Discussion on Conscious and Purposeful Behavior




From: mthomsen@itis.com

Date: Sat, 01 Mar 1997 15:07:52 -0600

Subject: conscious versus purposeful action

I heard a fairly detailed report on some research conducted by some

psychologists to investigate the role of "hunches" and "feelings" in

decisionmaking. The bottom line was that the brain (or mind?) is working

actively behind an actor's conscious thought to solve problems. Has

anyone else heard about this research? Anyway, it prompted a question in

my mind, and that is, to what extent must a actor be conscious of a

"purpose" or object of a problem solving exercise and the

problem-solving processes themselves going on in his subconscious before

we can say it is part of purposeful action?

Mike Thomsen

Madison, Wisconsin

<mthomsen@itis.com>

Date: Sat, 1 Mar 1997 21:26:58 -0700

From: harms@hackvan.com (T. B. Harms)

Subject: Re: conscious versus purposeful action

Mike Thomsen,

Work from the field of cybernetics has convinced me that purposefulness is

a very basic systemic property within living things. Along this line I

assert that no consciousness whatsoever is required for behavior to be

purposeful. Indeed, properly understood, behavior is the label for what an

organism does as an expression of purpose in a context.

For economics, especially of an Austrian sort, the question is then how

'action' relates to behavior. As I wrote to this list awhile back I agree

with Mises that human action is qualitatively beyond mere behavior. I

disagree with any who claim the differentiation comes as a consequence of

consciousness, however.

Extending from Munz (_Philosophical Darwinism_, 1993) I propose that the

differentiator for human action is that it involves goals and

understandings which are the products of language: Human action is

purposefulness which is tightly tied up with intellectual conceptualization

(broadly construed).

I am confident that this assertion does not conflict with the Austrian view

requiring the premise of intentionality for economics, regarding which

Peter J. Boettke posted a concise statement last September 5:

The fact that Austrian economics does not in general adhere to tight

rational choice models or homo economicus, doesn't mean that it

doesn't rely on loose rational choice models -- purposive man. There

is a loose instrumental rationality that is the core of economic

analysis in Menger, Mises and Hayek. [... W]hile Hayek denied that

the logic of action was [] sufficient, he did not deny that it was a

necessary. The phrase is "of human action, but not of human design".

Human action is foundational. The way Austrian writers deal with

the way individuals arrange means to obtain ends is not trivialized

in terms of the problem situation, whereas it is within neoclassical

models.

By defining action as I do we may retain praxeology as a distinct science,

and continue to see economics as a sub-science within it, while exposing

that both of these lie very simply within the larger range of life

sciences. Surprisingly, by this view there turns out to be nothing which

distinguishes the *operation* of economic action from any other mode of

behavior, not even "instinctive" ones such as respiration. Indeed, there

are no modes of behavior whatsoever.

Sorting between economic action and reflex (and all similar categorization)

must turn on how purposes arise and prevail. In this regard the

productions which come from purposes (a.k.a. behaviors) are beside the

point, as are the side-effects of such products. Consciousness is one such

side-effect. Despite how fascinating we find it, its presence and abscence

does not qualify anything important for economics. We would do well not to

be distracted by consciousness, as neither the basic nature of purpose nor

the key ideas involved in economic calculation are functions of it.



Tracy Bruce Harms

harms@hackvan.com

===========================================================================

>I heard a fairly detailed report on some research conducted by some

>psychologists to investigate the role of "hunches" and "feelings" in

>decisionmaking. The bottom line was that the brain (or mind?) is working

>actively behind an actor's conscious thought to solve problems. Has

>anyone else heard about this research? Anyway, it prompted a question in

>my mind, and that is, to what extent must a actor be conscious of a

>"purpose" or object of a problem solving exercise and the

>problem-solving processes themselves going on in his subconscious before

>we can say it is part of purposeful action?

>

>Mike Thomsen

>Madison, Wisconsin

><mthomsen@itis.com>



Date: Sun, 2 Mar 1997 12:20:12 -0800 (PST)

From: GREG RANSOM <GRANSOM@ucrac1.ucr.edu>

Subject: Re: conscious versus purposeful action



I would say that Mises claim that the distinction between

consciousness and unconsciousness is nonetheless sharp and can

be clearly determined is a claim not to be taken seriously.

I challenge anyone who finds Mises articulations of 'human action'

or 'praxeology' persuasive to read a bit of Wittgenstein on

psychology and the various language of mental states & doings.

I is hard for me to imagine that anyone who will take the time to

do so will fail to see the brittleness & logical failure of

much of Mises' taxonomy. After than read some of the experimental

work in psychology -- this to will explode the simplicisty of

the Mises picture, e.g. on the so-called 'clearly determined'

distinctions between consciousness and unconsciousness. Mises is

working with a rather primative Freudian picture that is

seriously outdated in many regards. Our language and out human

experience provides a distinction between consciousness and

unconsciousness -- but as with most distinctions there is an

area of penumbra here -- and areas were the distinction falls apart.

Experimental psychology has revealed many areas where we simply

don't know what word to use -- and we must lay down new conventions

for the appropriate use of these terms.



Greg Ransom

gransom@ucrac1.ucr.edu



Date: Sun, 02 Mar 1997 04:58:15 +0800

From: Patrick Gunning <gunning@stsvr.showtower.com.tw>

Subject: Re: conscious versus purposeful action

GREG RANSOM wrote:

> I challenge anyone who finds Mises articulations of 'human action'

> or 'praxeology' persuasive to read a bit of Wittgenstein on

> psychology and the various language of mental states & doings.

> I is hard for me to imagine that anyone who will take the time to

> do so will fail to see the brittleness & logical failure of

> much of Mises' taxonomy.

Greg, could you give us a more specific reference? I have, by the way,

read a great deal of psychology and I can provide you with references to

widely respected psychologists who have accepted the distinction between

conscious and subconscious, although none would say that it can be

demonstrated experimentally or empirically.

--

Pat Gunning

http://stsvr.showtower.com.tw/~gunning/welcome

http://web.nchulc.edu.tw/~gunning/pat/welcome



Date: Sun, 2 Mar 1997 13:26:31 -0800 (PST)

From: GREG RANSOM <GRANSOM@ucrac1.ucr.edu>

Subject: Re: conscious versus purposeful action

It is a mistake to think i denign that we make and there is

a distinction to be made between a wink and a blink -- i.e.

a conscious and an unconscious human doing. What i challenge is

Mises reification of this distinction in a 'conceptual

analysis' -- and his imposition of this 'scientistic' or

'constructivistic' conceptual construction on all human doings,

including all of those within a context of getting on with

our lives. I think this reification is a falsification, a confusion

and a mistake generated by a fallacious philosophy & misunder-

standing of knowledge & science. It is as much of a mistake as

any other of the 'conceptual analysis' that were baked up in Vienna

during the 1920's & 1930's.

Wittgenstein's _The Blue and The Brown Book_, his _Philosophical

Investigations_, and several of his collected manuscripts and lectures

on psychology are all recommended. Note esp. Wittgenstein's

account of what it is to expect someone's arrival. Wittgenstein's

account is a devistating undermining of 'mental state' & logical

construction pictures of 'expectations' - exposing the fallaciousness

of the reification and 'conceptual analysis' strategy used to

account for the mental.



Greg Ransom

gransom@ucrac1.ucr.edu



Date: Sun, 2 Mar 1997 15:53:22 -0700

From: harms@hackvan.com (T. B. Harms)

Subject: Re: conscious versus purposeful action



I'm happy to relate my previous post to Pat Gunning's discussion of

consciousness. I've been thinking that I should, additionally, summarize

the main thrust of my post in more simple terms.

Pat Gunning raises the question: In what way is the term "consciousness"

relevant to praxeology and, therefore, to economics? My position is that

consciousness has at most an incidental relevance to praxeology. This is

counterintuitive because consciousness is a natural part of our experience

of decion-making.

Pat also asks: Can praxeology do without the distinction between

willfully-caused and unchosen/unwillful behavior? This actually boils down

to the question of how to demarcate praxeology. We have the suspicion that

praxeology should stand as a special science, that there is something

somehow special which occurs with human action which is not a consideration

for explaining non-human action. But in this regard I wish to recall Greg

Ransom's indication of a turn away from a certain approach to

classification, as posted to this group February 9th:

Defining 'science' and its domains in terms of subject matter

and methods, Mises attempts to construct a 'science of

man' ala Weber and aiming to satisfy the epistomological demands

of Aristotle and his modern heirs. Rejecting this picture,

Hayek re-constructs economics in terms of empirical problems that

market phenomena generated in our experience

What I have in mind is a similarly Hayekian transformation for praxeology.

Just as economics is an exploration of the problems which arise from market

phenomena, praxeology is better seen as an exploration of the problems

which arise from the presence and consequences of concepts. Market

phenomena arise with and through concepts such as property, money,

transaction, and price. The wider range of concepts -- what Popper calls

'world 3' -- engender a wider range of problems. Here lies the stuff of

praxeology.

The first major fruit of this turn is that it puts an end to definitional

wranglings such as "what is will?" "what is purpose?" or "what is

consciousness?" We *need not* distinguish between intended and unintended

behavior. This is important because in fact we *cannot* succeed in such an

attempt. As I meant when I wrote "there are no modes of behavior," we

cannot fruitfully sort *types* of behavior. The only reasonable sorting

among behaviors occurs by identifying the specific purposes they serve, but

often enough those are obscure. Obscure or not, behavior is intractibly

tied with purpose. Mises runs afoul in his attempt to appropriate purpose

to human action alone, to segregate it from the "merely" animal. I am

unsure to what degree Hayek also makes this error, but I suspect it is

present at some point. This is in fact one of the most widespread errors

of all theory. For a corrective away from this error I recommend William

T. Powers' _Behavior: The Control of Perception_ (1973).

This error is glaring in the sentence Pat Gunning quoted:

>Mises, 1966, p. 11 says:

>"Conscious or purposeful behavior is in sharp contrast to unconscious

>behavior, i.e., the reflexes and the involuntary responses of the body's

>cells and nerves to stimuli."

Ransom is correct that the distinction between conscious and unconscious is

nowhere near so sharp as Mises claimed. But that is beside the point. The

more important fact is that behavior cannot *ever* be understood as

responses to stimuli. (See Powers.) Thus even if consciousness were

always unambiguously distinct it would not let us segregate purpose from

non-purpose. The idea that consciousness is the source or hallmark of

purpose is flatly WRONG. Attempts to salvage that presumption will fail

and will drag every associated effort into a mire.

Either praxeology will do without the distinction between behavior which

involves purpose and that which does not, or praxeology will be but another

antique in the trashpile. The notion of behavior without purpose is as

bankrupt as the notion of observation without an observer.

Pat Gunning writes:

>If we adopt Mises's method of dealing with such issues, we would begin

>by asking whether it is possible to imagine a distinctly human actor

>for whom the conscious-unconscious distinction is not relevant. If so,

>then praxeology can do without it.

This is agreeable to me. Consider this: The task of envisioning a human

actor for whom the distinction is not relevant need not involve the

presumption that the distinction does not *exist*. Indeed, consciousness

might do more than exist, it might well be useful and indeed important, and

still not be *definitive*. The relevance Mises expected of it was a

definitive relevance; I grant it no more than an instrumental relevance.

Praxeological thinking reformed in this direction expects that consiousness

plays a part in action, but it does not turn attention to consiousness, per

se, as a criterion for any categorization. Consciousness is tangental to

praxeological explanation.

Obviously much more deserves discussion, but best to post this as is for

now. I still need to write a simplified restatement, but hopefully this

makes at least some of the idea a bit more plain.



