I began listening to Mises’s classic, Human Action, on a long drive tonight.

Its “fascinating” on so many levels. I use scare quotes only because at this hour I can’t put my finger on quite the right word.

A few off the cuff reactions

  1. Mises begins by attempting to convince the reader of the importance of epistemology, which of course I agreed with in every respect, though it was “fascinating” that he took some things like polylogism so seriously.
  2. Though so far he is quite careful I do think he errs when he says that no one can justifiably tell another person what will make them happy. Especially when he says uneasiness compels action and action serves to increase happiness. This supplies us with a simple thought experiment: I tell you do something, you do it and then all uneasiness ceases and you stop acting. Have I not then by this own definition told you what makes you happy?
  3. He makes strong delineations between humans and animals that are awkward to the point of being slightly painful to the modern ear. Seemingly suggesting that non-human animals do not possess means-ends reasoning when experiments show us that they clearly do.
  4. He delineates between consciousness and unconsciousness in a way that is not supported by brain experiments. It is not clear that introspective rational thought plays any roll in decision making and it is certainly not fully illustrative. We know this because we can electro-mechanically manipulate someone’s brain into producing an action and the person will then report a reasoned explanation for their behavior which cannot possibly be consistent with our manipulation. This opens the possibility that all reasoned thought as we conceive of it is post hoc rationalization and at minimum some of it is.
  5. Mises has an elegant treatment of monistic materialism, which he presents as just meta-physics. Human Action was published 1949. If I remember correctly Sheldon Glasgow formalized the first version of the Standard Model in 1960. Only 11 years later. Its amazing how fast the 20th century moved.

So far, I really enjoy it and it is brilliant as a work of philosophy and glimpse into the history of human thought.