Discussion on Introduction


Date: Wed, 15 Jan 1997 03:58:21 +0100 (MET)

From: Ian Grigg <iang@systemics.com>

For those who do not have the paper copy to hand due to travelling, the post,

etc, I have made available the Intro on our homepage. It is browsable at

http://www.systemics.com/docs/hasg/ha_intro.html

Note that it has not been checked for errors, please send any you find to me.

This is hardly a substitute for the real document, indeed mine has scribbles

already after one night. However, it could form a useful stopgap.

This page is not directly accessible from the normal company page as it's

for HASG purposes only. Please record the URL above, and I would be grateful

if this could be kept within the AustrianECON group.

--

iang

iang@systemics.com



From - Thu Jan 16 23:21:04 1997

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

Mises says that Paul Mantoux and William Rappard

at the Graduate Institute of International Studies

in Geneva provided him with the opportunity and

incentice to work on the long-term project which

produced _Human Action_.

Does anyone know the background of Paul Mantoux

and William Rappard?

What sort of duties did Mises have at the Graduate

Institute of International Studies?

And what sort of school is this anyway? Did Mises

have any students there, or did he direct any graduate

theses? I'm curious just what this incentive was

that Mantoux and Rappard layed out in front of Mises

if he would write a book?

Greg Ransom

gransom@ucrac1.ucr.edu

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



Date: Thu, 16 Jan 1997 8:15:53 -0800 (PST)

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

Some recommended texts relevant to the issues

raised by Mises at the opening of _Human Action_.

Rosenberg, Alexander. _Sociobiology and the Preemption

of Social Science- Baltimore: johns hopkins.

McKirahan, Richard. _Principles and Proof: Aristotle's Theory

of Demonstrative Science_.

Laudan, Larry. _Beyond Positivism and Relativism_. Boulder: Westview.

Friedman, Michael. _Kant and the Exact Sciences_.

Berstein, Richard. _Beyond Objectivism and Relativism_ Philadelpia:

U. of Penn. Press.

Popper, Karl. _The Poverty of Historicism_. New York: Harper.







Greg Ransom

Dept. of Philosophy

UC-Riverside

gransom@ucrac1.ucr.edu

Date: Thu, 16 Jan 1997 5:30:53 -0800 (PST)

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

Here are some books giving some

some context to Ludwig Mises and his

_Human Action_.



On Mises life there is:

Mises, Ludwig, _Notes and Recollections_, Spring Mills: Libertarian

Press.

Mises, Margit, _My Years with Ludwig von Mises_, Ceder Falls: Center

for Futures Education.

On the intellectual context of the Vienna of

Mises youth and adulthood:

Johnston, William. _The Austrian Mind: An Intellectual and Social

History, 1848-1938_. Los Angeles: U. of California Press.

Toulmin, Stephen & Allan Janik, _Wittgenstein's Vienna_. Simon & Schuster.

Cartwright, Nancy, et al., _Otto Neurath_. Cambridge U. Press.

On the diplomatic and political context:

Kissinger, Henry. _Diplomacy_ Simon & Schuster.

Fischer, Klaus. _Nazi Germany_. New York: Continuum.

Johnson, Lonnie, _Central Europe_. Oxford: Oxford U. Press.

Gilbert, Martin. _The First World War_. New York: Henry Holt.

Palmer, Alan. _Twilight of the Habsburgs_. New York: Grove Press.

Kann, Robert. _A History of the Habsburg Empire, 1526-1918. Los Angeles:

U. of California Press.

Austrian & German economics & Mises:

Bostaph, Samuel, "THe Methodological Debate Between Carl Menger and

the German Historicists", _Atlantice Econmic Journal_ 1978. 3-16.

Vaughn, Karen. _Austrian Economics in America_ Cambridge: Cambridge U.

Press.

Mosss, Laurence. _The Economics of Ludwig von Mises_ Kansas City: Sheed

& Ward.





Greg Ransom

Dept. of Philosophy

UC-Riverside

gransom@ucrac1.ucr.edu

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





16 Jan 1997 15:04:35 -0500

From: "Richard Ebeling" <richard.ebeling@ac.hillsdale.edu>

Subject: Re: _Human Action_ (HASG)

Reply to: RE>_Human Action_ (HASG)



On the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva: It was founded

in 1927 by William Rappard and Paul Mantoux. For an overview of the history of

the Institute and its mission, see, "HEI, 1927-1967" (Geneve: Institut

Universitaire de Hautes Etudes Internationales, 1967)

Rappard and Mantoux brought together a unique faculty of scholars, many of

them among the prominent Classical Liberals of the day, including Ludwig von

Mises, Wilhelm Roepke, Michael Heilperin and Guglielomo Ferrero. Also on the

faculty was Hans Kelsen (the legal positivist,who was a childhood friend of

Mises's).

The Institute was always inviting scholars from around the world to

participate in delivering lectures. For example, Lionel Robbins' "Economic

Planning and International Stability" (1937), was originally a series of

lectures given at the Institute. As were the chapters that make up Hayek's

"Monetary Nationalism and International Stability" (1937).

William Rappard was born in 1883 and died in 1958. He was born in the U. S.,

of Swiss parents. He was trained in both economics and political science at

Harvard University. He is considered one of the most prominent European

Classical Liberals of the inter-war. Among his important writings are:

"International Relations Viewed from Geneva" (1925)

"Uniting Europe" (1930)

"The Common Menace of Economic and Military Armaments" [the 1936

Cobden Lecture] reprinted in "Varia Politica" (1953)

"Economic Nationalism" in "Authority and the Individual, Harvard

Tercenterary Conference of Arts and Sciences" (1937)

"The Crisis of Democracy" (1938)

"Post-War Efforts for Freer Trade" (1938)

Ed., "The World Crisis" (1938), containing articles by Mises, Roepke and

Heilperin.

"The Quest for Peace" (1940)

"The Secret of American Prosperity" (1955)

Rappard was one of the founding members of the Mont Pelerin Society, and

delivered an opening address at the first meeting, along with Hayek.

For biographies of Rappard (unfortunately in French):

Albert Picot, "Portait de William Rappard" (1963)

Victor Monnier, William Rappard: Defenseur des libertes, serviteur de son

pays et de la communaute internationale" (Geneve: Edition Slatkin, 1995)

Monnier's book is very comprehensive. He explains (pp. 40-45) that Rappard

spent the 1908-1909 academic year in Vienna studying at he University of

Vienna with the leading members of the Austrian School.

Paul Mantoux was a famous economic historian. He has a major work in English

on the "Industrial Revolution" written in the 1920s. His son, Etienne, was one

of Mises's favorite students at the Graduate Institute. He was killed in the

last days of the war, in 1945. In "Planning for Freedom" (p.52) Mises says,

"Etienne Mantoux, son of the famous historian, Paul Mantoux, was the most

distinguished of the younger French economists."

In 1934, Jacob Viner was teaching at both the University of Chicago and the

Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva. He was called back to

Chicago, and his position needed filling. In March, 1934, Rappard wrote to

Mises offering him the position, but only for one academic year, 1934-1935,

beginning in October, 1934. Mises and Rappard exchanged a couple of letters

about the appointment (what Mises's teaching responsibilities would be, what

language he would teach in, and the salary). Mises accepted. His teaching

responsibilities were one course and a seminar. He chose to teach the course

in English, and said that the language of the seminar would depend upon the

student make-up of the group attending. He title was Professor of

International Economic Relations. And the courses' subject matter reflected

that.

He position was renewed each year after that, until his departure from Geneva

on July 4, 1940. The Institute each year had to arrange his formal residency

permission with the Swiss police.

There was no understanding or agreement that he was to write

"Nationalokonomie" (the German-language version of "Human Action"), published

in Geneva in May, 1940. That was a project that he chose to undertake. He

revised a few sections from what was becoming the manuscript and published

them in French as journal articles, including one on the mathematical method

and the problem of economic central planning, in which he comments extensively

on Hayek's arguments against socialism in Hayek's introduction and concluding

essay in "Collectivist Economic Planning."

He also wrote in 1938 a German-language book on Germany and Nazism. In highly

revised form it was published in English as "Omnipotent Government" (1944). He

also wrote a treatise on epistemology and the methodology of the social

sciences. I've not been able to track down this manuscript. But I assume that

large portions of it became incorporated in "Theory and History" (1957). He

also prepared a manuscript on "Monetary Reconstruction" in 1939, which in

revised form became Part Four of the 1953 edition of "The Theory of Money and

Credit."

Mises attended various international conferences during this period, as well

as delivering guest lectures at various places. He participated in the

"Colloquium Walter Lippmann" in 1938, the transcript of which was published in

1939 (in French). This is a valuable work, because it brought together many of

the prominent Classical Liberals of the day (including, besides Mises, Hayek,

Roepke, Alexander Rustow, Jacque Rueff, Louis Rougier, Alfred Schutz). The

transcripts of the sessions bring out clearly the differences between many of

the liberals of the day concerning the role of government and the prospects

for liberty.

I hope this provides a little bit of the background information that Dr.

Ransom requested.

Richard M. Ebeling

Ludwig von Mises Professor

of Economics

Hillsdale College

Hillsdale, Michigan 49242

Tele: (517) 437-7341 (office)

Fax: (517) 437-3923 (office)

Tele and Fax:

(517) 439-9232 (home)

E-Mail: Richard.Ebeling@ac.Hillsdale.edu

--------------------------------------



Date: Thu, 16 Jan 1997 7:59:33 -0800 (PST)

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

The first sentence of Mises _Human Action_ has

been immensely influential. The notion that economics

is the youngest of all sciences is now widely

current. The theme here is found also in Hayek,

and if I remember right, the theme is found originally

(in some version) in Menger. (Does anyone recollect

the similar remarks by Menger and Hayek on this theme?)