Tracy Bruce Harms

harms@hackvan.com



Date: Mon, 3 Mar 1997 07:14:23 -0800 (PST)

From: Fred Foldvary <ffoldvar@jfku.edu>

Subject: Re: conscious versus purposeful action

On Mon, 3 Mar 1997, John Cobin wrote:

> reflection is what sets us apart from animals;

One constantly reads such propositions about reason, reflection,

awareness, etc., that sets human beings apart from other animals.

But this is always asserted without warrants.

So I ask, "how do you know?"

It is sufficient for social science theory to set premises about persons,

which encompass some human beings, without adding the proposition that

only human beings are persons. Heck, some human beings may not be

persons either, such as the permanently unconscious or zygotes.

Fred Foldvary



Date: Mon, 03 Mar 1997 17:53:01 -0400

From: John Cobin <jcobin@paki.ufinis.cl>

Subject: Re: conscious versus purposeful action

Fred:

I hope one of our philosophers like Harns or Ransom has a better answer

than mine for this.

> So I ask, "how do you know?"

It is certainly true that animals have some ability to remember things

-- some extremely well. However, these are simply used to make their

existence more efficient. Animals do not ponder reality present based

on what they know about the past in order to change. In this sense,

they do not reflect. Reflection is a uniquely human phenomenon.

> Heck, some human beings may not be

> persons either, such as the permanently unconscious or zygotes.

Levels of development are not a measure of humanity. A one or even a

two year old can not care for himself with his level of development,

much more than a zygote can, yet that does not means that he is not

human. Indeed, all of them are. Reflection likewise is subject to

development, but the human condition warrants that it will normally

develop -- at least there is some expectation that it will 99.999% of

the time -- to varying degrees in each person. Humans are characterized

in this manner: that they generally develop a capacity to reflect. We

cannot say that about animals.

--

John Cobin

Profesor de Economia y Politica Publica

Universidad Finis Terrae

Av. Pedro de Valdivia 1543

Providencia, Santiago, Chile

fono +56-2-274-8084

fax +56-2-209-4135

jcobin@paki.ufinis.cl



Date: Mon, 3 Mar 1997 14:27:59 -0800 (PST)

From: GREG RANSOM <GRANSOM@ucrac1.ucr.edu>

Subject: Re: conscious versus purposeful action

There is some evidence of parts of the domain

for which we use the word 'reflection' exhibited

by at least 2 or 3 of the higher primates

other than man, and perhaps among elephants. Only

through a mistaken reification of 'Platonization'

of the use of language into 'essences' can we be mislead

into searching for psychological 'essential'

characteristics of man. Since the work of Darwin &

Wittgenstein would should have given up the folly

of this sort of Aristotelian project.



Greg Ransom

gransom@ucrac1.ucr.edu



Date: Mon, 3 Mar 1997 14:38:23 -0800 (PST)

From: GREG RANSOM <GRANSOM@ucrac1.ucr.edu>

Subject: Re: conscious versus purposeful action

A nice reality check for folks looking for human

'essences', esp. psychological ones, is Donald Griffin's

book, _Animal Minds_, Chicago: Chicago U. Press,

1992. I might also recommend some of the works of

Rosenberg and Popper on the notions of 'human nature'

or the explanatory strategy of 'essentialism', e.g.

Rosenberg's _Sociobiology and the Preemption of Social

Science_ or Popper's _The Poverty of Historicism_.

A look at some of the work of Edelman, Wittgenstein,

and Hayek might also be recommended. Of closely related

interest is John Bonner, _The Evolution of Culture in Animals_.

Jane Goodal has also written some book on the subject

of the mental life of higher primates which anyone thinking

about the subject should be familiar with. It's time

everyone moved into the late 20th century (and almost the

21st!) on this topic .. leaving the ancient notion of

the Greeks about 'human essenses' to the past, and similarly

so the 19th century incarnations of these ancient ideas.



Greg Ransom

gransom@ucrac1.ucr.edu





From: ETCHISON.GC@EMAIL.PUC.TEXAS.GOV (GC-Etchison, Michael)

Date: Mon, 03 Mar 1997 17:09 CST

Subject: Re: conscious versus purposeful action

Re: Greg Ransom's drum-thumping for purely material evolution and

anti-Aristotelian (or was it anti-Platonic?) Science:

The rhetorical strategy -- sweep away all possible dissidence by loudly

invoking the Ineffable Name of Science, so that any obstruction is

unmistakably Not Worthy of Notice -- is charming, in its way. But, alas,

there is some small sign that the tide might be turning. Anyway, for a

less-than-reverential look at the neo-hyper-Darwinist mode of thinking

about Man, take a peek into Darwin's Black Box (the book by Michael Behe,

that is).

Michael Etchison

[taking no sides]

[and not just because it's hard to see what difference it makes to the

doing of economics]

[opinions mine, not the PUCT's]





Date: Mon, 3 Mar 1997 15:51:02 -0800 (PST)

From: GREG RANSOM <GRANSOM@ucrac1.ucr.edu>

Subject: Re: conscious versus purposeful action

Actually Michael the core thrust of what i think

wrong with 'essentialism', esp. psychologistic essentialism

about man, comes from Wittgenstein and a simple

accumulation of experience with animal species other

than our own. This is not Darwinian science, this is rather

an improved understanding of language, logic, and of the

other organisms we share the earth with, available to even

anti-Darwinists (such as Wittgenstein seems to have

been, not at all typical of folks who learned what little

than new of biology prior to the modern neo-Darwinian

synthesis). The arguments of Popper are also little dependent

on an understanding of Darwinian biology (and a good thing

too, because Popper shows little sign of having understood Darwinian

theory).

Rosenberg, by contrast, does bring in some of the modern facts

we have learned from the Darwinian biologists, along with much of

what we know understand through the conceptual revolution of

the Darwinian explanatory stratgy. On all this i might also highly

recommend the essays in David Hull's outstanding _The Metaphysics

of Darwinism_, esp. his essays there on Aristotle and the 'nature' of

man. See also several of the book of Ernst Mayr which touch on

these topics, esp. his _The Growth of Biological Thought_. Both Mayr

and Hull reject much of what has been called Rosenberg's 'dogmatic

empiricism & materialism', i.e. much of Rosenberg's rather dated work

in the tradition of Mill, Hume, and Locke. A Darwinist does not

have to be a materialist or empiricist in the sense of 18th century

thinkers.

Greg Ransom

gransom@ucrac1.ucr.edu



Date: Mon, 3 Mar 1997 16:11:15 -0800 (PST)

From: Fred Foldvary <ffoldvar@jfku.edu>

Subject: Re: conscious versus purposeful action

On Mon, 3 Mar 1997, John Cobin wrote:

> It is certainly true that animals have some ability to remember things

> -- some extremely well. However, these are simply used to make their

> existence more efficient.

How is this assertion warranted?

> Animals do not ponder reality present based

> on what they know about the past in order to change.

What's the evidence?

> In this sense,

> they do not reflect. Reflection is a uniquely human phenomenon.

Again, John, you assert this, but provide no warrants, i.e.

no evidence or argument to justify it.

> > Heck, some human beings may not be

> > persons either, such as the permanently unconscious or zygotes.

>

> Levels of development are not a measure of humanity.

Agreed; but my statement above refers to personhood, not humanity.

Fred Foldvary

Date: Tue, 04 Mar 1997 10:14:23 +0800

From: Pat Gunning <gunning@cc.nchulc.edu.tw>

Subject: Re: conscious versus purposeful action



It seems to me that one item that needs to be clarified in this thread

is whether the discussion is (1) a philosophical one about the nature of

humanness, (2) a biological one about how we should classify the forms

of what we define as life, or (3) an epistemological one about the tools

one needs in order to deal with distinctly economic problems.

Without claiming that these three are necessarily unrelated, I think

that we might avoid a lot of confusion if the submitter of a post stated

at the outset which of these issues he was concerned with. Perhaps my

viewpoint on the issue is already known. I favor dealing with (3). By

distinctly economic problems, I refer to the problems raised by those

who claim that ordinary people, by their own judgment, would be better

off either (1) without private property rights and the freedom to

exchange (i.e., without the conditions of the market economy) or (2) by

using the coercive force that is necessary to enforce these rights for

some other purpose than that of establishing a market economy. Given

this inclination, it seems to me that before we can deal with the issues

that some contributors to this thread seem to regard as most

fundamental, it would be desirable to try to characterize the "action"

or "behavior" that is most relevant to understanding the outcome of (1)

interaction under the conditions of the market economy and (2) market

intervention. Are the notions of "conscious," "purposeful," action, etc.

relevant to the goal of understanding market phenomena and the effects

of market intervention?

--

Pat Gunning

http://stsvr.showtower.com.tw/~gunning/welcome

http://web.nchulc.edu.tw/~gunning/pat/welcome



Date: Tue, 04 Mar 1997 10:09:08 -0400

From: John Cobin <jcobin@paki.ufinis.cl>

Subject: Re: conscious versus purposeful action

Pat:

Your categories may be useful although they might also be blurred a bit,

especially (1) and (3).

After all, Mises does not make such a distinction in HA as you would

have liked, and it is possible that he meant more than just category

(3). Is it possible that in order to deal with this question that at

least both (1) and (3) must be addressed, and that maybe (2) becomes

unavoidable at some point?

> that we might avoid a lot of confusion if the submitter of a post stated

> at the outset which of these issues he was concerned with. Perhaps my

May I suggest that we clarify from the outset what Mises meant? That

would do well to focus our thinking in an Austrian forum.

> fundamental, it would be desirable to try to characterize the "action"

>or "behavior" that is most relevant to understanding the outcome of (1)

> interaction under the conditions of the market economy and (2) market

>intervention.Are the notions of "conscious," "purposeful," action, etc.

> relevant to the goal of understanding market phenomena and the effects

> of market intervention?

The issue of liberty is essential for sure. But tell me, who should

have liberty: humans or persons or both? If a human is unconscious or

undeveloped should he have that liberty? If animals can reflect and act

purposefully should they have liberty? How do we test for a minimum

level of reflection and purposefulness in order to emancipate those most

advanced? Fundamentally, we need to determine who can reflect or act

purosefully before we can proceed with further enonomic inquiry. Before

this thread, that question had an obvious answer for me. Now I am

challenged to see if Greg and Fred can come up a credible alternative

hypothesis.

--

John Cobin

Profesor de Economia y Politica Publica

Universidad Finis Terrae

Av. Pedro de Valdivia 1543

Providencia, Santiago, Chile

fono +56-2-274-8084

fax +56-2-209-4135

jcobin@paki.ufinis.cl



Date: Tue, 04 Mar 1997 09:52:56 -0400

From: John Cobin <jcobin@paki.ufinis.cl>

Subject: Re: conscious versus purposeful action

Fred:

> > It is certainly true that animals have some ability to remember things

> > -- some extremely well. However, these are simply used to make their

> > existence more efficient.

>

> How is this assertion warranted?

I can only assert based on my common sense observations and some

undergrad philosophy class I had 15 years ago. So I may be wrong. I

certainly do not pretend to be able to quote the littany that Ransom

can. But this is email so I might as well add a few things especially

since they make sense to me and it is likely a worthwhile discussion.

(I might add that Ransom's last comments I found less than persuasive.

Citing book titles doesn't do it for me.)

Well, the animals "learn" that certain forms of activity cause them

greater pain when practiced (e.g., dog wetting the rug gets spanked, cow

hitting electric fence gets shocked). While the animals remember these

things to make their lives more efficient, it is not a form of

reflection. Maybe Greg does have some primates that reflect, but

frankly that proposition seems very doubtful to me. Can animals really

do what men do when they reflect? To some extent that is an empirical

question and might depend on definitions.

