A passing motorist stops to help the passengers of a car that has crashed into an embankment. A hospice volunteer begins her shift in hospital ward caring for people with AIDS. A Vietnam chopper pilot stops the brutal execution of innocent civilians at Mylai by American soldiers. A firefighter responds to a routine call. All of these people are considered heroes, but what motivates such brave and altruistic acts, whether by trained professionals or just ordinary people? In Do Unto Others , Holocaust survivor and sociologist Samuel Oliner explores what gives an individual a sense of social responsibility, what leads to the development of care and compassion, and what it means to put the welfare of others ahead of one's own. Having been saved himself from the Nazis at age 16 as the result of one non-Jewish family's altruism, Oliner has made a lifelong study of the nature of altruism. Weaving together moving personal testimony and years of observation, Oliner makes sense of the factors that elicit altruistic behaviour - exceptional acts by ordinary people in ordinary times.
Samuel P. Oliner, Ph.D., is Emeritus Professor of Sociology at Humboldt State University and founder-director of the university's Altruistic Personality and Prosocial behaviour Institute. His books include Who Shall Live: The Wilhelm Bachner Story (1996), and Toward a Caring Society: Ideas into Action (1995). He lives in Arcata, California.