Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Mark Blaug was Right on Mises’ Method

Mark Blaug in his influential book The Methodology of Economics (2nd edn.; 1992) dismissed Ludwig von Mises’ later methodological work and apriorist praxeology as “so idiosyncratic and dogmatically stated that we can only wonder that they have been taken seriously by anyone” (Blaug 1992: 81).

This statement provokes outrage from some Austrians, but Blaug was stating a simple truth.

Praxeology – Mises’ method for economic science – is based on a false and intellectually bankrupt Kantian epistemology requiring synthetic a priori knowledge.

Modern analytic philosophy rejects Kantian epistemology and synthetic a priori knowledge, and for good reason. All alleged examples of synthetic a priori knowledge – such as mathematics or Euclidean geometry – have turned out not to be at all, and the same can be said for Mises’ “human action axiom,” which is supposed to be the basis of praxeology. The “human action axiom” is is quite clearly synthetic a posteriori, and Mises himself made a candid and embarrassing admission to Israel Kirzner that contradicts his earlier views on epistemology.

In fact, there is strong evidence that Mises was a wretched philosopher, and that he was simply confused about the difference between “synthetic” and “analytic” propositions.

The utter failure of Mises’ epistemology can be seen in the challenge that George J. Schuller made to Austrians in 1951 in his review of Human Action. Schuller pointed out that, if the economic theories of Mises’ book Human Action really are derived by painstaking and valid deductive argument, then it should be possible to set the book out in a formal symbolic form in which all axioms, premisses, and deductions are shown formally and proven.

No Austrian has ever done this. Their failure to meet Schuller’s challenge is pretty strong proof that Mises’ praxeology was a house built on sand.

And what of Mises’ wider influence on this subject? Outside the fringe Austrian school, virtually nobody takes Mises’ praxeology seriously.

Mark Blaug was entirely correct.

Further Reading
“No Constants in Human Behaviour?,” March 9, 2014.

“How does an Austrian Praxeologist make Predictions?,” March 11, 2014.

“David Gordon on Praxeology and the Austrian Method: A Critique,” March 13, 2014.

“Why Mises’s Praxeological Theories are not Necessarily True of the Real World,” March 15, 2014.

“Mises versus Ayer on Analytic Propositions and a priori Reasoning,” March 16, 2014.

“Deduction, Necessary Truth and the Real World,” March 16, 2014.

“Mises and Empiricism,” April 17, 2014

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Blaug, Mark. 1992. The Methodology of Economics, or, How Economists Explain (2nd edn.). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.

61 comments:

  1. Two things:

    (1) I think that its unfair to call it a Kantian epistemology. As I have said before, Kant regarded anthropology -- what Mises would call 'human action' -- as a mixture between empirics and morality. It was not a priori in any sense (other than, perhaps, insofar as Kant held certain moral laws to a priori).

    (2) Modern analytic philosophy rejects a priori propositions on principle. But I don't buy it. Many analytic philosophers, for example, hold to Chomskyian ideas about generative grammar. (Indeed, these would be the better ones; the awful ones are still behaviorist cultists!). Chomsky has recognised many times that his approach to grammar is basically an a priorist approach.

    This ties into a broader trend in analytic philosophy to hide from certain questions and then defer to a 'Science' that is, in fact, engaged in philosophy. Oh what a tangled web they weave!

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    1. (1) Yes, perhaps it is unfair to Kant. I probably should have said something like "Mises adopted an idiosyncratic epistemology that he thought was derived from Kant, though it has clear deviations from Kant's thought".

      (2) Actually, as far as I am aware, most analytic philosophers do not reject a priori propositions on principle.

      The standard epistemological division going back to Hume and Leibniz and others is between

      (1) analytic a priori and
      (2) synthetic a posteriori propositions.

      Not even the logical positivists rejected a priori truth:

      http://socialdemocracy21stcentury.blogspot.com/2014/03/a.html

      Although Quine appears to have rejected the analytic versus synthetic distinction (and with it the a priori versus a posteriori one), I get the impression that this really extreme empiricism has given way to a more moderate one in modern analytic philosophy that does recognise a priori truth.

      On Chomsky, out of interest, I did discuss his "Rationalist" approach here:

      http://socialdemocracy21stcentury.blogspot.com/2013/09/chomskys-rationalism.html

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    2. (2) Sorry, I meant synthetic a priori. Chomskyian grammar is synthetic a priori. So are many other things that analytics uphold but defer to 'Science'.

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    3. You engage in such a (Derridean) deferral in your piece here:

      "Arguably, the innate language faculty of humans, far from vindicating Kant’s synthetic a priori, is the result of Darwinian evolution, and has, in evolutionary terms, been acquitted a posteriori – a biological structure shaped by reality and adaptive selection."

