Competition, cooperation and their opposites

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This topic contains 24 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  Clearsky 1 year, 9 months ago.

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    Simon Paynton

    Two ways to learn: feeling and thinking.

    Then that must be what makes learning about “moral theory” such hard work.  It’s probably an art and a science at the same time.



    Hi, Simon!  (Can I call you that?)  You wrote:

    “Competition / cooperation” are standard terms and they express the essence of the situation in my opinion. If you think about it, if one is “an army of one”, then competition is inevitable.

    I think you’re probably right, that competition likely rises inevitably where there is not cooperation.  But something about that dichotomy is not sitting well with me, and I can’t quite put my finger on why.  Perhaps it’s the idea of an “army of one.”  That sort of implies that there is no state of being in which one is solitary, not seeking cooperation, but is also not aggressive—ie. is not an “army.”  That may have to do with my professional experience, in which I have worked with numerous mentally ill people who are not in any way competitive, but are also incapable of seeking out the necessary social interactions that would lead to cooperation.  I am also mother to an autistic young man.  He, too, is not competitive, generally, but had to be taught cooperation, as his natural preference tends toward being solitary.  It is simply not in his nature to seek interaction, and thereby, cooperation.

    It is an unfortunate byproduct of my work that I sometimes lose sight of the baselines of what “normal” psychology is, as I spend a great deal of my time interacting with those who fall outside of those norms.

    IDK.  If it gets any clearer to me, I’ll let you know!  🙂


    Oh!  I do like the final version of your matrix much better.


    Simon Paynton

    @daughterofkarl – the original diagram just had two axis labels, and I figured the rest could be filled in by deduction or whatever.  I like this version, because it provides an “altruism/fairness” axis (at 45 degrees).  I appreciate that not every loner is competitive.  I hope this is captured in the new version.

    solitary, not seeking cooperation, but is also not aggressive” – possibly, that’s right in the centre of the axes?




    Hi Simon,

    If you have time can you look at this YouTube & tell me where you think this person fits.




    Sorry, don’t need to answer that question you have already explained it, you say its in the top left hand corner!



    Found this old YouTube, on why animals cooperate, ( The top of the diagram). Its uses game theory. To arrive at Evolutionary stable strategy. It also explains the hierarchy in some animal groups.

    This second TED talk also involves John Maynard Smith, but it looks at the possible mechanism of altruism  in animals & man. ( which is also on your diagram)

    One really interesting scholar was George Price who discovered the complex mathematical formula ( Price equation) for altruism in animals. He was devout Christian and sadly committed suicide as he could not reconcile his faith with his scientific discovery.



    Simon Paynton

    @clearsky – the Prisoner’s Dilemma is interesting, but I think the “interdependence” model of cooperation – two-way helping – is more realistic.  In this model, animal A is useful to animal B (and vice versa), therefore animal B has a warm positive regard for animal A and will help them because of this situation.



    Possibly, not too sure ESS and the Science behind it seems pretty standard now. Its even mentioned in The selfish Gene book.

    What I was thinking was in terms of cooperation.  What are the social functions of religion?They seem to be pretty universal in history_ so does religious behaviour have any evolutionary fitness values?

    I have just read Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. His thesis is that in the past religion was a behaviour which has non zero correlation with reproductive fitness. He means by this that it had a evolutionary fitness value for sapiens. He is Not saying in any sense that religion is true.

    Just that it may have helped to create stable social structures when there was a change from hunter gatherers to farming, bigger social structure ( above 150 people).

    I was thinking what useful functions religion has? If any

    And if there are useful functions, how can an atheist make use of them without religious part.

    One example is the recent trend in secular mindfulness (MBSR) which has scientific evidence of its effectiveness.

    Mindfulness is originally a Buddhist practice.

    Or MBCT developed @ Oxford University which is helping people with severe recurrent depression.

    As an atheist is it still possible to learn some useful stuff from religion?

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 9 months ago by  Clearsky.

    Simon Paynton

    it may have helped to create stable social structures when there was a change from hunter gatherers to farming, bigger social structure ( above 150 people).

    Apparently there is evidence by 150,000 years ago of separate cultures (tribes), so group sizes must have been more than 150 by that time.  Coordination has to have been by social norms and culture, but religion would probably not have served a moralising purpose at this time. We see today that larger groups have more moralistic gods, and small groups not at all.  Intermediate sizes have intermediately moralising gods.

    Organised religion arose after settled farming began, by 10,000 years ago, when tribes must have had to live together in the new cities, presenting a new cooperation problem.

    what useful functions religion has? If any

    For me, the useful part is as “society’s dustmen”, attempting to take care of the needs of the worst off in society.  However, things don’t always go swimmingly as we know from Ireland among other places.  But altruism is the biggest thing I can share with religion, together with the Healing Principle or the pressure to reproduce, survive and thrive, which they make great use of.

    I agree that mindfulness practice is something that has been abstracted from religion and is useful for the wider world.

    ESS and the Science behind it seems pretty standard now. Its even mentioned in The selfish Gene book.

    – but certainly, animals don’t cooperate in a tit-for-tat way – they collaborate as friends who help each other out when needed.  It’s only humans who use straightforward tit-for-tat, especially in business transactions.  Also – where is the motivating factor for the first positive move?



    Did Cooperation, have a significant role in “Life’s Major Evolutionary Transitions” ?

    Is there a role for cooperation below the level of a single individual?

    Major evolutionary transitions in individuality Stuart A. Westa,b,1, Roberta M. Fishera, Andy Gardnerc, and E. Toby Kiersd


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