> > Animals do not ponder reality present based

> > on what they know about the past in order to change.

>

> What's the evidence?

I have none. I have never looked for any via a scientific test either.

Do you have evidence to believe that animals do act this way? Or do you

think it is reasonable or fair to assume that they do?

> > In this sense,

> > they do not reflect. Reflection is a uniquely human phenomenon.

>

> Again, John, you assert this, but provide no warrants, i.e.

> no evidence or argument to justify it.

Conceded. I am recalling from the past something I was taught. Now my

question is, if there is no evidence for this then why do some

philosophers teach this stuff? Is their claim baseless? Is it

reasonable to assume that they have some basis for their theory? Maybe

or maybe not. I have no way to justify it and really no desire to do so

(other than via my observations noted above I suppose).

So now Fred, I am all ears. Tell me your theory and don't just be a

doubting Thomas. Let's see the facts. Or let's permit the pure

philosophers among us to get the ball rolling. (1) Is there evidence

that aver reflection extends beyond humans (that is believable anyway)

and (2)Is there purposeful action that is not human action?

>

> > > Heck, some human beings may not be

> > > persons either, such as the permanently unconscious or zygotes.

> >

> > Levels of development are not a measure of humanity.

>

> Agreed; but my statement above refers to personhood, not humanity.

Please clarify. Are you saying that a one year old is a human but not a

person? A zygote? The level of development does not affect personhood

either.

Normally, "person" is a legal term that is used to signify a human who

has natural rights that are recognized in law. I realize this is only

one way that the word can be used but it seems to be a legitimate use

for some purposes anyway. For instance, slaves in the last century were

humans but not persons in law, that is they had no right to liberty and

property, and an abridged right to life. Such a distinction was

normally made according to physical characteristics (black skin,

Chinese). Now indeed we can say that they really had those rights but

others prohibited them from exercising them. The point is that *legally*

they had not standing as persons. If you beat a slave you likely had no

penalty but if you beat a non-slave there was a penalty, and so forth.

You might declare that a zygote, a moron, or even a one year old is not

a person based on some physical or developmental characteristic, but

this could only be in some legal sense. I will contend that they are

both humans and persons.

--

John Cobin

Profesor de Economia y Politica Publica

Universidad Finis Terrae

Av. Pedro de Valdivia 1543

Providencia, Santiago, Chile

fono +56-2-274-8084

fax +56-2-209-4135

jcobin@paki.ufinis.cl



Date: Tue, 4 Mar 1997 08:33:46 -0800 (PST)

From: Fred Foldvary <ffoldvar@jfku.edu>

Subject: Re: conscious versus purposeful action



On Tue, 4 Mar 1997, John Cobin wrote:

> > > Animals do not ponder reality present based

> > > on what they know about the past in order to change.

> >

> > What's the evidence?

>

> I have none. I have never looked for any via a scientific test either.

> Do you have evidence to believe that animals do act this way? Or do you

> think it is reasonable or fair to assume that they do?

I was only asking for the warrants for your assertions.

Now my request for warrants has been challenged at its roots.

I'll be very interested in finding the lack of warrant in calling

for warranting, indeed. At any rate,

I am not making any propositions about non-human animals here,

hence I need no evidence.

It is not evident or obvious to me from casual observation

that animals do not reflect or ponder reality. The fact that

dolphins seem to have an affinity to human beings and have

helped them and not normally harmed them opens some questions.

> > > In this sense,

> > > they do not reflect. Reflection is a uniquely human phenomenon.

> >

> > Again, John, you assert this, but provide no warrants, i.e.

> > no evidence or argument to justify it.

>

> Conceded. I am recalling from the past something I was taught. Now my

> question is, if there is no evidence for this then why do some

> philosophers teach this stuff?

They, not the animals, have failed to reflect.

> Is their claim baseless?

It lacks evidence.

But now I am told that evidence is not a scientific warrant!

I'm willing to have my head turned upside down, but it will require

a good argument - first as to how to do science in the first place.

> So now Fred, I am all ears. Tell me your theory and don't just be a

> doubting Thomas.

But I *was* just being a doubting Thomas.

I have no theory, but only a proposition, that there is a threshold

beyond which the set of phenomena called {reflection, reason,

awareness, pensience, sentience, etc.} endows a living being with

qualities that make it a person, a being that basis its action

on purposeful choice (if that antiquated notion still makes sense).

As to what species fit the criteria for personhood, I have no

special knowledge; I only ask for warrants for those who claim

that non-human beings do not fit the criteria.

> > > > Heck, some human beings may not be

> > > > persons either, such as the permanently unconscious or zygotes.

> > >

> > > Levels of development are not a measure of humanity.

> >

> > Agreed; but my statement above refers to personhood, not humanity.

>

> Please clarify. Are you saying that a one year old is a human but not a

> person? A zygote? The level of development does not affect personhood

> either.

I think it is reasonable to define as one criterion for personhood

the existence of a functioning mind. In that case, a one-year-old

human being is a person, but not a zygote. So the level of development

does affect personhood; a person can also change into a non-person.

> Normally, "person" is a legal term that is used to signify a human who

> has natural rights that are recognized in law.

So normally, law does recognize that we have natural rights?

Is this a standard, common belief among legal scholars?

> You might declare that a zygote, a moron, or even a one year old is not

> a person based on some physical or developmental characteristic, but

> this could only be in some legal sense. I will contend that they are

> both humans and persons.

>

It is not a matter of declaring, but determining the meaning of

concepts, and crafting definitions to fit those meanings, and

then seeing what items fit the definitions.

First we need to determine what personhood means.

This is important for economics, since the class of agents

studied consists of persons.

Fred Foldvary



Date: Tue, 04 Mar 1997 18:00:39 -0400

From: John Cobin <jcobin@paki.ufinis.cl>

Subject: Re: conscious versus purposeful action

Fred:

> I am not making any propositions about non-human animals here,

> hence I need no evidence.

So then you will not contend that animals can reflect? You will be

agnostic on this point? You point is just that we cannot say because we

cannot know?

> It is not evident or obvious to me from casual observation

> that animals do not reflect or ponder reality. The fact that

> dolphins seem to have an affinity to human beings and have

> helped them and not normally harmed them opens some questions.

Have you been watching those Jaques Cousteau nature shows lately? Dogs

interact with humans too. So do all animals at some level. The fact

that some show "affinity" hardly means much does it? Is that how you

want to judge whether an animal can reflect?

> They, not the animals, have failed to reflect.

This is a little funny but very doubtful to me. You have just tried to

overturn a widespread belief with a joke. They are scholars, and the

least we can do until we see evidence to the contrary is to believe that

they have some logical or empirical rationale backing their statements.

> I'm willing to have my head turned upside down, but it will require

> a good argument - first as to how to do science in the first place.

Science is not just empirical studies Fred, and I think you don't need

me to tell you that. We can even use absurd assumptions to make little

models if they help us learn something or best explain and predict

something in the real world. It all can be science.

> I have no theory, but only a proposition, that there is a threshold

> beyond which the set of phenomena called {reflection, reason,

> awareness, pensience, sentience, etc.} endows a living being with

> qualities that make it a person, a being that basis its action

Well, propositions or hypotheses usually start with some observation or

point of reflection that makes you question something. So what is it

that generated your proposition? Have you evidence of animals

reflecting or do you have some theory that you have been thinking of

that led you to believe such a thing? Are you just doubting for the

sake of doubting? If you have no good reason to reject the theories on

reflection then why not accept them like we do for so many other things

in life?

> I think it is reasonable to define as one criterion for personhood

> the existence of a functioning mind. In that case, a one-year-old

> human being is a person, but not a zygote. So the level of

I don't think this is very "reasonable" unless *I* get to set the

standard for what is the mening of "the existence of a functioning

mind". This is a subjective thing. Statist idealogues would have liked

to take away personhood from retarded people, embryos, terminally

(mentally) ill, etc. Furthermore, let's consider a newborn, say 1

minute old. Does he/she have "the existence of a functioning mind" more

than he/she did 2 minutes ago? I think not. So your arbitrary

distinction is not very credible.

Moreover, does a newborn display "purposeful" human action and things

like the capacity to reflect in sufficient measure (1) to be considered

objects for economic analysis and (2) a person? Would you say that a

dolphin displays more affinity than a newborn?

Your measure is very dubious and arbitrary.

> > has natural rights that are recognized in law.

>

> So normally, law does recognize that we have natural rights?

> Is this a standard, common belief among legal scholars?

Is there a "normal" in law? In a Hayekian sense marginal change is

normal. Comparatively, law is very mutable and capricious across

cultures, epecially those characterized by Mises as displaying

"predatory militarism" (HA, 499-500). But there is some common respect

for life among most people, and to a lesser extent for property and

liberty, that permits societies to function. Of course governments

typically stand in oppostion to natural rights of individuals, but we

must not confound law, which is a market outcome of a social process,

with governments and their legislation.

> It is not a matter of declaring, but determining the meaning of

> concepts, and crafting definitions to fit those meanings, and

> then seeing what items fit the definitions.

Sure, but you have not clarified anything. Just the opposite; and your

statements read more like declarations than determinations from reason.

> First we need to determine what personhood means.

> This is important for economics, since the class of agents

> studied consists of persons.

OK. From my perspective, all humans are persons and no animals are

persons. The essential quality of pesonage is the ability to reflect or

the potential to develop the ability to reflect (even when unlikely due

to a disability) or being someone who used to be able to reflect. This

is often but not always reflected in language. Legal ideas of what

persons are is irrelevant for economics, and we must not arbitrarily

judge certain humans to be non-persons based on subjective criteria like

levels of "affinity" toward humans or somebody's opinion about "the

existence of a functioning mind".

--

John Cobin

Profesor de Economia y Politica Publica

Universidad Finis Terrae

Av. Pedro de Valdivia 1543

Providencia, Santiago, Chile

fono +56-2-274-8084

fax +56-2-209-4135

jcobin@paki.ufinis.cl



Date: Mon, 3 Mar 1997 18:20:47 -0700

From: harms@hackvan.com (T. B. Harms)

Subject: action, reflection, tension between frameworks

This discussion seems to be bordering on a food-fight, guys. <g>

John Cobin, I enjoyed your directing attention to the ability to reflect.

I agree that what we've learned to call "human action" could not be

isolated from the capacity to reflect. You write: "It seems to me that

while consciousness is not the focal point as you said, reflection might be

the central feature." This may fine and dandy so long as we keep a couple

of things in mind. First, that we would invite the same problem we found

with consciousness if we attempt to qualify *specific modes of mind or

body* as reflection or reflective. (Here applies Greg's call for avoiding

the temptation of essentialist reification.) Second, that this talk of

reflection is primarily a change of labels. I happen to *like* the change;

the all-so-Austrian phrase "human action" doesn't travel well beyond the

ghetto. But speaking of reflection leaves unexplained what makes

reflection special.

Fred Foldvary, I entirely agree that "It is sufficient for social science

theory to set premises about persons, which encompass some human beings,

without adding the proposition that only human beings are persons." The

thing we're interested in here is orthogonal to questions of species.

However, I must warn that the matter under discussion does not

automatically carry over into ethics.

I'm probably not the only one who sees resumed in this discussion a

particular morality dispute between Fred and John. On that matter I just

want to say that matters of ethics (such as rights) are not mechanical

consequences of resolving questions such as reflective intentionality,

although it is likewise easy to understand why no faction wants to let

another seize what might serve as a moral high ground. Please, let none of

us be too quick in extending any of these ideas, without critical

examination, into policy conclusions.

