International Society for History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology

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MONDAY, JULY 6  /  19:00 - 20:30  /  Salle Marie Gérin-Lajoie
From classificatory to quantitative concepts in the study of sociality in animals: An epistemologic view

Lucia C. Neco (Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil); Charbel El-Hani (Universidade Federal da Bahia, Brazil); Hilton F. Japyassú (Universidade Federal da Bahia, Brazil)

In the book The Insect Societies, Edward O. Wilson proposes categories (or levels) of sociality that are presented as a landmark unification of terminology in the study of social behavior. Until the mid-1980s, the eusociality phenomenon was restricted to some bees, ants, wasps and termites. Since this decade, in many other species new sociality patterns have been found that could not be fitted in any of the available categories. Therefore, from these discoveries, the characterization of sociality in levels was set up as a problem in this field and several revaluation of sociality categories were presented. Among the propositions, some maintain the form of discrete categorization using features considered important by the authors who proposed them, as in the Wilson’s proposal, but others advance to a quantitative model of characterization of sociality, such as the continuous proposed by Sherman & co and Costa & Fitzgerald. These proposals have failed to clarify the use of the categories of sociality. None of them has become widely accepted and the confusion in social behavior classification continued to occur. The context points out to the understanding of the concept of sociality and the characteristics that can be used as a criterion for the classification of social behavior, resulting in a conceptual shift in the field. Thus, there is shown a need for an epistemological analysis of this shift that can understand the evolution of their categorization and propose a breakthrough in more practical and clear use of levels of sociality. Carnap's contribution in building concepts, from qualitative (classification and comparative) to quantitative concepts can be used as an epistemological basis for analyzing the development of these conceptual changes, as it reinforces the proposal to overcome the dichotomy between eusocial and social bodies in favor of a model of sociality gradients.