“The theme of praxeology is action as such. This also settles the relation of praxeology to the psychoanalytical concept of the subconscious. Psychoanalysis too is psychology and does not investigate action but the forces and factors that impel a man toward a definite action. The psychoanalytical subconscious is a psychological and not a praxeological category. Whether an action stems from clear deliberation, or from forgotten memories and suppressed desires which from submerged regions, as it were, direct the will, does not influence the nature of the action. The murderer whom a subconscious urge (the Id) drives toward his crime and the neurotic whose aberrant behavior seems to be simply meaningless to an untrained observer both act; they like anybody else are aiming at certain ends. It is the merit of psychoanalysis that it has demonstrated that even the behavior of neurotics and psychopaths is meaningful, that they too act and aim at ends, although we who consider ourselves normal and sane call the reasoning determining their choice of ends nonsensical and the means they choose for the attainment of these ends contrary to purpose.What was that?
The term ‘unconscious’ as used by praxeology and the terms ‘subconscious’ and ‘unconscious’ as applied by psychoanalysis belong to two different systems of thought and research. Praxeology no less than other branches of knowledge owes much to psychoanalysis. The more necessary is it then to become aware of the line which separates praxeology from psychoanalysis.” (Mises 2008: 12).
Despite an attempt to separate praxeology from psychoanalysis, Mises says that praxeology owes much to Freudian pseudoscience? That should come as a great surprise to people who insist that Human Action is one of the greatest economic books ever written.
Of course, one can counter that, ultimately, maybe Mises’s implicit ideas about psychology can be stripped of any questionable Freudian elements, and made to conform with modern psychology, without harm to his fundamental economic ideas. Perhaps. After all, wasn’t Keynes also partial to aspects of Freudian psychoanalysis? (the answer to which is: yes, partly).
But the fact remains that praxeology is said by Mises, in the fundamental first Chapter of Human Action, to “owe much” to Freudian psychoanalysis. That requires a clarification from Austrians about how this does not render Mises’s underlying psychology suspect.
Mises, L. 2008. Human Action: A Treatise on Economics. The Scholar’s Edition. Mises Institute, Auburn, Ala.