This presentation will explore the empirical evidence for altruism that has emerged in a wide range of economic subdisciplines, as well as the broader role of altruism in economic theory, especially welfare economics, game theory and evolutionary economics. The central questions to be considered are which particular patterns of altruistic motivation and behaviour exist, why this might be the case and which conceivable patterns would be most socially beneficial. The answers to these questions are closely connected if there is a theoretical presumption that cultural and moral norms emerge at least partly due to their social functionality. We live in a world of pervasive yet imperfect altruism. Yet are individuals imperfectly altruistic simply because we live in an imperfect world, or could it be that these imperfections are in a deeper sense socially desirable?