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date: 02 December 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Adam Smith argued that humans were motivated by both self-interest and moral concerns. Economics has since moved towards a contrasting utilitarian view where behavior is understood in terms of unifying preference functions. Also most economists have presumed that these preferences are “self-regarding.” Two major treatises in economics were published in 1871, 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 argued that morality has evolved in humans by natural selection. This stance is supported by modern research. This article reconciles Darwin’s view that developed morality requires language and deliberation (and is thus unique to humans), with his other claim that moral feelings have a long-evolved and biologically inherited basis. It also questions whether the recent addition of “other-regarding” preferences is adequate, and whether morality and altruism are reducible to preferences or utility maximization.

Keywords: morality, Charles Darwin, evolution, cooperation, altruism, other-regarding preferences

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