Animal morality, prosociality and cooperation

As I mentioned in my previous post, I favour the idea that cooperation and sense of fairness exists also in animals. We should accept both competition and cooperation as complementary forces and dynamic features of social behaviours. Frans de Waal, who is a primatologist and animal researcher holds a strong stand that certain species of animals and especially monkeys show fairness, compassion, reciprocity and cooperation. To understand the scope of his studies and main motives behind them, you can watch the video below:

Most of the studies he talks about in the video are famous and groundbreaking in their revelations. Especially, in an era where many scholars believe the basic mode of humans and animals is competition, his studies helped us to have a more realistic view on nature of cooperation. We need to embrace both faces of the token; selfish and cooperative. When one of the two finds the niche, it dominates the other. When there is fear, when there is no trust to the other, when acquaintances are low, when one has no history of secured-attachment, there is a big chance that competition becomes the primary motive under social interactions. However, we can see that when there is a safe environment, when members of a community knows each other, when they have history of successful cooperations, empathy, understanding and alliance becomes a profitable choice to take.

The importance of animal studies in moral subjects comes from its emphasis that morality is not an artificial process that is only human-made and against natural paradigms. By realising that it is possible to come across empathy, reciprocity, understanding and fairness in nature, we can challenge the capitalist doctrine in their biased view of morality and motivation. Moreover, similar research paradigms tried with different species of monkeys, they made it possible to track moral evolution. Which species show similar social behaviors, how certain prosocial behaviours diverge in species along the evolutionary branches may teach us great deal about human condition as well.

To sum up, motivation to cooperate, help and get help is prevalent in many mammalian species. The question should be that in which conditions cooperation arise and which social structures seem to trigger aggression and competition whereas others trigger cooperation. This knowledge would be useful for the collective pursuit of increasing cooperation and using different tools to achieve it.

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