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The yin and yang of cooperation and competition

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Survival is about competition for resources. We are a successful species because we are good at competing for resources. So far in our evolution, part of the competition for resources happens as competition with other people for resources. It is a part of our nature to be inclined to compete with other people for resources. I'll figuratively call that our "yang" side.

We also evolved as social organisms - a large part of our ability to compete successfully comes from our ability to cooperate. That is what I'll figuratively refer to as our "yin" side.

It is possible for an individual to be nurtured within a social environment when they are young and for the person to leave the group with the skills learned in the group to survive alone for an extended period of time without the necessity to cooperate any more. But such total self reliance is difficult and is the exception (and certainly is only made possible by the cooperation of a group at least in the beginning). It is also possible for an individual to completely devote themselves to the survival of the group over their own personal survival. That is also exceptional - though people fairly often are willing to make temporary self sacrifices for a group, generally they tend to act in a way that doesn't harm their chances of survival. Certainly people with a strong biological predisposition to totally sacrifice their well being for the well being of the group are less likely to have that trait passed on to future generations because they are less likely to survive long enough to reproduce or for their offspring to survive long enough to reproduce.

So it seems as though we have evolved to have both competitive and cooperative inclinations. There is a tradition of saying that being temperate is generally the wise path to follow. Balance between the yin and the yang - balance between our competitive and cooperative natures. But what is the right balance?

I am curious about how this question of what the right balance is between our competitive and cooperative natures plays out with respect to the way we "run" our economic and political systems. I think there is a continuum of attitudes about it that range from those who are strongly inclined toward the competitive side of our natures to those who are more strongly inclined toward our cooperative side. I think it is fair to say that people with strong libertarian attitudes lean well toward favoring the competitive side and that those with strong true communitarian attitudes lean well toward favoring the cooperative side. Most people's attitudes fall somewhere between - I believe the distribution tends toward a bell shaped curve with the median being people who may on occasion lean one way or the other, but overall tend to be fairly balanced in their attitudes toward competition and cooperation. But maintaining that balance is difficult because we tend to want to simplify things down to "black and white" - as I think is exemplified in the mess of notions that make up Christian morality.

Does a yin-yang, cooperation-competition view of our natures and the general desirability of being balanced between them seem to you guys to be a viable way to analyze some of our behavior? If so, does this view imply anything about the current economic and political situations in the world?

Solomon Zorn:
I have done a lot of thinking on the balance of cooperation and competition. When I was a Christian I reasoned that Love and competition were opposites. One being selfless, the other being selfish. This got me into arguments with teachers and preachers. At the time I had the radical and impractical view that competition was evil because God is Love (I was young, give me a break).

Now I find that human behavior is a matter of balance, just as you say. So I would think it is a viable way to analyze some of our behavior. In government, of course, we have competing ideas of how best to run things, and a general lack of cooperation that permeates every level.

I have always felt that competition, for most people, is the easy thing to learn, pretty much second nature. But cooperation is much more difficult, requiring a degree of maturity.

That's my early morning thoughts on the subject. I thought I would have more to say. Maybe later. :-k

I think that competition shines as long as it is powered by the desire for you to be better, instead of your opponent being worse.

Everybody wins if a new product hits the market two months earlier because one competitor figured out a way to produce it more easily. On the other hand, everybody loses if the product hits the market two months later because the slow competitor burned down the factory of the fast competitor instead. In striving to increase their own performance, people can better society. In striving to simply come ahead in any way possible, they can merely hold back opponents and win, but that makes things worse.

Possibly cooperation shines in the same place; where all members are trying to pull the group up, instead of having themselves be pulled up by it.

I guess what it comes down to is everyone trying to succeed (whether together or against one another), instead of everyone trying to make others fail as we so often see. But it's much easier to put someone down than it is to lift yourself up.

What entropy says makes sense to me.  I thought about starting a thread on good and evil.  How most people look at things in a black and white manner, seemingly not recognizing things are usually some shade of gray.  But, entropy's post actually is better than what I was thinking about.

Well done.  =D>


--- Quote from: "entropy" ---I am curious about how this question of what the right balance is between our competitive and cooperative natures plays out with respect to the way we "run" our economic and political systems.
--- End quote ---
Proverb ""means are more important than end". Competition is OK till the means do not transgress 'dharma'. So to say, fairness. One who may not succeed should accept the success of another. Cooperation is even better where it is possible.


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