Individuals, groups, fitness and utility: Multi-level selection meets social choice theory

Biology and Philosophy 24 (5):561-584 (2009)
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In models of multi-level selection, the property of Darwinian fitness is attributed to entities at more than one level of the biological hierarchy, e.g. individuals and groups. However, the relation between individual and group fitness is a controversial matter. Theorists disagree about whether group fitness should always, or ever, be defined as total (or average) individual fitness. This paper tries to shed light on the issue by drawing on work in social choice theory, and pursuing an analogy between fitness and utility. Social choice theorists have long been interested in the relation between individual and social utility, and have identified conditions under which social utility equals total (or average) individual utility. These ideas are used to shed light on the biological problem.



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Samir Okasha
University of Bristol

Citations of this work

The Relation between Kin and Multilevel Selection: An Approach Using Causal Graphs.Samir Okasha - 2016 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 67 (2):435-470.
Social Choice Theory.Christian List - 2013 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Radical Interpretation and The Aggregation Problem.Anandi Hattiangadi - 2019 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 101 (2):283-303.
Levels, Time and Fitness in Evolutionary Transitions in Individuality.Pierrick Bourrat - 2015 - Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology 7 (20150505).
Social norms and superorganisms.Rachell Powell - 2023 - Biology and Philosophy 38 (3):1-25.

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References found in this work

Evolution and the levels of selection.Samir Okasha - 2006 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Evolution of the Social Contract.Brian Skyrms - 1996 - New York: Cambridge University Press.
Evolution and the Levels of Selection.Samir Okasha - 2009 - Critica 41 (123):162-170.
The Major Transitions in Evolution.John Maynard Smith & Eörs Szathmáry - 1996 - Journal of the History of Biology 29 (1):151-152.
Evolution of the Social Contract.Brian Skyrms - 1997 - Philosophy 72 (282):604-606.

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