It is generally recognized that descriptive and normative individualism are logically independent theses. This paper defends the stronger view that recognition of the falsehood of descriptive individualism is crucial to understanding the evolutionary and developmental basis of normative individualism. The argument given for this is not analytic; rather, it is based on empirical generalizations about the evolution of markets with specialized labor, about the nature of information processing in large markets, and about the socialization of human children.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.


Akerlof, G. & Schiller, R. 2009. Animal Spirits. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Anderson, L. & Holt, C. 1997. ‘Information cascades in the laboratory’. American Economic Review 87: 847–862.

Ariely, D. 2008. Predictably Irrational. New York: Harper.

Bacharach, M. 2006. Beyond Individual Choice. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Bergstrom, T. 2002. 'Evolution of social behavior: Individual and group selection'. Journal of Economic Perspectives 16: 67–88.

Bowles, S. & Gintis, H. 2004. 'The evolution of strong reciprocity: Cooperation in heterogeneous populations'. Theoretical Population Biology 65: 17–28.

Bruner, J. 1986. Actual Minds, Possible Worlds. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Burnham, T. & Johnson, D. 2005. 'The biological and evolutionary logic of human cooperation'. Analyse & Kritik 27: 113–135.

Camerer, C., Loewenstein, G. & Prelec, D. 2005. 'Neuroeconomics: How neuroscience can inform economics'. Journal of Economic Literature 43: 9–64.

Carlsson, H. & van Damme, E. 1993. 'Global games and equilibrium selection'. Econometrica: Journal of the Econometric Society 61: 989–1018.

Clark, A. 1997. Being There. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Clark, G. 2007. A Farewell to Alms. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Corazzini, L. & Greiner, B. 2007. 'Herding, social preferences, and (non) conformity'. Economics Letters 97: 74–80.

Dennett, D. 1991. Consciousness Explained. Boston: Little, Brown.

Donald, M. 1991. Origins of the Modern Mind. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Dunbar, R. 1988. Primate Social Systems. London: Croom Helm.

Elster, J. 2000. Ulysses Unbound. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Frank, R. 1987. 'If Homo economicus could choose his own utility function, would he want one with a conscience?' American Economic Review 77: 593–604.

Gallese, V. 2003. 'The roots of empathy: The shared manifold hypothesis and the neural basis of intersubjectivity'. Psychopathology 36: 171–180.

Gallese, V. 2007. 'Before and below "theory of mind": Simulation and the neural correlates of social cognition'. In N. Clayton N. Emery & C. Frith (eds.) 'Social Intelligence', 179–196. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Gintis, H. 2000. 'Strong reciprocity and human sociality'. Journal of Theoretical Biology 206: 169–179.

Gintis, H. 2006. 'Behavioral ethics meets natural justice'. Politics, Philosophy & Economics 5: 5–32.

Gintis, H., Bowles, S., Boyd, R. & Fehr, E. 2003. 'Explaining altruistic behavior in humans'. Evolution and Human Behavior 24: 153–172.

Gintis, H., Henrich, J., Bowles, S., Boyd, R. & Fehr, E. 2008. 'Strong reciprocity and the roots of human morality'. Social Justice Research 21: 241–253.

Glimcher, P. 2003. Decisions, Uncertainty, and the Brain. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Guala, F. 2012. 'Reciprocity: weak or strong? What punishment experiments do (and do not) demonstrate'. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 35: 1–59.

Hamilton, W. 1964. 'The genetical evolution of social behavior I & II'. Journal of Theoretical Biology 7: 1–52.

Harris, J. 2006. No Two Alike. New York: Norton.

Hartley, J. 1997. The Representative Agent in Macroeconomics. London: Routledge.

Hayek, F. 1949. Individualism and Economic Order. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Hollis, M. 1998. Trust within Reason. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hoover, K. 1988. The New Classical Macroeconomics. Oxford: Blackwell.

Huck, S. & Oechssler, J. 2000. 'Informational cascades in the laboratory: Do they occur for the right reasons?' Journal of Economic Psychology 21: 661–671.

Hume, D. 1748/1977. An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. Indianapolis: Hackett.

Hung, A. & Plott, C. 2001. 'Information cascades: Replication and an extension to majority rule and conformity-rewarding institutions'. American Economic Review 91: 1508–1520.

Hurley, S. & Chater, N. (eds.). 2005. Perspectives on Imitation. MIT Press.

Hutchins, E. 1995. Cognition in the Wild. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Hutto, D. 2008. Folk Psychological Narratives. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Janssen, M. 1993. Microfoundations: A Critical Inquiry. London: Routledge.

Jaynes, J. 1976. The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Jensen, K., Call, J. & Tomasello, M. 2006. 'What's in it for me? Self-regard precludes altruism and spite in chimpanzees'. Proceedings: Biological Sciences 273: 1013–1021.
PMid:16627288 PMCid:1560238

Joyce, R. 2001. The Myth of Morality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lee, D. & Wang, X.-J. 2009. ‘Mechanisms for stochastic decision making in the primate frontal cortex: Single-neuron recording and circuit modeling’. In P. Glimcher, C. Camerer, E. Fehr & R. Poldrack (eds.) ‘Neuroeconomics: Decision Making and the Brain’, 481–501. London: Elsevier.

Lee, D., Conroy, M., McGreevy, B. & Barraclough, D. 2004. 'Reinforcement learning and decision making in monkeys during a competitive game'. Brain Research: Cognitive Brain Research 22: 45–48.

