“Praxeology is a priori. All its theorems are products of deductive reasoning that starts from the category of action. The questions whether the judgments of praxeology are to be called analytic or synthetic and whether or not its procedure is to be qualified as ‘merely’ tautological are of verbal interest only.Mises’s main epistemological concern is to maintain the a priori status of praxeology.
What praxeology asserts with regard to human action in general is strictly valid without any exception for every action. There is action and there is the absence of action, but there is nothing in between. Every action is an attempt to exchange one state of affairs for another, and everything that praxeology affirms with regard to exchange refers strictly to it. In dealing with every action we encounter the fundamental concepts end and means, success or failure, profit or loss, costs. An exchange can be either direct or indirect, i.e., effected through the interposition of an intermediary stage. Whether a definite action was indirect exchange has to be determined by experience. But if it was indirect exchange, then all that praxeology says about indirect exchange in general strictly applies to it.
Every theorem of praxeology is deduced by logical reasoning from the category of action. It partakes of the apodictic certainty provided by logical reasoning that starts from an a priori category.
Into the chain of praxeological reasoning the praxeologist introduces certain assumptions concerning the conditions of the environment in which an action takes place. Then he tries to find out how these special conditions affect the result to which his reasoning must lead. The question whether or not the real conditions of the external world correspond to these assumptions is to be answered by experience. But if the answer is in the affirmative, all the conclusions drawn by logically correct praxeological reasoning strictly describe what is going on in reality.” (Mises 1962: 44–45).
But his remarkable statement is here:
“The questions whether the judgments of praxeology are to be called analytic or synthetic and whether or not its procedure is to be qualified as ‘merely’ tautological are of verbal interest only.”According to Mises, whether praxeological theorems or derived theories are “synthetic” or “analytic” is of “verbal interest only.” That is an incredibly ignorant statement, because if praxeological theorems say anything necessarily true of the real world, as Mises says in many other passages (Mises 2008: 39), then they must be synthetic, not analytic.
Mises is logically committed to defending the synthetic a priori status of praxeology, but was so confused that he dismissed the first of these concepts as merely of “verbal interest,” when the synthetic nature of any praxeological theorem ought to be a straightforward consequence of his epistemology.
This confusion, or lack of interest in the analytic or synthetic distinction, mostly likely explains his equally confused discussion of Euclidean geometry in Human Action (Mises 2008: 38).
Mises, Ludwig von. 1962. The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science: An Essay on Method. Van Nostrand, Princeton, N.J.
Mises, Ludwig von. 2008. Human Action: A Treatise on Economics. The Scholar’s Edition. Mises Institute, Auburn, Ala.