Journal of Evolutionary Economics

, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 83–106 | Cite as

The evolution of morality and the end of economic man

  • Geoffrey M. HodgsonEmail author
Regular Article


1871 saw the publication of two major treatises in economics, with self-seeking economic man at their center. In the same year Darwin published The Descent of Man, which emphasized sympathy and cooperation as well as self-interest, and contained a powerful argument that morality has evolved in humans by natural selection. Essentially this stance is supported by modern research. This paper considers the nature of morality and how it has evolved. It reconciles Darwin’s notion that a developed morality requires language and deliberation (and is thus unique to humans), with his other view that moral feelings have a long-evolved and biologically-inherited basis. The social role of morality and its difference with altruism is illustrated by an agent-based simulation. The fact that humans combine both moral and selfish dispositions has major implications for the social sciences and obliges us to abandon the pre-eminent notion of selfish economic man. Economic policy must take account of our moral nature.


Morality Darwin Evolution Cooperation Altruism 

JEL Classification

B52 D01 D64 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Hertfordshire Business SchoolUniversity of HertfordshireHatfieldUK

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