “transplant professionals would have allowed a 65-year-old man to languish on dialysis for years or die – a strong probability given his age – while waiting for a kidney, out of fear that he might be remunerating someone for an act that would save his life” (p. 36). Such phrase is narrative indeed. Still, it is possible to believe that the tone Satel uses is far from being just narrative. She cannot agree with the fact that transplant organizations could put someone’s life lower than the possibility of financial benefit of another person.

Our academic experts can deliver a custom essay specifically for you
with 15% off for your first order


Can it happen that Satel is biased about something? Of course, it can because she has a strong position about the necessity to clarify if altruism is or is not moral enough. Still, she does not want to introduce her point of view directly. She tries to investigate different aspects of two particular cases and use the thoughts of different philosophers and schools to understand what people usually understand under the word “altruism” and how people treat the idea of being altruistic. Altruism in organ donation is a complex issue for consideration. It seems to be wrong to stay biased about something without an ability to investigate and analyze the thoughts and opinions of different people.

Manipulation and Believability as the Techniques to Support the Thesis

Reading the article written by Satel, it is hard to believe that she is ready to use such technique as manipulation. Still, at the end of the article, it becomes clear that Satel is rather good at manipulation because she introduces real and frustrating examples from her life or the lives of other people. Sometimes, people cannot even guess that altruism does not actually exist. People want to believe that some of their actions are altruistic and deprived of personal benefits, rewards, and social recognition. “The desire to do well by others while enriching oneself at the same time is as old as humankind” (Satel, 2011, p. 39). This idea is one of the most successful examples of manipulation and believability in the same sentence.


Importance of Understanding Altruism

In general, the ideas and examples offered in Satel’s articles help to realize that altruism could have a number of definitions as well as a number of interpretations. People are able to share their gifts with others and do not expect to gain some financial or emotional benefits. However, they cannot even predict what kind of benefits they actually get.

Satel’s Attempts to Use Personal Experience

Satel describes altruism from different perspectives and introduces the conclusions that differ from each other considerably. Still, organ donation is the sphere where philosophical discussions and statements could cost a human life. It is wrong and unethical to think about financial benefits or appropriateness of the decisions people make. Donors are people with their own philosophies and beliefs. If their approaches help to save human lives, altruistically or not, they have to be supported and accepted. Satel’s article helps to understand the darkest sides of altruism but also believe in the power of human will to survive.


Satel, S. (2011). When altruism isn’t moral. In B. Spatt (Ed.), Writing from sources (pp. 36-40). Boston, New York: Bedford/St.Martin’s.

We’ll deliver a high-quality academic paper tailored to your requirements

What is altruism? (n.d.). Web.

“When Altruism Isn’t Moral” by Sally Satel: Article Analysis
The following paper on “When Altruism Isn’t Moral” by Sally Satel: Article Analysis was written by a student and can be used for your research or references. Make sure to cite it accordingly if you wish to use it.
Removal Request
The copyright owner of this paper can request its removal from this website if they don’t want it published anymore.
Request Removal

Cite this paper

Select a referencing style


YourDissertation. (2021, December 19). “When Altruism Isn’t Moral” by Sally Satel: Article Analysis. Retrieved from https://yourdissertation.com/dissertation-examples/when-altruism-isnt-moral-by-sally-satel-article-analysis/

Work Cited

"“When Altruism Isn’t Moral” by Sally Satel: Article Analysis." YourDissertation, 19 Dec. 2021, yourdissertation.com/dissertation-examples/when-altruism-isnt-moral-by-sally-satel-article-analysis/.

1. YourDissertation. "“When Altruism Isn’t Moral” by Sally Satel: Article Analysis." December 19, 2021. https://yourdissertation.com/dissertation-examples/when-altruism-isnt-moral-by-sally-satel-article-analysis/.


YourDissertation. "“When Altruism Isn’t Moral” by Sally Satel: Article Analysis." December 19, 2021. https://yourdissertation.com/dissertation-examples/when-altruism-isnt-moral-by-sally-satel-article-analysis/.


YourDissertation. 2021. "“When Altruism Isn’t Moral” by Sally Satel: Article Analysis." December 19, 2021. https://yourdissertation.com/dissertation-examples/when-altruism-isnt-moral-by-sally-satel-article-analysis/.


YourDissertation. (2021) '“When Altruism Isn’t Moral” by Sally Satel: Article Analysis'. 19 December.

Click to copy