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Chapter 22. Cooperation


Subject Philosophy » Philosophy of Science

Key-Topics biological, science

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405125727.2008.00024.x


The Darwinian problem of cooperation is the following: according to the theory of natural selection, behaviors which serve to increase an individual's fitness will be favored over behaviors which decrease an individual's fitness; yet since cooperative behavior generally results in an individual's fitness being lower than what it could have been, had he or she acted otherwise, how is it that cooperative behavior persists? Natural selection, it would seem, should select against cooperative behavior — because of the reduced individual fitness — thereby driving it out of the population and promoting uncooperative behavior. Closely related to the problem of cooperation is the problem of altruism, which was identified by E. O. Wilson as the “central theoretical problem of socio-biology” ( Wilson, 1975 , p.3). An altruistic behavior, in the evolutionary sense, causes the donor to incur a fitness cost while conferring a fitness benefit to the recipient ( Sober & Wilson, 2000 , p.185). According to these definitions, although altruistic behaviors are considered cooperative, the converse need not be true. If all individuals begin with a common baseline fitness and benefits are distributed equally, altruistic individuals have lower fitness than selfish individuals: an altruistic individual incurs both a personal fitness cost (due to his action) while receiving the common fitness benefit ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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