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The Critique of Praxeology from the Point of View of Natural Science

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Adam Knott Posted: Sun, Nov 18 2012 1:59 PM
Mises claims that praxeology is a deductive science like mathematics or geometry, and that the validity of its conclusions (Y) derive from the consistency of its reasoning from its original premises (X).
 
 
As Robbins explains:
 
"Economic laws describe inevitable implications. If the data they postulate [X] are given, then the consequences they predict [Y] necessarily follow. In this sense they are on the same footing as other scientific laws, and as little capable of "suspension." If, in a given situation, the facts [X] are of a certain order, we are warranted in deducing with complete certainty that other facts [Y] which it enables us to describe are also present. ....If the "given situation" [X] conforms to a certain pattern, certain other features [Y] must also be present, for their presence is "deducible" from the pattern originally postulated." (An Essay on the Nature & Significance of Economic Science)(X’s and Y’s added by AK)
 
What exactly is Mises's original premis or axiom?   He claims that people aim at ends; that they attempt to replace the situation confronting them with a different situation.
 
“In an a prioristic science, we start with a general supposition---action is taken to substitute one state of affairs for another.”
(The Free Market and its Enemies, p. 16)
 
“The starting point of praxeology is a self-evident truth, the cognition of action, that is, the cognition of the fact that there is such a thing as consciously aiming at ends.”
(The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science, p. 5)
 
Regarding praxeology in its most general and universal form, Mises is saying that the “X” which we assume, and from which we deduce Y, is the assumption or supposition of action. We assume X: that an actor attempts to replace the current situation with a different situation.
 
If we accept X, and if we accept the validity of his deductions, then we must accept Y.
 
******
 
Given that praxeology is a discipline as described above, what reason might there be for denying Mises’s premise or grounding axiom—the supposition of action?  
 
From the point of view of natural science, one might reject Mises’s premise for the following reason.
 
The natural scientist may argue that while he accepts the “psychological” fact of action, he rejects the “ontological” fact of action. This means that while it may be true that I experience something like aiming at ends “inside my head,” the progress of natural science is likely to demonstrate, eventually, that the feeling I have, and which I believe is self-evident proof that I do aim at ends, is really (ontologically) just the relationships of particles in fields of force. That which I experience as my own aiming at ends, science will one day fully explain in physical terms. And thus, the ontological fact (what is real) is not action, but particles in fields of force. The subjective fact of action, the natural scientist may argue, is a subsidiary or residual effect of physical processes. The subjective phenomenon of action is of a lower ontological status than the phenomena of physics.
 
The phenomenon of action belongs to a specific class of like phenomena. Action (the experience I have of it in my head) belongs to the same class of phenomena as a mirage. One may see a mirage with one's eyes, and one may accept this “psychological” fact. But one may also deny that the mirage is an “ontological” fact. What a mirage “really is,” is a certain arrangement of particles and forces. What I “subjectively” see as a mirage turns out to be illusory. What I see as a mirage is not “really” there. My own actions which I personally experience are of this same essential nature. One day the phenomenon of “action” and all other phenomena of consciousness will be explained entirely in terms of physical processes and then we will see that my subjective experience of aiming at ends is as illusory as a mirage. For this reason, we natural scientists reject the notion that action “exists” or that “man acts.” What exists are particles in fields of force. We thus reject Mises’s premise that there is such a thing as consciously aiming at ends.
 
*****
 
This argument from natural science is impervious to any evidence of action based on self-reflection or observation. It is also impervious to the assertion, made by some Austrians, that in arguing against the axiom of action, one is acting. The naturalist may freely admit that he experiences, subjectively, something that may be referred to as action. But these internal “feelings” aren’t science. I may subjectively experience that glass is solid, but science shows us that glass is actually a liquid. Science will eventually explain how our subjective experience of aiming at ends is actually something else.
 
The naturalist will argue that science is natural science, which means the description of phenomena in terms of particles and forces. As science progresses, it describes in scientific terms, things which were once described in terms of opinions, appearances, sensations, and superstitions. Any discipline that relies on a description of things in terms of opinions, appearances, sensations, and superstitions, is, by definition, in a nonscientific state of development. A premise described in these terms is, by definition, a nonscientific premise. It is built on “subjective illusion” not on scientific fact.
 
The effectiveness of this argument derives from the naturalist premise that science will, in the future, succeed in explaining all phenomena of consciousness in terms of physical processes. This premise implies that the subjective phenomena of consciousness are essentially nonscientific in nature, and will, in the future, be given a purely scientific physical explanation. Until science succeeds in this endeavor, subjective verbal accounts of mental phenomena such as “action” remain, by definition, in a nonscientific state of development.
 
Science is the progressive description of subjective phenomena (things as they appear to us) in terms of objective phenomena (things as they really are). This is the natural-scientific premise. The premise entails the rejection of subjective appearances as evidence of the ontological (i.e., real) existence of things. Only scientific evidence given in terms of physical processes qualify as scientific evidence.
 
To the extent the axiom of action is derived from subjective evidence of the existence of action, it must be rejected as fundamentally unscientific in character. This follows from the natural-scientific premise.
 
A theory that supposes the existence of action and that reasons beginning from this supposition, requires an argument showing how or why the natural-scientific premise is faulty.
 
 

 

"It would be preposterous to assert apodictically that science will never succeed in developing a praxeological aprioristic doctrine of political organization..." (Mises, UF, p.98)

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Groucho replied on Sun, Nov 18 2012 2:42 PM

Adam Knott:

From the point of view of natural science, one might reject Mises’s premise for the following reason.
 
The natural scientist may argue that while he accepts the “psychological” fact of action, he rejects the “ontological” fact of action. This means that while it may be true that I experience something like aiming at ends “inside my head,” the progress of natural science is likely to demonstrate, eventually, that the feeling I have, and which I believe is self-evident proof that I do aim at ends, is really (ontologically) just the relationships of particles in fields of force. That which I experience as my own aiming at ends, science will one day fully explain in physical terms. And thus, the ontological fact (what is real) is not action, but particles in fields of force. The subjective fact of action, the natural scientist may argue, is a subsidiary or residual effect of physical processes. The subjective phenomenon of action is of a lower ontological status than the phenomena of physics. 

