Animal groups and social ontology: an argument from the phenomenology of behavior

Alejandro Arango
Gonzaga University
Through a critical engagement with Merleau-Ponty’s discussion of the concepts of nature, life, and behavior, and with contemporary accounts of animal groups, this article argues that animal groups exhibit sociality and that sociality is a fundamental ontological condition. I situate my account in relation to the superorganism and selfish individual accounts of animal groups in recent biology and zoology. I argue that both accounts are inadequate. I propose an alternative account of animal groups and animal sociality through a Merleau-Pontian inspired definition of behavior. I criticize Merleau-Ponty’s individualistic prejudice, but show that his philosophy contains the resources necessary to overcome this bias. I define behavior as a holistic, ongoing, meaningful and Umwelt-oriented intrinsically configured expression of living forms of existence. By looking at cases of animal groups drawn from contemporary studies in zoology and behavioral ecology, I show that animal groups, in the fact that they behave, manifest themselves to be a fundamental form of existence, namely, the social form of existence.
Keywords Sociality  Behavior  Animal groups  Merleau-Ponty  Social ontology  Expression
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s11097-015-9430-2
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 38,955
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Sociobiology: The New Synthesis.Edward O. Wilson - 2000 - Journal of the History of Biology 33 (3):577-584.
The Structure of Behaviour.Maurice Merleau-Ponty - 1965 - London, U.K.: Methuen.

View all 12 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Democracy in Animal Groups: A Political Science Perspective.Christian List - 2004 - Trends in Ecology and Evolution 19 (4):168-169.
Perspectives on the Animal Mind.Robert A. Skipper - 2004 - Biology and Philosophy 19 (4):483-487.
Animal Minds: Beyond Cognition to Consciousness. [REVIEW]L. Kemmerer - 2001 - Journal of Mind and Behavior 22 (4):475-478.
How Should Animals Be Treated?Jack Lee - 2008 - Ethics, Place and Environment 11 (2):181 – 189.
Animals and Humans, Thinking and Nature.David Morris - 2005 - Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 4 (1):49-72.
Animal Rights and Human Social Issues.David A. Nibert - 1994 - Society and Animals 2 (2):115-124.


Added to PP index

Total views
40 ( #180,321 of 2,319,375 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
8 ( #147,546 of 2,319,375 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Monthly downloads

My notes

Sign in to use this feature