The remark, however, is not uncontroversial. It

seems that Popper goes from Mises' suggestion that

economics is the youngest of all the sciences,

to the picture of economics as still a 'Greek philosophy'

that has yet to find its Galileo. This Mises' built

upon theme is repeated in the work of Alexander Rosenberg,

and others.

This all raises the important problem of the demarcation

of 'philosophy', 'science', and failed science -- what is it

that marks the opening of a new domain of explanation.

This issue has deeply influenced my own writing on the explanatory

strategy and logical status of economics. The combined influence of

Mises, Hayek, and Popper has pointed me toward looking at the

role of _empirical problems_, and the casting of explanatory problems,

as the origin point of scientific knowledge -- and I have seen the

common problems of Adam Smith and Charles Darwin as helpful examples

of the special character of undesigned order problems that cannot be captured

in the traditional picture of knowledge inherited from Aristotle an

and the 17th century philosophers.

Especially important in this regard is the traditional picture of

what a "regularity" is -- and how we can have knowledge of a regularity.

On this issue I particularly recommend Tom Beauchamp & Alexander

Rosenberg, _Hume and the Problem of Causation_, Oxford: Oxford U. Press.

Knowledge in this picture comes in the form of universal regularities

captured in universal sentential generalizations, certified or decertified

by first principles or experienced particulars.

One of the tests of the success or failure of _Human Action_, then,

will be the degree to which it successfully deals with the powerful

intellectual tradition on the character of knowledge of regularities,

and thus the degree to which it vindicates the establishment of, "The

discovery of a _regularity_ in the sequence and interdependence of

market phenomen.." (p.1)



Greg Ransom

Dept. of Philosophy

UC-Riverside

gransom@ucrac1.ucr.edu

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





Date: Wed, 16 Jan 1997

From: "M. Royce Van Tassell" <sl08v@cc.usu.edu>

Subject: Re: HASG: Intro

> 1. If Mises is correct in saying that a new domain of human knowledge

> was discovered by Cantillon, etc., how can it be that this domain was

> not discovered before?

Mises argues that 2 factors played a primary role. The first factor

is religion. While he doesn't provide any

explicit discussion on why religion ("theological tendency")

prevented this discovery, some of the "old tenets" economics

destroyed seem to come straight out of medieval Catholicism, e.g.

unfair/unjust competition, taboos against innovation, radical notions

of equality. This last example may have roots in Israel's laws

against usury and perhaps the Jubilee year.

The second factor preventing this domain of human knowledge from

being discovered earlier is a preoccupation with groups. Rather than

focusing on an individual, and the incentive structure she faces,

pre-economist (pre-Enlightenment?) thought looked at how groups,

whether racial, religious, political or whatever, interacted.

However, they did not recognize that how a group evolves depends

greatly on the individual habits and choices of those people who make

up the group. Until this relationship was recognized, economics could

never develop.

This second factor raises another question: why did the focus change

from groups to individuals, and why is/has the focus reverted to

groups in much of academia? I suggest that the answers to these

questions lie in an understanding of the Enlightenment, and the

concomitant development of individual rights, particularly in

England.

> 7. From the discussion in the Introduction, what are Mises's goals in

> writing this treatise. If we can identify these goals, perhaps we can

> later evaluate this work by making a judgment about whether he achieves

> them.

This question may be the most important in beginning our study:

unless we can delimit where we are going, it will be difficult or

impossible to decide if we have arrived, or are even making progress.

Mises, like so many other authors, sees his project in very grand

terms.Unless praxeology is understood

and implemented, western civilization will "perish." Praxeology,

demonstrating how humans choose, provides

governments with an understanding of how to structure public policy.

This structure does not determine what ends government or individuals

should pursue; rather, it provides the means by which humans may

achieve their ends.

Thus, he hopes to provide an outline of how

to create conditions under which specified ends may be attained. To

accomplish this task, he must show why attempts to pigeonhole

economics into a capitalist framework are inaccurate. He must

demonstrate that his claims are valid for humans qua humans, not

humans qua capitalists.

He must further demonstrate what constitutes

human choice. That is, to what extent is a person free to choose

their own ends? Is a person merely a product of their environment or

their birth? Where does the kernel of individuality of the human

psyche lie? Under what conditions are we most likely to allow

that kernel to grow? To what extent can government foster these conditions? Assuming that

government can, what kinds of policies/institutions are most likely

to foster these conditions?

Before I post this let me add one more question: to whom is _Human

Action_ addressed? Academics? Government leaders? Society at large?

All of the above? Let me put the same question in another way: how

much of society needs to understand praxeology, if western

civilization is to continue its growth?

-----------------------------------------------------

-----------------------------------------------------

M. Royce Van Tassell

Utah State University

Department of Political Science

-----------------------------------------------------

-----------------------------------------------------

"Freedom is the right to choose one's burden."

Date: Fri, 17 Jan 1997 18:13:00 +0800

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



M. Royce Van Tassell wrote:

> Praxeology,

> demonstrating how humans choose, provides

> governments with an understanding of how to structure public policy.

One should be careful not to attribute a collective term like

"government" with an _ability to understand_. Being careful in language

can sometimes help one think more correctly, by his own standards.

> To create conditions under which specified ends may be attained,

> [Mises] must show why attempts to pigeonhole

> economics into a capitalist framework are inaccurate. He must

> demonstrate that his claims are valid for humans qua humans, not

> humans qua capitalists.

I don't understand the connections.



Royce, You raise some good questions. I suspect that we shall find some

of the answers later. The answers don't seem to be in the Introduction.

> -----------------------------------------------------

> -----------------------------------------------------

> M. Royce Van Tassell

> Utah State University

> Department of Political Science

> -----------------------------------------------------

> -----------------------------------------------------

> > "Freedom is the right to choose one's burden."

--

Pat Gunning

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

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



Date: Fri, 17 Jan 1997 19:34:56 +0000

From: "M. Royce Van Tassell" <sl08v@cc.usu.edu>



> > To create conditions under which specified ends may be attained,

> > [Mises] must show why attempts to pigeonhole

> > economics into a capitalist framework are inaccurate. He must

> > demonstrate that his claims are valid for humans qua humans, not

> > humans qua capitalists.

> > I don't understand the connections.

As I reviewed this passage from my earlier posting, I saw how unclear

the train of thought is. At the same time, I'm not sure how to

express what I want to say. Allow me then to quote what I think is

the relevant passage.

"The main question that economics is bound to answer is what the

relation of its statements is to the reality of human action whose

mental grasp is the objective of economic studies.

"It therefore devolves upon economics to deal thoroughy with the

assertion that its teachings are valid only for the capitalist system

of the shorlived and already vanished liberal period of Western

civilization. . . . The system of economic thought must be built up

in such a way that it is proof against an criticism on the part of

irrationalism, historicism, panphysicalism, behavioism, and all

varieites of polylogism. . . .

"It is necessary to build the theory of catallactics upon the solid

foundation of a general theory of human action, praxeology. This

procedure will . . . secure it against many fallacious criticisms . .

."(6-7).

In these passages, Mises is trying to show that unless economics can

defend itself against the epistemological questions posed by the

various theories he cites, it will be pigeonholed as a discussion of

how capitalist man acts. Mises, however, hopes to demonstrate that

economic theory, in particular praxeology and subjectivism,

accurately describe human behavior in all conditions. The results

of human action change only when the "ecology" changes. That is,

praxeology does not prescribe ends; individual humans choose their

own ends. Praxeology describes how given prespecified ends, humans

will react to different circumstances. It also appears that Mises'

praxeology will also attempt to show how the most given ends can be

simultaneously accomplishe: "It is a science of the means to be

applied for the attainment of ends chosen" (10).

-----------------------------------------------------

-----------------------------------------------------

M. Royce Van Tassell

Utah State University

Department of Political Science

-----------------------------------------------------

-----------------------------------------------------

"Freedom is the right to choose one's burden."

From - Sat Jan 18 14:09:00 1997

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

M. Royce Van Tassell wrote:

> I'm not sure how to

> express what I want to say.

> In these passages, Mises is trying to show that unless economics can

> defend itself against the epistemological questions posed by the

> various theories he cites, it will be pigeonholed as a discussion of

> how capitalist man acts.

Let me try my hand at it:

We might define _relativism_ (I know, do we really need another "ism?")

as a viewpoint that each epoch in history must be understood by theories

that are in some way useful with respect to that epoch but not necessary

useful with respect to a different epoch. According to this viewpoint,

we could best understand the capitalism epoch by referring to the

theories that are valid for it -- say, capitalism theories. Perhaps

Mises wants to tell us that "the general theory of human action" (p. 7),

which he plans to present, is a theory that would be valid for all

epochs of history. It would, therefore, be the antithesis of relativism,

as defined above.

--

Pat Gunning

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

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



Subject:

Re: HASG: Intro

Date:

Tue, 28 Jan 1997 21:40:19 -0600 (CST)

From:

sean hackbarth <shackbar@d.umn.edu>

Reply-To:

AustrianECON@agoric.com

To:

AustrianECON@agoric.com



Sorry for the late response to this post. Classes and the Super Bowl got

in the way (GO PACK GO!)

Anyway,

On Thu, 16 Jan 1997, Pat Gunning wrote:

> Questions for Thought

>

>

> 1. If Mises is correct in saying that a new domain of human knowledge

> was discovered by Cantillon, etc., how can it be that this domain was

> not discovered before?