And yet quantum mechanics shows that, ultimately, there is no such thing as "particles" or "fields of force". Now what?

An idealist is one who, on noticing that roses smell better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup. -H.L. Mencken
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hashem replied on Sun, Nov 18 2012 2:55 PM

I could be wrong, but I think praxeological economics is only comprehensible to the extent that you allow "acting man" to mean "the conscious portion of a brain which experiences the automatic unconscious uncontrollable calculations as choice" and "free will" to mean "the capacity of such conscious portion to experience output". Thus Rothbard acknowledges an immediate problem is the concept of so-called "free" will, but he fails to acknowledge a distinction between "man" (the conscious portion that experiences choice) and the massive structure of unconscious uncontrollable automatic processes in the rest of the brain and body which work to output that which the conscious experiences. To me it seems this is the problem with everyone I've ever heard argue about free will.

Rothbard:
The fundamental axiom, then, for the study of man is the existence of individual consciousness...Not being omniscient, a man must learn; he must ever adopt ideas and act upon them, choosing ends and the means to attain these ends. Upon this simple fundamental axiom a vast deductive edifice can be constructed. Professor Mises has already done this for economics, which he has subsumed under the science of praxeology: this centers on the universal formal fact that all men use means for chosen ends, without investigating the processes of the concrete choices or the justification for them. Mises has shown that the entire structure of economic thought can be deduced from this axiom (with the help of a very few subsidiary axioms)

Notice the problem here. "Man must learn then choose". What is really happening is the unconscious brain is storing and processing input through a dynamic algorithm ("learning") resulting in an output which the conscious brain experiences as choice. In the context of praxeology, "man" is "the conscious portion of the brain which experiences the output" and "free will" is "the capacity of such consciousness to experience output".

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Then substitute for "particles in fields of force":     "physical phenomena as described by the currently reigning physical theory."

 

 

"It would be preposterous to assert apodictically that science will never succeed in developing a praxeological aprioristic doctrine of political organization..." (Mises, UF, p.98)

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I don't really get this objection. Regardless of what the scientist thinks we're "objectively" doing, what is the scientist doing to present their conclusions, if not acting? This seems to run hand in hand with determinism being fraught with problems if you try and ask the determinist to apply the philosophy to themselves, or eliminativists/materialist reductionists to explain what exactly it is they're doing if there's no such thing as mental phenomena.

Even if they were to adopt this approach, given that natural science is often justified on instrumentalist grounds, you could simply take the same approach for praxeology, especially in light of the problems any one of these philosophies have when you apply them to the person advancing the argument itself. It's embarrassing enough that natural scientists are helpless when it comes to justifying the principle of induction. In some ways I think Mises was an instrumentalist.

Natural scientists, or rather philosophers who claim to be representing natural science, tend to have the approach that if they cannot explain something, then it doesn't exist. This may work for abstractions like God, which have no impact on epistemic pursuits (though some foundationalists may argue otherwise), but it becomes particularly troublesome when you apply it to mental phenomena.

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Clayton replied on Mon, Nov 19 2012 2:11 PM

Adam, please watch this lecture, it is well worth your time:

Where he talks about the "intentional stance", I would argue that you can substitute "action axiom" without altering his meaning or doing any violence to Mises.

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To be fair, I don't think Adam is genuinely arguing for this viewpoint. I think he's trying to see how it might be countered, though it's only my suspicion.

Re Dennett, I like his work on free will. It seems to jive well with Mises and Hoppe's own writings. Personally I think that it'd do praxeology well to get an "update" from the ground up, as Mises constructed it to more or less skirt around various philosophical debates, rather than adopt a concrete stance on them, except for a handful. To be honest, I think it'd be beneficial for a treatise on method to be published with the works of the aformentioned as well as the likes of Laurence Bonjour, Hollis & Nell (though Hoppe does mention them), Nagel and Henry Veatch, so that it can take on these controversies a little more heads on.

An issue with the Austrian method in my view is that writings on it are too dispersed, and therefore an up to date consolidation would be worthwhile. I think we can forget about positivism at this stage and focus on other issues.

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Hi Jon

"Natural scientists, or rather philosophers who claim to be representing natural science, tend to have the approach that if they cannot explain something, then it doesn't exist. This may work for abstractions like God, which have no impact on epistemic pursuits (though some foundationalists may argue otherwise), but it becomes particularly troublesome when you apply it to mental phenomena."

Or, that if something cannot be explained in terms of science (defined as natural science), then it is not scientific (basically by definition).  Thus, to the extent mental phenomena cannot be so explained, they are not (yet) scientific, and a discipline such as praxeology that accepts subjective phenomena in this unscientific state and tries to reason from them, cannot be truly scientific.

"To be fair, I don't think Adam is genuinely arguing for this viewpoint. I think he's trying to see how it might be countered, though it's only my suspicion."

Yes, correct.  I'm not arguing for it but trying to summarize it in order to counter it.  I think it has to be shown that subjective mental phenomena cannot, on epistemological principle, be described in physical terms.  My intention is to describe the assumptions that must be made in order to attempt to explain mental phenomena in physical terms, and show that those assumptions preclude a consistent physical description. 

"It would be preposterous to assert apodictically that science will never succeed in developing a praxeological aprioristic doctrine of political organization..." (Mises, UF, p.98)

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If that approach is taken it generates issues for epistemology and methodology too, since their own subject-matter is based on mental phenomena. It even raises questions of an epistemic nature as to what the scientist is doing, as I mentioned, because if they are not acting, there's the issue of what the justificatory force of their activities is? The issue pretty much has an explosive knock on effect for all knowledge, and I don't think this has been dealt with adequately in any of the readings I've done on the topic from the materialist perspective.

