Societies without empathy

Response to @Deathwake (after more than a month)

Let’s start with the premise that sapience is achiavable without empathy, not even you refuted this claim since you just ended up claiming that societies can’t form without empathy.

But it is possible for a “society” to form in a non-empathetic sapient species, it could start as severeal members coming togheter to reproduce, during this time they tollerate the presence of other members of their species; during this time they might also learn from eachother by observation and replication or even because some try to attract mates by showing off new techniques or discoveries.

The parents would also teach their children their discoveries, so discoveries wouldn’t be lost.

It is also possible that they decide to extend the period of time they remain togheter to include the initial stages of child care, which will be when the children will be the most vulnerable and as such they might see the benefit in remaining togheter longer during this period of time; they could have strict rules which will probably be uphold using strenght by either the strongest member or the whole collective, and these rules would also cause them to create a more complex way to communicate in order to better make sure they follow them.

This period of time might also be extended by later generations to the point in which they still remain togheter until the children are capable to survive alone, this will cause a quicker development of lenguage and an higher spread of techniques and knowledge as now adults can learn from observing others teach their young or the young can also learn from observing others teach their young while their parents aren’t with them.

This would essentially create a society of a non-social sapient species.


Does this not rely on the basis of empathy for one’s children?

Is giving care to your children empathy?

No it isnt. You dont need empathy for that.

Then what would compel the parents to care for their children?

Paternal insticts? Literally the same thing that compels any non-social animal in real life.


That would theoretically work it just feels like… An amphibious civ or something. You’re manually replacing each essential thing empathy does with usually instincts. Next my actual criticisms.

Why wouldn’t they just evolve empathy? If they already come together and tolerate each other and learn from each other wouldn’t it be great if they could cooperate to raise kids or defend from predators or something. If basically all mammals have some empathy, it’s pretty obvious that it’s useful in this strategy. I think I once said dolphins couldn’t perform society cause they were too sadistic and not empathetic enough but that’s pretty dumb, but they still have to deal with the next thing.

This makeshift society can’t properly make a spaceship or defend against any galactic civ of any kind. Or sustain the economies of scale needed to make silicone chips or nuclear power or global trade networks.

Because evolution is not isntantaneous, and they start doing this after gaining sapience.

Not really, at first it would be insticts but then they would continue doing it for mutual self-benefit and their society would also be much more individualistic than the ones of social animals because of that.

They could converge on similiar constructs to the ones of social species by self-interest, interest of their progeny surviving and the rules they created, as such they can perfectly have centralized economies. But you don’t really need a centralized economy to produce advanced technology, decentralized economies could do that too.

Doing something for mutual self benefit would require empathy imo

Why? For a species capable of reasoning, they would come to the conclusion that making others do things that benefit you is beneficial, and to make others do things that are beneficial to you you need to do things that are beneficial to them, and the moment they stop doing those beneficial things to you you stop doing it too.

Again, empathy would be required for that. How would you know what the other member of your species would appreciate? How would you know they would reciprocate? Why would they reciprocate instead of just taking the nice thing you just did?

Because if they don’t they wont get it anymore.

By using reasoning, they can atleast come to the conclusion that things that make them suffer are to be minimized, they would probably assume that the same thing that makes them suffer makes other people suffer at first but later on it would probably be corrected by the other individuals stating so. But the fact that their prediction won’t be accurate is not a problem since for the society to form they would first have to take care of the major things that makes living beings universally suffer, things like starvation and sickness.

It would be like paying for a service, except the payment is another service done to you.

gotta agree with frale on this one

imagine like…chimps
chimps dont have empathy most likely

Chimpanzees show empathy to human strangers | Royal Society.

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Not a psychologist by a long-shot, however I find myself in agreement that co-operatives can be formed without empathy.

I’m sure that if we were to lock ten people with personality disorders, that do effect their emotional intelligence (think of narcissism or ASPD), they won’t immediately kill each other. They’ll talk, work together to get outta the room, etc.
Now, of course, it is important to note that, as far as I am concerned, we have not observed a human in a vacuum environment, so it is entirely within the realm of possibility that any behaviour shown by people with personality disorders is merely a response to people with empathy, meaning that psychopaths (let’s use that term as an umbrella) are merely trying to blend in. But even so, blending in is probably a decision based on practicality.

There are natural examples of species without empathy (due to their brains having no use for it) working together out of tolerance. /I am using “working together” very loosely/

For example, take a look at this unique take on “The Princess and the Frog”:

Now I’m no expert, but I’m willing to bet that neither frogs, nor spiders, have empathy as an evolutionary function. Their symbiosis is the result of lack of general aggressiveness and mutual benefit.

A being capable of reason, communication and lacking strong animalistic instincts to kill its own when they enter its piece of the forest, could, theoretically, form a cooperative with members of its species.

The way of mere partnership, however, to a society is a long one.

Every form of cooperation would be, I think, situational and not the standard. The animal would have no initiative to search for others of its kind, as it would be individualistic in nature. And the capability of reason doesn’t change that, unfortunately - even us humans have anti-social elements within our ranks. And we do reasoning best. So either the reality of a big group isn’t entirely net positive, or reason isn’t as strong as we’re inclined to think.

Forming a society would be left entirely to a chance. Not impossible, not at all. But also not very possible either, unless the being actively seeks the company of others.

Even if there is a permanently group, what initiative would there be for a more complex communication, that translates abstract ideas? A big reason for our language is storytelling. Primitive humans were afraid of everything around them and had need to explain it. They sought each other’s ideas and wished to express them, through art and sound. This is a direct consequence of empathy and being able to care about how someone else is feeling. Why would an apathic species have any need for communication beyond “Danger, danger!”? The only alternative could be hunting strategies and communication during hunt becoming the basis for a more complex form of expression of thoughts. But I’m not sure how effective would that be, considering chimps, lions and orcas do it, yet they are very, very far away from our level or even the level of primitive men.

Either way, a fun topic!