I think Mises tries to explain this by arguing that "those thinkers whose

inquiry was free from any theological tendency failed utterly in these

endeavors because they were committed to a faulty method. They dealt with

humanity as a whole or with other holistic concepts like nation, race, or

church." (p. 1)

It seems Mises says that this new domain was discovered because people

began to use individualism to explain phenomena rather than a collective

methodology.

> 2. What is so special about the subjective theory of value that its use

> enables "us" to realize that this new domain of knowledge is not

> confined to market phenomena? Indeed, what is the subjective theory of

> value and how does it differ from the teachings of Cantillon, etc. Is

> the subjective theory of value the same as neoclassical economics?

Mises writes "Choosing determines all human decisions. In making his

choice man chooses not only between various material things and services.

All human values are offered for option. All ends and all means, both

material and ideal issues, the sublime and the base, the noble and the

ignoble, are ranged in a single row and subjected to a decision which

picks out one thing and sets aside another. Nothing that men aim at

or want to avoid remains outside of this arrangement inot a unique

scale of gradation and preference. The modern theory of value widens

the scientific horizon and enlarges the field of economic studies." (p.3)

The subjective theory of value can be applied outside market phenomena

because it takes into account the fact that man acts and _chooses_. Not

only between material items, but in every instance of action.

> 5. Were the great advances in technology a consequence of the teachings

> of the liberal economists?

I think you could argue that advances in technology were a consequence of

liberal economics and that liberal economics were a consequence of

advances in technology (it sounds like that could have some Marxist

overtones).

> 6. Can future wars be prevented by the adoption of policies advocated by

> the liberal economists? What are these policies?

Mises believes that liberal econ policies can prevent wars. In

_Liberalism_ Mises talks about how free trade can prevent wars because

nations would be interdependent and could not afford to go to war.

> 7. From the discussion in the Introduction, what are Mises's goals in

> writing this treatise. If we can identify these goals, perhaps we can

> later evaluate this work by making a judgment about whether he achieves

> them.

I think one of Mises' goals is to explain praxeology. From Mises format

of the book, it seems he develops praxeology and then applies it.

Sean

-------------------------------

Sean Hackbarth

University of Minn-Duluth

shackbar@d.umn.edu

http://www.d.umn.edu/~shackbar

-------------------------------



From - Tue Feb 04 10:21:08 1997

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

> On Thu, 16 Jan 1997, Pat Gunning wrote:

> > > Questions for Thought

> >> > 2. What is so special about the subjective theory of value that its use

> > enables "us" to realize that this new domain of knowledge is not

> > confined to market phenomena? Indeed, what is the subjective theory of

> > value and how does it differ from the teachings of Cantillon, etc. Is

> > the subjective theory of value the same as neoclassical economics?



Sean Hackbarth replied:

> Mises writes "Choosing determines all human decisions. In making his

> choice man chooses not only between various material things and services.

> All human values are offered for option. All ends and all means, both

> material and ideal issues, the sublime and the base, the noble and the

> ignoble, are ranged in a single row and subjected to a decision which

> picks out one thing and sets aside another. Nothing that men aim at

> or want to avoid remains outside of this arrangement inot a unique

> scale of gradation and preference. The modern theory of value widens

> the scientific horizon and enlarges the field of economic studies." (p.3)

> > The subjective theory of value can be applied outside market phenomena

> because it takes into account the fact that man acts and _chooses_. Not

> only between material items, but in every instance of action.



Sean, I wrote this question because I think that a prerequisite to

studying Human Action is an understanding of the subjective theory of

value. In _Epistemological Problems of Economics_, Mises discusses this

theory. Modern neo-Austrian economists would probably say that the best

exposition of the subjective value theory is Menger's _Principles_. I

think that the theory is very close to what many regard as neoclassical

economics (at least if we ignore those who associate neoclassical

economics solely with scientism and mathematics). As a shortcut to

reading Menger, one might read Mises's description while asking: is this

what modern economists mean by neoclassical economics?



Sean wrote:

> I think you could argue that advances in technology were a consequence of

> liberal economics and that liberal economics were a consequence of

> advances in technology (it sounds like that could have some Marxist

> overtones).

Mises seems to imply a kind of rationalism. He seems to say that the

writings of the liberal economists influenced policy. Then the change in

policy led to conditions that gave actors an incentive to make

technological advances. To me, this seems to be an interpretation of

historical events that many historians would challenge. So it is worth

noting.



Sean wrote:

> I think one of Mises' goals [in writing Human Action] is to explain praxeology. From Mises format

> of the book, it seems he develops praxeology and then applies it.

Suppose that we ask: why does Mises want to develop praxeology? I don't

think the Introduction has the answer to this. But it is a question

worth keeping in mind.

--

Pat Gunning

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

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





Date: Mon, 3 Feb 1997 18:18:37 -0700

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

Subject: praxeology

Pat Gunning replies to Sean Hackbarth, writing:

>Suppose that we ask: why does Mises want to develop praxeology? I don't

>think the Introduction has the answer to this. But it is a question

>worth keeping in mind.

It seems worthwhile to me also.

Here is one related point in my own evaluation: Mises was correct in

deciding to make praxeology a study which is constrained to *human* action,

but I judge him to have failed in his attempts to explain wherein human

intentionality is qualitatively distinct from the intentionality of other

animals. Lack of strong explanation on this matter poses a problem,

suggesting that there is no potential for a distinctive science of human

action, simply a general science of action. While I suspect even Mises

would have recognized praxeology as a life science, he saw it as special

because of special properties of human purpose. On this I agree, but I

propose that explanation of the specialness is unfinished business.



Date: Mon, 3 Feb 1997 20:19:47 -0800 (PST)

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

I have always found the notion of what Mises calls

"A General Theory of Human Action" to be quite strange

-- I don't quite know what would motivate the ambition to

construct such a 'theory' -- nor can I quite imagine

what the need would be for such a 'theory', or what is

bounds would be. Again, the whole endevour is strange from

the get-go.

What I am wondering is where the idea of such a thing

ever got into Mises head. For example, are the roots of this

notion in Weber, or are these roots perhaps rather in the

work of Bentham and Mill? Also -- it would seem that Parsons

attempted something very similar to Mises, i.e. attempted

to re-cast social science as an attempt to provide a 'general

theory' of action. Is there any evidence that Mises read

Parsons? Was he influenced by Parsons? What is the relation

between what Parsons came up trying to make social science

a science of 'human action', and what Mises comes up with in

his _Human Action_?

Again, I find the whole notion of a 'science' of human action

to be rather extravagant, a kind of scientism or modernism, trying

to give the modifier 'science' to something that is prior to

science and beyond science -- the stuff of our everyday existence

and doings, and as such a part of understanding that we don't

need any science to gain access to -- our doings are something we

can't escape from, and therefore set the bounds themselves on

coherent talk and coherent explanations, without need of any help

for the special advances of understanding achievable through

science or mathematical discovery.





Greg Ransom

Dept. of Philosophy

UC-Riverside

gransom@ucrac1.ucr.edu

http://csf.colorado.edu/pkt



Date: Tue, 04 Feb 1997 15:19:24 +0800

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

GREG RANSOM wrote:

>

> I have always found the notion of what Mises calls

> "A General Theory of Human Action" to be quite strange

> -- I don't quite know what would motivate the ambition to

> construct such a 'theory' -- nor can I quite imagine

> what the need would be for such a 'theory', or what is

> bounds would be. Again, the whole endevour is strange from

> the get-go.

>

> What I am wondering is where the idea of such a thing

> ever got into Mises head. For example, are the roots of this

> notion in Weber, or are these roots perhaps rather in the

> work of Bentham and Mill? Also -- it would seem that Parsons

> attempted something very similar to Mises, i.e. attempted

> to re-cast social science as an attempt to provide a 'general

> theory' of action. Is there any evidence that Mises read

> Parsons? Was he influenced by Parsons? What is the relation

> between what Parsons came up trying to make social science

> a science of 'human action', and what Mises comes up with in

> his _Human Action_?

>

> Again, I find the whole notion of a 'science' of human action

> to be rather extravagant, a kind of scientism or modernism, trying

> to give the modifier 'science' to something that is prior to

> science and beyond science -- the stuff of our everyday existence

> and doings, and as such a part of understanding that we don't

> need any science to gain access to -- our doings are something we

> can't escape from, and therefore set the bounds themselves on

> coherent talk and coherent explanations, without need of any help

> for the special advances of understanding achievable through

> science or mathematical discovery.

>

> Greg Ransom

> Dept. of Philosophy

> UC-Riverside

> gransom@ucrac1.ucr.edu

> http://csf.colorado.edu/pkt

A brief answer to your question about why Mises would want to construct

a general theory of human action, Greg, is that he felt it was necessary

in order to deal with the objections raised by the mechanicalism,

panphysicalism, and positivism that at least in practice, if not

directly in words, denied the validity of economic knowledge. I suggest

that you wait for a more detailed answer until we have a chance to see

how Mises's argument unfolds in the HASG. You might, however, want to

look at Mises's "The Treatment of 'Irrationality' in the Social

Sciences" in _Philosophy and Phenomenological Research_, June, 1944.

Incidently, there is a reference in this paper to Parsons on the first

page.



