Saturday, December 7, 2013

Córdoba on Praxeology and Economics

The paper below attempting to defend Misesian praxeology and show how two of its axioms can be formally written and proved will no doubt excite interest from Misesian apriorists:
Michael Oliva Córdoba, “On the Foundations of Praxeology and Eeconomics,” 28 May 2013.
There is also an audio talk here and a forthcoming paper (Cordoba 2014).

But a reading of paper reveals surprises.

It appears to me that about 50% of it is devoted to arguing – against Mises’s original view – that praxeology is not synthetic a priori. Rather, Cordoba seems to think – contrary to Mises – that praxeology is analytic a priori (Cordoba, pp. 1–9).

That is hardly any comfort to the apriorist Misesian apologists who uphold the existence of synthetic a priori knowledge.

The second part of the paper involves defining two Misesian theorems in formal logic as analytic propositions (propositions true by definition), and the claim that they can be proven once defined by using logic.

These two theorems are:
(1) the uneasiness theorem:
“[T]he incentive to act is always uneasiness [...].” (Mises 1949: 13)
(x) (x is satisfied → ¬ x acts).
This can be expressed as “if x such that x is satisfied, then it is not the case that x acts” (Cordoba, p. 12);

(2) the scarcity theorem:
“[A]ction is the manifestation of scarcity [...].” (Mises 1949: 70)
(x) (¬ (∃y) (y is scarce for x) → ¬ x acts. (Cordoba, p. 13).
This can be expressed as “if x such that it is not the case that there exists at least one y such that y is scarce for x, then it is not the case that x acts.”
The proofs of these theorems would most likely constitute less than 1% of Mises’s Human Action, and the author never even progress to economic theories.

But, above all, Cordoba’s arguments appear to require that praxeology is an analytic a priori system. But such a system says nothing that is necessarily true of the real world. The author has not proven that any Misesian theory has applicability to a real world economy.

Cordoba, Michael Oliva. 2014. “Uneasiness and Scarcity. An Analytic Approach Towards Ludwig von Mises’ Praxeology,” in Gloria Zuñiga y Postigo, (ed.), Austrian Thought at the Turn of the 20th Century. Ontos, Heusenstamm (forthcoming 2014).

Mises, Ludwig von. 1949 [1963]. Human Action. Fox & Wilkes, San Francisco.

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