My listening to and interest in Mises’s Human Action has declined dramatically. Though I don’t think I am quite ready to “liberate myself” just yet, it has fallen well down the queue

The problem is this. It was lovely when we were talking about methodology but went down hill when we started talking about economics.

Mises’s presentation of Praxeology in the abstract makes for wonderful conversation. The core arguments cut to the nature of reality and the meaning of introspection.

Though I think he confuses the matter on a few occasions my strongest interpretation of the case for Praxeology would go like this:

  1. Logic is the rules by which we construct our conception of reality. Thus whatever exists within our conception is bound by the rules of logic. Whatever exists outside of our conception is meaningless to talk about.
  2. As humans we have unique access to the process of our own introspection.
  3. We also observe an external world in which there are other humans.
  4. If we are to operate on the assumption that other humans have minds like our own then our conception of reality demands logical coherence between our own introspection and the minds of other humans.
  5. Thus we can derive a theory of human action based on introspection, logic and the assumption of other minds.

He doesn’t take the conversation here but where I think its gets interesting is when we want to talk about what it means to say that logic is the rules by which we construct conception.

I think this is true, but on one level it leaves open the possibility of sensory experience for which there is no logical construction. You might, say well no we would just invent one. This I think is an empirical question though, I am not sure we can rule it out a priori.

We need some type of “no magic” assumption.

Which is fine as maintained hypothesis of science and inductive reasoning. And, of course the problem of induction is by no means unique to praxeology.

In addition his justification for praxeology on practical grounds rests in part on the irreducibility of human thought, what he refers to as an ultimate given.

This is something that few of us believe today. While there are measurement and calculation problems I think most of us think that the standard model of particle physics “explains” everything there is to be explained about human behavior.

Still, all of that is an interesting conversation. What’s disappointing is when we get to laying out praxeology. Rather than a meticulous derivation what we get are gross statements backed up by causal reasoning and limited thought experiments.

That’s mildly interesting if you want to tell me “this is what I think about Human Action.” However, I felt like I was promised a derivation from first principles. I want to hear words like “let” and “for all” not “this comes from” and “one should see.”

No, if we are doing it this way then I want to hear “there can exist no . . . such that . . .” and “suppose not, then . . .”

To be clear, its not just the word choice. Its what the word’s signify. Its whether we are arguing that this line of reasoning seems to make sense or that no other line of reasoning could possibly make sense.

In any case, that’s my take so far. We’ll see how it goes from here.

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