Michael Etchison, I'm glad you announced that "it's hard to see what

difference it makes to the doing of economics." I will attempt to address

that more explicitly, soon, and hope I'm not alone in doing so.

But I do hope you'll take a bit more thoughtful patience with the ways of

thinking Greg has been pointing us to. Unstudied dismissals of these ideas

are, after all, precisely the sort of things which drives Mr. Ransom to the

limits of his temper. From my own intellectual past I would like to

volunteer that there really is a very different theoretical framework here,

and not only is it an impressive improvement, it is damn difficult to

learn. (I tend to think of myself as retarded for having floundered for so

many years in pursuit of pipe-dreams such as ontological axioms and

categorical absolutes. Then again, having pushed so hard for those things

may have earned me a stronger understanding of their inadequacy.)

One thing which makes Austrian economics so compelling to me (and, I

suspect, to Greg) is that it provides something of a microcosm of the

tension between frameworks just spoken of. It is important to not

overemphasize this tension, and I appreciate the work of scholars such as

Boettke and Cubeddu who have identified important continuities across the

Austrian field. Yet to my mind the watershed between foundationalism and

fallibilism is of vital importance, and the fact that Austrian advocates

are self-consciously arrayed on both sides of this divide make things

extraordinarily interesting.

So I naturally conclude with an expression of dismay over Fred's demands

for positive reasons: "How is this assertion warranted?" ... "What's the

evidence?" ... "Again, John, you assert this, but provide no warrants,

i.e. no evidence or argument to justify it." Fred, you and I are

diametrically opposed on this one. None of these things are necessary in

proposing or defending any theory. For today I make no effort to do more

than note the difference; I merely want everybody to see that this dispute

looms large again and again.

Undoubtedly the divergence between Mises and Hayek has been overplayed in

the soap-opera aspects of foundations, fundings, and academic departments;

undoubtedly the coherence between their work is not to be forgotten.

Nevertheless, the disagreement in question will not be successfully swept

under the rug. This dispute is, in fact, a big deal, and although it is

philosophical in its breadth, it is directly applicable to economics.

Mises and Hayek were in full agreement that answers in philosophy shape

questions in economics.



Tracy Bruce Harms

harms@hackvan.com



Date: Mon, 3 Mar 1997 20:20:54 -0800 (PST)

From: GREG RANSOM <GRANSOM@ucrac1.ucr.edu>

Subject: RE: action, reflection, tension between frameworks

I want to second Tracy's endorsement of the utility of the

notion of 'reflection', and i'd like to apologize if in my directness

is appear to have displayed bad temper .. really i was only being

very quick & to the point, not taking the time to sugercoat my

perspective on the matter of 'essentialism'. In fact, i have introduced

the distinction of deliberative and non-deliberative choice borrowed

from Larry Wright, and judging from some recent work in Austrian economics

this vocabulary and distinction seems to be gaining some legs. (Larry

Wright, "Argument and Deliberation: A Plea for Understanding", _J. of

Philosophy_, Nov. 1995, pp. 565-585.) My own plea is that these sorts of

important insights into useful distinctions not be reified into

essentialistic notions, e.g. such as giving some sort of conceptual

analysis of 'the human', ala Aristotle -- this way leads us backwards

and not forwards, it is both bad logic & bad science, and it is not

required by economics, pace what Mises sometimes seems to imply (although

Mises manages to say so much in so many ways it is hard to definitively

pin him down).



Greg Ransom

gransom@ucrac1.ucr.edu



Date: Mon, 3 Mar 1997 21:57:49 -0700

From: harms@hackvan.com (T. B. Harms)

Subject: RE: action, reflection, tension between frameworks

Let me hereby apologize for volunteering comments which indicated that Greg

was ill-tempered when in fact he was not. I suppose I partly had in mind

the paragraph Greg wrote in September in a message entitled "Darwin,

natural selection, evolution", which bears repeating:



>As a public service, I'd like to recommend some books

>and articles on Darwin, selection, and evolution.

>I do this out of frustration with the low-grade quality

>of discussions of 'evolution' when the topic turns to

>economics, or the work of Friedrich Hayek. The level of

>'evolutionary' argument in the social sciences is so

>bad so often, and especially in the context of the discussion

>of the work of Hayek, that I constantly find myself wanting

>to throw books out the window, out of sheer bewilderment and

>utter frustration with argumentative and intellectual nonsense.



Your exasperation is not a fault, Greg.

Also, I look forward to looking into Michael Behe's book. My thanks to

Michael Etchison for bringing it to our attention.



Date: Tue, 04 Mar 1997 10:33:25 -0400

From: John Cobin <jcobin@paki.ufinis.cl>

Subject: Re: action, reflection, tension between frameworks

Tracy:

A very thoughful reply and I especially appreciate the reminder that

economics must be informed by philosophy. Austrians above all

economists should be aware of this fact. I also appreciate the warning

against crass empiricism or positivistic demands that you sensed in

Fred's comments.

> This discussion seems to be bordering on a food-fight, guys. <g>

> I'm probably not the only one who sees resumed in this discussion a

> particular morality dispute between Fred and John. On that matter I

I'm not sure what Fred thinks or what Tracy means exactly, but I am not

aware of a "morality dispute" between Fred and I nor is it a "food

fight" in my view. The fact of the matter is that I kind of like Fred;

he is an interesting person to talk to.

> isolated from the capacity to reflect. You write: "It seems to me that

> while consciousness is not the focal point as you said, reflection might be

> the central feature." This may fine and dandy so long as we keep a couple

> of things in mind. First, that we would invite the same problem we found

> with consciousness if we attempt to qualify *specific modes of mind or

> body* as reflection or reflective. (Here applies Greg's call for avoiding

> the temptation of essentialist reification.) Second, that this talk of

> reflection is primarily a change of labels. I happen to *like* the change;

> the all-so-Austrian phrase "human action" doesn't travel well beyond the

> ghetto. But speaking of reflection leaves unexplained what makes

> reflection special.

OK, I concur with this thinking so then what route do we take to figure

it out? Or is it too big for us to do?

> want to say that matters of ethics (such as rights) are not mechanical

> consequences of resolving questions such as reflective intentionality,

> although it is likewise easy to understand why no faction wants to let

> another seize what might serve as a moral high ground.

Indeed, these questions are fundamental to our quest it seems to me. We

must have some resolve on what purposeful action is and who or what can

do it. Then we can address issues of liberty like Pat suggests. We

have to know something about "reflective intentionality" first, or at

least accept an assumption about it or maybe pursue dual paradigms based

on two different assumptions.

> are self-consciously arrayed on both sides of this divide make things

> extraordinarily interesting.

Indeed!

> So I naturally conclude with an expression of dismay over Fred's demands

> for positive reasons: "How is this assertion warranted?" ... "What's

Yeah, a lot of economics is empirically based but there is no reason to

say that we cannot argue philosophical assertions with logic to hone the

core of economic theory. Fred, you might have one a bit overboard on

this one.

--

John Cobin

Profesor de Economia y Politica Publica

Universidad Finis Terrae

Av. Pedro de Valdivia 1543

Providencia, Santiago, Chile

fono +56-2-274-8084

fax +56-2-209-4135

jcobin@paki.ufinis.cl



Date: Tue, 4 Mar 1997 10:39:39 -0800 (PST)

From: GREG RANSOM <GRANSOM@ucrac1.ucr.edu>

Subject: Re: conscious versus purposeful action

Let me just say quickly that i don't view conversation as

solely concerned with persuasion -- persuasion is one of the

rarer froms of converstation. Most conversation is simply

informative -- or points others to alternative perspectives if

they have any interest.

Outside the primates there is a great deal to suggest

that elephants are reflective in a whole variety of different

ways in which we use this word. There was a recent book

on this subject (which I have only flipped through) .. but

this evidence has been widely reported on PBS type programs on

the elephants of africa.





Greg Ransom

gransom@ucrac1.ucr.edu



Date: Tue, 04 Mar 1997 18:14:05 -0400

From: John Cobin <jcobin@paki.ufinis.cl>

Subject: Re: conscious versus purposeful action

Greg:

Are you saying then that reflection that leads to persausion is

different than reflection that only leads to conversation (information)

and that the former exists in humans and the latter in both humans and

animals? Plus that only the former can be used as a dividing point for

determining who are the proper economic actors?

--

John Cobin

Profesor de Economia y Politica Publica

Universidad Finis Terrae

Av. Pedro de Valdivia 1543

Providencia, Santiago, Chile

fono +56-2-274-8084

fax +56-2-209-4135

jcobin@paki.ufinis.cl



Date: Tue, 4 Mar 1997 10:45:53 -0800 (PST)

From: GREG RANSOM <GRANSOM@ucrac1.ucr.edu>

Subject: Re: conscious versus purposeful action

John writes "we need to determine who can reflect or

act purposefully before we can proceed with further economic

inquiry". This is true only due to the fact that Mises

has confused the explanatory problem of economics under the

influence of Weber's confused idea of a 'science of man'

or a 'science of action'. If you look like Hayek & Menger &

Smith & Hume instead at a problem raising in our experience

found in undesigned social order, the need to uses essentialistic/

Aristotilean criteria to define 'man' or 'action' falls away --

and along with it a lot of philosophical baggage that looks like

bad logic and science from the perspective of developments in

these fields over the last 200 years (e.g. Darwin & Wittgenstein,

among others).



Greg Ransom

gransom@ucrac1.ucr.edu



Date: Tue, 04 Mar 1997 18:07:33 -0400

From: John Cobin <jcobin@paki.ufinis.cl>

Subject: Re: conscious versus purposeful action

Greg:

I respect this point you make.

However, let's consider further that this issue of Mises is not

tangential. I might be willing to assert, upon further reflection, that

the entire Misesian argument rests on the action axiom as it stands. By

modifying it as you would have us do you might as well toss Austrian

economics. Maybe that is what is needed.

Alternatively, we might toss more modern advances in favor of Weberian

'science of man' or a 'science of action'.

A third alternative, which suits me best, is to find some commonality

between them and keep Misesian language while modifying its

interpretation somewhat, which is precisely the objective of this

thread. Ideally, we can throw out the "baggage" of the last 200 years

along the way. Conformity to the status quo is not necessarily an

advance so we need to always be self-critical in our analysis as you

well know.

--

John Cobin

Profesor de Economia y Politica Publica

Universidad Finis Terrae

Av. Pedro de Valdivia 1543

Providencia, Santiago, Chile

fono +56-2-274-8084

fax +56-2-209-4135

jcobin@paki.ufinis.cl





Date: Wed, 05 Mar 1997 14:35:37 +0800

From: Pat Gunning <gunning@cc.nchulc.edu.tw>

Subject: Re: conscious versus purposeful action

John Cobin wrote:

>

> Pat:

>

> If we are going to try to simplify our analysis here, we must deal with

> the foundational issues. I take it that reflection, knowledge, and

> consciousness are different things. But when we consider things like

> Hayek's notion of "tacit knowledge" we run into a mixture of the three

> to some extent.

John, I wonder how you would fit your analysis into Mises's framework.

As you remind us, this debate seems to have been kicked off by

controversial passages in Chapter 1 of _Human Action_, which we referred

to in the Human Action Study Group. In other words, I wonder whether you

can find any defects, as Greg seems to, in Mises's treatment of the

equivalent of "reflection, knowledge, and consciousness." Or does your

treatment correspond to his. Tracy's analysis fits in where Mises points

out that "man emerges from his prehuman existence already as a social

being."(1966, Ch. 2, p. 43) Of course, if you think your analysis goes

beyond Mises or that Mises's discussion of these issues is inadequate or

incomplete, this would be inappropriate. Otherwise, it might be helpful.