--

Pat Gunning

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

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



Date: Tue, 04 Feb 1997 10:35:45 +0000

From: "M. Royce Van Tassell" <sl08v@cc.usu.edu>

Greg Ransom wrote:

> Again, I find the whole notion of a 'science' of human action

> to be rather extravagant, a kind of scientism or modernism, trying

> to give the modifier 'science' to something that is prior to

> science and beyond science -- the stuff of our everyday existence

> and doings, and as such a part of understanding that we don't

> need any science to gain access to -- our doings are something we

> can't escape from, and therefore set the bounds themselves on

> coherent talk and coherent explanations, without need of any help

> for the special advances of understanding achievable through

> science or mathematical discovery.

In making "our everyday existence and doings" logically prior to

science, are you implying that science (defined I assume as a method

of inquiry or a mode of thought) cannot help us understand why we do

things or what our motivations are? It seems to me that while many of

the conclusions in a scientific study of human action may be obvious

ex post; however, I am certain that my motivations, and how I respond

to those motivations are often a mystery a priori. If Mises has

succeeded in constructing an a priori account of human motivation,

and how it manifests itself in _action_ by using science, he has done

us a great service.

-----------------------------------------------------

-----------------------------------------------------

M. Royce Van Tassell

Utah State University

Department of Political Science

-----------------------------------------------------

-----------------------------------------------------

"Freedom is the right to choose one's burden."





Date: 4 Feb 1997 13:15:09 -0500

From: "Richard Ebeling" <richard.ebeling@ac.hillsdale.edu>

Reply to: RE>>_Human Action_ (HAGS)



Dr. Ransom wondered why Mises would be interested in the development of a

general science of human action. Dr. Gunning offered one possible explanation

when he pointed out that: "he felt it was necessary in order to deal with the

objections raised by the mechanicalism, panphysicalism, and positivism that at

least in practice, if not directly in words denied the validity of economic

knowledge."

I would like to add to this that, in fact, the economics profession had

already been moving in this direction since the end of the 19th century.

Israel Kirzner partly addresses this question in his book, "The Economic Point

of View," in which he explains the process by which in the late 19th and early

20th centuries economics was being broadened into a general logic of human

choice and them into a general logic of action.

Sidney Sherwood's 1897 essay on "The Philosophical Basis of Economics" already

is clearly describing the general logic of intentional choice. The

generalizing of economizing behavior to incorporate all situations in which

the means are insufficient to satisfy all the desired ends is one of the

hallmarks of Philip Wicksteed's 1910 treatise, "The Common Sense of Political

Economy." Wicksteed gives such examples as the mother who distributes the

scarce milk into the glasses of her children around the dining table; the

weighing of the costs and the benefits of getting up from under the sheet on a

cold night to get a warm blanket; the decision as to whether or not to jump

off a bridge to help a drowning man in the waters below.

This generalizing and formalizing of the logic of choice and decision-making

became a central area of interest for a number of the Austrian economists in

the early 1920s. This was done especially by Hans Mayer in an article in 1922

and by Richard von Strigl in his book, "Economic Categories and the

Organization of the Economy" in 1923. Unfortunately, both are only in German.

We find this generalizing of the logic of choice in Mises' "Socialism" (1922)

as well, especially Part II, Chapter I, Sections 1 and 2. All of these works,

by Hans Mayer, Richard von Strigl and Ludwig von Mises were central influences

on Lionel Robbins in developing his argument about the generalized logic of

choice in his "An Essay on the Nature and Signficance of Economic Science"

(1932).

But Mises believed that even this logic of choice was itself a subcategory of

a more general logic of action. I.e., the logic of intentionality, itself, in

which the active mind imagines preferred states-of-affairs in the form of a

projection into a possible future-to-come; the selection of "means" out of the

things around the conscious decision-maker; the constuction of a

plan-of-action, in which the ends-means relationship was ordered, arranged and

(if viewed as desirable and potentionally doeable) set into motion. In other

words, the "givens" of the formal logic of choice were themselves the

creations of the conscious, active, intentional mind. The active mind of the

human agent, indeed, creates the ends-means schema.

Who were the influences on Mises' in thinking in this way? Among them,

clearly, were Max Weber, Edmund Husserl and Henri Bergson. I have tried to

show some of these connections in a recent piece of mine on "Austrian

Subjectivism and Phenomenological Foundations" in "Advances in Austrian

Economics."

Richard M. Ebeling

Ludwig von Mises Professor

of Economics

Hillsdale College

Hillsdale, Michigan 49242

Tele: (517) 437-7341 (office)

Fax: (517) 437-3923 (office)

Tele and Fax:

(517) 439-9232 (home)

E-Mail: Richard.Ebeling@ac.Hillsdale.edu







Date: Tue, 4 Feb 1997 16:15:27 -0800 (PST)

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

I'd like to make a cluster of rather difficult points in

response to the very helpful discussions of Richard Ebeling,

Pat Gunning and some others. (Brief personal note: I'm

not as yet entitled to the honor of being addressed as a "Dr.",

used now only in jest by my old school buddies in business,

ect.) The first point I want to make is a rather deep insight

we owe to Ludgwig Wittgenstein's advancements in our understanding

of logic, along with language and mathematics. The insight is

a difficult and profound one, but should be more accessible to Austrians

than to mathematical economists. Let me start with a picture, which

will help folks in grasping the insight. Think of the logic of

everday language as something like the roads and streets of an ancient

city like Rome or Tokyo, a nest of intertwined paths bending in

all sorts of directions. Then think of the designed straight streets

constructed in the subburbs of such cities, or carved out in blocks

within such cities. You might think of these straight and precisely

carved out streets as well constructed aspects of formal systems in

mathematics or mathematical logic. Wittgenstein's profound point

is that the old roads and streets of the ancient city are

unproblematically significant in their ordinary contexts -- they do

their job, and get their tasks done without logical difficulty or

defect, and ordinarily without need for checking or 'proof'. In other

words, the logic of everyday language is o.k. and does its job with-

out risk of contradiction or incoherence -- when that language has

remained at home doing its everyday job. Now, when we find it useful

to develop or construct a specialized formal system for a specialize

task, e.g. geometry, we easily mislead ourselves. We begin to think

that the only uses of language which are significant or logically sound

are those which have been consciously constructed -- layed down in

formal systems of rules. We loose sight of the fact that even laying

down these rules has depended in the prior instance on the everyday

built-up langauge -- just as the building of very straight blocked out

roads in the ancient city has depended in the prior instance on the

old roads in which the new formal system is itself set. What begins

to happen is that we think we can from a '

God's eye view replace the old ancient network of roads completely with

a new straight and formal consciously constructed system -- just as

the neoclassical economists thought that we could from a God's eye

view replace the ancient complex and undesigned web of market resource

coordination with a top-down and mapped out consciously constructed

central organization of production and distribution.

My point in reference to Mises is that I fear he is making the mistake

of the neo-classical economist and the analytic logician/positivist

when Mises thinks that the model of mapping out consciously the formal

system of the logic of planning consumption activities can be fully

and coherently impused upon the rich and in many ways only partially

articuled phenomena of human doings and learnings and thinkings and

feelings (and other conscions, intentional, purposive, etc.) -- which

alread is captured in fabuously rich detail in ordinary language,

as the ancient cities of Tokyo and Paris are articulated in rich winding

roads and streets.



So what I am 'accusing' Mises of in his ambition to come up with a

'general' theory of 'human action' on the model of the very tiny part

of human phenomena mapped by the logic of planning of consumption

is the error of what Hayek calls 'constructivism' and what Wittgenstein

attacked in a similar way in his later works on logic, psychology,

language, and mathematics. See esp. L. Wittgenstein, _Philosophical

Investigations_, _Remarks on Mathematics_, and _The Blue and the Brown

Books_.



I will get back to some of these themes in a later post.

Greg Ransom

Dept. of Philosophy

UC-Riverside

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



Tracy Bruce Harms

Lake County, California



Date: Tue, 04 Feb 1997 14:59:17 +0800

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

T. B. Harms wrote:

> I judge [Mises] to have failed in his attempts to explain wherein human

> intentionality [in humans] is qualitatively distinct from the intentionality of other

> animals. Lack of strong explanation on this matter poses a problem,

> suggesting that there is no potential for a distinctive science of human

> action, simply a general science of action.

Does the notion of "intentionality" capture all that Mises regards as

distinct about human action?

If one sought to "prove" that the intentionality of humans differs from

the intentionality of animals, how would he proceed?

Mises wrote: "What distinguishes man from beasts is precisely that he

adjusts his behavior deliberatively."(1966, 17)

Man differs from all other animals because "he can control both his

sexual desires and his will to live."(19)

"Man has specifically human desires and needs which we may call 'higher'

than those which he has in common with the other mammals."(20)

Mises's praxeology applies to "normal" human actors. On p. 252 of Human

Action (1966), Mises notes that "the minor family members in the market

society...are...themselves not actors..."

--

Pat Gunning

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

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



Date: Tue, 04 Feb 1997 11:12:49 +0000

From: "M. Royce Van Tassell" <sl08v@cc.usu.edu>

I'm not sure if this comment is a reflection of my exposure to Hume

or to Hayek or what, but Mises seems to have much greater faith in

the ability of human reason than is warranted.

On page 3 of the Introduction, he refers to "a unique scale of

gradation and preference." This scale contains "all human values,"

including not only ends, but means as well. That such a scale exists,

even only in the mind, seems rather doubtful. However, he attaches

this scale to the moment of choice. Seemingly, at the moment of

choice humans are fully cognizant of the place of each end/mean on

this unique scale to between, and based on their placement chooses

accordingly.

Several problems seem inherent. First, what does "unique" mean?

Assuming that he is indicating that it applies only to one

individual, does he mean that this list is constant, or does it

change over time?