      You push the nature of generative linguistic structure back to biology and Darwinian evolution (which also manifests synthetic a priori statements). This is an awful tendency among the analytics.

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    4. Oh, I see what you're saying now, sorry.

      What you meant was "analytic philosophy rejects a synthetic priori propositions on principle"?

      Well, I do not think that's really right.

      Synthetic priori propositions/knowledge are rejected because:

      (1) we can satisfactorily explain proposed synthetic priori knowledge either as (i) analytic a priori or (ii) synthetic a posteriori, eliminating a complex and unnecessary category by inference to the best explanation and Ockham's razor.

      For example, most of mathematics can be clearly explained as an analytic a priori system, and derived from pure logic and set theory.

      I mean analytic philosophers did not just reject synthetic a priori knowledge "on principle" without any type of justification.

      There is a mountain of work showing how maths is analytic a priori, such as the work of Frege, Russell, and Alfred North Whitehead.

      (2) Some proposed synthetic priori knowledge systems like Euclidean geometry have been shown to be severely contradicted by empirical evidence, and this is not what you'd expect to find if these theories really are necessarily true and provide irrefutable knowledge of reality (whether you define "reality" as the idealist contents of our perception or some real external world, it does not matter here).

      Again, we can eliminate the problem and the proposed synthetic priori knowledge by carefully separating pure maths/geometry (which is analytic a priori) from applied maths/geometry (which is synthetic a posteriori).

      And again this is by inference to the best explanation and Ockham's razor. It's not some dogmatic or unjustified rejection.

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    5. Ughh, I've written "synthetic a priori" wrongly as "synthetic priori" above.

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    6. Also, I'm not quite sure why invoking Darwinian evolution as the causal origin of the human propensity for language is a problem here? Is this an idealist versus realist epistemological problem?

      Sure, even from the realist perspective, evolution does not explain everything, but there seems to be a lot of evidence that it does explain many traits of human beings.

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    7. Break down the statement and you'll see that you're making a synthetic a priori statement when you refer to grammar and evolution.

      Start with clearly answering the question: how is Darwinian evolution explaining the existence of Chomskyian grammatical rules?

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    8. Well, Philip,

      (1) nobody is saying -- and I am certainly not -- that “Darwinian evolution happened in the past” or that “the language faculty is a Darwinian adaptation” are known a priori or that they are necessarily true.

      On the contrary, I fully accept that they are known only a posteriori, and that they are only probabilistically true -- on the basis of empirical evidence and inductive argument.

      Yes, they are fallible in the sense that they could be wrong, just as every scientific theory is.

      (2) but even Chomsky accepts that the language faculty is innate and caused by some part of the brain and is a biological phenomenon, he just disputes it was caused directly by Darwinian adaptive selection, and instead thinks it was a “spandrel”/ “exaptation” (“a byproduct of the evolution of some other characteristic, rather than a direct product of adaptive selection”),, an idea which he appears, incidentally, to have got from the evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould (the best discussion of this is in Daniel Dennett’s Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, pp. 384–400).

      It’s my understanding that the classic (though maybe now dated) statement of this view developed from Gould and Chomsky is M. Piattelli-Palmarini, (1989). “Evolution, Selection and Cognition: From ‘Learning’ to Parameter Setting in Biology and in the Study of Language,” Cognition 31: 1–44.

      But, in the wide and general sense, not even Chomsky is rejecting evolution or biology as a cause of the language faculty.

      (3) but, as I said above, many other linguists and biologists take the view that the language organ was caused directly by Darwinian adaptive selection, the view famously argued in Steven Pinker and Paul Bloom, 1990. “Natural Language and Natural Selection,” Behavioral and Brain Sciences 13.4: 707–784.

      But the arguments for why this is true are all empirical and inductive, not a priori.

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    9. I'm not too keen on what Chomsky things. He says different things at different times.

      Okay, so it's an empirical argument. How do you prove empirically that Chomskyian general grammar is a result of evolutionary processes? Or, conversely, how do you disprove it?

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    10. Well, just some key points:

      (1) some speech and language disorders are clearly genetically inherited, and language faculties are clearly connected to certain regions of the human brain (Pinker and Bloom 1990: 707). If some regions of the brain are damaged, people have serious speech and language disorders.

      Here's some recent work on genetics and proteins linked to language and speech, specifically the FOXP2 protein encoded by the FOXP2 gene:

      http://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/v4/n11/full/nn1101-1049.html

      http://www.voanews.com/content/geneticsandspeech02dec09-78316747/416112.html

      The best explanation is that speech and the language faculty is the product of genetics which creates regions of the brain and vocal organs that gives us this ability/propensity.

      The presence of a complex system in any animal for a particular purpose with the appearance of design already strongly suggests evolution by natural selection.

