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Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences

, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 403–422 | Cite as

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

  • Alejandro ArangoEmail author
Article

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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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy DepartmentVanderbilt UniversityNashvilleUSA

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