Do we have ethical obligations that extend to other people? In particular, do our friends and family deserve from us different treatment than we afford to strangers? What might this tell us about the development of altruistic motives?
Ethical sets of obligations usually require us to consider what is wrong and what is good according to predetermined sets of norms, before acting in every situation. A doctor for example has the ethical obligation of not harming the patients while they are being treated and this is because of the Hippocratic oath that they took requiring them to know what they are required to do. Ethical obligations do not require us to provide preferential treatment to people in need but simply do what is right be the set moral codes whether the people are our relatives, or even complete strangers to us.
Our ethical obligations as moral human beings should extend to all those we come into contact with even if they are strangers to us. This notion would in turn create a society where all would be more concerned about the well being of the next person than simply considering good treatment only to those individuals that are considered family or friends. If a person was in need or in a situation that needed assistance, they would benefit from this principle as it does not require one to know the person in order to help them. What is of utmost importance here is the fact that there is a person in need and the ethical obligations require us to assist this individual.
Altruism requires us to have the well being of others as our primary concern in life. A society of altruistic individual is one where everyone sees it as their own personal responsibility to be concerned about the well being of others primarily. This philosophy creates a people who are very aware of others needs and their suffering, thus making us aware of the plight of others at all times. In the development of altruistic motives, it is important to note that the main aim should be ignoring self-interest and acting solely in the interest of others (Neher and Sandin, 2007,p.70)