Second, can this theory account for self-acknowledged

"mistakes?" If humans are fully cognizant of their scale of

preferences, make a decision based on that, they cannot

later decide that their decision was wrong, unless there is a

constant scale against which decisions are based. And yet each of us

recognizes that we make wrong decisions on a regular basis. Even

assuming that we had all relevant information, we accept that we made

a mistake in judgment. Perhaps we mistook the importance of our

choices, or perhaps we didn't acknowledge one choice as legitimate.

To take an even more realistic view, I don't think anyone will

dispute that we don't have all relevant information in making a

decision. Our mind is incapable of consciously assimilating more than

a few bits of information simultaneously, and yet many of our handle

vast amounts of information. This is only possible if we have

developed mechanisms for selectively choosing what appear to be the

relevant data. Such selectivity does not seem to square with this

passage from HA: "In making his choie man chooses not only between

various material thins and services. _All_ human values are offered

for option" (p. 3, emphasis added).

Certainly all of us can relate anecdotes about we discounted an

important piece of information, perhaps the crucial piece, in making

a decision. Not that we were necessarily unaware of the piece of

information, but in the moment of choice, we did not allow it to

play as prominent a role in our calculus, as in hindsight we would

have liked. Hindsight is always 20/20 precisely because then we can

see the choice to be made in a clearer perspective, one that was most

likely unavailable to us at the moment of our decision.

Am I understanding Mises' intentions correctly? Or am I reading too

much into these phrases?

-----------------------------------------------------

-----------------------------------------------------

M. Royce Van Tassell

Utah State University

Department of Political Science

-----------------------------------------------------

-----------------------------------------------------

"Freedom is the right to choose one's burden."







Date: Wed, 05 Feb 1997 10:08:47 +0800

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

> So what I am 'accusing' Mises of in his ambition to come up with a

> 'general' theory of 'human action' on the model of the very tiny part

> of human phenomena mapped by the logic of planning of consumption

> is the error of what Hayek calls 'constructivism' and what Wittgenstein

> attacked in a similar way in his later works on logic, psychology,

> language, and mathematics.

As I see it, Greg, you are making an uninformed accusation. I believe

that as the HASG gets further along, your concerns will provide the

basis for a lively debate. In my view, we cannot have a serious debate

on Human Action without first reading it thoroughly and discussing the

messages Mises sought to convey.

--

Pat Gunning

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

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



Date: Tue, 4 Feb 1997 21:23:33 -0800 (PST)

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

Pat, Pat, Pat, the messages that Mises is seeking to convey

begin on the first few pages, and in light of my many, many readings

of Mises' _Human Action_ and a bunch of the secondary literature

I feel strongly confident that my concerns are not based on lack of

information. We begin at the beginning, and the beginning has

both many strong claims, and a context for thinking about those claims,

both in the late 19th century and early 20th century -- and a wider

context of developments across the 20th century in thinking about logic,

language, mathematics, etc. To get a fuller grip on the richness &

robustness of Mises project, standing Mises up to some of the big guns

to get his measure is a helpful thing, not an 'uninformed' thing.

Many of us have read Mises _Human Action_ multiple times. We can talk

about it in any detail or generality that folks find helpful in

thinking about the text as we go. This has worked in other reading

groups I've participated in, where folks came at a text with all

sort of different background experience, included folk new to a text,

and others who had read the text multiple times, etc. In my experience

the variety and mix of conversation is a beneficial thing, and it

gets people to thinking -- and to talking, sometime even in new ways on

subjects they wouldn't have thought to put into words before.



Greg Ransom

gransom@ucrac1.ucr.edu



Date: Wed, 05 Feb 1997 17:44:52 +0800

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

GREG RANSOM wrote:

>

> Pat, Pat, Pat, the messages that Mises is seeking to convey

> begin on the first few pages, and in light of my many, many readings

> of Mises' _Human Action_ and a bunch of the secondary literature

> I feel strongly confident that my concerns are not based on lack of

> information.

Greg, in recent posts, you have made what seem to me to be some pretty

odd remarks for someone who is very familiar with _Human Action_. I must

apologize if I have misinterpreted their source.

In your next to last post, you said that you wondered what

motivated Mises, what was the need, and what would be the bounds of a

general theory of human action. Then, instead of recognizing that Mises

uses a different definition of science, you seemed to be putting Mises

in a class of people who Hayek would have criticized in his work on

"scientism." Mises wrote about a _science_ of human action but he did

not mean science in the sense that Hayek wrote about scientism. I

believe that Mises used several words to refer to what Hayek meant by

scientism, including "panphysicalism."

In your most recent post, you write of old roads as if they are the same

as old understandings about interactions among people. You write as if

the classical economists did not advance our understanding of the market

economy and as if the subjective theory of value was not an advance in

our understanding of economic interaction. You write as if there is some

kind of spontaneous order of economic theory. As if producing superior

theory is the same as planning city streets. As if the fact that

language and theoretical structures have a history makes it impossible

to develop a new and superior language or theory. I think that I can

show that your statements contradict statements in _Human Action_. Maybe

you understood Mises well and are criticizing him. If so, then you need

to tell us some more, I think.

You used Hayek's characterization of praxeology as a "logic of choice."

And then you defined this as "mapping out consciously the formal system

of the logic of planning consumption activities." What do you mean by

"mapping out" and "formal?" Can you cite a passage in _Human Action_ to

support your or Hayek's interpretation?

And, finally, you speak of constructing a theoretical structure for

understanding a part of human activity as if it was the same as central

planning and socialism, since you invoke the term "constructivism".

----

One point raised by what appears to be your criticism of the project

Mises started is this: what is the difference, if any, between (1)

planning a society or economy, and (2) producing a superior means of

understanding the human condition? I think I can answer this one.

I think that the two ideas are mutually exclusive. Whether one can

achieve (2) seems to me totally unrelated to whether one can achieve

(1). In the field of natural science, man has produced superior

theories; is it not reasonable to expect that he can do the same in the

field of "human science"?

--

Pat Gunning

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

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



Date: Wed, 5 Feb 1997 12:13:17 -0800 (PST)

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

Pat asks if it is reasonable to expect that we can expect to

do the same as we have done in the natural science -- produce superior

theories. First, a problem -- according to what criteria are these

'theories' or 'superior'? What many pick out as the necessary qualities

of 'theories' and of 'superiority' in natural science seems to leave

social science in a bad way.

My own view is that the 'reasonableness of expectations' questions is

one that I don't know how we could answer.

In fact (rather than theory or probability) my judgement is that

we have produced superior theories in the area of the _problem_ of

undesigned order in the social sphere. I reject the notion of

"human science" as hopelessly muddled and ambiguous, something like

talking about 'nature science' -- which could be anything and

nothing.



Greg Ransom

gransom@ucrac1.ucr.edu

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





Date: Wed, 5 Feb 1997 14:35:34 -0800 (PST)

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

In my working paper "Science Without Planning: The General

Economy of Science" I point out why a definition of relative superiority

among scientific explanations in terms of pre-defined aims & goals

is inadequate (I also have a working paper titled "Is Scientific Progress

Real or Illusory?" which discusses the same point in greater detail).

The paper is on the web at: http://members.aol.com/gregransom/scienceplan.htm

My work builds on that of Kuhn, Popper, Hayek, Polanyi, and others.



Surely Mises is using the term 'science' in the wider sense, which

encompasses math, geometry, etc., and surely Hayek's later accounts of

'scientism' emcompasses more than physics envy, as I pointed out in

my last post. See again also P.M.S. Hacker, _Wittgenstein's Place in

Twentieth-Century Analytic Philosophy_ for a use of the term 'scientism'

in this wider sense, endorsed by Hayek in his later characterizations

of the notion of 'scientism' in its wider sense.





Greg Ransom

gransom@ucrac1.ucr.edu

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



Date: Wed, 5 Feb 1997 14:40:54 -0800 (PST)

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

I did not say, and certainly did not mean to suggest, that Mises

makes the error of adopting the theories and methods of natural science.

As I pointed out in detail earlier, use of the word 'scientism' has

_no_ such implication -- as Hayek was clear about from his very first

use of this term in the early 1940s.



(ANd has repeatedly pointed out since).



Greg Ransom

gransom@ucrac1.ucr.edu

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



Date: Wed, 5 Feb 1997 14:51:15 -0800 (PST)

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

Our picture of 'science' goes back to Plato and especially

Aristotle. Much of the hard work in the 20th century in logic

and epistemology has been to show how this picture has

corrupted our image of math, logic, and explanation in the

natural and social science, and in the understanding of

human doings and mind. I.e. it has been to show that we have

inherited a false picture of 'science' and 'knowledge' from

Plato and Aristotle, and we have attempted to impose this false

picture on language, natural science, social science, and the

doings of man (as well as upon mathematics, formal logic, and a

number of other formal endevours). A careful and judicious

reading of Mises text reveals, in my own judgment, that much of

Mises picture & effort remain embedded in this ancient picture

of 'science' which descends from Plato and Aristotle, and which has

been largely overturned in the work of folks like Hayek, Kuhn,

Wittgenstein, Polanyi, Popper, and others (in varying degrees and

dimensions).



