This question is in reference to the first chapter which I have just read over again.
Mises said that inaction is also action and human action cannot just be referred to the exertion of labour. Then in the second last paragraph of the first chapter he mentioned how a philosphy like buddhisms ultimate goal is non though and to be in a vegetative state (which is true) but then in the last chapter he said "The subject matter of praxeology is human action. It deals with acting man, not with man transformed into a plant and reduced to a merely vegatative existence"
My question - In this final quote is he being sarcastic and taking the piss of out buddhism? Or is he saying that the Buddhist is not an acting man, and if that is the case wouldn't that contradict what he said about inaction also being just as much action?
I haven't read much of the book yet but it doesn't seem to me that old Ludwig is a joker, so if someone could clarify what he means, that would be great.
I think Mises is not be sarcastic but he is addressing the possibility of a state of nirvana which is the attainment of absolute inaction (cessation of all wants). By definition, it's not possible because to be alive is to have wants. So attainment of a state of complete absence of wants (absolute inaction) is impossible.
The mistake of Buddhism is its teaching that you can attain a state of absolute satisfaction. This is not possible so long as your (energy-consuming) heart is pumping and once you're dead, well, there is no "you" to be satisfied.
I think the reason Mises even mentions Buddhism is because what he's laying out in the first couple chapters is actually very similar to some schools of Buddhism, minus the mysticism. You can see this in the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism: The Fact of Suffering, The Cause of Suffering, The End of Suffering and The Path to Cessation.
Mises' statement that all human beings act is equivalent to the Fact of Suffering... we are impelled to act to alleviate our suffering which is an inescapable part of our existence.
The Buddhists expound on this further in the second Noble truth... all existence is an unfolding process and is, therefore, impermanent and it is this impermanence that is the cause of suffering. To say it in more Misesean language, uncertainty about the future is a precondition of action. The Buddhists teach that this uncertainty is brought about by the fact that the world is an unfolding process. It is our ignorance about the future consequences of our choices that is the cause of our suffering. If we could eliminate all ignorance we could attain absolute happiness (satisfaction of wants) since we would no longer need to choose, we would simply bring about the state of affairs of our own absolute happiness.
The third Noble truth is where Buddhism and Mises begin to part ways. The third Noble truth is simply the assertion that it is possible to reach the end of all suffering. Mises' view is that this is not possible (as discussed above) but, rather, we can and do move towards the cessation of suffering as we act. In fact, what it means to be an acting being is to be a being that moves toward the cessation of its own suffering.
Finally, the Buddhists teach that the path to cessation of suffering lies in a particular set of actions (the eight-fold path, etc.) and they have a lot of good ideas here but it's not scientific. Mises simply remains silent on the path to cessation by simply noting that people choose whatever ends they choose and understanding which ends people ought to choose (morality) or why they choose they the ends that they do (psychology) is not within the domain of his specialty, praxeology.
Yes, praxeology is wertfrei or value-free. It applies a deductive methodology to the social sciences. Inductive methods are also a part of social science but you cannot answer the kinds of questions that praxeology tackles with inductive methods. This is the major disagreement between Austrian and non-Austrian economics.
The subject of economic science is the human being - the most complex object studied by any science. This point is not sufficiently appreciated by non-Austrian schools of social and human science and they mistakenly apply inductive methods to questions of social science that are simply not suitable. The danger of such flawed methodologies is that they give the illusion of meaningful answers but they actually arrrive at useless conclusions. Toy models of the human economy are some of the more obvious examples but the basic flaw is pervasive.
The way I interpenetrated it, was that he was taking a shot at all economic philosophies that presuppose a transformation of man. Praxeology only deals with man as they are, not as some transformed being of the future.
Buddhists are people, they follow purposeful action, or at least all those who are alive today, and therefore it wasn't an insult against them, merely if one did ascend to Nirvana then he would no longer be an acting individual because he would no longer have any wants which impelled him to action, and therefore he cannot act, and praxeology can say nothing about him.
It's not an insult, it's merely saying that if someone ascended to Nirvana they would no longer be an acting being.
Ah, thanks guys, makes sense. He is not dismissing the philosphy that believes in mans transformation, he is merely saying it does not comply with praxeology. Mises is a boss.
That was extremely helpful Clayton, thank you. It is very useful to know the difference between the Buddhist doctrine and Mises science, praxeology. I would like to paraphrase what you said with a metaphor for clarity sake on praxeology.
Let's say a man adobts the religion of hamburger and in his religion to attain happiness he must eat hamburgers all day every day. From a moral perspective one may say that this is BAD and will cause physical problems and is an irrational ideology that does not bring happiness and encourages people to slowly kill themselves etc etc. From Mises perspective he will mearly say that X behaviour results in Y. So he will say if you eat hamburgers all day every day you will gain weight and get sick and he won't comment on whether the religion is bad or good. Praxeology only looks at the cause and effect (means) of human action - and is neutral to the value aspect of it (the ends it hopes to achieve) - is this correct?
Sorry just trying to wrap my head around this,
another example would be...Mises won't actually say hitler and his ideology was bad or the reason he did it is X. He will merely state that Hitlers theories that were put in practice resulted in X amount of murders and a massive economical crash. Also if I say i want to have bareback sex with that Thai prostitute - Mises would'nt say you shouldn't do that or maybe the reason you want to do that is ebcause you are sexually absued as a kid bla bla Freud bla. He will simply say, if you pwn that prossie without a rubber you have a 33.62% chance of contracting aids or another venerial disease. That is all. My action is chosen for a purpose, I wan't to alleviate some suffering and bring about some happiness. Praxeology will simply look at my action as it is and what it's results will bring. It will not look at my intended end (goal) and it will not comment on why I chose that action...
Am I understaning what praxeology is? Or am I wayyyy off base?
Thanks again Clayton. I am fairly new to all of this but loving it and really appreciate people like you putting in the effort to help out a noob like me. I start my degree in economics soon and will definitely continue my reading on mises.org and the books of Austrian economics to get a more in depth perspective of both sides. So far the Austrian school has made the most sense compared with other schools of economic thought.