But wasn’t Mises’s epistemology essentially derived from Kantianism?
Barrotta contends that, although Mises was influenced by Kantianism, in fact his epistemology badly misunderstood Kant and can be refuted from a Kantian perspective.
Note that this critique is valid even if one thinks that synthetic a priori knowledge exists.
In short, Barrotta argues as follows:
(1) The human action axiom is not sufficient to deduce even basic “laws” or principles of economics (Barrotta 1996: 57). In particular,BIBLIOGRAPHY“The concept of human action appears to be a prerequisite of any economic model, even those which are mutually incompatible. The existence of mutually incompatible economic models that are grounded on the Misesian concept of action suggests that this concept cannot provide the only premise of those models. Confronted with this difficulty we can only conclude that (a) Mises’s ‘human’ action does not provide the only premise of economic models, or (b) it does not provide a premise at all. Point (b) represents the most radical departure from Mises’s epistemology. Nonetheless, and interestingly enough, it does follow from Kant’s philosophy …” (Barrotta 1996: 57).While Kant’s categories can be construed as fundamental principles underlying experience and perception of reality, they do not provide the axioms of natural or social scientific theories (Barrotta 1996: 58). Mises’s attempt to found an economic theory on Kantian categories was a mistake.
(2) As proof of the argument of (3), Barrotta notes how Mises could not derive certain additional postulates from the action axiom, such as the disutility of labour axiom, which even Mises (2008: 65) admitted was empirical.
(3) Finally, Barrotta argues that what Mises called “deduction” is not deduction in the accepted sense. When Mises asserted that praxeology deduces from the action axiom by “drawing out” the concepts inherent in that axiom, this type of “verbal logic” does not even follow the deductive rules of inference (Barrotta 1996: 64).
Barrotta, P. L. 1996. “A Neo-Kantian Critique of von Mises’s Epistemology,” Economics and Philosophy 12: 51–66.