--

Pat Gunning

http://stsvr.showtower.com.tw/~gunning/welcome

http://web.nchulc.edu.tw/~gunning/pat/welcome



Date: Wed, 05 Mar 1997 09:31:58 -0400

From: John Cobin <jcobin@paki.ufinis.cl>

Subject: Re: conscious versus purposeful action

Pat:

As I said last time, Misesian analysis need not be at loggerheads

completely with Hayekian theories. We can indeed use Mises as a basis

and make marginal improvements. In my view it is a detraction from

Misesian advance to confound men and human action with animals. Let's

try the following:

1. Social science exists to explain and sometimes predict social

problems caused by individual human action. This is the object.

2. Men are capable of pursuing such inquiry since they have reflective

capacity, and because we take as given the axiom that all action is

purposeful.

3. Within this broad category of action we can improve the paradigm by

including at least 2 or maybe 3 categories of knowledge - conscious or

not - that men and scientists use to improve their state of affairs.

One is what is normally thought of a knowledge and the other is Hayekian

tacit knowledge.

4. Then we can consider institutions and how men find efficient means to

achieve their purposeful ends.

> can find any defects, as Greg seems to, in Mises's treatment of the

> equivalent of "reflection, knowledge, and consciousness." Or does your

> treatment correspond to his. Tracy's analysis fits in where Mises points

> out that "man emerges from his prehuman existence already as a social

> being."(1966, Ch. 2, p. 43)

The neo-Darwinian stuff is in my view, and obviously others on this

list, irrelevant. What matters is that men reflect and purpose and want

answers from science. I concur with much of what Tracy and Greg have

said, but the detraction into social biology is of negative value as I

have said.

--

John Cobin

Profesor de Economia y Politica Publica

Universidad Finis Terrae

Av. Pedro de Valdivia 1543

Providencia, Santiago, Chile

fono +56-2-274-8084

fax +56-2-209-4135

jcobin@paki.ufinis.cl



Date: Tue, 4 Mar 1997 11:03:20 -0800 (PST)

From: GREG RANSOM <GRANSOM@ucrac1.ucr.edu>

Subject: Re: conscious versus purposeful action

We are discussing hard things, and misunderstanding is not to

be unexpected when doing so. So I don't fault Pat for reading an

position into my remarks which i don't hold. I really DON'T

hold a continumm view of the relation between knowledge of what

Pat calls 'social biology' [not sure in any case what this is -- a

whole cluster of things i'd guess] and the explanation of the

undesigned order of the market. The confusion here might be caused

by what seems to be Pat's assumption that i think it if coherent

to construct what Pat calls a 'theory of conscious interaction' --

this is a picture from Mises that I reject as the basis of explaining

the undesigned order of the market. I.e. Pat is begging the question in

his characterization of the task, the problem, and of my own view of

the matter. I say this directly only to be clear. In the explanation

of the undersigned order of the market there are explanatory factors

that include a great many different human abilities and skills and ways

of doing -- some reflective (e.g. planning) and many not (routine

calculation is NOT reflective, for example -- also negatively constrained

rules of behavior are often followed WITHOUT reflectince, etc.). On

the primacy of automatic ways of doing things i might again recommend

reading some Wittgenstein, e.g. his _Remarks on the Foundations of

Mathematics_, or his _Philosophical Investigations_.



Greg Ransom

gransom@ucrac1.ucr.edu

http://members.aol.com/gregransom/hayekpage.htm



Date: Tue, 04 Mar 1997 18:17:13 -0400

From: John Cobin <jcobin@paki.ufinis.cl>

Subject: Re: conscious versus purposeful action

Greg:

> that include a great many different human abilities and skills and ways

> of doing -- some reflective (e.g. planning) and many not (routine

> calculation is NOT reflective, for example -- also negatively constrained

> rules of behavior are often followed WITHOUT reflectince, etc.). On

I am not sure about this, as I noted in a previous post. I amy well be

that routine is simply the efficient institutionalization of some things

based on past reflection -- so it si ultimately reflective too.

--

John Cobin

Profesor de Economia y Politica Publica

Universidad Finis Terrae

Av. Pedro de Valdivia 1543

Providencia, Santiago, Chile

fono +56-2-274-8084

fax +56-2-209-4135

jcobin@paki.ufinis.cl





From: "Rosser Jr, John Barkley" <rosserjb@jmu.edu>

Subject: Re: conscious versus purposeful action

Date: Tue, 4 Mar 1997 14:29:32 -0500 ()

Well, I guess I'll buy into Greg's argument that there

is a spectrum here, but with the proviso that there can be

critical points on the spectrum, where, uh, dialectically

there can be a quantitative change leading to a qualitative

change, that is some very big changes in the nature of

consciousness or purposiveness, etc., if I haven't stepped

on too many toes with that "etc.", :-).

In any case I would note some serious evidence of

self-awareness, language ability, and purposiveness, at

least among "higher" primates. Thus, chimpanzees are

apparently able to recognize themselves in a mirror, in

contrast to, say, cats, who apparently think the image is

another cat.

I have just been reading a book from the library to my

seven-year old daughter, "Koko's Kitten" about a real life

situation where people in California are teaching gorillas

sign language. Koko knows about 500 words and appears to

have fairly substantive "conversations" with humans. The

book was about Koko wanting a cat after having had "Puss in

Boots" and "The Three Little Kittens" read to her. When

her cat died she expressed sorrow and was very happy to get

a new one. Well, one never knows what is really going on

here (there were some pretty convincing photos of Koko with

and without her cats in the book), but it sure looks like

at least some kind of "primitive" consciousness and

purposiveness, albeit at a much "lower" level than we homo

homo sapiens pride ourselves on exhibiting.

Barkley Rosser

On Tue, 4 Mar 1997 08:33:46 -0800 (PST) Fred Foldvary

<ffoldvar@jfku.edu> wrote:



> On Tue, 4 Mar 1997, John Cobin wrote:

>

> > > > Animals do not ponder reality present based

> > > > on what they know about the past in order to change.

> > >

> > > What's the evidence?

> >

> > I have none. I have never looked for any via a scientific test either.

> > Do you have evidence to believe that animals do act this way? Or do you

> > think it is reasonable or fair to assume that they do?

>

> I was only asking for the warrants for your assertions.

> Now my request for warrants has been challenged at its roots.

> I'll be very interested in finding the lack of warrant in calling

> for warranting, indeed. At any rate,

> I am not making any propositions about non-human animals here,

> hence I need no evidence.

> It is not evident or obvious to me from casual observation

> that animals do not reflect or ponder reality. The fact that

> dolphins seem to have an affinity to human beings and have

> helped them and not normally harmed them opens some questions.

>

> > > > In this sense,

> > > > they do not reflect. Reflection is a uniquely human phenomenon.

> > >

> > > Again, John, you assert this, but provide no warrants, i.e.

> > > no evidence or argument to justify it.

> >

> > Conceded. I am recalling from the past something I was taught. Now my

> > question is, if there is no evidence for this then why do some

> > philosophers teach this stuff?

>

> They, not the animals, have failed to reflect.

>

> > Is their claim baseless?

>

> It lacks evidence.

> But now I am told that evidence is not a scientific warrant!

> I'm willing to have my head turned upside down, but it will require

> a good argument - first as to how to do science in the first place.

>

> > So now Fred, I am all ears. Tell me your theory and don't just be a

> > doubting Thomas.

>

> But I *was* just being a doubting Thomas.

> I have no theory, but only a proposition, that there is a threshold

> beyond which the set of phenomena called {reflection, reason,

> awareness, pensience, sentience, etc.} endows a living being with

> qualities that make it a person, a being that basis its action

> on purposeful choice (if that antiquated notion still makes sense).

> As to what species fit the criteria for personhood, I have no

> special knowledge; I only ask for warrants for those who claim

> that non-human beings do not fit the criteria.

>

> > > > > Heck, some human beings may not be

> > > > > persons either, such as the permanently unconscious or zygotes.

> > > >

> > > > Levels of development are not a measure of humanity.

> > >

> > > Agreed; but my statement above refers to personhood, not humanity.

> >

> > Please clarify. Are you saying that a one year old is a human but not a

> > person? A zygote? The level of development does not affect personhood

> > either.

>

> I think it is reasonable to define as one criterion for personhood

> the existence of a functioning mind. In that case, a one-year-old

> human being is a person, but not a zygote. So the level of development

> does affect personhood; a person can also change into a non-person.

>

> > Normally, "person" is a legal term that is used to signify a human who

> > has natural rights that are recognized in law.

>

> So normally, law does recognize that we have natural rights?

> Is this a standard, common belief among legal scholars?

>

> > You might declare that a zygote, a moron, or even a one year old is not

> > a person based on some physical or developmental characteristic, but

> > this could only be in some legal sense. I will contend that they are

> > both humans and persons.

> >

> It is not a matter of declaring, but determining the meaning of

> concepts, and crafting definitions to fit those meanings, and

> then seeing what items fit the definitions.

> First we need to determine what personhood means.

> This is important for economics, since the class of agents

> studied consists of persons.

>

> Fred Foldvary

>

--

Rosser Jr, John Barkley

rosserjb@jmu.edu



Date: Tue, 04 Mar 1997 18:20:58 -0400

From: John Cobin <jcobin@paki.ufinis.cl>

Subject: Re: conscious versus purposeful action

Rosser:

All these animal stories are starting to make this thread a bit inane.

Do animals really reflect and economize on data and other stuff in a

purposeful way that makes them proper objects for economic inquiry? Or

are these attributes unique to humans and thus form a key component of

our capacities and actions?

--

John Cobin

Profesor de Economia y Politica Publica

Universidad Finis Terrae

Av. Pedro de Valdivia 1543

Providencia, Santiago, Chile

fono +56-2-274-8084

fax +56-2-209-4135

jcobin@paki.ufinis.cl



From: "Rosser Jr, John Barkley" <rosserjb@jmu.edu>

To: AustrianECON@agoric.com

Date: Tue, 4 Mar 1997 16:43:00 -0500 ()

John,

Well, there is by now a rather large literature on

experiments with animals, most of them of much "lower"

levels of intelligence, reflection, conscious

purposiveness, etc., that nevertheless shows them engaging

in at least elements of economizing behavior, including

even exhibiting downward-sloping demand curves, defined in

a broad way. I have some problems with that literature,

but it is quite extensive and growing. It might suggest

that "economizing" can occur without consciousness.

As for the inanity of the animal stories, well, I

don't know. I'm not sure what the agenda here is, as there

seems to be some sort of hidden one poking its head up in

this particular discussion. I have already made it clear

that I think there is good evidence for there being a

spectrum of

consciousness/intelligence/self-awareness/reflection/purposiveness

or whatever. I think we can see this within humans

ourselves with our continuous IQ measures that may

nevertheless be connected with discontinuous qualitative

differences among the intellectual capabilities and

functionings of different people. That there is not

unreasonable evidence of elements of conscious thought and

reflective memory (there is a lot of the latter in "Koko's

Kitten" that I did not describe in my previous post) going

well beyond the mere "affinity with humans" of dogs, etc.,

I see as simply reinforcing the general point already given.

Barkley Rosser

On Tue, 04 Mar 1997 18:20:58 -0400 John Cobin

<jcobin@paki.ufinis.cl> wrote:



> Rosser:

>

> All these animal stories are starting to make this thread a bit inane.

>

> Do animals really reflect and economize on data and other stuff in a

> purposeful way that makes them proper objects for economic inquiry? Or

> are these attributes unique to humans and thus form a key component of

> our capacities and actions?

