In this address, perhaps the last paper he wrote, Professor Hayek elaborates on the relationship between the evolution of the moral order and evolution of reason, arguing that the latter is dependent on the former, and that rationalists, like Marx and others, who try to construct a social order based on reason (just a small portion of the spontaneous social order) are doomed from the start.Hayek could be considered a pioneer in the field of Integral Political Economy, although he didn’t use that term. His approach is interdisciplinary and integrates scientific and historical approaches to knowledge.
The Presumption of Reason1
F.A. Hayek on receiving the ICUS Founder’s Award
F. A. Hayek
Prepared for the Plenary Address, 14th International Conference on the Unity of the Sciences, Houston, Texas, 1985. © 1986, International Cultural Foundation, Reprinted with permission.
The relationship between the theory of evolution and the development of culture raises a number of highly interesting questions, to many of which economics as a science provides philosophical access that few other disciplines offer.
There has however been great confusion about the matter. So-called social Darwinism, in particular, proceeded from the assumption that any investigator into the evolution of human culture has to go to school with Darwin. This is however quite mistaken. The idea of evolution stems from the theory of language and from the theory of law, not to mention economics, and long antedated Darwinism. Indeed, not only is the idea of evolution much older in the social sciences than in the natural sciences, but I would even be prepared to argue that Darwin got the basic ideas of evolution from the social sciences. As we learn from his notebooks, Darwin was reading Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations at just that time, in 1838, when he was formulating his own theory. In any case, Darwin’s work was preceded by decades, indeed by a century of research concerning the rise of highly complex spontaneous orders (such as the market order, and other institutions and traditions) through a process of evolution. Even words like “genetic” and “genetics,” which have today, long after Darwin, become technical expressions of biology, were by no means invented by biologists. The first person I know to have spoken of genetic development was the German philosopher and cultural historian Herder. We find the idea again in Wieland, and again in Humboldt. Thus modern biology has borrowed the concept of evolution from studies of culture of older lineage. If this is in a sense well known, it is also almost always forgotten. Continue reading →