Greg Ransom

Dept. of Philosophy

Uc-Riverside

gransom@ucrac1.ucr.edu

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



Date: Wed, 5 Feb 1997 11:30:45 -0800 (PST)

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

As I point out in my "Hayek Myths" paper, under the influence of

Popper and perhaps also Mises, most people have gotten a false picture

of Hayek's word "scientism". In a later article on scientism Hayek

re-emphasizes the point which he makes in his earlier essays of

the 1940's that 'scientism' rests on a wide spread misunderstanding

of the actuall problems and explanatory strategies used in the

real sciences, particularly a very naive and philosophically bankrupt

empiricism/inductivism, and at best 'scientistic' philosophers and

social scientists treat the contingent and secondary aspects of a small

slice of the variety of scientific practices as if they were the

essential features of any science. In its widest sense, Hayek char-

acterizes 'scientism' as the notion that all knowledge and all

meaningful questions take a scientific form and can be answered

scientifically and that no knowledge, e.g. like that implicit in

tradition, language, custom, or the cumulative wisdom contained in

experience is to be considered as knowledge, or as a part of the

elements in posing or answering scientific questions of social order.

In this sense Hayek's attack on 'scientism' tracks almost exactly

Wittgenstein's attack on the 'scientism' of the analytic philosophers

of logic, mathematics, science, and language -- esp., for example,

as might be identified in the work of Quine and his follower, or in

the work of Nagel, Carnap, etc. See, on this, P.M.S. Hacker,

_Wittgenstein's Place in Twentieth-Century Analytic Philosophy_, 1996.

(Most highly recommended as a background for understanding 20th

century developments in the study of language, logic, science, and

epistemology).

To the degree that Mises wants to make all of human doings part of a

'science' he is engaging in a scientistic project in the sense of

Hayek. My own proposal is that our deepest appreciation for scientism

of this type has been provided to us in work richly complements

Hayek's own studies of language, custom, and human behavior -- in

the work of Ludgwig Wittgenstein. (See, e.g. his _Philosophical

Investigations_ or his _The Blue and the Brown Book_, or his _Remarks

on Mathematics_, of some of his books on psychology.).





Greg Ransom

Dept. of Philosophy

UC-Riverside

gransom@aucrac1.ucr.edu

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



Date: Wed, 5 Feb 1997 11:45:39 -0800 (PST)

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

Let's be very clear. Mises uses the language of providing

a "science of human action". He discusses this science as an

apriori science of some type, perhaps in some ways similar

to the apriori science of geometry. Since the time of Plato

and Aristotle there has been a picture in the minds of philosophers

and scientists and logicians, etc. that _all_ science must have

virtues first identified in the apriori science of geometry.

Hayek's attack on scientism, supplimented by the work of folks

like Popper, Wittgenstein, Kuhn, Polanyi, and others has taught us

to rejec the notion that all of what we can count as 'knowledge'

must fit into a particular epistemological/formal/ontological picture

derived from the heritage of Plato and the Greek geometers. This

rejection is a rejection of the dichotomy of knowledge/mere opinion,

and a rejection of an understanding of all knowledge as atoms of

significance within a publicly articulated formal construction with

formal procedures providing formal operations of certification or

decertification. It is hard not to look at what Mises is doing in the

first few pages of _Human Action_ as an attempt to satisfy the ancient

dictates for "knowledge' inherited from Plato, Aristotle, and the

Greek -- and doing so in a way that would count as 'scientism' to the

lights of Hayek and Wittgenstein.

Greg Ransom

Dept. of Philosophy

UC-Riverside

gransom@ucrac1.ucr.edu

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



Date: Tue, 04 Feb 1997 11:12:49 +0000

From: "M. Royce Van Tassell" <sl08v@cc.usu.edu>

Subject: HASG:Intro:Scale of Preferences

To: AustrianECON@agoric.com

I'm not sure if this comment is a reflection of my exposure to Hume

or to Hayek or what, but Mises seems to have much greater faith in

the ability of human reason than is warranted.

On page 3 of the Introduction, he refers to "a unique scale of

gradation and preference." This scale contains "all human values,"

including not only ends, but means as well. That such a scale exists,

even only in the mind, seems rather doubtful. However, he attaches

this scale to the moment of choice. Seemingly, at the moment of

choice humans are fully cognizant of the place of each end/mean on

this unique scale to between, and based on their placement chooses

accordingly.

Several problems seem inherent. First, what does "unique" mean?

Assuming that he is indicating that it applies only to one

individual, does he mean that this list is constant, or does it

change over time?

Second, can this theory account for self-acknowledged

"mistakes?" If humans are fully cognizant of their scale of

preferences, make a decision based on that, they cannot

later decide that their decision was wrong, unless there is a

constant scale against which decisions are based. And yet each of us

recognizes that we make wrong decisions on a regular basis. Even

assuming that we had all relevant information, we accept that we made

a mistake in judgment. Perhaps we mistook the importance of our

choices, or perhaps we didn't acknowledge one choice as legitimate.

To take an even more realistic view, I don't think anyone will

dispute that we don't have all relevant information in making a

decision. Our mind is incapable of consciously assimilating more than

a few bits of information simultaneously, and yet many of our handle

vast amounts of information. This is only possible if we have

developed mechanisms for selectively choosing what appear to be the

relevant data. Such selectivity does not seem to square with this

passage from HA: "In making his choie man chooses not only between

various material thins and services. _All_ human values are offered

for option" (p. 3, emphasis added).

Certainly all of us can relate anecdotes about we discounted an

important piece of information, perhaps the crucial piece, in making

a decision. Not that we were necessarily unaware of the piece of

information, but in the moment of choice, we did not allow it to

play as prominent a role in our calculus, as in hindsight we would

have liked. Hindsight is always 20/20 precisely because then we can

see the choice to be made in a clearer perspective, one that was most

likely unavailable to us at the moment of our decision.

Am I understanding Mises' intentions correctly? Or am I reading too

much into these phrases?

-----------------------------------------------------

-----------------------------------------------------

M. Royce Van Tassell

Utah State University

Department of Political Science

-----------------------------------------------------

-----------------------------------------------------

"Freedom is the right to choose one's burden."



Date: Wed, 05 Feb 1997 09:29:33 +0800

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

M. Royce Van Tassell wrote:

> > Am I understanding Mises' intentions correctly? Or am I reading too

> much into these phrases?

I think that you are reading too much into this paragraph. As I

understand it, the paragraph maintains that the logical outcome of the

work of the subjective value theorists (Menger, Jevons, etc.) is broader

than economics. The logic proposed by these theorists applies not only

to a general theory of choice under economic conditions but also to a

general theory of action under all conditions. It applies not only to

economic motives but to all motives for action. The logic of economic

choice assumes a "unique scale of gradation and preference" with respect

to economic goods. The logic of action assumes such a scale with respect

to all manner and form of options that a subject might regard as

relevant, including economic goods.

Moreover -- and it is essential, I think, to realize Mises's strong

position here -- because the problems of economics are "embedded in a

more general science," those problems cannot properly be separated. In

short, if economists do not acknowledge that economics is a part of

praxeology, they will make errors.

It is quite reasonable that modern professional economists would object

to this at first. To understand Mises's reasoning fully, I think we will

have to wait until he more fully presents his view of the relationship

between economics and praxeology. You might wish to consult Mises, 1966,

p. 232-234.

--

Pat Gunning

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

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



From: "M. Royce Van Tassell" <sl08v@cc.usu.edu>

Subject: Re: HASG:Intro:Scale of Preferences

Pat Gunning wrote:

> I think that you are reading too much into this paragraph. As I

> understand it, the paragraph maintains that the logical outcome of the

> work of the subjective value theorists (Menger, Jevons, etc.) is broader

> than economics. The logic proposed by these theorists applies not only

> to a general theory of choice under economic conditions but also to a

> general theory of action under all conditions. It applies not only to

> economic motives but to all motives for action. The logic of economic

> choice assumes a "unique scale of gradation and preference" with respect

> to economic goods. The logic of action assumes such a scale with respect

> to all manner and form of options that a subject might regard as

> relevant, including economic goods.

> > Moreover -- and it is essential, I think, to realize Mises's strong

> position here -- because the problems of economics are "embedded in a

> more general science," those problems cannot properly be separated. In

> short, if economists do not acknowledge that economics is a part of

> praxeology, they will make errors.

I understand and agree that Mises is trying to situate economics

within the larger field of praxeology, and that ignoring this larger

picture severely limits the applicability of economic findings.

However, I am still not sure what Mises means by a "unique scale of

gradation and preferences" or by all ends/means being ordered "in a

single row." Such language seems to indicate non-conflicting

preferences. While I am skeptical, perhaps preferences are internally

consistent at a given moment in time, but they certainly aren't over

time. I'm not questioning the claim that economics is only a

subset of the larger logic of choice, praxeology; rather, I am

questioning the mode in which humans choose.

-----------------------------------------------------

-----------------------------------------------------

M. Royce Van Tassell

Utah State University

Department of Political Science

-----------------------------------------------------

-----------------------------------------------------

"Freedom is the right to choose one's burden."

06 Feb 1997 09:28:48 -0600 (MDT)

Date: Wed, 05 Feb 1997 21:06:03 +0000

From: "M. Royce Van Tassell" <sl08v@cc.usu.edu>

Greg Ransom writes:

> (3) From the insight that the logical structure of mind is uniform

> and immutable in some sense, it does not follow at all that our thinking,

> e.g. as embedded in language & custom & practices, etc. is not

> dependent on context, i.e. is not _socially_ embedded. Thus Mises is

> overstretching and not being subtle in his attacks on accounts of

> the social embeddedness and dependence of knowledge and our thinking.

> I think his points against Marxism and historicism are valid, but

> the form of his argument is defective and incomplete. By contrast, in

> Hayek, Wittgenstein, and Kuhn, the facts or insights that both

> the structure of the human mind is uniform/immutible (in a deeply

> profound sense) and that our knowledge/thinking/language is culturally

> and socially embedded is rightfully acknowledge, and worked out in

> a remarkably coherent fashion.