>

> --

> John Cobin

> Profesor de Economia y Politica Publica

> Universidad Finis Terrae

> Av. Pedro de Valdivia 1543

> Providencia, Santiago, Chile

> fono +56-2-274-8084

> fax +56-2-209-4135

> jcobin@paki.ufinis.cl

--

Rosser Jr, John Barkley

rosserjb@jmu.edu



From: ETCHISON.GC@EMAIL.PUC.TEXAS.GOV (GC-Etchison, Michael)

Date: Tue, 04 Mar 1997 15:46 CST

Subject: Re: conscious versus purposeful action

John Cobin 3/4 asks:

> Do animals really reflect and economize on data and other stuff in a

purposeful way that makes them proper objects for economic inquiry? Or

are these attributes unique to humans and thus form a key component of

our capacities and actions?

Is anyone out there wanting to do The Economic Life of Squirrels? If

not, what difference does it make whether "person" or "consciousness" or

"intention" is defined in such a way as to include/exclude squirrels or

fetuses or tornadoes? For that matter, what economic principle requires

that "conscious" be defined _for all purposes_ so as to include/be

identical to/exclude "purposeful"? I agree that Actor A's decision to

buy X instead of Y may have rested on a set of

impulses/reasons/principles which vary widely in explicitness, coherence,

and calculability. I agree that a model which speaks of that decision as

a "purposeful" "action" may not square with our ordinary usage of those

words. I would suggest only that our efforts might better be directed

toward making our definitions-for-this-purpose explicit, rather than in

wrangling about first principles and "real" definitions and so forth.

Michael Etchison

[opinions mine, not the PUCT's]





Date: Tue, 4 Mar 1997 13:55:30 -0800 (PST)

From: GREG RANSOM <GRANSOM@ucrac1.ucr.edu>

Subject: Re: conscious versus purposeful action

I don't associate 'Austrian economics' exclusively

with Mises's 'praxeology' or his 'action axiom' -- in

fact i think Austrain economics is better off without

much of this Misesian stuff. The difficulty is that so

much of what is most valuable in Mises is articulated

in a mish-mash of languages -- much of it contaminated by

what i don't see as either necessary or sound, i.e.

a good deal of his discussion of 'praxeology' and his

effort to ground economics on his so-called 'action axiom'.



Greg Ransom

gransom@ucrac1.ucr.edu



Date: Tue, 4 Mar 1997 13:57:58 -0800 (PST)

From: GREG RANSOM <GRANSOM@ucrac1.ucr.edu>

Subject: Re: conscious versus purposeful action

It is also worth mentioning that bono bono chimps (sp?)

have been observed to exchange fruit for sex (the 'oldest

profession'). Truck and barter has also occured in

the interactions between humans and some of the higher

primates. So even Smith's famous criteria doesn't offer

a clear cut demarcation between men and other primates.



greg Ransom

gransom@ucrac1.ucr.edu



Date: Tue, 04 Mar 1997 19:26:23 -0400

From: John Cobin <jcobin@paki.ufinis.cl>

Subject: Re: conscious versus purposeful action

OK Greg, so then are we going to elevate some animal actions to the

level of human action as purposeful and reflective and thus a proper

object of economic analysis? Or are we simply saying that man acts just

a bit more rationally and reflectively and purposefully than animals?

Frankily, despite all these scientific observations that have been

noted, I have serious doubts about the credibility of claims that

animals have such capacities or tendencies. Human action differs from

animal action. But from what you say it does not so much(?). So tell

me, what makes humans different and dominant and reflective and whatever

else? We are after all different from animals in many ways: war,

relationships, scholarship, etc. I am still satisfied that reflection

is the qualitative difference that makes human action purposeful. I am

not sure where your reasoning is leading other than to make a pitch for

chucking old-fashioned and Aristotelian modes of viewing the nature of

man.

--

John Cobin

Profesor de Economia y Politica Publica

Universidad Finis Terrae

Av. Pedro de Valdivia 1543

Providencia, Santiago, Chile

fono +56-2-274-8084

fax +56-2-209-4135

jcobin@paki.ufinis.cl



Date: Tue, 4 Mar 1997 14:01:38 -0800 (PST)

From: GREG RANSOM <GRANSOM@ucrac1.ucr.edu>

Subject: Re: conscious versus purposeful action

I don't think John that definitions are what we usually

rely on for the appropriate use of language .. much of this

is automatic, and in fact definitions are secondary to

automatic & embodied ways of doing things, of using language.

Paradigm examples are even primary over constructed definitions.

Again on all this (for those who want to check out the

alternative) i would recommend the work of Wittgenstein & Kuhn.



Greg Ransom

gransom@ucrac1.ucr.edu



Date: Tue, 4 Mar 1997 14:08:19 -0800 (PST)

From: GREG RANSOM <GRANSOM@ucrac1.ucr.edu>

Subject: Re: conscious versus purposeful action

Gordon Tullock has applied the utility calculus to ants -- he

totally anthropomorphizes these ants, and finds them completely

appropriate 'objects for economic inquiry'. To repeat, i think this

notion of the 'proper object of economic inquiry' is completely

mistaken -- a mistake tracable back to Weber and his influence on Mises --

which moved to London and Chicago in the persons of Robbins, Becker,

and others. The individual is NOT the explanatory problem in economics,

contrary to the mistake picture of so much of the currenct economics

profession -- undesigned order in society raises the empirical/scientific

problem to be explained. Sciences are identifiable in terms of

PROBLEMs, not domains or objects -- Popper and Hayek are very helpful

on this (as is Kuhn and others). Mises, under the influence of

Weber, has miss characterized the problem and task of economics -- and

the influence of this mistake is everywhere to be seen in contemporary

economics, found in Samuelson, Becker, Buchanan, and hundreds of

others.



Greg Ransom

gransom@ucrac1.ucr.edu





Date: Tue, 4 Mar 1997 14:28:19 -0800 (PST)

From: Fred Foldvary <ffoldvar@jfku.edu>

Subject: Re: conscious versus purposeful action

On Tue, 4 Mar 1997, John Cobin wrote:

> Fred:

> > I am not making any propositions about non-human animals here,

> > hence I need no evidence.

>

> So then you will not contend that animals can reflect? You will be

> agnostic on this point? You point is just that we cannot say because we

> cannot know?

I don't claim we cannot know; I only said you have no warrant for

your own statement. As I said, I am not making any propositions

here on the abilities of non-human animals.

> > It is not evident or obvious to me from casual observation

> > that animals do not reflect or ponder reality. The fact that

> > dolphins seem to have an affinity to human beings and have

> > helped them and not normally harmed them opens some questions.

>

> Have you been watching those Jaques Cousteau nature shows lately? Dogs

> interact with humans too. So do all animals at some level. The fact

> that some show "affinity" hardly means much does it? Is that how you

> want to judge whether an animal can reflect?

I don't know how much affinity means, and what it implies for reflection.

I'm only pointing out possibilities for purposeful action and

reflection among non-human animals, as others here have indicated for

elephants and primates.

> > They, not the animals, have failed to reflect.

>

> This is a little funny but very doubtful to me. You have just tried to

> overturn a widespread belief with a joke. They are scholars, and the

> least we can do until we see evidence to the contrary is to believe that

> they have some logical or empirical rationale backing their statements.

I have read the proposition by philosophers and social scientists

often that animals cannot reason, reflect, be self-aware, act

purposively rather than by instinct, etc. Theologians or religious

writers make such claims frequently also. But I have never read

any warrant - argument, evidence - for such propositions.

It is always asserted. So I say, seriously, do these writers

reflect on this or regurgitate what others have said?

I can't believe they have logical or empirical rationale if they

don't provide it or point to it.

> Have you evidence of animals reflecting?

Yes, my own reflection. Beyond that I only have interpretive

understanding (Verstehen). This is more warranted for human

beings than for other animals, since they are more like me, but

lack of warrants does itself not warrant opposite conclusions.

> Are you just doubting for the

> sake of doubting?

I am not even doubting, but only pointing out the lack of warrants.

To doubt is to disbelieve, and I do not disbelieve.

Suppose you tell me you believe there are aliens from beyond earth

living among us.

In asking for a warrant - how do you know - I would only be

truly skeptical - neither believe nor disbelieve without warrants.

> If you have no good reason to reject the theories on

> reflection then why not accept them like we do for so many other things

> in life?

We? As Tonto said to the Lone Ranger when he said "Oh oh, we are

surrounded by Indians!": "What do you mean, WE, white man?"

Without good reason, the skeptic neither accepts nor rejects.

And in science, we should be skeptics.

> Furthermore, let's consider a newborn, say 1

> minute old. Does he/she have "the existence of a functioning mind" more

> than he/she did 2 minutes ago? I think not. So your arbitrary

> distinction is not very credible.

The conclusion does not follow, because the baby has a functioning

mind prior to birth. Embryologists observe the development of a

brain that controls the body around the 4th month or so.

Birth radically affects breathing, not the brain.

> Moreover, does a newborn display "purposeful" human action and things

> like the capacity to reflect in sufficient measure (1) to be considered

> objects for economic analysis and (2) a person? Would you say that a

> dolphin displays more affinity than a newborn?

I have insufficient data to answer these questions.

> your

> statements read more like declarations than determinations from reason.

That statement is unwarranted without textual evidence or example.

Fred Foldvary



From: ETCHISON.GC@EMAIL.PUC.TEXAS.GOV (GC-Etchison, Michael)

Date: Tue, 04 Mar 1997 16:45 CST

Subject: Re: conscious versus purposeful action

Could it be that Greg Ransom and I agree? He writes 3/4 that it is

possible to do the Economic Life of, if not squirrels, Ants (and if

Gordon Tullock can do it, that's good enough for me). He adds that

"notion of the 'proper object of economic inquiry' is completely

mistaken." So far we are two for two. He goes on to say that undesigned

order is the problem; I might note that Oliver Williamson says there is

often much to be gained by focussing on the transaction, but add that I

find Williamson surprisingly insensitive to the relevance of Hayek et al.

to his theories, and would probably seek some melding of undesigned order

and transaction.

Would Ransom think Williamson and Mises too alike on this? To forestall

that, I point out that, to Williamson, a focus on transactions is

appropriate precisely in order to understand the origin and behavior of

institutions. (Williamson deals mostly with fairly narrow-scope

institutions, e.g., why is this company's capital structure tilted toward

equity?, but he acknowledges that transaction-focussed analysis is also

relevant to larger-scope institutions, such as Douglass North et al.

study. Undesigned, or at least incompletely-designed, institutions are

very much at the heart of North's work.) The parties to a transaction

are at least to some extent making explicit and "designing" some elements

of the transaction, and of the consequent institution, but it is far less

likely a) that they conceive themselves to be (or claim to be) acting

with an eye to larger-scale institutions ("order," in Hayekian terms) or

b) that we should credit them for that (other than possibly for good --

or bad - intentions).

Michael Etchison

[opinions mine, not the PUCT's]



Date: Tue, 04 Mar 1997 00:16:53 +0800

From: Patrick Gunning <gunning@stsvr.showtower.com.tw>

Subject: Re: conscious versus purposeful action

In one of his most recent posts, John Cobin seems to make a persuasive

case to continue with this thread. As I interpret his remarks, he says

that it is necessary to deal with challenges to Mises's claim that there

is a fundamental and "sharp" distinction between purposeful, or

conscious, action and other behavior. Unless we do, he says, our studies

of the market economy and market intervention will we subject to the

criticism that we have not identified the entities for whom our studies

are relevant. Thus, he seems to conclude, the issues raised by Greg and

Tracy are fundamental.

