One of the absurd (perhaps latent) assumptions made by internet Austrians is that praxeology is the only method held by Austrian economists. It never seems to sink in to the Misesians that pure apriorist praxeology was rejected by Hayek and by some of the Austrian school influenced by Hayek.
Note the comments that Hayek made in a letter to Terence W. Hutchison dated 15 May, 1983:
“I had never accepted Mises’ a priorism .... Certainly 1936 was the time when I first saw my distinctive approach in full clarity – but at the time I felt it that I was merely at last able to say clearly what I had always believed – and to explain gently to Mises why I could not ACCEPT HIS A PRIORISM” (quoted in Caldwell 2009: 323–324).In a later interview, Hayek is quite explicit about his endorsement of a general Popperian method for economics:
“I became one of the early readers [sc. of Karl Popper’s Logik der Forschung, 1934]. It had just come out a few weeks before …. And to me it was so satisfactory because it confirmed this certain view I had already formed due to an experience very similar to Karl Popper’s. Karl Popper is four or five years my junior; so we did not belong to the same academic generation. But our environment in which we formed our ideas was very much the same. It was very largely dominated by discussion, on the one hand, with Marxists and, on the other hand, with Freudians. Both these groups had one very irritating attribute: they insisted that their theories were, in principle, irrefutable. Their system was so built up that there was no possibility – I remember particularly one occasion when I suddenly began to see how ridiculous it all was when I was arguing with Freudians, and they explained, “Oh, well, this is due to the death instinct.” And I said, “But this can’t be due to the [death instinct].” “Oh, then this is due to the life instinct.” … Well, if you have these two alternatives, of course there’s no way of checking whether the theory is true or not. And that led me, already, to the understanding of what became Popper’s main systematic point: that the test of empirical science was that it could be refuted, and that any system which claimed that it was irrefutable was by definition not scientific. I was not a trained philosopher; I didn’t elaborate this. It was sufficient for me to have recognized this, but when I found this thing explicitly argued and justified in Popper, I just accepted the Popperian philosophy for spelling out what I had always felt. Ever since, I have been moving with Popper” (Nobel Prize-Winning Economist: Friedrich A. von Hayek, pp. 18–19).One really has to wonder what Hayek would have thought about the hordes of ignorant Austrians on the internet today, claiming that the inferences of praxeology (and I stress the “inferences,” not the starting axioms) are irrefutable, and praxeology has no need for empirical evidence (which is in fact a distortion of what even Mises conceded). If Hayek were alive today and gave us an honest answer to this, he would have to class such vulgar Misesian praxeologists as talking nonsense on a par with Marxism and Freudian psychology.
Yet another subject rarely considered is the epistemology of Willard Van Orman Quine (1908–2000) and its implications for Austrian praxeology.
If one sees any merit in Quine’s idea that there is no meaningful distinction between analytic or synthetic propositions (and I am not saying that I do), then it logically follows that the basis for the a priori status of the human action axiom is destroyed (in fact, the status of all alleged a priori propositions is fatally compromised). For Quine believed that no proposition is immune from possible revision of its truth by the test of experience, and that there is in fact no real a priori knowledge of reality.
Caldwell, B. 2009. “A Skirmish in the Popper Wars: Hutchison versus Caldwell on Hayek, Popper, Mises, and methodology,” Journal of Economic Methodology 16.3: 315–324.
Nobel Prize-Winning Economist: Friedrich A. von Hayek. Interviewed by Earlene Graver, Axel Leijonhufvud, Leo Rosten, Jack High, James Buchanan, Robert Bork, Thomas Hazlett, Armen A. Alchian, Robert Chitester, Regents of the University of California, 1983.