      (2) the advantage conferred on early humans or hominids through having an increasingly complex communication system like natural language is clear: a community of people can communicate dangers quickly, engage in forward planning, coordinate hunting, resolve conflicts, pass on acquired knowledge to others and to the young: people can “avoid having to duplicate the possibly time-consuming and dangerous trial-and-error process that won … knowledge” (Pinker and Bloom 1990: 712, 724).

      (3) So natural language fits the necessary criteria for direct Darwinian selection: it confers an advantage, and makes people more successful so that they have a greater chance at surviving and creating new generations who inherit the new trait.

      Probably the process was gradual and incremental at first, but empirical and theoretical evidence suggests that a “variant that produces on average 1% more offspring than its alternative allele would increase in frequency from 0.1% to 99.9% of the population in a little more than 4,000 generations” (Pinker and Bloom 1990: 724).

      More probably at some point, there were “competitive feedback loops” and faster evolution by natural selection as a “cognitive arms race” occurred (Pinker and Bloom 1990: 725) in language development, social interaction, and thought using language.

      I haven’t done much more than sketch the arguments above, though. Plenty more can be said.

      Pinker, Steven and Paul Bloom. 1990. “Natural Language and Natural Selection,” Behavioral and Brain Sciences 13.4: 707–784.

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    11. Jeez louise, is EVERYONE in the econosphere except LK and me an evolution denier?
      Brains evolved. Their capabilities evolved. You get different categories of expressible grammars as you pass certain identifiable thresholds of information storage and processing capabilities, and need those capabilities to be able to handle the corresponding grammars. If computational ability can evolve so can linguistic capability in other words.
      Anyone care to dispute sensorimotor or image processing ? Because that's what you need as a minimum to argue language could not evolve.

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    12. (1a) I don't think anyone disputes this but it has very little to do with the statement "generative grammar is a product of evolution". None of the information you have provided can prove or disprove that statement.

      (1b) You then say that "The presence of a complex system in any animal for a particular purpose with the appearance of design already strongly suggests evolution by natural selection.". Really? Why is that the best explanation? That quotation from you looks to me like an assertion rather than an argument. It runs: "Well, I already KNOW that natural selection in the sense that highly functional abilities in humans or animals are a product of selective adaption to their environment** so therefore this must be the explanation". But, if you read what I've written below in a 'footnote', you'll see that what you are actually saying here may not be as simple as all that.

      Rather you are telling a "story". An a priori story. You are speaking in metaphors. You are speaking as if we can think of the world in terms of (i) adapting organisms and (ii) a static environment. Now, that's nice in a lab when we're testing antibiotics on viruses. But it doesn't cut it in the real world. When we start talking about the real world it all becomes very chaotic. The element of chance plays an enormous role. The simple Darwinian narrative -- for it is just a narrative -- begins to break down. It becomes unclear how much the organisms are affecting the environment and vice versa. And so on and so on.
      ______
      ** I don't even want to get into the whole quagmire of what this phrase -- for it is a phrase -- actually means. Are we talking about a static environment? Or are the evolving entities changing and impacting their environment? If this IS a highly dynamical system with an infinite of feedback loops can we really separate cause and effect?

      Once you go down this rabbit hole, which you'll find if you actually read the very advanced accounts of evolutionary theorists, you soon find that the whole process becomes vague and lacking in clarity. It forms a clear narrative in a lab environment where organisms are subject to static experiment. But in a complex environment where everything is having an impact on everything else cause and effect become entirely vague. (Can you say non-ergodic!!??)

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    13. Sure, regarding evolution, complexity and feedback loops and so on, I have no problem with all that.

      But, as far as I am aware, standard neo-Darwinian theory already stresses this. Not everything biological is an adaptation. And not sure what problems of "clarity" are involved or why statements about selection are just "metaphors".

      In general, biological traits emerge by a complex set of processes, e.g.,:

      (1) direct adaptation

      (2) exaptation (some prior adaptation then “re-designed” to solve a different adaptive problem)

      (3) as a by-product (or spandrel)

      (4) individual random variation (which might be of no use and no advantage or no disadvantage)
      ---------------
      And once we throw human beings into the mix, we get artificial selection as well (e.g., all the different types of dogs, cats and other animals humans have created by selective breeding over the 1,000 of years).

      But the question was: what reason is there to think the language faculty (with universal grammar) was anything other than a direct adaption or exaptation? (I also made an error in conflating spandrels with exaptations above).

      For example, it is pretty much universally accepted that the human navel is a by-product (or spandrel) of umbilical cords, and serves no purpose after birth.
      But it is obvious that the language cannot be a random variation of no use, nor is it a spandrel not like a navel: we use language pretty much continuously and it has a clear, specific purpose – communication of propositions with nouns, verbs etc. – and by inference to the best explanation only (1) and (2) seem probable.

