The Egalitarian Species


In the last two decades immense strides have been made in understanding the evolutionary foundations of morality.  In addition to these advances made in understanding the evolution of the biological bases of altruistic behavior and normative guidance, tremendous progress has been made in modeling cultural evolution, including the evolution of moral norms. The Humean understanding of social and moral norms as adaptive responses to a society’s milieu has gained traction as an important line of research in the social sciences. In many ways a fundamental element of F. A. Hayek’s research program has been vindicated. A recurring conclusion of these analyses — especially those focusing on the biological evolution of cooperation — is the fundamental egalitarianism of our species.  In this essay, Gaus examines some of the implications of this recurring finding of the egalitarian roots of our species for our understanding of morality. In particular, Gaus addresses “Hayek’s Worry”: the concern that our evolved moral sentiments are in deep conflict with the impersonal order of what Hayek calls the “Great Society.” The fundamental aim of this essay is to largely, but not entirely, assuage Hayek’s Worry.