3149 - Animality and Biopower: natural altruism.

Altruism does not appear to be a natural behavior: what benefice an individual may have being altruistic instead of egoistic? There is no guarantee that a service, for instance, made to another being, will be repaid shorty o longtime afterwards. But altruism is a natural behavior, found in most intelligent animals. Darwin, which had the rare opportunity to visit the land of very “primitive” people, the Fuegians, during the five-year voyage of The Beagle, and wanted, with this experience, to give some evolutionary answers. The indigenous cultures he personally saw were to be compared to the behavior of apes, especially baboons. For Darwin, the Fuegians were not an example of altruism; on the contrary. Three kidnapped Fuegians were brought back to their land in that voyage. They had a very good opinion of the Englishmen, but soon the call of their culture will make them abandon this false English look: they returned to a “savage” life. Europeans could not understand how a hunter-gatherer society really survived and what their material values were. For Darwin, the savage was just an uneducated Human being that could make progresses if giving the right opportunity. Concerning monkeys and apes, the Englishman only seen apes in zoos. But he read the works of the German ornithologist Alfred Brehm.

The apes, on the contrary, seemed to be very altruistic, risking their own life in order to save an infant, as in the case that fascinated Darwin, from attacking dogs and their Human masters. But why an animal, that is not as intelligent as a Human being, will risk his own life in order to save an infant; it is impossible for a male to know he is the father of a given infant; on the evolutionary side of the problem, if a dominant male gets killed, the whole troop in is great risk; it may disappear in the mouth of its predators and may not reproduce anymore. For the whole troop, a dominant male, is much more important than any young individual.

In our analysis, we shall try to outline certain aspects of the evolutionary process and its implications when trying to establish what is natural and what is cultural in the altruistic behavior of living beings.

We propose to present in this symposium, which is particularly interested in the concepts of “animality” and “biopower”.

Palavras-chaves: animality, biopower, Fuegians, altruism, apes

Autores: Martínez-Contreras, Jorge (Univ. Autónoma Metropolitana, Mexico, Mexico / Mexiko)


University of Vienna | Dr.-Karl-Lueger-Ring 1 | 1010 Vienna | T +43 1 4277 17575