On Thursday 18 November (10:30 hrs), Vaios Koliofotis will defend his PhD dissertation, entitled: "Evolutionary Explanations in Economics."
Social sciences and biology have been interacting throughout their histories. Multiple disciplines have applied Darwin's theory, including psychology and economics. Within economics, there has been a resurgence of interest in using evolution theory from the study of economic traits, similar to the way that it is applied in the biological sciences. This research is typically organized around Ernst Mayr's ultimate-proximate distinction. Ultimate explanations of behaviour invoke evolutionary causes (i.e. natural selection) to answer why-questions. Proximate explanations of behaviour typically invoke behaviour-generation causes (e.g. psychological, neurological mechanisms) inside organisms and environmental conditions to answer how-questions.
The proximate-ultimate distinction has been the cornerstone of evolutionary research. It is possible, however, to raise a different research question when it comes to explaining human evolution. What is important to observe is that behaviour is brought about by psychological mechanisms, at an intermediate level between genes and behaviour. hence, we can go beyond Mayr's distinction and pose the following questions: Why did a particular proximate mechanism evolve rather than some other that could have produced a set of behaviours? In this dissertation Vaios Koliofotis discuss' how the mechanism selection question fits into current debates in biology, economics and philosophy.