Hence why if a philosopher is committed to instrumentalism for justifying the natural sciences (because they need to take a number of things as axioms to even get off the ground that they cannot justify via the scientific method), I think they can extend the same courtesy to those dealing with mental phenomena. Yes they may not be scientific in that they cannot be reduced to material constituents - not yet, anyway - but that just means they require a different approach to be studied. The sensation of subjectivity is inescapable and I see no logical reason not to infer that other humans experience it too. Hence, when dealing with them it's best to treat of the matter from this vantage point, and in that case praxeology best elaborates on the implications of the fact that man acts.

The scientific method is ultimately a tool for gaining knowledge to navigate the world. It requires a number of assumptions to hold true, however, such as the law of non-contradiction, the principle of induction, the law of identity, causality, a theory as to what knowledge is etc,, which it cannot establish by itself. So where is it left if it is concluded that because mental phenomena don't fit neatly within it, that they cannot be ascribed a "scientific" status? Which leaves epistemology where? And if somehow epistemology can be salvaged, why not praxeology, of which epistemology is really just a subset?

Basically my point is, does the scientific label ultimately matter as to whether it can be considered knowledge? The scientific method is just a means of justification for obtaining knowledge. Essentially I would agree that it is very difficult to reduce mental phenomena to physical ones, unless one eliminates them or relegates them to epiphenomenal status, but then you're just brushing the problem under a rug really, and pretending it doesn't exist. So you'd probably need to look to other approaches for justifying this sort of knowledge. I'm not sure if you're familiar with him but Laurence Bonjour is quite a good read on these sort of questions.

As an aside, I am quite partial to Dennett's argument on behalf of a sort of free will. I still want to refresh my reading my understanding of his argument some time. I'm trying to remember another philosopher whom I took a liking towards who wrote on the dissimilarities between AIs and brains but his name eludes me entirely. Not because either directly relates to this topic but I think you'd likely find them interesting.

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Jon:

I'm in general agreement with you.  But I believe that not only larger society, but many who are sympathetic to discursive economics/praxeology, share a belief that physical science is of a higher ontological status than discursive or philosophical-type disciplines.  Re-phrasing your passage above:

"The discursive mental disciplines are not scientific in that they do not yet reduce the phenomena to material constituents.  And this means that they require a different, non-scientific approach.  The sensation of subjectivity is inescapable and we may grant that other humans experience it too.  To date, this subjectivity has not been explained entirely in physical terms, but there is no doubt that one day it will be.  Those who treat mental phenomena from this other, non-scientific vantage point do so only because a truly scientific account of mental phenomena is not yet available."

The discursive disciplines are a stopgap until a physical description of consciousness is available.  This is the argument, and it hinges on the validity of the proposition that physical science can, in principle, provide a consistent theory of the phenomena of consciousness.  If physical science cannot, in principle, provide a consistent theory of consciousness, then discursive economics and praxeology are not a stopgap, but the only method available.

I'm going to demonstrate the assumptions that must be made in order to provide a physical description of mental phenomena, and show how those assumptions preclude a consistent physical description of mental phenomena.

"Laurence Bonjour is quite a good read on these sort of questions."

Maybe you can recommend an essay or short book that best encapsulates his theory.

"It would be preposterous to assert apodictically that science will never succeed in developing a praxeological aprioristic doctrine of political organization..." (Mises, UF, p.98)

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As a quick response, In Defense of Pure Reason is a great read. I don't think it has all the definitive answers to the sort of epistemological questions rationalism tries to deal with, but it's a very good pointer in the right direction. This article should also be of interest. I've not read his other works but if you look up his publications on wikipedia you'll see he has a few works devoted to epistemology and naturalism, which is what I think this particular debate in the philosophy of mind really centers around, i.e. whether you can sustain epistemology absent mental phenomena.

I'd also agree with your comment. Mises viewed axioms as starting points of knowledge which had to be taken as true until human knowledge could reach such a point as to push them further back, so I don't think he was in principle opposed to the notion that with a complete physical understanding of the mind that you could study economics as a physical science. As you state, however, this may be something that is in principle impossible (or which requires very forced, awkward assumptions), and this very much depends on the outcome of various controversies re mental phenomena. In particular there are certain axioms like the LNC that no amount of new knowledge can touch due to how fundamental they are to the very character of knowledge.

I'd argue that mental states are a particularly vicious thorn in the side of materialist philosophies and this is why there has even been a tendency to deny their existence in some circles or try reduce them to physical phenomena, and re-define them (in pretty much a similar way to how soft determinists try to re-define free will, to fit their conception of the world, which is not necessarily to say I am critical of this.) I'm not yet satisfied as to how they can be dealt with but I think eliminativism/epiphenomenalism/reductionism are all very crude tools for situating them.

I would be interested to see where this is going, for the reasons you mentioned but also because up to now it hasn't really been an area in which Austrian epistemologists have delved too deeply, due to the school's focus on historicism and positivism. It's exactly the sort of question that has faced psychology, but even sciences like biology, where there's been a thrust (or at least, a desire) to collapse them in time into chemistry and physics.

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hashem replied on Mon, Nov 19 2012 10:53 PM

The problem with this thread, and with praxeological discussions resting on a concept about so-called "free" will, and with the video Clayton posted which I countered before and in my post above, is the incoherent use of words like "man" or "act".

Man (his entire body) doesn't act (behave with a conscious purpose). The vast majority of his body isn't consciously aware and doesn't think or value or choose. When you say "man acts", what you mean is the conscious portion of the brain experiences the output resulting from mind-blowingly complex, unconscious, uncontrollable, automatic processes in the rest of the brain and body.

To the extent any discussion of this nature ignores that, it's just a question-begging red herring circle-jerk. Case in point:

Jon Irenicus:
what is the scientist doing to present their conclusions, if not acting?