      Chomsky’s view that the language faculty is a spandrel – a type of by-product – just doesn’t seem very plausible.

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    14. I think you're getting caught up in your own definitions now.

      Okay, now that we've established what evolutionary theory says and it doesn't say (it DOESN'T say that a given outcome is the "best" outcome), we can pose the question again: can you prove that generative grammar was caused by evolution?

      Of course not! So what you're doing is imposing an interpretive theoretical framework on the phenomenon in order to vaguely explain how it (may have) kind-of-sort-of came about.

      But this interpretive framework (evolution) is an synthetic a priori doctrine. You cannot "falsify" evolution any more than you can falsify mathematics.

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    15. "can you prove that generative grammar was caused by evolution?"

      Well, if you mean "prove" with necessary and absolute truth by a priori argument, no -- I mean, I freely admit that.

      But I maintain that you can prove it inductively in an argument in which the conclusion has probable truth -- just as we can prove that the earth orbits around the sun, or that megalodons once existed, or that Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon.

      All of these are contingent facts provable by empirical evidence and inductive argument.

      I can't see how evolution is "synthetic a priori". It is quite plainly falsifiable, was discovered empirically and then its predictions were confirmed by subsequent empirical evidence.

      If we suddenly discovered in the fossil record, for example, a totally random sequence of living things through history with complex animals before simpler ones and no pattern that fits the postulated family tree of simple life to increasing complexity, then evolutionary theory would be falsified by the evidence, would be incoherent and an improbable explanation.

      E.g., if we started discovering fossils of land mammals dated to1 billion years ago, then evolutionary theory would be thrown to crisis and it would indeed be falsified.

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    16. Not really. I could postulate an alternative theory that explains the same phenomenon just as adequately. I could, for example, argue the case for a version of intelligent design where the process of change is directed from the beginning of time and which does not have the "random jumps" that you say.

      There is no way of testing which theory is "better". The only recourse someone can have is to say that I am engaged in metaphysics (i.e. I have brought an unseen entity into the equation) and that (for some undetermined reason) we are not allowed to talk about metaphysics. To which I would respond (oh, you know where I'm going here, LK!) that the evolutionary theorist brings in an unseen entity also: namely, matter.

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    17. OK, l see now the fundamental epistemological issue you're driving at in the last sentence: ultimately the idealist counterargument that matter is an unnecessary postulate?

      All fair enough, but this is a different argument, surely.

      However, you did say here that “[a]ll the findings of science are still valid from an idealist perspective” But now you seem to be retreating for this.

      Also, even if you were to propose "a version of intelligent design where the process of change is directed from the beginning of time" in detail, I suspect that inference to the best explanation would still suggest that current evolutionary theory is a better explanation.

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    18. "retreating from this."

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    19. I don't think that the overarching evolutionary framework is science. I think its a metaphysical structure derived from the philosophy of materialism.

      The version of ID I could be put forward would be identical to evolution in every way except that rather than talking about "matter interacting" in some deterministic (or quasi-deterministic) manner I would simply say that it is ideas interacting in the mind of God. Or whatever. Both would have identical status from a philosophical point of view.

      Personally, I don't care about ID or anything like that. I just think that its misleading to think that the evolutionary framework is a pure science. It's shot through with materialistic metaphysics.

      That is why people get so fired up about it in the US. It's like a sort of atheistic religion. (Mary Midgely documented its most extreme forms, but I don't think that she went far enough).

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  2. Forget Kant. Kant could be perfect and praxeology would still be a disaster. Praxeology is based on false ideas of what human beings are and do. It is built on thorough going prevarication on the meanings of all the key terms.

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    1. Yes, the Kantian P. L. Barrotta in “A Neo-Kantian Critique of von Mises’s Epistemology,” Economics and Philosophy 12 (1996): 51–66, attacks Mises even on Kantian grounds, saying Mises did not even understand Kant properly:

      http://socialdemocracy21stcentury.blogspot.com/2013/07/barrottas-kantian-critique-of-misess.html

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  3. "It is also the supreme confidence in something that seems to be an untested and perhaps unfalsifiable hypothesis that is a tad off-putting." http://consultingbyrpm.com/blog/2014/04/a-post-having-absolutely-nothing-to-do-with-level-targeting-of-ngdp-growth.html#comment-478425

    This was said BY a a Rothbardian about someone from another schoold.

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    1. I find the author of that comment to be mostly incoherent.

      Often his comments on Bob's blog are just so utterly random and poorly written as to be unreadable.

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    2. Yes. Speaking of grammar this is completely grammatically incoherent.

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  4. A name change! What prompted this?

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    1. Tired of writing it out in full, as it's just another way you waste time online.

      Delete
  5. "The 'human action axiom' is is quite clearly synthetic a posteriori"

    So you admit that human action exists?

