Intraspecific Economics: Interpersonal Utility Comparisons, Evolution, and Culture - Armin Schulz

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One relatively recent pivot in the discussion concerning the possibility of interpersonal utility comparisons (IUC)—one of the foundational questions of economics—is centered on evolutionary biological considerations. In particular, it has been suggested that, since all human beings are part of the same species, we should expect our utility functions to be structured similarly and thus be comparable.

However, a closer look at this argument suggests that it cannot be seen to be compelling as it stands: since cultural learning plays a crucial role in our cognitive evolution, the conclusion that we evolved to be psychologically similar is far from obviously true.

This, though, does not mean that evolutionary theory has nothing to say about the possibility of IUC. In fact, as this paper makes clear, by expanding the evolutionary argument with work in gene-culture-technological coevolutionary theory, it becomes possible to support the contention that IUC may well be sometimes plausible.

Date & time

Thu 25 Jul 2024, 3:30pm to 5:00pm


Level 1 Auditorium (1.28), RSSS Building 146 Ellery Cres. Acton 2601, ACT


Armin Schulz


Michael Barnes


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