The assumed conclusion/premise is that the bulk of "the scientist" is acting in the economic sense (behaving purposefully), which is obviously not true. "The scientist"—that is, the vast majority of the scientist—isn't "doing" anything in that regard; the matter forming "the scientist" isn't consciously aware or valuing, and therefore it isn't behaving purposefully.

What is the scientist's consciousness doing if not experiencing the non-consciously-controllable output of processes from the majority of his brain and body?

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect. —Mark Twain
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Clayton replied on Mon, Nov 19 2012 11:55 PM

When you say "man acts", what you mean is the conscious portion of the brain experiences the output resulting from mind-blowingly complex, unconscious, uncontrollable, automatic processes in the rest of the brain and body.

To the extent any discussion of this nature ignores that, it's just a question-begging red herring circle-jerk.

Dennett addresses this in the video. The trouble with this kind of vulgar reductionism is that it decontextualizes the language of purpose and intentionality. When we say that man acts with purpose or that man has free will, we're not making a statement about the fundamental structure of the physical world. Dennett expounds on this in terms of the "manifest image", which is really what we're talking about. The folk-theory of intentional/volitional language is simply mistaken and creates a false dichotomy between what Dennett rightly terms a miracle (supernaturally acausal choice) and causal reality.

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hashem replied on Tue, Nov 20 2012 9:00 AM

Sorry, I really don't understand what you just said. In any event, I've watched that lecture at your behest and he doesn't address what I said, or if he does it must be in the form of a red herring.

"Man"—the vast majority of his body and brain—doesn't act, it isn't conscious and doesn't value, it isn't consciously controllable, and doesn't rely on whatever fraction of the brain may be consciously aware at any given time. To say that "man acts" is just a misunderstanding and plain wrong.

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gotlucky replied on Tue, Nov 20 2012 9:09 AM

I think you are misunderstanding how people use the word "man".

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Lady Saiga replied on Tue, Nov 20 2012 11:12 AM

I do not have the background in philosophy to frame this response ideally, but I do want to ask the OP: Why is this important?

What I mean is, that whether the subjective experience of purposive choice is illusory or not, it is the only way man may experience life.  As such, any theories of human action must still start from this point, must they not?

In other words it seems to me that the question has no effective meaning.

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Clayton replied on Tue, Nov 20 2012 11:40 AM

@Lady: I think you've hit the nail on the head. The idea is supposed to be that "blind matter" does not act and does not choose. Hence, a very complex machine built out of this blind matter and following the mechanical laws of physics cannot properly be said to act or choose except as an illusion.

Dennett's argument is that the "illusion" is precisely what we mean when we speak of choosing but that it's a mistake to call it an illusion, that is, to assert that it is not real. It is real in the same sense that dollars are real or the mind itself is real, he says. Free will and action are no illusion but they exist in a different sense than, say, electrons exist.

The "hard-bitten physicalist" such as hashem will never see this point whether out of obstinacy or something else. It is just a convenient rationalization for his moral nihilism, in my opinion.

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o the extent any discussion of this nature ignores that, it's just a question-begging red herring circle-jerk. Case in point:

I can't really see the significance of that to be honest. Adam is raising the situation in which mental phenomena are denied an existence altogether. This isn't a free will discussion, and to the extent it has been mentioned, it is due to parallels between how compatibilists and certain materialists frame their position.

The assumed conclusion/premise is that the bulk of "the scientist" is acting in the economic sense (behaving purposefully), which is obviously not true.

No, that's your own inference. I am asking what the scientist who eschews mental phenomena is doing exactly when they raise an objection along these lines, or one that denies the existence of mental phenomena based on natural science. How do they justify their position?

"The scientist"—that is, the vast majority of the scientist—isn't "doing" anything in that regard; the matter forming "the scientist" isn't consciously aware or valuing, and therefore it isn't behaving purposefully.

What of it?

What is the scientist's consciousness doing if not experiencing the non-consciously-controllable output of processes from the majority of his brain and body?

I don't know. I can't peer into it. Are you able to?

Man in this context refers to a conscious being. Whether it directly controls every aspect of its body or not is pretty much a red herring itself in regards to whether it acts.

 

The "hard-bitten physicalist" such as hashem will never see this point whether out of obstinacy or something else. It is just a convenient rationalization for his moral nihilism, in my opinion.

Just play dumb and pretend words are nothing but collections of characters on a screen with no meaning. What is meaning, even? You cannot quantify it or operatinalise it.

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Clayton replied on Tue, Nov 20 2012 12:43 PM

Just play dumb and pretend words are nothing but collections of characters on a screen with no meaning.

LOL, good idea. "Wow, what an interesting pattern of characters you have made on my computer screen. Too bad they don't mean anything, whatever it would mean for them to mean something anyway."

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Adam Knott replied on Tue, Nov 20 2012 12:53 PM

"...whether the subjective experience of purposive choice is illusory or not, it is the only way man may experience life.  As such, any theories of human action must still start from this point, must they not?"

I believe the question is the scientific status or scientific validity of the particular theoretical description of the subjective appearance.  The question has to do with a description of the subjective experience in discursive, philosophical-type prose, versus a description of the subjective experience in terms of 'science' meaning physical science.

I may see a rainbow.  That is a subjective experience.  Then I may say that a rainbow is pleasing, and that pleasure is a category of subjective experience.  And I may say that I value rainbows, and that value is a category of subjective experience.  And I may proceed like this linking various subjective experiences together in a discursive, philosophical-type word-scheme.   Then I call this 'science.'

But I may also describe rainbows in terms of physical science.  I may use the reigning physical theory that shows how rainbows result from specific physical circumstances.  The validity and scientific standing of this approach is confirmed by the overwhelming success of its ability to link the effect Y to the cause X. 

There are two conceivable approaches.  As it has not been ruled out that consciousness can be explained in physical terms, and as physical science is, by unanimous agreement, more successful than social science in explaining regularities of phenomena (constant relationships between X and Y), then if there is a choice whether to devote our energy to describing subjectivity by discursive prose versus physical science, we should choose 'science' over discursive prose.