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    1. What person thinks it does not? Can you name anyone?

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    2. Just admitting that human action exists is a major concession to Mises.

      Praxeology means “the logic of action”. The deductive “logic of action” links premises with conclusions. The action axiom is the first premise of Praxeology. You admit this premise is true.

      This entire post is about a premise that you admit is true. You're just saying the premise is true for the wrong reason.

      Focus on whether Mises follows the rules of deductive logic. Focus on why Mises’s arguments are invalid.

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    3. (1) "Just admitting that human action exists is a major concession to Mises. "

      No, it isn't.

      It is a trivial concession. The action axiom is compatible with every school of economic thought under the sun, even Marxism.

      (2) The entire post is not just about the premise, but about the intellectual bankruptcy of Kantian synthetic a priori knowledge (which Mises needs), and how no Austrian has ever been able to meet Schuller's challenge to set out Human Action in a formal symbolic form in which all axioms, premisses, and deductions are shown formally and proven.

      (3) the numerous links above provide ample evidence of how praxeology is rotten and a house built on sand.

      Also, Mises' economics are debunked in detail here:

      http://socialdemocracy21stcentury.blogspot.com/p/blog-page.html

      Enjoy.

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    4. The action axiom is the first premise of Mises’s deductive “logic of action”. You admit this premise is true.

      If all premises are true and the argument is valid, then the conclusion is true. To show a conclusion is false, you must either (1) show that a premise is false or (2) show the argument is invalid.

      You are correct: the action axiom is the foundation of praxeology. So why do you also claim that praxeology is “a house built on sand”? Isn’t this the wrong metaphor if you believe the action axiom is true?

      In short, why focus on a true premise instead of focusing on whether the argument is valid?

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    5. Again, if you had bothered to read the post and my comment above properly, you'd see I do not just focus on the action axiom.

      The non existence of Kantian synthetic a priori knowledge is devastating to Mises's epistemology and method, as is Schuller's challenge, which has never been met.

      Would you like prove me wrong?

      Fine. Just set out Human Action in a formal symbolic form in which all axioms, premisses, and deductions are shown formally and proven.

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  6. Next LK you will concede that Bibles exist and then WHAM you've admitted Papal Infallibility.

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  7. Lord Keynes,

    Do you believe the following argument is valid?

    Premise 1: Praxeology consists of deductive arguments.

    Premise 2: Deductive arguments can be analyzed with symbolic logic.

    Premise 3: Austrians have not used symbolic logic to analyze praxeology's deductive arguments.

    Conclusion: Praxealogy's deductive arguments are invalid.

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    1. That is not my argument. My argument is that they cannot, because praxeological theories can't be deduced without vast hidden and stated empirical propositions, many of which aren't true.

      A case in point being Mises' argument for free trade:

      http://socialdemocracy21stcentury.blogspot.com/2011/01/mises-on-ricardian-law-of-association.html

      The fact that no Austrian has been able to set out HA formally is just further proof that they cannot.

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    2. Also, you appear to be conflating validity with soundness.

      A deductive argument may be valid, but unsound.

      E.g.,

      All elephants are pink.
      Nellie is an elephant
      Therefore Nellie is pink.

      That argument is formally valid but unsound.

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    3. Lord Keynes,

      I am not conflating validity with soundness.

      The argument is invalid: the conclusion does not follow with logical necessity from the premises.

      Since the argument is invalid, it is also unsound.

      My point: you should abandon the Schuller's challenge argument because it is invalid and therefore unsound.

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    4. And now my point is proven.

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    5. Anonymous,

      You clearly do not even understand basic points about logic.

      A "valid" argument is one in which the structure of the argument guarantees that, if the premises are true, then the conclusion is necessarily true.

      The argument I gave is a form of syllogism that is technically valid, though unsound.

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    6. "praxeological theories can't be deduced without vast hidden and stated empirical propositions, many of which aren't true"

      You're saying that praxeology reaches false conclusions because its premises are false.

      The goal of symbolic logic is to distinguish between valid arguments and invalid arguments.

      False premises would not prevent Austrians from presenting praxeology in symbolic logic.

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    7. (1) praxeology would also need vast inductive arguments to succeed, but that would destroy its status as some alleged universally and necessarily true theory deducible from the action axiom.

      Furthermore, a lot of its attempted inductive arguments would fail.

      (2) yes, you could attempt to set it out in valid deductions without concern for the soundness of the argument, but what good would that be?!

      Anyway, as I said above, I contend you would fail.

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    8. Lord Keynes,

      You misunderstood. I was referring to the argument from my original post, not the syllogism in your reply.

      The argument from my original post is invalid: the conclusion does not follow with logical necessity from the premises.

      Since the argument is invalid, it is also unsound.

