Biology & Philosophy

, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 75–98

Extensive social choice and the measurement of group fitness in biological hierarchies



Extensive social choice theory is used to study the problem of measuring group fitness in a two-level biological hierarchy. Both fixed and variable group size are considered. Axioms are identified that imply that the group measure satisfies a form of consequentialism in which group fitness only depends on the viabilities and fecundities of the individuals at the lower level in the hierarchy. This kind of consequentialism can take account of the group fitness advantages of germ-soma specialization, which is not possible with an alternative social choice framework proposed by Okasha, but which is an essential feature of the index of group fitness for a multicellular organism introduced by Michod, Viossat, Solari, Hurand, and Nedelcu to analyze the unicellular-multicellular evolutionary transition. The new framework is also used to analyze the fitness decoupling between levels that takes place during an evolutionary transition.


Consequentialism Group fitness Evolutionary transitions Fitness decoupling Multilevel selection Social choice 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Walter Bossert
    • 1
  • Chloe X. Qi
    • 2
  • John A. Weymark
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Economics and CIREQUniversity of MontrealMontrealCanada
  2. 2.Boston Consulting GroupBostonUSA
  3. 3.Department of EconomicsVanderbilt UniversityNashvilleUSA

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