This way of looking at things depends on the validity of the proposition that it is in principle possible to provide a physical description of consciousness.  Mises does not rule out that one day physical science may provide such a description:

Concrete value judgments and definite human actions are not open to further analysis. We may fairly assume or believe that they are absolutely dependent upon and conditioned by their causes. But as long as we do not know how external facts--physical and physiological--produce in a human mind definite thoughts and volitions resulting in concrete acts, we have to face an insurmountable methodological dualism. In the present state of our knowledge the fundamental statements of positivism, monism and panphysicalism are mere metaphysical postulates devoid of any scientific foundation and both meaningless and useless for scientific research. Reason and experience show us two separate realms: the external world of physical, chemical, and physiological phenomena and the internal world of thought, feeling, valuation, and purposeful action. No bridge connects--as far as we can see today--these two spheres. Identical external events result sometimes in different human responses, and different external events produce sometimes the same human response. We do not know why.

In the face of this state of affairs we cannot help withholding judgment on the essential statements of monism and materialism. We may or may not believe that the natural sciences will succeed one day in explaining the production of definite ideas, judgments of value, and actions in the same way in which they explain the production of a chemical compound as the necessary and unavoidable outcome of a certain combination of elements. In the meantime we are bound to acquiesce in a methodological dualism.

Human action is one of the agencies bringing about change. It is an element of cosmic activity and becoming. Therefore it is a legitimate object of scientific investigation. As--at least under present conditions--it cannot be traced back to its causes, it must be considered as an ultimate given and must be studied as such.

Thus, we engage in praxeology (discursive descriptions of subjective experience) as an acquiescence due to the fact that our present state of physical knowledge is inadequate.  Praxeology is a stopgap discipline that is all we can hope for under the present state of physical knowledge.

This is not my belief.  This is how the world at large sees things.

To overcome this belief, it has to be shown that we are not lacking a physical description of consciousness due to the insufficiency of physical knowledge; rather, we are lacking a physical description of consciousness because the attempt to provide one is fundamentally misguided.  I.e., a physical description of consciousness cannot be provided because consciousness is not describable in physical terms. 

The way to demonstrate this would be to show that any proposed physical description of consciousness cannot overcome X, which proponents of physical theories of consciousness agree must be overcome for the physical theory to be valid or consistent.  In other words, demonstrate that with the means at our disposal (the means that it is possible for us to have, not the means we presently have), a physical description of consciousness is not possible.

Until this is demonstrated, individuals will direct their energy into attempts to describe consciousness in physical terms.

"It would be preposterous to assert apodictically that science will never succeed in developing a praxeological aprioristic doctrine of political organization..." (Mises, UF, p.98)

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Clayton replied on Tue, Nov 20 2012 1:15 PM

we are lacking a physical description of consciousness because the attempt to provide one is fundamentally misguided.  I.e., a physical description of consciousness cannot be provided because consciousness is not describable in physical terms.

I'm always uncomfortable with the use of the word "physical" in these contexts because it is not clear what would not be physical. I prefer to use the word "causal" and I think that the only kind of explanation that can be given is, by definition, causal explanation. Hence, I would say it this way: To the extent that consciousness is explainable, it is explainable in terms of cause-and-effect.

However, I think Dennett provides a no-nonsense short-circuit to all of this: the factors of consciousness that matter to social behavior are concealed by design. This is the thesis of his discussion of "predictability" - it really doesn't matter to the discussion of free will (and, I would argue, purposive behavior) if an omniscient observer could simulate our behavior step-by-step... because to do so, he will have to rely on hidden state that is not available to actors in a social setting.

"Language was given to man in order to conceal thought." - Talleyrand

Dennett goes on to argue that this concealment is crucial to our concept of moral responsibility. Moral responsibility is predicated on the idea that one's behavior is not consciously predictable (i.e. so determined that one's actions play out like a movie before one's eyes), not whether an omniscient observer with the source code to the Universe could predict your next action.

But I am digressing into the moral question. In terms of the praxeological issues, this is all a side-show. Mises clearly states that the psychological factors of action are irrelevant to the analysis of action, that is, psychology is a separate subject.

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Clayton:

What would not be physical would be:

"...unobservables whose unobservability is a matter of epistemological principle."  (Human Action)

That is, an action category of unobservability, which means, things we refer to in action but do not observe.  (the future, other minds, concepts, the other side of things, etc.)

In other words, this category cannot be conceived as an arrangement of physical particles in space and time.  This category does not have physical characteristics.

"The common attributes which the elements of any of these classes possess are not physical attributes but must be something else." ("The Facts of the Social Sciences")

 

"It would be preposterous to assert apodictically that science will never succeed in developing a praxeological aprioristic doctrine of political organization..." (Mises, UF, p.98)

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I know of Dennet slightly but have not been able to watch this video.  This account of morality, however, makes me uncomfortable.  It may be a “side show” to the main line of discussion, but it’s one of the only practical aspects OF the discussion in my opinion…

At any rate, all I can say in reaction is that we have no other reasonable course but to act as though the evidence of our experience is true, in the only sense of the word that will ever be of use to humans.  There just isn’t a meaningful way to make objective observations in this area.  I think all you’re proposing is a rearrangement of the wording used to describe human action for the purposes of placating those who think that only the measurable is of value.

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"At any rate, all I can say in reaction is that we have no other reasonable course but to act as though the evidence of our experience is true,"

The argument isn't about practical action.  It is a question of the most suitable theoretical method for describing the relationship between the phenomena.

"There just isn’t a meaningful way to make objective observations in this area."

Both those who advocate a physical description of consciousness, and those who advocate objective social theories, hold that this is only because there is not yet enough physical knowledge, or not yet a good enough objective social theory, respectively.  They maintain that upon further advances in their disciplines, the problems will be solved.