      My point: you should abandon the Schuller's challenge argument because it is invalid and therefore unsound.

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    9. And I already told you your straw man argument is NOT my argument.

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    10. Also, Austrians have clearly failed to meet Schuller's challenge.

      Maybe there was poor phrasing in the original post, but the failure of course does not by itself entail that praxeology is wrong.

      Praxeology is wrong for many other epistemological reasons, and the failure to meet Schuller's argument just tends to confirm the charge that they have failed to meet it, because they cannot deduce all their theories from the action axiom by deduction.

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  8. You are still on this?

    There are those that think praxeology is not even axiomatic.

    There are also those who argue that Mises thought of action as a concept, not a synthetic proposition.

    The reason you reject this is because you believe that it is impossible to make a necessary proposition that applies to the outside world.

    The other reason is that you are not even brave enough to take on more nuanced and elaborated views on praxeology.

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    1. Hanktheblog,

      The "more nuanced and elaborated views" you're referring to, I am guessing, are just ignorant and false ideas, such as that Mises never thought the action axiom was synthetic a priori and that he never aligned himself with Kantian epistemology.

      That is clearly false and we have been through this:

      http://socialdemocracy21stcentury.blogspot.com/2014/03/mises-versus-ayer-on-analytic.html

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    2. Mises never uses the word axiom, that was Rothbard. Rothbard was wrong. We have already talked about his single use of the word synthetic, I don't want to go down that road again.

      The point is, so what if he allied himself with Kantian epistemology? I personally don't think that he did, but this is beside the point.

      If your entire argument against praxeology rests on Mises being a Kantian, then your argument is very weak because most philosophers who analyze Mises view his system as analytic, not synthetic.

      Action theory is an entire branch of philosophy. Mises is not the originator of this concept.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Action_theory_%28philosophy%29

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    3. (1) "most philosophers who analyze Mises view his system as analytic, not synthetic. "

      Hanktheblog, most philosophers couldn't care less about Mises' harebrained rubbish.

      As for the economists and other commentators who do care to comment on Mises's method -- whether Austrian or non-Austrian -- most of them understand him to have been supporting Kantian synthetic a priori knowledge:

      E.g., Robert Murphy:
      “Mises affirms Hoppe’s interpretation regarding synthetic a priori truths (though not in these terms) when he writes,
      ‘It is consequently incorrect to assert that
      aprioristic insight and pure reasoning do
      not convey any information about reality
      and the structure of the universe. (p. 86)’”
      Murphy Study Guide to Human Action A Treatise on Economics, p. 26.

      Hoppe:
      “The characteristic mark of Kantian philosophy is the claim that true a priori synthetic propositions exist?and it is because Mises subscribes to this claim that he can be called a Kantian. “
      Economic Science and the Austrian Method, p. 18.

      Selgin:
      “In countering positivism Mises took refuge in Kantian epistemology and especially in Kant’s defense of the category of the synthetic a priori”
      Selgin, George, Praxeology and Understanding, p. 13.

      Thomas Woods:
      “Much has been written about how Mises and Rothbard justified the action axiom. Mises did so on Kantian grounds, arguing that this truth about human action was an example of the Kantian synthetic a priori: a statement which, made prior to experience, is both substantive and true.”
      Thomas E. Woods, The Church and the Market: A Catholic Defense of the Free Economy, p. 16.

      “Mises drew his inspiration from … the Neo-Kantian philosophy that dominated academic Germany in the first decade of … [the 20th century]”
      Lachmann, L. M. 1976. “From Mises to Shackle: An Essay on Austrian Economics and the Kaleidic Society,” p. 56.
      ----------------------
      Many other examples could easily be found too.

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    4. Most of those who you quoted are not even philosophers.Also, I said most, not all.

      Again you are just avoiding those who disagree about how you frame Mises. In fact, if anyone disagrees with you, you call them ignorant or stupid.

      You only criticize your version of Mises' views. Your version is not necessarily the only version. Its beside the point whether your version is the correct version. I understand the disagreement.

      Why not criticize those who frame Mises in a valid way? Because you are only interesting in confirming your own bias.

      The main problem with your philosophical system is its anti-realism. According to you, no necessary propositions may be made that apply to the outside world. Every proposition as applied to the world can only be probabilistic according to you, which includes the existence of any conceivable object.

      Delete
    5. (1) as I said, most philosophers couldn't care less about Mises' harebrained rubbish, so don't pretend there are vast numbers of actual philosophers in the world arguing that Mises did not use Kantian epistemology.

      (2) the only philosopher I am aware of who supports your view is David Gordon, but I have already debated and refuted him:

      http://socialdemocracy21stcentury.blogspot.com/2014/03/david-gordon-on-praxeology-and-austrian.html

      http://socialdemocracy21stcentury.blogspot.com/2014/03/mises-versus-ayer-on-analytic.html

      So tell me, hanktheblog, who are these hordes of philosophers about the place who
      argue that Mises never supported synthetic a priori knowledge?

