A Review of Cooperation: From Abstract to Social Phenomena
This thesis is a broad review of cooperation. Cooperation is a natural phenomenon that is spontaneous, ubiquitous and naturally occurring. I examine this natural occurrence from various perspectives, from abstract principles (the foundational principles of cooperation as articulated in evolutionary biology, sociobiology and game theory), the cognitive processes that make cooperation possible (philosophic considerations of the role the mind plays in facilitating cooperative behaviors), to cultural elements (how cultural mechanisms enhance cooperation within groups). Consequently, this thesis will also examine the negative byproducts of cooperation present in phenomena such as “us” versus “them” dichotomies. Finally, the paper will review literature from classical political theory regarding the facilitation of cooperation in hopes of illuminating the important roles institutional frameworks have in perpetuating cooperation within a large-scale society.It is my hope that this thesis serves as a thorough and compelling account of the many elements that make this complex phenomenon possible in addition to emphasizing why this topic is of great social and intellectual value. My goal in writing this thesis was first and foremost to explore the many different aspects of cooperation and the various stages that form an integral aspect of this phenomenon. Indeed, as I have encountered in researching the topic, there are many seeming paradoxes and puzzles within the phenomenon of cooperation, which I try to allude to throughout the paper. In doing so, I hope to highlight not only the complexity of this topic but the importance that an understanding of cooperation has on human well-being. Thus, in keeping with the spirit of the liberal studies program, I have tried to approach the topic from within a broad and interdisciplinary framework. Furthermore, I have tried to anchor this discussion within a humanistic context, in hopes of highlighting the value in studying cooperation as an important and worthwhile effort.
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