The evolution of morality and the end of economic man

G.M. Hodgson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)
106 Downloads (Pure)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-106
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Economics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


  • Altruism
  • Cooperation
  • Darwin
  • Evolution
  • Morality


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