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


Authors
Alejandro Arango
Gonzaga University
Abstract
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
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DOI 10.1007/s11097-015-9430-2
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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.

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