Lee, D., McGreevy, B. & Barraclough, D. 2005. 'Learning and decision-making in monkeys during a rock-paper-scissors game'. Brain Research: Cognitive Brain Research 25: 416–430.

Lukes, S. 1968. 'Methodological individualism reconsidered'. British Journal of Sociology 19: 119–129.

McClure, S., Draw, N. & Montague, R. 2003. 'A computational substrate for incentive salience'. Trends in Neurosciences 26: 423–428.

McGeer, V. 2001. 'Psycho-practice, psycho-theory, and the contrastive case of autism'. Journal of Consciousness Studies 8: 109–132.

Miller, R. 1978. 'Methodological individualism and social explanation'. Philosophy of Science 45: 387–414.

Morris, C. 1972. The Discovery of the Individual: 1050–1200. New York: Harper & Row.

Morris, S. & Shin, H.-S. 1998. ‘A theory of the onset of currency attacks’. Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford Economics Papers working paper series no. 149.

Nöth, M. & Weber, M. 2003. 'Informational aggregation with random ordering: Cascades and overconfidence'. Economic Journal 113: 166–189.

Ofek, H. 2001. Second Nature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Page, S. 2007. The Difference. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Pareto, V. 1927. Mannuel d’économie politique. Paris: Marcel Giard.

Pettit, P. 1993. The Common Mind. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Pettit, P. 1997. Republicanism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Ross, D. 2004. 'Meta-linguistic signalling for coordination amongst social agents'. Language Sciences 26: 621–642.

Ross, D. 2005. Economic Theory and Cognitive Science, vol. 1: Microexplanation. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Ross, D. 2006a. 'Evolutionary game theory and the normative theory of institutional design: Binmore and behavioral economics'. Philosophy, Politics & Economics 5: 51–79.

Ross, D. 2006b. 'The economics and evolution of selves'. Cognitive Systems Research 7: 246–258.

Ross, D. 2007. 'H. sapiens as ecologically special: What does language contribute?' Language Sciences 29: 710–731.

Ross, D. 2008a. 'Economics, cognitive science and social cognition'. Cognitive Systems Research 9: 125–135.

Ross, D. 2008b. 'Classical game theory, socialization, and the rationalization of conventions'. Topoi 27: 57–72.

Ross, D. 2011. ‘The economic agent: Not human, but important’. In U. Maki (Ed.), Handbook of the Philosophy of Science, vol. 13: Economics. London: Elsevier.

Ross, D. 2011b. 'Estranged parents and a schizophrenic child: Choice in economics, psychology and neuroeconomics.' Journal of Economic Methodology 18: 217–231.

Ross, D., Spurrett, D., Kincaid, H. & Stephens, G. L. (eds.). 2007. Distributed Cognition and the Will. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Samuelson, P. 1947/1983. Foundations of Economic Analysis. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Enlarged ed.

Seabright, P. 2010. The Company of Strangers. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Revised ed.

Sgroi, D. 2003. 'The right choice at the right time: A herding experiment in endogenous time'. Experimental Economics 6: 159–180.

Silk, J. 2009. ‘Social preferences in primates’. In E. Fehr P. Glimcher, C. Camerer & R. Poldrack (eds.) ‘Neuroeconomics: Decision Making and the Brain’, 269–284. London: Elsevier.

Silk, J., Brosnan, S., Vonk, J., Henrich, J., Povinelli, D. & et al., A. Richardson. 2005.'Chimpanzees are indifferent to the welfare of other group members'. Nature 435: 1357–1359.

Smith, V. 2008. Rationality in Economics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Spiwoks, M., Bizer, K. & Hein, O. 2008. 'Informational cascades: A mirage?' Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization 67: 193–199.

Thaler, R. 1992. The Winner's Curse. New York: Free Press.

Thalos, M. & Andreou, C. 2009. 'Of human bonding: An essay on the natural history of agency'. Public Reason 1: 46–73.

Tomasello, M., Carpenter, M., Call, J. & T. Behne, H. Moll. 2004. 'Understanding and sharing intentions: The origins of cultural cognition'. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 28: 691–735.

von Mises, L. 1949. Human Action. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Vonk, J., Brosnan, S., Silk, J., Henrich, J., Richardson, A. & et al., S. Lambeth. 2008. 'Chimpanzees do not take advantage of very low cost opportunities to deliver food to unrelated group members'. Animal Behaviour 75: 1757–1770.

Walras, L. 1874. Élements d’économie politique pure ou théorie de la richesse sociale. Lausanne: L. Corbaz.

Warneken, F. & Tomasello, M. 2006. 'Altruistic helping in human infants and young chimpanzees'. Science 311: 1301–1303.

Warneken, F., Hare, B., Melis, A., Hanus, D. & Tomasello, M. 2007. 'Spontaneous altruism by chimpanzees and young children'. PLoS Biology 5, no. e184. Doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0050184.

Weber, M. 1905/2002. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. (Baehr, P., & Wells, G., Trans.). Harmondsworth: Penguin.

West, S., El Mouden, C. & Gardner, A. 2010. 'Sixteen common misconceptions about the evolution of cooperation in humans'. Evolution and Human Behavior 32: 231–262.

Wrangham, R. 2009. Catching Fire. New York: Basic Books.

Wrangham, R., Jones, J., Laden, G., Pilbeam, D. & Conklin-Brittain, N. L. 1999. 'The raw and the stolen: Cooking and the ecology of human origins'. Current Anthropology 40: 567–594.