In considering this issue, we might recall that Mises began his book by

noting that Richard Cantillon, David Hume, and Adam Smith had introduced

a new kind of knowledge, or perhaps a new means of looking at the

interaction (or interbehavior) they had observed in everyday life. Greg,

referring to Darwin perhaps, would suggest that we could think of this

knowledge as part of a continuum with knowledge of social biology. There

is no sharp line between a theory of conscious interaction, which Mises

presumably had in mind in speaking of the above authors, and unconscious

behavior, which Hayek had in mind in speaking of the the rules by which

people live without being conscious of them. Hayek would perhaps have

interpreted the above authors in a different way.

Perhaps support for Mises's claim of the need for (or existence of) a

sharp distinction is that to comprehend both interaction and

interbehavior, we must use methodological individualism. We must begin

with a theory of the individual. If we adopt this view, then the focus

shifts inward. We are led to reflect on our own being. When I do this, I

see a very clear distinction between conscious and unconscious. I am

afraid of my unconscious behavior and try to identify it so that I can

consciously control it. (For example, I don't want to burden the list

with FLAMES just because a critic's remarks seem insulting. So I pour a

drink, have a smoke, or down a muscle relaxant before responding. And I

try to choose my words carefully.) Inward reflection makes this

distinction clear and sharp.

Now I turn back to the problem of explaining the observed behavior of

others like myself. Recalling my view of myself, it seems quite natural

to assume that the others (1) may or (2) may not be conscious of their

behavior -- that, in this sense, they may or may not be purposeful.

Given that I can make either assumption, I decide to carve out a field

of study that is concerned entirely with this conscious behavior.

Consistent with my decision to focus on this field, I require all of the

imaginary constructs that I plan to use in directly understanding

behavior to contain individuals who are _always_ conscious, purposeful

actors. Of course, I know that this assumption is not realistic for

every biologically human being. I myself was once a baby. I also know

that even _I_ perform unconscious behavior. Accordingly I know that I

could just as well have carved out another field of study on the basis

of the assumption that others are not conscious of their behavior. But I

leave this field to, well, the social biologists. At the same time, I

keep in mind that when I turn to the problem of interpreting everyday

life, I must employ knowledge from both fields.

Now the question is: is my reasoning sound? Is methodoligical

individualism a strong enough foundation to base my reasoning on? Enter

Tracy's earlier reference to Munz and the significance of language.

Practically everyone who has studied the emergence of the ego has

concluded that it could not emerge in the absence of other human beings.

Would the boy raised by wolves have an ego? Presumably, but it would be

a very different ego than that of a human being who learns, through

"interaction" that he is, on the one hand, like his cohorts but, on the

other hand, different from them. And, at least within the era of the

human history that interests us most, the "interaction" that is

necessary for the emergence of the ego is accompanied by language. It is

partly language interaction. Indeed, we can interpret language broadly

enough that interaction is itself impossible without language.

A new question arises. Does the observable fact that people learn about

their ego through interaction involving language challenge the

methodological individualistic foundation of the theory of purposeful,

conscious action that we have so thoughtfully carved out? Let me return

to the process of reflecting on myself which led me to perceive such a

clear disctinction between the conscious and the subconscious. Suppose

that in this state of self-reflection, I try to take account of the fact

that my ability to even conceive of myself is, in some sense, a product

of "interaction" based on language. Will this compromise my later

decision to carve out a field of study based on purposeful, conscious

action?

Let me end this post with two possible ways that we might try to answer

this question. First, might seek an answer by exploring the

"interaction" and language that necessarily preceded the emergence of my

ego. Can we conceive of interaction and language "education" that would

lead to the emergence of an ego which, when it reflected on itself,

would not recognize a clear and sharp distinction between the conscious

and the unconscious? Second, perhaps we can discover in the

"interaction" and language some reason to believe that individuals who

reflected on themselves and reached the conclusion that there was a

sharp distinction between the conscious and the subconscious were

suffering from an illusion and confused.

Whoops, one more idea. Keep in mind that it is our ego that is doing

the questioning and answering here!

Well, this is as far as I can go tonight. As my old philosophy professor

used to say, if tomorrow is more sunny, I might change my mind.

--

Pat Gunning

http://stsvr.showtower.com.tw/~gunning/welcome

http://web.nchulc.edu.tw/~gunning/pat/welcome



Date: Tue, 04 Mar 1997 17:27:59 -0400

From: John Cobin <jcobin@paki.ufinis.cl>

Subject: Re: conscious versus purposeful action

Pat:

If we are going to try to simplify our analysis here, we must deal with

the foundational issues. I take it that reflection, knowledge, and

consciousness are different things. But when we consider things like

Hayek's notion of "tacit knowledge" we run into a mixture of the three

to some extent. Humans do act purposefully but sometimes their action

is not "conscious" but is tacit -- it is automaically generated by

mechanisms produced by reflection and stored knowledge --

institutionalized behaviour we might say.

If we want to deal with robots or maybe even Crusoes our analysis is

easier. One of the harder parts of economics -- the part which is of

such interest to Austrians -- is this other fuzzy stuff that seems more

realistic and maybe more powerful.

Again, who or what can act purposefully and what constitutes such

action?

Your input about language is etremely important it seems to me. So what

are the implications? Can we say that language is a third category of

knowledge -- neither tacit nor ordinary -- that helps men act

purposefully? If so, can we grade that knowledge even to the point of

saying that one language is superior to others in helping men remove

uneasiness in an Hayekian evolutionary sense? Are there other

implications?

--

John Cobin

Profesor de Economia y Politica Publica

Universidad Finis Terrae

Av. Pedro de Valdivia 1543

Providencia, Santiago, Chile

fono +56-2-274-8084

fax +56-2-209-4135

jcobin@paki.ufinis.cl



Date: Wed, 05 Mar 1997 21:45:39 +0800

From: Pat Gunning <gunning@cc.nchulc.edu.tw>

Subject: Re: conscious versus purposeful action

John Cobin wrote:

>

> Pat:

> Can we say that language is a third category of

> knowledge -- neither tacit nor ordinary -- that helps men act

> purposefully? If so, can we grade that knowledge even to the point of

> saying that one language is superior to others in helping men remove

> uneasiness in an Hayekian evolutionary sense? Are there other

> implications?

John, as you probably know, I raised the language question mainly

because I wanted to acknowledge Tracy's concern about language as

preceding the emergence of the ego and therefore the emergence of any

notion of conscious and unconscious, or purpose in the behavior in the

developing child.

As for my own view, I have no doubt that, for the normal human being,

language precedes the development of the ego as well as the development

of what some psychologists have called "formal thought." However, the

fact that language precedes ego development or, pushed to the extreme,

is necessary for that development; does not mean that language is a

fundamental cause of the ego or that the ego's properties depend in a

fundamental way on language. An alternative hypothesis is that the

emergence of the ego is a developmental process for which language is an

essential catalyst but nevertheless does not itself play an important

part in the ego. A third hypothesis is that, although language is

essential in the development of the ego and is a major contributor in

its initial character, once the ego is developed, each human being has

the capacity, in some measure if not totally, "to think away the

influence of language." A person may, in most of her everyday

activities, behave in a way that the psychologist or sociologist would

interpret as being almost entirely under the influence of the particular

language group of which she is a member. Yet, when she sets her mind to

it, she can behave in a way that would lead the psychologist to

interpret her behavior as not being significantly influenced by

language. If this third hypothesis is correct, the conscientious

psychologist and sociologist would presumably want to account for both

possibilities to correctly interpret what he studies.

There is an interesting debate between Jean Piaget, who carefully and

meticulously studied the development of fundamental concepts in children

of various ages, and Noam Chomsky, the renowned linguist, who studied

the structure of languages. A friend just lent me the book that contains

both the debate and comments by other "experts" but I haven't yet read

it. I pretty much know that Piaget will assert that language is a

catalyst while I expect Chomsky to take the view that language is a

fundamental contributor to the development of thought.

In other work, Piaget has argued that in the study of the development

of human thought, the proper method is what he calls "parallelism."

Maybe dualism would be an equivalent term. First, one must assume that

development proceeds largely according to fixed rules due to the

inherent nature of the human development process. In other words,

development of thought occurs in pretty much the same way as the

development of the human body. On the other hand, we must assume that

inherent in the human being is an ability to modify the development once

she reaches a certain stage. In other words, we must assume that she can

alter her thought patterns in a way that corresponds to the common sense

use of the term "intentional."

I have read many of Piaget's other works. Although aspects of his

research and conclusions have been criticized for a variety of reasons,

I find his parallelism convincing. I see it as a "scientific"

vindication of the action axiom as the foundation for a unique type of

knowledge - - praxeology. Perhaps my viewpoint is not surprising since I

studied Piaget first. Of course, one can, like Mises, argue for the

action axiom from one's sense of self. But it is comforting to me to

know that such a brilliant and productive scientist as Piaget felt that

he had to assume something like the action axiom in order to adequately

comprehend the unfolding of human thought.

--

Pat Gunning

http://stsvr.showtower.com.tw/~gunning/welcome

http://web.nchulc.edu.tw/~gunning/pat/welcome



From: ETCHISON.GC@EMAIL.PUC.TEXAS.GOV (GC-Etchison, Michael)

Date: Tue, 04 Mar 1997 15:36 CST

Subject: RE: action, reflection, tension between frameworks

Tracy Harms apologizes 3/3 for thinking Greg Ransom was ill-tempered. He

quotes an earlier post from Ransom. And then says he looks forward to

looking at the Michael Behe bok I mentioned. So I clarify a bit:

My problem with Greg is not that he's intent on seeing evolution as a

useful tool for understanding economic theory and/or activity.

Unfortunately, his argument is

1. Man evolved from slime, with no design

2. As science has conclusively shown, in more than enough detail, so

3. Anyone who fails to understand that economics is evolutionary is

Unscientific.

Of course, 3 does not follow from 2, if only because there's more than

one kind of science. My difficulty, however, is that 2 is at least

doubtful, but, even more important, both 1 and 2 are entirely irrelevant

to whether an evolutionary model is useful in either doing or

understanding economics. In his enthusiasm for both economics and

conventional cutting-edge neo-Darwinism, he conflates the two and

believes that anyone who either does not "understand" CCEND or doesn't

buy it is unscientific and therefore unable/unqualified to understand,

let alone do, economics.

Even the rankest Young-Earth fundamentalist (of whom I am not one) has

no difficulty understanding dog breeding as an "evolutionary" activity.

I don't see why he would be unable to understand the unintended

consequences/evolution take on economics. To assert that the existing

species were individually created by a sentient Creator is not

incompatible with an explanatory scheme in which economic institutions

originate and change notwithstanding the absence of a Planner. All of

the tinkering with Darwinism and post-/etc.-Darwinism would be highly

useful heuristically in economics (practice and methodology), whether or

not they were useful in understanding long-term biology.

Michael Etchison

[opinions mine, not the PUCT's]



Date: Tue, 04 Mar 1997 19:17:53 -0400

From: John Cobin <jcobin@paki.ufinis.cl>

Subject: Re: action, reflection, tension between frameworks

I appreciate Michael's point, although I might be a bit less critical of

Greg.

You or I may not agree with Gregs neo-Darwinian sentiments but that is

his paradigm in which he chooses to analyze things. Maybe I missed

something but I did not read Greg as dismissing any of us who are not

hard-care neo-Darwinians or something.

Michael is of course right that such views are irrelevant to doing

economics. One can be a Creationist and still be scientific. It is

even possible to accept evolutionary themes in a Hayekian sense while

maintaining a creationist or at least non-neo-Darwinian posture.

If Greg ever makes a bold assertion to the contrary then we can

vituperate him, but at this point he is simply approaching this problem

from his perspective and with the tools he has acquired.

All perspectives can be valuable and shunning one for the sake of purity

is precarious to say the least.