Greg,

I'm curious what you mean by the "form" of Mises' argument. Can you

elaborate. Please include an explanation of how his form might have

been altered to better account for both the immutable and contextual

sides to human thought.

-----------------------------------------------------

-----------------------------------------------------

M. Royce Van Tassell

Utah State University

Department of Political Science

-----------------------------------------------------

-----------------------------------------------------

"Freedom is the right to choose one's burden."



Date: Wed, 5 Feb 1997 15:13:37 -0800 (PST)

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

I'd like to point to another deeply profound insight

articulated by Mises in the opening pages of _Human Action_.

Mises writes (p. 4): "From time immemorial men in thinking,

speaking, and acting ad taken the uniformity and immutability

of the logical structure of the human mind as an unquestionable

fact. All sceintific inquiry was based on this assumption."



A couple of remarks:

(1) Hayek repeats just this insight in several of his essays

of the 1940's -- his direct inspiration seems to be Mises manuscript

of 1939, although remarks with a family resemblance are found

earlier in the work of Wieser, and Mises uses similar language (if

I remember correctly) in some of his essays of the early 1930's

(if someone could correct me on this I'd be delighted -- I haven't

taken the time to check my notes on this).

(2) In my judgment the most sophisticated articulation of Mises

insight, developed in the context of logic, language, and mathematics,

-- and without the defect of falling into logical paradox, or

'scientism', or the fallacies of metaphysical atomism, etc. -- is

to be found in the later work of Ludwig Wittgenstein. Thomas Kuhn

develops the application of this idea to science in especially

the essays contained in his _The Essential Tension_. (The insight

in Kuhn is largely implicit in his discussion.).

(3) From the insight that the logical structure of mind is uniform

and immutable in some sense, it does not follow at all that our thinking,

e.g. as embedded in language & custom & practices, etc. is not

dependent on context, i.e. is not _socially_ embedded. Thus Mises is

overstretching and not being subtle in his attacks on accounts of

the social embeddedness and dependence of knowledge and our thinking.

I think his points against Marxism and historicism are valid, but

the form of his argument is defective and incomplete. By contrast, in

Hayek, Wittgenstein, and Kuhn, the facts or insights that both

the structure of the human mind is uniform/immutible (in a deeply

profound sense) and that our knowledge/thinking/language is culturally

and socially embedded is rightfully acknowledge, and worked out in

a remarkably coherent fashion.





Greg Ransom

Dept. of Philosophy

UC-Riverside

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

gransom@ucrac1.ucr.edu



Date: Thu, 06 Feb 1997 11:55:16 +0800

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

Referring to p. 4-7 of _Human Action_GREG RANSOM wrote:

>

> (3) From the insight that the logical structure of mind is uniform

> and immutable in some sense, it does not follow at all that our thinking,

> e.g. as embedded in language & custom & practices, etc. is not

> dependent on context, i.e. is not _socially_ embedded. Thus Mises is

> overstretching and not being subtle in his attacks on accounts of

> the social embeddedness and dependence of knowledge and our thinking.

> I think his points against Marxism and historicism are valid, but

> the form of his argument is defective and incomplete. By contrast, in

> Hayek, Wittgenstein, and Kuhn, the facts or insights that both

> the structure of the human mind is uniform/immutible (in a deeply

> profound sense) and that our knowledge/thinking/language is culturally

> and socially embedded is rightfully acknowledge, and worked out in

> a remarkably coherent fashion.

Your judgment that Hayek, Wittgenstein, and Kuhn "did it better" may be

correct. The only way to find out is to study the works of those

writers. Since here we are studying _Human Action_, however, perhaps you

would carefully state Mises's argument with text references so that we

can see as much as possible what it is that you object to.

I suspect that you are misinterpreting Mises, but perhaps it is my

interpretation that is wrong. Your post is not very helpful in enabling

me to make an informed judgment.



--

Pat Gunning

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

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



Date: Wed, 5 Feb 1997 20:46:14 -0800 (PST)

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

I would suggest that Mises is being very heavy handed

on page 5 of _Human Action_ in his discussions of Marxism

and historicism (even though I sympathize completely

with Mises objection to these programs and some of the

central aspects of their explanatory procedures & their

casting of problems). For example, Mises clearly identifies

'thinking' with 'logic' at the top of page 5. So that

the social embeddedness of thinking -- which cannot be doubted

-- becomes an assertion of so-called 'polylogism'. I tooks

to me like Mises is making unwarrented attacks on a straw-man

here -- and taking leaps that don't follow. The whole

argument turns on an indentity between 'thinking' and 'logical

structure of mind' which doesn't follow. We can both share

a uniformity/immutablity of logical structure of mind _and_ also

think in ways that are embedded in social contexts and

traditions which are not shared. The Marxist and historicist

account of these facts, and their relations is deeply

flawed, but Mises doesn't very successfully get at those

flaws -- he kills a self-construct man of straw, not a

sophisticated version of the rival picture he wishes to defeat

and provide an alternative too.

Sentences from _Human Action_, p. 5.

"Marxism asserts that a man's thinking is determined by his

class affiliation. Every social class has a logic of its own."

"Historicism asserts that the logical structure of human

thought and action is liable to change in the course of historical

evolution."



In various ways our thinking is shaped and determined by

social circumstances/context/training, and in various ways the

logic of ordinary language is the product of historical

background/training in a historical natural language/social

practice. Wittgenstein shows that these facts are not at

all incompatible with the insight that we must share ways of

going on together which is essentially universal/immutable.



Here is a puzzle for Mises -- our use of the words 'value', 'capital',

'money', 'choice', 'price' has developed and evolved over time,

and this use has been shaped and determined by social circumstances

and training in ordinary language and in the technical lauguage

of economics. E.g. the significance of the use of the words 'price',

'entrepreneur', 'capital', 'value', etc. changes through time as

we move from Smith to Ricardo to Walras to Mises, etc. Make sense of

these changes in thinking embodied in the changing uses & significance of

the words used in economic discussions must we posite that the logical

structure of human minds has changed? Of course not. Demonstrating in

other words that Mises identify of 'changing thinking shaped/embedded

in changing social circumstances (i.e. of the community of economists and

of training in technical economic language)' with 'changes in the logic

or logical structure of men's minds' is a confusion, a mistake.



Greg Ransom

gransom@ucrac1.ucr.edu



Date: Thu, 06 Feb 1997 13:56:21 +0800

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

Referring to p. 4-5 of _Human Action_GREG RANSOM wrote:

>

> It looks

> to me like Mises is making unwarrented attacks on a straw-man

> here -- and taking leaps that don't follow.



Thank you, Greg, for focusing on Mises's discussion. According to your

interpretation of p. 4-5, Mises's discussion of polylogism is an attack

on the notion that thinking or logic is embedded in the "traditions,

culture, etc."

My interpretation is different. I see his discussion in the three

paragraphs beginning at the bottom of p. 4 as an intellectual history

(i.e., a history of the discussion of "intellectuals"), rather than a

criticism of particular positions. The polylogism position is further

described in the paragraph that begins at the bottom of page 5. In the

paragraph at the top of p. 7, Mises points out that economics has the

task of refuting the claims of polylogism, etc. But, as I see it, he

does not try to refute those claims in his introduction.

--

Pat Gunning

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

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



Date: Wed, 5 Feb 1997 13:22:28 -0800 (PST)

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

Let's look away for a minute from some of Mises 'official'

definitions and pronouncements on what he claims to be

doing, and look at some really importance things that he

does in simply telling his story of the development of

our understanding of the world of market phenomena. What

we find here is talk of a shift in the perception folks

have of the _problem_ to be grappled with. This is a theme

found earlier in the work of Hayek and in may account of

the advance of understanding represented by economic explanation

this crucial shift in how we think about the _problem_ is

also central. Mises story of this shift is very brief, and it

is also laced with ambiguity -- the sort of muddle and

ambiguity enshrined in the words 'law', 'regularity', 'action',

and 'data'.

Some questions are: how accurate is the brief history of

economics that Mises provides here in the first few pages of

_Human Action_, and how helpful or unhelpful is it in helping

us to grasp his underlying explanatory problem and explanatory

effort? What aspects of Mises account are more misleading

than they are helpful here?



Greg Ransom

gransom@ucrac1.ucr.edu



Date: 5 Feb 1997 21:33:32 -0500

From: "Richard Ebeling" <richard.ebeling@ac.hillsdale.edu>

Reply to: RE>> _Human Action_ (HASG), pp. 4-5.

Just as an aside, on the issue of Hayek's 1940s writings on Scientism and

Mises, I have read through the correspondance between Hayek and Mises in the

1940s, and in a couple of letters Mises emphasizes that he considered these

writings by Hayek not only to be extremely important, but among the best that

Hayek had written. And it is clear that except for a few minor points

(specifically on the method of interpretation in weighing historical facts for

assigning significance to various events in causing particular outcomes in

complex phenomena) Mises saw nothing in Hayek's writings on this theme that

was inconsistent with his own views on theory and the scientific method

"rightly understood."

Richard M. Ebeling

Ludwig von Mises Professor

of Economics

Hillsdale College

Hillsdale, Michigan 49242

Tele: (517) 437-7341 (office)

Fax: (517) 437-3923 (office)

Tele and Fax:

(517) 539-9232 (home)

E-Mail: Richard.Ebeling@ac.Hillsdale.edu

--------------------------------------



Date: Wed, 5 Feb 1997 18:54:51 -0800 (PST)

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

Richard quite appropriately mentions the important and curious

letters from Mises to Hayek in which Mises highly praises Hayek's

"Scientism" essays. It should also be noted that there are

contemporaneous letters (e.g. 1939) from Hayek to Machlup in which

Hayek highly praises Mises 1940 version of _Human Action_, but

also notes that there is a great deal in this book to object to.

