altruism LO28501

From: AM de Lange (
Date: 05/15/02

Replying to LO28463 --

Dear Organlearners,

Doug Merchant <> writes
in reply to

>>my supposition is that you have read and appreciate
>>this book, would you therefore give us, share with us,
>>a short account of its thesis.
>In short (very short), Frank argues that altruistic,
>commitment behavior is related to the behavioral
>characteristics required to successfully solve a specific
>type of contracting problem, the Prisoner's Dilemma
>In part, Frank supports four conclusions:
>1) People often do not behave as predicted by the
> self-interest model.
>(Frank was an economics professor at Cornell University)

Greetings dear Doug,

Conclusion 1) caught my eye. Just yesterday I was thinking about symbiosis
(living together). When a plant or animal is raised and kept in captivity,
most of its symbiotic support becomes destroyed. This can make it
extremely difficult to raise and keep some species. Thus the symbiotic
support has to be imitated too for them.

There are several kinds of symbiosis:-
1) commensalism - one symbiont gains while the other
    symbiont does not suffer
2) inquilinism -- two symbionts sharing the same thing
    while none of them suffers
3) mutualism -- two symbionts gaining from each other
    while none of them suffers
4) parasitism -- one symbiont gains while the other
    symbiont suffers.

I wonder what the relationship is between symbiosis and altruism? The
opposite of altruism is egoism. It seems to me that egoism is connected to
parasitism. Hence altruism seems to do with the first three kinds of

But there is something about altruism self which cautions me not to equate
it with any of these three kinds or any combination of them. The
altruistic symbiont often suffers self to the benefit of the other
symbiont which would have suffered without such symbiosis. This suggests a
fifth kind of symbiosis

5) altruism -- one symbiont gains while the other
    symbiont may suffer willingly.

It is difficult for me to formulate 5) as short as the other four. I also
had to add the words "may" and "willingly". Strangely enough, the result
looks very much like parasitism. Yet it has not gone to the stage of a
"sacraficial parasitism". Some would argue that 5) is not a true symbiosis
because it involves only the human species (hence the word willingly)
whereas the two symbionts have to be different species. My reply will be
that in 5) one of the symbionts may often be the human species, but that
the other symbiont can be any other species. Think of how many people have
died in saving a pet.

I wonder how you fellow learners think of altruism as a kind of symbiosis?

But let us get back to a species raised and kept in captivity. This
"captivity" points for me to a direct disturbance of the openness of a
species. Openness is one of the 7Es (seven essentialities of creativity).
I have found that to think best on openness, I have to think in terms of a
system SY, its boundary and all the other interacting systems in the
environment taken together as the complex system SU.

The "self-interest system" (egoism?) lacks in openness. Too much flows in
and too little flows out. Many proponents of Irreversible
Self-Organisation (ISO) are actually articulating nothing more than the
"self-interest system". There is a something like "dassein" or the
"selfish gene" in ISO, but there is also something like "mitsein" or the
"togetherish gene" in it. Another way which i can articulate it is harmony
within the system SY and harmony between the system SY and its
surroundings SU.

The brings me to Learning Organistions and how people articulate them. I
always feel uncomfortable when a person articulates the LO as if it is a
"self-interest system". The LO is definitely not for me a "self-interest
system", but rather almost like an "altruistic system". I had to add the
"almost" because there is something else which I cannot put my mental
finger on at this moment.

With care and best wishes


At de Lange <> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

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