Hierarchy maintenance, coalition formation, and the origins of altruistic punishment

Philosophy of Science 74 (5):802-812 (2007)
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Game theory has played a critical role in elucidating the evolutionary origins of social behavior. Sober and Wilson model altruism as a prisoner's dilemma and claim that this model indicates that altruism arose from group selection pressures. Sober and Wilson also suggest that the prisoner's dilemma model can be used to characterize punishment; hence, punishment too originated from group selection pressures. However, empirical evidence suggests that a group selection model of the origins of altruistic punishment may be insufficient. I argue that examining dominance hierarchies and coalition formation in chimpanzee societies suggests that the origins of altruistic punishment may be best captured by individual selection models. I suggest that this shows the necessity of coupling of game-theoretic models with a conception of what our actual social structure may have been like to best model the origins of our own behavior. ‡I would like to thank Zachary Ernst and Emma Marris for their many helpful comments which greatly improved this paper. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy, University of Maryland, Skinner Building, College Park, MD 20742; e-mail: [email protected]



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Yasha Rohwer
University of Missouri, Columbia

References found in this work

Altruistic Punishment in Humans.Ernst Fehr & Simon Gächter - 2002 - Nature 415 (6868):137--140.
Games Social Animals Play.Philip Kitcher - 1999 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 59 (1):221-228.

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