"I think all you’re proposing is a rearrangement of the wording used to describe human action for the purposes of placating those who think that only the measurable is of value."

Then you're not understanding what's going on.  I'm describing the naturalist point of view as clearly as I can so that those who are interested can understand why praxeology is rejected on grounds which its opponents consider scientific.

 

 

"It would be preposterous to assert apodictically that science will never succeed in developing a praxeological aprioristic doctrine of political organization..." (Mises, UF, p.98)

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Clayton replied on Tue, Nov 20 2012 3:30 PM

This account of morality, however, makes me uncomfortable.
 

What about it makes you uncomfortable? For your reference, here's an introductory article on my thoughts regarding morality.

I think all you’re proposing is a rearrangement of the wording used to describe human action for the purposes of placating those who think that only the measurable is of value.

Hmm, I would certainly not characterize my thoughts on the subject this way. What leads you to say that?

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Sorry Clayton, I didn't mean you at all.  I am probably misreading the OP's most recent post. 

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hashem replied on Tue, Nov 20 2012 10:33 PM

gotlucky:
I think you are misunderstanding how people use the word "man".

Ok then, please help me out. When a praxeologist says, "Man acts," what does he mean? My understanding is this:

According to praxeologists, "man" is a human's entire body. The whole thing is consciously aware and the whole thing consciously processes input to arrive at an output called "choice". Thus their reliance on and defense of incomprehensible concepts like "free will" as major pillars of their perspective, as pointed out by Rothbard himself.

I'm arguing that the entire body isn't conscious. What's conscious is fractions of the brain, which experience choice as opposed to managing and governing and orchestrating it. The unconscious brain stores and process input which results in output experienced by the conscious brain. Whether you call this experience "free will" or "action" or "choice" doesn't mean the conscious brain orchestrated it—the consciousness is responsible for experiencing, not storing, processing, and outputting.

The red herring in discussions like this is the false dichotomy: either the consciousness directs choice (instead of experiencing output called "choice"), OR mental phenomena don't exist. I'm arguing that the mental phenomenon called consciousness is real, and choice does happen; but choice is orchestrated by the unconscious brain (input > store > process > output) and experienced by the conscious brain.

Thus praxeology can be comprehensible, if "man" means "the conscious brain" and concepts like acting, choosing, or free will describe things the conscious brain doesn't orchestrate but experiences. So "man acts" really means "the conscious brain experienced the automatic, non-consciously-controllable output of automatic processes in the body and brain".

Jon Irenicus:
This isn't a free will discussion

Praxeology stands or falls on the foundation of so-called "free" will. See Rothbard.

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect. —Mark Twain
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gotlucky replied on Tue, Nov 20 2012 10:54 PM

hashem:

 

Ok then, please help me out. When a praxeologist says, "Man acts," what does he mean? My understanding is this:

According to praxeologists, "man" is a human's entire body. The whole thing is consciously aware and the whole thing consciously processes input to arrive at an output called "choice".

I was correct - you are misunderstanding what people and especially praxeologists mean by "man" and "man acts". To be honest, I have no idea why you would think people mean that the entire body is consciously aware...when someone says "man acts", they are referring to the being known as man. In this case, it's an abstract notion of man, but this applies to concrete humans as well.

For instance, if John kicks the ball, we are not saying that all the cells in John's body kicked the ball, nor are we saying that his nose hairs were responsible for the decision to kick the ball. So when we say, "Man acts", we are not saying that the nose hairs are responsible for whatever action the man does. Man is just referring to the being, and different aspects of that being are involved in the chosen action depending upon what the action is, and the aspects that are involved are involved in varying degrees depending upon the relevancy to the specific action.

But really, I've never heard anyone claim that the entire body is conscious. I've never heard a layman state this, and I've never heard a praxeologist state this either.

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Praxeology stands or falls on the foundation of so-called "free" will. See Rothbard.

It doesn't, really. It stands on the sensation of possessing the ability to choose. Whether or not there is an objective validity to this is irrelevant. For what it's worth, epistemology is predicated on this to an equal extent, as is by consequence the scientific method.

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hashem replied on Wed, Nov 21 2012 2:48 PM

 

gotlucky:
To be honest, I have no idea why you would think people mean that the entire body is consciously aware...when someone says "man acts", they are referring to the being known as man.

This is elementary... Within the context of praxeology, a being has "a specific existence, it must have certain definite, definable, delimitable attributes, that is, every thing must have a specific nature. Every being, then, can act or behave only in accordance with its nature."

So I ask you again, what does the praxeologist MEAN when he says, "man" acts. To the praxeologist, what is "man"?

Jon Irenicus:
It stands on the sensation of possessing the ability to choose.

Then I pose the same question to you: What possesses this ability you call "choosing"? What is even meant by "choose"?

 

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect. —Mark Twain
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gotlucky replied on Wed, Nov 21 2012 3:01 PM

"Man acts" means that the being belonging to homo sapiens is doing something, and in the case of praxeology this is a decided choice as opposed to reflexive. There are certain relevant processes that go on in the brain, and those processes cause the chosen action to be. Whether you want to call those processes free will or the conscious self experiencing the results of those processes is irrelevant to praxeology. The relevant processes in the relevant being cause a measurable action, and that is what praxeology is concerned with. There are irrelevant processes in the relevant being that cause other types of action, but for the purpose of praxeology, those actions are reflexive and not considered action proper.

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The "it" in question is the unified sensation of consciousness that every agent experiences, which is also that which possesses our thoughts, beliefs, concepts, sensations etc. Whether it controls just a portion of the body, all of it or just as much as it needs to, leaving the rest on automatic, is inconsequential.