Likewise, Michael's criticism of neo-Darwinist tendencies is valuable in

the sense that he reminds us that we can understand reality by other

means.

> My problem with Greg is not that he's intent on seeing evolution as a

> useful tool for understanding economic theory and/or activity.

> Unfortunately, his argument is

Caterpillars evolve into butterflies -- we can observe that. Whether

men evolve from slime cannot be repeated and observed so it is a much

weaker conjecture. But some can hold to it and still do science. And

in either case evolution can be part of our scientific inquiry -- it

just depends on how we define evolution. As far as I am concerned,

although I am sure of the Darwinist tendencies of hayek and other

Austrians, all that is needed to make Hayekian theory useful is

acceptance of the former variety of evolution or micro-evolution.

> consequences/evolution take on economics. To assert that the existing

> species were individually created by a sentient Creator is not

> incompatible with an explanatory scheme in which economic institutions

Right.

--

John Cobin

Profesor de Economia y Politica Publica

Universidad Finis Terrae

Av. Pedro de Valdivia 1543

Providencia, Santiago, Chile

fono +56-2-274-8084

fax +56-2-209-4135

jcobin@paki.ufinis.cl



Date: Wed, 5 Mar 1997 17:03:19 -0800 (PST)

From: GREG RANSOM <GRANSOM@ucrac1.ucr.edu>

Subject: RE: action, reflection, tension between frameworks

Michael has misunderstood my views on economics, and especially

on my views of the rather complex relationships between Darwinian

and others sciences and economics. I really do think that

economics provides rather autonomous knowledge -- but in my view

the most robust and plausible knowledge provided in economics

comes in a form most fully consistent with modern advancements in

our understanding of logic and language (in the first instance)

and in epistemology and biology and psychology (in the second instance)

-- all sorts of background understanding can come into play in our

judgement of the robustness of alternative explanatory endovours. on

this issues i'd particularly recommend T. Kuhn, _The Copernican

Revolution_, which provides a nice example of this basic fact that

often goes ignored.



Greg Ransom

gransom@ucrac1.ucr.edu

http://members.aol.com/gregransom/hayekpage.htm

Date: Tue, 4 Mar 1997 22:32:27 -0700

From: harms@hackvan.com (T. B. Harms)

Subject: Re: conscious versus purposeful action

Count me among those who find the general study of animals remote from the

study of economics. In its way, though, I'd say the flurry of discussion

over animal intelligence really slams home one of my major points:

Attention to a *criterion* by which reflective intention can be identified

leads to distraction. It naturally provokes these debates regarding

non-humans and non-advanced humans, but none of that is relevant to the

field of economics, at least not in any major way.

For me this part of the matter is straightforward: Economic consideration

is effectively limited to humans, for there is something extraordinary

about the reflection (lets call it) found among humans. This extraordinary

difference is not a matter of humans being soley intelligent, nor soley

purposeful, nor soley conscious. These qualities are not the monopoly of

humanity. In saying that economic consideration is effectively limited to

humans I mean merely that economic study can adequately progress by

considering the human realm alone, as it has traditionally done. I expect

that it does apply to examples beyond human society, but -- so what? Every

field of study works on certain *classes of problems*, and when the

resulting solutions are good they apply wherever such patterns arise.

Hayek spoke to why economics has tended to be confused regarding its

subject matter, and why it mistakenly tends to emphasize the mentality of

the economizing individual. Economics has its roots in the study of *how

to better economize?* (as is still the case for 'home economics'), and it

has not always kept that distinct from the question of *what patterns of

organization result from individual attempts at economizing?* As Greg just

put it, "undesigned order in society raises the empirical/scientific

problem to be explained."

Mises was very right to emphasize that the subjective theory of value

produces an explanation for costs (e.g. prices) as the consequence of

specific demands by specific agents for specific goods, in contrast with

the failure of competing views which attempt to explain by analysis of

aggregates. Mises was correct to see that said subjectivism implies that

theoretical social science "is independent of all psychological and ethical

considerations" (_Grundprobleme_, as quoted p72 of Cubeddu 1993). But it

just so happens that in the marketplace instances of valuation are most

obvious in regard to designing states of mind, and Mises erred in

attempting to stake out praxeology by reference to a mental quality in the

constitutive individuals. This is a vestige of psychological attribution

which contradicts Mises' own insight, and should be discarded.

Consider: The remarkable human capacity to form deliberate ends is not

itself of deliberate origin. This, too, is a spontaneous order. The

nature of this order precludes thinking of it as a substance, essence, or

property within individuals; it emerges in individuals, but it arises from

diverse features which cross-cut single actors and their personal minds.

Therefore while economics does properly deal with the social consequences

of the deliberations of reflective individuals, we can -- we *must* -- work

with this deliberation and reflection without attempting to give it

psychological identity.

If this is sound we should continue to endorse the idea of rational actors,

but we should approach their rationality not as an isolate quality, but as

involvement in an ecology. The ecology of intellect is primarily the

unintended consequence of propositional language. What distinguishes

deliberate, reflective mind (and thus, anticipatory economizing) is

propositional language and the conceptual consequences it produces in

thinkers.

Having just indicated who rational actors are, nevertheless I disagree with

John that "we need to determine who can reflect or act purposefully before

we can proceed with further economic inquiry." We can build economic

inquiry around a general confidence that at least some individuals are

actors in the economic sense, and that at least some of their actions

likewise qualify. We need not specify how to sort either; we need not

concern ourselves with the haziness of the boundaries involved. Economic

inquiry does enough to attempt to state economic facts. E.g. insofar as

supply is recognized as decreasing relative to demand, bidding will tend to

drive the price higher. This "insofar as" qualifies the claim within the

limits of the economic field, but we need not have unequivocal criteria for

the edges, nor need we successfully sort arbitrarily given instances. It

is sufficient if (1) there are economic realities, (2) we come up with

truthful understandings of them, and (3) we find circumstances where these

ideas apply often enough.

John asks: "Again, who or what can act purposefully and what constitutes such

action?" As Fred said, the class of agents studied by economics consists

of persons -- but that just provides a label. I think good economic theory

asserts that persons are members of a community wherein economic concepts

apply, and that economizing occurs in the application of those concepts by

those persons. The importance of the role of language is that it allows

concepts to be formed, and it allows conflicting concepts to be compared.

Awareness of the importance of tacit knowledge should make us wary against

imagining that it is the actual acts of conceptualizing which count. The

intellectualizing is a *catalyst* which alters the wider inclinations

(purposes) of the individuals. That the act of 'thinking' is not

definitive is perhaps most clear when we notice that a conceptual change

may provoke a change in the market inclinations of *a different person*.

Indeed the price system is efficient precisely because it facilitates such

*thoughtlessness*: Potential buyers are free to react viscerally to prices

which are higher or lower than their expectations. No word-processing is

required of them, yet their participation in the cultural whole of the

market process makes this human action, nevertheless.



Tracy Bruce Harms

harms@hackvan.com



Date: Wed, 05 Mar 1997 16:20:48 +0800

From: Pat Gunning <gunning@cc.nchulc.edu.tw>

Subject: Re: conscious versus purposeful action

T. B. Harms wrote:

> Mises was correct to see that said subjectivism implies that

> theoretical social science "is independent of all psychological and ethical

> considerations" (_Grundprobleme_, as quoted p72 of Cubeddu 1993). But it

> just so happens that in the marketplace instances of valuation are most

> obvious in regard to designing states of mind, and Mises erred in

> attempting to stake out praxeology by reference to a mental quality in the

> constitutive individuals. This is a vestige of psychological attribution

> which contradicts Mises' own insight, and should be discarded.

I assume, Tracy, that you mean by these remarks that all behavior of

human beings lies along a continuum and that because valuation is most

obvious in the marketplace, conscious, or purposeful (in Mises's words),

behavior is also most evident there. But the fact that it is most

evident there is not a sufficient reason to construct a field of

knowledge based on the assumption that all behavior is conscious, or

purposeful. So when Mises works back from economics based on the

assumption that all behavior is conscious, or purposeful, to a general

theory of action, he erred. He also presumably erred in making economic

theory only a theory of conscious, purposeful action.

To err, one must have a end in mind. Error implies that other, more

suitable means are available to achieve a particular end. I wonder if

you would state the end that you believe Mises was, or should have been,

aiming to achieve. I don't think that your post told us this. For

example, you might answer that his end was to construct economic theory.

But then I would ask why did he want to construct economic theory. This

might give us some insight on whether he wanted to construct an economic

theory in the same sense as "neoclassical economics."

What I am getting at is this. I am wondering whether we can find a

justification for a clear and distinct difference between conscious and

unconscious action based on the aim that Mises wanted to achieve in

economics and praxeology.

--

Pat Gunning

http://stsvr.showtower.com.tw/~gunning/welcome

http://web.nchulc.edu.tw/~gunning/pat/welcome



Date: Wed, 05 Mar 1997 09:57:17 -0400

From: John Cobin <jcobin@paki.ufinis.cl>

Subject: Re: conscious versus purposeful action

Tracy's recent long post was quite helpful. Maybe we could have avoided

this whole thread by using adjectives more carefully to begin with.

Humans have *extraordinary* reflective capacity and are the only things

important in economic inquiry. We can also label them persons and avoid

a lot of the marginal issues. They are important to be sure but can be

avoided for the sake of pursuing the scientific endeavor. Also imprtant

as Tracy notes are the roles of culture and spontaneous action.

I might also add tangentially that such unplanned or undesigned action

at the basis can have a neo-Darwinian, theologicial, or other

perspective to educate it. Maybe it comes from basic instincts, maybe

genes transmit accumulated knowledge, maybe God puts original thoughts

in men as the Prime Mover. Whatever one will accept of these or other

perspectives, we can still all procede to do economic analysis from

there. That's why in AE you find such a wide variety of world views

having some common ground.

Mises himself ends up noting late in HA that he has not solved the

problem or question of why humans act purposefully and continue to try

to remove uneasiness, instead of choosing death or whatever. We all

need to answer that issue based on one of the forgoing world views.

> Therefore while economics does properly deal with the social consequences

> of the deliberations of reflective individuals, we can -- we *must* -- work

> with this deliberation and reflection without attempting to give it

> psychological identity.

That's fine.

> but we should approach their rationality not as an isolate quality, but as

> involvement in an ecology. The ecology of intellect is primarily the

> unintended consequence of propositional language. What distinguishes

> deliberate, reflective mind (and thus, anticipatory economizing) is

> propositional language and the conceptual consequences it produces in

> thinkers.

Very good.

> Having just indicated who rational actors are, nevertheless I disagree with

> John that "we need to determine who can reflect or act purposefully before

> we can proceed with further economic inquiry." We can build economic

> inquiry around a general confidence that at least some individuals are

> actors in the economic sense, and that at least some of their actions

> likewise qualify. We need not specify how to sort either; we need not

> concern ourselves with the haziness of the boundaries involved.

This is weak, and in effect all you have said is we need to do what John

says but we have to use more qualification in the way we say it. You

still agree that we have to identify objects for inquiry you just don't

think we need to make generalized statements for modelling. SOmewhere

in that hazy mass of humanity -- nat animals as you said -- we find the

object for our inquiry.

> It

> is sufficient if (1) there are economic realities, (2) we come up with

> truthful understandings of them, and (3) we find circumstances where these

> ideas apply often enough.

OK, and this is a fair philosophical basis for my list in the last post.

--

John Cobin

Profesor de Economia y Politica Publica

Universidad Finis Terrae

Av. Pedro de Valdivia 1543

Providencia, Santiago, Chile

fono +56-2-274-8084

fax +56-2-209-4135

jcobin@paki.ufinis.cl