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Many different histories of the altruism–morality debate in biology are possible. Here, I offer one such history, based on the juxtaposition of four pairs of historical figures who have played a central role in the debate. Arranged in chronological order, the four dyads — Huxley and Kropotkin, Fisher and Emerson, Wynne-Edwards and Williams, and Hamilton and Price — help us grasp the core issues that have framed and defined the debate ever since Darwin: the natural origins of morality, the individual versus collective approach, the levels of selection debate, and the Is–Ought distinction. Looking forward, the continued relevance of the core issues is discussed.

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