The sensation of choice is simply the idea that we're faced with an array of of alternative options. This is what free will revolves around and what compatibilists argue determinism doesn't rule out. Praxeology, strictly speaking, doesn't require for this to be ontologically true, and I don't even think it requires it to be experientially true, come to think of it. Arguably it only requires that from our perspective it is how we view and interact with the world. Trying to look at things from a God's eye is of no practical relevance to us. This isn't what Adam is trying to probe into, anyway. He is confronting a different issue, namely whether there is indeed an epistemic gap when it comes to consciousness, i.e. whether it can, in principle, be fully reduced to material constituents.

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Clayton replied on Wed, Nov 21 2012 3:39 PM

To the praxeologist, what is "man"?

Homo sapiens. Man is to the praxeologist what bird is to the ornithologist, except that the praxeologist has one advantage that the onrithologist does not have... he is himself a sample of the object under study which gives him a vast amount of information about the subject before he even begins systematic study.

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Adam Knott replied on Sun, Nov 25 2012 12:21 PM

The following argument is still in development and may be adjusted if or re-stated it if necessary.

*******

The stated goal is to describe a conscious state in physical terms.   Here are the parameters and definitions:

1)  We assume that a scientific observer can, in principle at least, locate various conscious states among the various objects of nature.  That is, specific, locatable, conscious states 'exist' in nature, separate from the observer's mind in the same way that a tree is separate from an observer's mind.  In general, we assume that conscious states are located in the brains of other humans and animals.

2)  To begin with, we will assume that a physical description of a conscious state entails a causal description of events and entails at least two separate observations.  The scientific observer must make at least two observations: (.....) and  (.....)

(parentheses indicate a placeholder for an assumed future observation)

3)  The scientist must, in principle, be able to make the observation himself. 

This specific parameter means that if the scientific observer observes a subject who says “I feel pain,” then the utterance “I feel pain” (the utterance itself) counts as an observation of the scientist, but the referred to pain which the scientific observer does not himself observe, does not count as an observation.  That is, with respect to a subject who reports his subjective experience to an observer, the report itself counts as a valid observation (the utterance or written object), but not the subjective experience of the subject.

4)  We assume that the observing scientist has all the physical knowledge he requires.  Any knowledge regarding physical processes requested by the scientific observer will be provided.

5)  We will agree beforehand that in principle, an observation of a mechanical regularity does not count as an observation of a conscious state.

For example, when the scientific observer taps the knee of the subject with a rubber hammer and the knee of the subject twitches, this counts as an observation of a mechanical regularity and not as an observation of a conscious state.

Similarly, if the scientific observer were able to arrange a chain of causal physical processes, such that every time a button were pushed the subject uttered “I feel pain,” with mechanical regularity (the same kind of mechanical regularity we observe between switching a light switch and the lights going on), then this would count as an observation of a mechanical regularity and not an observation of a conscious state.

*****

Given these parameters and definitions, here are the questions:

1) If the goal is to describe conscious states in physical terms, does this require that the scientific observer be able to observe a conscious state?   If he/she is going to correlate specific physical processes X with specific conscious states Y, does this require that the specific conscious states Y be observable, in order to verify or falsify that physical process X corresponds to or causes conscious state Y?

2)  Given the parameters and definitions above, can a conscious state be observed by the observing scientist?

3)  If conscious states must, in principle, be observable, in order to provide a description of conscious states in physical terms, and if the parameters and definitions above prevent, in principle, the observation of a conscious state, then, do the parameters and definitions above constitute a fair natural scientific standard?

I.e., is the standard imposed by the parameters and definitions above overly strict in comparison to the standards of observation generally required in natural science?  Or is the observational standard a fair one and within the norms of what is required for natural scientific observation?

******

Explanation:

The question is whether it is possible to provide a physical (natural-scientific) account of conscious states if it is not possible to observe conscious states.

This question owes to a close reading of an account of conscious states in physical terms given by John Searle.  The article is “Biological Naturalism” and can be found here:

http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~jsearle/

I believe Searle’s short 14 page essay is must-reading for those who are seriously interested in praxeology.  Searle is trying to show that it is in principle possible to provide a physical description of conscious states.  On page 3 he provides the following definition of a conscious state:

“Some things such as pains, tickles and itches, only exist when experienced by a human or animal subject, and they have a subjective or first person ontology.”

On page 11, Searle then provides a descriptive account of a physical account of a conscious state wherein he assumes that we had the required knowledge of physical processes:

“We could then say, “This guy is in pain, even though he does not feel it yet.  The thalamocortical system definitely shows the presence of pain, though it is unfelt.”

(emphasis added)

On page 3, Searle defines the subjective conscious state pain as only existing when felt or experienced by a subject, and on page 11 when Searle assumes we have all the physical knowledge we need, he describes the state pain as “present” though unfelt by the subject. We can see immediately that there is an egregious inconsistency in Searle’s account, and this has nothing to do with the state of physical knowledge, because Searle assumes for the purpose of his example that we have the requisite physical knowledge.

At first I tried to understand Searle’s contradiction by assuming that it may have been intentional on his part, and that by intentionally maintaining this theoretical contradiction Searle solves some epistemological/structural problem.  From this assumption I tried to figure out the specific problem he may have been trying to solve by defining pain in one instance as a subjective experience, and in another instance as objectively present and not subjectively experienced.

I’ve recently come to the realization that perhaps this contradiction was unintentional on Searle’s part.  Perhaps this mistake is not the result of a clever attempt to mend a broken theory.  Perhaps the contradiction is inadvertent, and due to the unobservability of conscious states.  If this latter interpretation is correct then the reason why Searle commits this serious error may be something like the following:

Searle has imagined that conscious states “exist” out in extended nature, inside the heads of other humans and animals.  But he has not actually observed them in these locations.  He then attempts to describe how these conscious states—which he himself has mentally projected to a specific location in nature—can be described in physical terms.  In his eventual physical description of conscious states (page 11 in his essay) he again mentally projects a conscious state to a specific location, this time, to the thalamocortical system of the subject in front of him.  In his written theoretical account, Searle inadvertently provides two conflicting accounts of subjective states: 1) they only exist when subjectively experienced, and 2) they are objectively observable by the observer but not yet experienced by the subject.  And this happens not because Searle is intentionally trying to reconcile an irreconcilable theory, but because the conscious state in question was never observed by Searle in any location, but was instead mentally projected by him.    