      Can you name me just two of them apart from David Gordon?

      Are were you just pulling this nonsense right out of your a**?

      (2) Also of the few actual Austrian economists I am aware of who think Mises thought praxeology was analytic a priori, only Robert Murphy springs to mind.

      When he tried to defend this position in argument with me, he was quickly forced into an embarrassing and humiliating defeat and retreat, and he has never seriously tried to defend it since:

      "UPDATE: Actually LK I re-read that passage from the Ultimate Foundations and you’re right, that looks like Mises is saying he believes that there are true synthetic a priori propositions, because he seems to be saying the statement “there are no true synthetic a priori statements” is false. So, I am backing off my claim that Mises denied there could be such statements. "
      http://consultingbyrpm.com/blog/2013/09/mises-on-a-priori-reasoning.html#comment-73780

      Delete
    6. You only criticize your version of Mises' views.

      False.

      I reviewed and critiqued David Gordon's views below and David Gordon himself responded in the comments section and we debated this very subject:

      http://socialdemocracy21stcentury.blogspot.com/2014/03/david-gordon-on-praxeology-and-austrian.html

      Finally, Gordon's views are refuted here:

      http://socialdemocracy21stcentury.blogspot.com/2014/03/mises-versus-ayer-on-analytic.html

      Delete
    7. First of all, can you chill out? I feel like you are angry.

      As for (1) who cares? I understand you don't like Mises. Its not a big deal.

      As for (2), you never actually attempt refute anything other than whether Gordon's interpretation of Mises is correct. You never actually refute the interpretation itself.

      As for Ayer, this still isn't a refutation of Gordon's version of Mises. This is a refutation of Mises' views on logical positivism. For the record, I liked it.

      From this paper:
      http://www.philosophie.uni-hamburg.de/Team/Cordoba/Materials/oc_Foundations-PraxEcon-05-final_2013-05-28.pdf

      "Analytic philosophy, at least if conducted soberly, will dismantle many of the arguments mounted against praxeology proper—we need not, nor should we, be Kantians in order to save Mises from either error or irrelevance."

      And here:
      "I am mentioning it on behalf of the project which, when further carried out, provides praxeology with a foundation with regard to which we can only wonder that it has not
      been taken seriously by everyone (to counter a word of Mark Blaug). As you have seen for yourself, no exaggerated claims based on, or buttressed by, highly pretentious methodological presuppositions were made (to counter Hutchison). Hutchison’s and Blaug’s allegations, so typical for many economists, just reflect their own empiricist or positivist prejudices. For instance, they certainly buy into the Wittgensteinian conception of tautology and they certainly commit the error of assuming
      that analytical sentences have no cognitive value. But we must not commit an error
      ourselves—reverting to Kantianism—in order to escape theirs. That would be a
      disservice to praxeology. We simply must not stop clarifying why they are in error. And that involves facing empiricism and positivism from the angle of analytical philosophy. So the project of analytic praxeology must have a sober philosophical underpinning, and it has."

      I'm sure I could find more. I hope this suffices.

      Again you do criticize Gordon's interpretation, but not his version.

      Delete
    8. First of all, can you chill out? I feel like you are angry.

      As for (1) who cares? I understand you don't like Mises. Its not a big deal.

      As for (2), you never actually attempt refute anything other than whether Gordon's interpretation of Mises is correct. You never actually refute the interpretation itself.

      As for Ayer, this still isn't a refutation of Gordon's version of Mises. This is a refutation of Mises' views on logical positivism. For the record, I liked it.

      From this paper:
      http://www.philosophie.uni-hamburg.de/Team/Cordoba/Materials/oc_Foundations-PraxEcon-05-final_2013-05-28.pdf

      "Analytic philosophy, at least if conducted soberly, will dismantle many of the arguments mounted against praxeology proper—we need not, nor should we, be Kantians in order to save Mises from either error or irrelevance."

      And here:
      "I am mentioning it on behalf of the project which, when further carried out, provides praxeology with a foundation with regard to which we can only wonder that it has not been taken seriously by everyone (to counter a word of Mark Blaug). As you have seen for yourself, no exaggerated claims based on, or buttressed by, highly pretentious methodological presuppositions were made (to counter Hutchison). Hutchison’s and Blaug’s allegations, so typical for many economists, just reflect their own empiricist or positivist prejudices. For instance, they certainly buy into the Wittgensteinian conception of tautology and they certainly commit the error of assuming that analytical sentences have no cognitive value. But we must not commit an error ourselves—reverting to Kantianism—in order to escape theirs. That would be a disservice to praxeology. We simply must not stop clarifying why they are in error. And that involves facing empiricism and positivism from the angle of analytical philosophy. So the project of analytic praxeology must have a sober philosophical underpinning, and it has."