Hayek's objections are expressed in several places, including

in Hayek's review of Mises 1940 book. On the issue of how to think

about science it is also worth looking at Hayek's review of Mises

_Epistemological Problems of Economics_, in which Hayek characterizes

Mises target as an "uncritical empiricism" without much currency

anywhere but among a few American social scientists. Both reviews

are collected in volume 4 of Hayek's collected works.

It is worth pointing out that in a world were few hold views even

remotely close to ones own, folks tended to embrace efforts at

least a bit closer to their own -- especially when this meant that

folks were on the same side in trying to point out the errors

of a common 'opponent', or common rival point of view. An example

of this is Hayek's consistent support of Popper, despite very

deep differences in their pictures of language and science -- but

as a result of some of their common oppositions, i.e. to versions of

positivism and historicism. It is especially worth noting how

much effort Hayek and Mises put into keeping on good terms with one

another -- something that Mises was often incapable of doing with

those who looked at things from views different from his own. (This

problem is also discussed in the letters between Hayek and Machlup).

Popper himself reports that he avoided discussing important issues with

Mises, knowing that this could threaten their relationship, and any

conversation between them. It seems that in his later years folks sought

to Mises with kid gloves (at least those who cared). This is the

evidence I see in the letters and recollections of people like Hayek,

Popper, and Machlup.



Greg Ransom

Dept. of Philosophy

UC-Riverside

gransom@ucrac1.ucr.edu

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



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

To: AustrianECON@agoric.com

Richard points out that Mises never seemed to see anything in

Hayek's writings on the character of science and the science of

economics inconsiste this his own views on theory and the so-called

'scientific method' rightly understood. Hayek comments on this

in several places -- pointing out that he could only understand this

way of thinking by guessing that Mises failed to see the argument

and its target -- Mises own work on the character of science and of

scientific explanation in economics. Hayek also tells us that he

was intentionally very careful _not_ to mention who the target was in

his 1937 article -- for the very reason that Hayek did not want to

offend Mises, and thus destroy their relationship, as had happened with

some others in the Mises circle who had differed with Mises on issues

of theory and the logical status of economics.

It is also important to note that Hayek's understanding of the charcgter

character of the various natural sciences changes and grew over time,

esp. under the influence of Popper's account of natural science, e.g.

Popper's emphasis on the priority and importance of empirical problems

and his attack on notion that physics proceeded according to

inductive procedures upon a basis of 'given' observations. Hayek also

read the work of folks like Polanyi and Kuhn, and was very impressed

with the work of these writers on the character of doing science. So what

Mises and Hayek agree on re: the character of natural science in, say,

1942, would be something else again from the picture of science that you

find in Hayek's account of science in say 1964.



Greg Ransom

gransom@ucrac1.ucr.edu



Date: Wed, 5 Feb 1997 19:38:14 -0800 (PST)

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

A remark by Hayek that I have posted to this list

in the past perhaps would provide some useful context

to some of my remarks recently on this list.

Quoting Hayek: ".. in spite of Mises' argument

against positivism, I would say that even Mises was

still at heart a positivst who had not completely

freed himself from its assumptions, which in a way

really go back to Rene Descartes."

I think that some of the work of folks like Hayek and

Larry Lauden and Walter Weimer help us to see that

these assumption deeper assumptions really go all the

way back to Plato and especially Aristotle. And I

would agree with Hayek that Mises in his heart is still

wedded to many of these assumption, i.e. has not yet

freed himself from assumptions traceable back to ancient

tradition of Plato and Aristotle (developed in its

various modern forms in Descartes, Hume, Kant and the

logical positivist, among others) -- assumptions

that over time are cast off in the work of Hayek, Popper,

Wittgenstein, Kuhn, Polanyi, Weimer, and various other

folks participating in what I have called (after Erik Rech),

the modern 'reversal of metaphysics', which has come in

wake of the rejection of the concern over certainty or

certifiers in our understanding of science, logic, mathematics,

and other domains of knowledge and practice.



Greg Ransom

Dept. of PHilosophy

gransom@ucrac1.ucr.edu

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



Date: Thu, 06 Feb 1997 05:42:20 +0800

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

Greg Ransom wrote:

>As I point out in my "Hayek Myths" paper, under the influence of

>Popper and perhaps also Mises, most people have gotten a false picture

>of Hayek's word "scientism".

>In a later article on scientism Hayek

>re-emphasizes the point which he makes in his earlier essays of

>the 1940's that 'scientism' rests on a wide spread misunderstanding

>of the actual problems and explanatory strategies used in the

>real sciences, particularly a very naive and philosophically bankrupt

>empiricism/inductivism, and at best 'scientistic' philosophers and

>social scientists treat the contingent and secondary aspects of a small

>slice of the variety of scientific practices as if they were the

>essential features of any science.

This point is well taken. It is possible that Mises did not fully

appreciate the "explanatory strategies used in the real [i.e., natural,

physical] sciences," although I am not certain of this. But even if he

did not, I don't see how this is relevant to what I understand to be

your claim that because Mises speaks of a "science of human action," he

makes the error of adopting the theories and methods of natural science.



>He [Mises] discusses this science as an

>apriori science of some type, perhaps in some ways similar

>to the apriori science of geometry.

Note, Greg, the following interpretation of the Mises's idea of the

phenomena studied in the "science of human action."

Gunning wrote [in HASG:Chap1]

> We can distinguish between three forms of behavior: mechanistic behavior

>explainable by the methods of causal research; human action explainable

>by the methods of praxeology (and the assumption of teleology); and

>behavior that does not fit into these classes, which we label

>instinctive or quasi-action. Mises refers to the third of these by using

>the term "serviceable instincts."(Mises, 1966, 27)

Are you hung up on the word "science?"



>Pat asks if it is reasonable to expect that we can expect to

>do the same as we have done in the natural science -- produce superior

>theories. First, a problem -- according to what criteria are these

>'theories' or 'superior'? What many pick out as the necessary qualities

>of 'theories' and of 'superiority' in natural science seems to leave

>social science in a bad way.

The subjectivist defines "superiority" in terms of the goals aimed at by

the person or persons who engage in the action. Given this meaning, a

bigger bomb suggests a superior theory relating to bomb-building. This,

of course, does not answer the question: "what is a theory?"

--

Pat Gunning

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

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



Date: Mon, 10 Feb 1997 19:32:34 +0800

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

Subject: Re: _Human Action_ (HASG), p. 3.

Greg, one of the hazards of reading _Human Action_, in addition to the

reader's impatience, is that Mises uses language in ways that most

readers seem unaccustomed to reading. I hope that you will trust me when

I say that in order to deal with this book informatively, you must first

get acclimated to Mises's style. You wrote:

> For example, on page 3, in

> the history Mises tells, the idea tha economics was

> a science of the 'economic' aspects of human action is

> attributed exclusively to classical economists --

> misleading the reader a bit, in that this view was also

> that of many early marginalists, e.g. Menger and

> Marshall, among others.

(A) Mises uses the word "theory," not "science," in describing the

classical economists. I believe that this will be important to keep in

mind later, although I may be wrong on this. In any case, it is

essential, when reporting what Mises said, to use the words that Mises

did. Then, if one wishes to add his interpretation, he would do so by

clearly stating such.

(B) Mises does _not_ say on p. 3 that Menger and Marshall did not hold

"the idea that economics was a science (or theory) of the 'economic'

aspects of human action." I don't think that he implies it either. Nor

does he use the term "exclusively" or anything like it. Mises said that

"[o]ut of the political economy of the classical school emerges the

general theory of human action, _praxeology_." At the top of the page,

he says: "Until the late nineteenth century political economy remained a

science of the "economic" aspects of human action." He is referring to

his own view of what "political economy" was; not to how particular

individuals (Menger and Marshall) viewed it. Moreover, he might just as

well mean Bohm Bawerk and/or J. B. Clark. The seemingly intentional

vagueness here may be due to the fact that these passages appear in the

Introduction.

(C) Mises does not say that the classical economists he mentions held

"the idea that economics was a science of the 'economic' aspects of

human action." He said that they held the idea that it was "a theory of

the 'economic side' of human endeavors." There is a difference between

"endeavor" and "action." At this early stage, we could easily ignore

this difference. However, since you have challenged Mises's "story," it

is essential that we state that story as clearly as we can before we

evaluate it.







--

Pat Gunning

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

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





Date: Mon, 10 Feb 1997 19:51:03 +0800

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

GREG RANSOM wrote:

> Mises seems to

> go for this identification of science with 'method' and with

> 'subject matter' -- a 19th century view closely identified

> with Windelband, Roscher, and Mill, among others.

> Rejecting this picture,

> Hayek re-constructs economics in terms of empirical problems that

> market phenomena generated in our experience, once we are able

> to look upon these patterns with wonder

Greg, I don't know exactly what you mean by "identification with." But

to find out as much as possible (and as soon as possible) about what

Mises means by "science," you might explore the pages referenced in the

index to _Human Action._ This term is not included in Greaves'

glossary, by the way.

Relating to your remark on Hayek, on p. 65 of _Human Action_ Mises says:

"But the end of science is to know reality. It is not mental gymnastics

or a logical pastime. Therefore praxeology restricts its inquiries to

the study of acting under those conditoins and presuppositions which are

given in reality...However, this reference to experience does not impair

the aprioristic character of praxeology and economics."



--

Pat Gunning

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

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