      I'm sure I could find more. I hope this suffices.

      Again you do criticize Gordon's interpretation, but not his version.

      Delete
    9. Sure, in the interests of good-natured and fair debate:

      (1) You said my "argument is very weak because most philosophers who analyze Mises view his system as analytic, not synthetic." Now it appears "most philosophers" just means Gordon -- one philosopher only.

      I assume you'll be happy to graciously admit you were wrong to say "most philosophers"?

      (2) I am aware of Cordoba's work and have reviewed it here:

      http://socialdemocracy21stcentury.blogspot.com/2013/12/cordoba-on-praxeology-and-economics.html

      And in point of fact, Cordoba wants to reinterpret Mises's method as an analytic a priori system: he does not -- as far as I can see -- say Mises himself did this, or that Mises rejected synthetic a priori knowledge.

      (3) on Gordon's interpretation, sure I have critiqued that.

      The belief that praxeology is merely analytic a priori means that you cannot say it asserts anything necessarily true of real world economies. It would become like a pure mathematical theory, and would have to be converted into a synthetic a posteriori applied economics system to be real world economics.

      Delete
    10. I am sorry I said most. I should have said some, because there is at least one. Its a small stretch to say 'only' one since there very well could POSSIBLY be more. Since we have Gordon, is it worth my time to find more?

      You seem to be more interested in showing how Mises was stupid or unpopular, and showing how anyone liking Mises in any fashion is idiosyncratic. It doesn't really matter if you view Cordoba as 'reinterpreting' Mises, or altering him, or expanding on him. All that matters is that Cordoba is another philosopher who views Mises' system as analytic a priori.

      I realize you have strong beliefs as to how to interpret Mises. Some, including me, disagree with you, but I hope you can see that its not that relevant.

      Therefore, there are at least two philosophers who think that praxeology should be analytic a priori.

      However, the core of the debate as I view it has little to do with praxeology. Its more to do with logic. The way I understand you, as I explained above, is that your logical system does not allow for necessary propositions that apply to the outside world.

      Even in your example of pure math, according to your system, its still only possible (probable) that it applies to economics. I challenge you to come up with a necessary proposition that applies to the outside world in your system.

      Delete
  9. BTW LK, look at the wiki for Action Theory. I'm sure most of these philosophers view action theory to be analytic a priori.

    ReplyDelete
  10. PP writes of evolutionary theory
    "You are speaking in metaphors. You are speaking as if we can think of the world in terms of (i) adapting organisms and (ii) a static environment."

    False false false. Worse than Murphy. Organisms do not evolve so do not adapt. Genomes evolve. And where you get the static environment from I have no idea.

    "Not really. I could postulate an alternative theory that explains the same phenomenon just as adequately. I could, for example, argue the case for a version of intelligent design where the process of change is directed from the beginning of time and which does not have the "random jumps" that you say. There is no way of testing which theory is "better". "

    There is though. I have provided a picture of it next to my name. The explanation that respects Occam's razor IS better. That might be a philosophical postion, but it is not a materialist one.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Off topic maybe but seems a Murphy related thread. Philippe, despite missing a few points, has been extremely responsive and expansive in refuting some of the nonsense there. Which is why I want to point out this bit of buffoonery http://consultingbyrpm.com/blog/2014/05/libertarian-battles.html#comment-490924

    So typical. No-one fair minded who reads the threads can fail to see what a crock that comment is.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The complaint that straightforward facts (like "Private property in the US is defined by US law") can't be believed is a pretty common tactic on that blog!

      Out of interest, this thread has provoked my interest:

      http://consultingbyrpm.com/blog/2014/05/fresh-air-really-grinds-my-gears.html

      Also, have you seen this?:

      http://gene-callahan.blogspot.com/2014/05/the-supernatural-laws-of-physics.html

      Delete
    2. Yes to both. On Murphy's blog, you're making the same complaints that I have. Methodological individualism only applies when it's convenient. Gene has made the same point.
      Cosmo Kramer's question do you and his and KP's misunderstanding or deliberate misunderstanding of your answer is striking. Note that KP is now contending that shared ownership of common property, which they recently denied even makes sense, is now a vindication , and do not understand that egalitarianism is enforced.
      Philippe does a nice job nailing Bob Roddis on Keynesianism and war. But to me the most interesting, as an intellectually and morally bankrupt comment, is Tel's http://consultingbyrpm.com/blog/2014/05/fresh-air-really-grinds-my-gears.html#comment-491370
      What the second world war was really about was Hitler and Churchill got together to slaughter the unemployed, with Roosevelt and Stalin lending a helping hand. Who knew?

      Delete