In other words, Searle “locates” conscious states in contradictory places within his own theoretical framework inadvertently, because he confuses his own projection or imagination of conscious states with their ontological existence in various locations in nature.  Stated differently, the ontological existence of conscious state X at location Y in nature was, strictly speaking, never observed by Searle, but supplied by him.  Given that the location of the conscious state in question is not observed but supplied, it is natural that Searle locates conscious states at various places in nature, even in places where they should not be according to his written theoretical framework.  Searle’s actual method of locating conscious states in nature—by mentally projecting them—is at odds with his theoretical framework in which he purports to demonstrate that they are physically produced.

*****

The idea that social entities can be conceived as a categorial aspect of the one who apprehends them is not a new idea.  When praxeology was being taught and explored in the first half of the twentieth century these insights were made and understood by Mises, Schutz, Hayek and others.

Human knowledge is conditioned by the structure of the human mind.  If it chooses human action as the subject matter of its inquiries, it cannot mean anything else than the categories of action which are proper to the human mind and are its projections into the external world of becoming and change. (Human Action, 3rd rev. p. 36)

Not our senses, but understanding, a mental process, makes us recognize social entities. (p. 43)

We thus always supplement what we actually see of another person’s action by projecting into that person a system of classification of objects which we know, not from observing other people, but because it is in terms of these classes that we think ourselves. (Hayek, “The Facts of the Social Sciences”)

…in discussing what we regard as other people’s conscious actions, we invariably interpret their action on the analogy of our own mind: that is, that we group their actions, and the objects of their actions, into classes or categories which we know solely from the knowledge of our own mind. (Hayek, “The Facts of the Social Sciences”)

Ironically, Searle himself made similar insights in his short classic Minds, Brains and Science:

For a large number of social and psychological phenomena the concept that names the phenomenon is itself a constituent of the phenomenon.  In order for something to count as a marriage ceremony or a trade union, or property or money or even a war or revolution people involved in these activities have to have certain appropriate thoughts.  In general they have to think that’s what it is.  So, for example, in order to get married or buy property you and other people have to think that that is what you’re doing.  Now this feature is crucial to social phenomena.

…many of the terms that describe social phenomena have to enter into their constitution.  And this has the further result that such terms have a peculiar kind of self-referentiality.  ‘Money’ refers to whatever people use and think of as money.  ‘Promise’ refers to whatever people intend and regard as promises.  I am not saying that in order to have the institution of money people have to have that very word or exact synonym in their vocabulary.  Rather, they must have certain thoughts and attitudes about something in order that it counts as money and those thoughts and attitudes are part of the very definition of money. (Searle, Minds, Brains and Science, p. 78)

Thus, Searle has at some point in his thinking recognized the mental constitution of social entities.  The thought (or “attitude” or intention) that a person has is part of the constitution of the social object he apprehends. For some reason Searle has simply forgotten to apply these same insights to the social phenomena which are conscious states.

As those familiar with Mises’s writings know, the concept of “categories” is central to Mises’s social thinking.  Categories are essentially classifications by which we organize our conscious experience.  We can refer to such categories as “categories of action” or as “categories of consciousness.”  With regard to the consciousness of an observed subject, we can apply the notion of ‘categories’ in the following way.

We can conceive that aspect of the person in front of me which I perceptually observe as belonging to the ‘category’ of perceptible things or objects.  By contrast, we can conceive that aspect of the person in front of me which I do not perceptually observe, but which I assume is “there” (i.e., his mind, consciousness, purpose, intention, etc.), as belonging to the ‘category’ of nonperceptible things.  This latter category is a category of “unobservables whose unobservability is a matter of epistemological principle.”(Human Action, 3rd rev. p. 57)

It is important to state clearly and explicitly that when we refer to “categories” we mean categories of ourselves as observers.  The category of perceptible objects and the category of the nonperceptible are categories of my consciousness, and they apply to every object of my apprehension.  As Mises writes:

For man every cognition is conditioned by the logical structure of his mind and implied in this structure. (Human Action, 3rd rev. p. 86)

The logical structure of my mind, and the logical structure of those things I apprehend, are the same thing.  When I apprehend the person in front of me, the perceptible aspect of this person is a perception of mine.  Likewise, the unperceptible aspect of that person is a category of mine; a category of my consciousness.  In other words, the person in front of me is “constituted,” as it were, of my conscious categories.  His body “belongs” to my category of perceptible objects, while his mind “belongs” to my category of unperceptibility.

We are thus able to provide a solution to the important unsolved problem of social science noted by Alfred Schutz:

We must, then, leave unsolved the notoriously difficult problems which surround the constitution of the Thou within the subjectivity of private experience.  We are not going to be asking, therefore, how the Thou is constituted in an Ego…As important as these questions may be for epistemology and, therefore, for the social sciences, we may safely leave them aside in the present work.(The Phenomenology of the Social World, 1972, p. 98)

The question is how to conceive the subjective experience of another mind.  The proposed solution is to conceive ‘other minds’ as belonging to a category of nonperceptibles.

In principle, we can apply this categorial approach to every object of our apprehension.  Take for example the wall in front of me.  I may assign the perceptible part of the wall (what I refer to as the front of it) to the category of perceptible objects.  And I may assign the unperceptible part of the wall (what I refer to as the back of it) to the category of nonperceptibility.  In general, I will assign to the category of nonperceptibility those things Y which I assume “exist” as I observe or perceive X.  This includes such things as minds, consciousnesses, intentions, purposes, concepts, time, the future, tomorrow, the past, the other side of things, and perhaps many other things yet to be considered. These are all examples of things that I assume exist, in relation to something else that I observer or perceive.   When perceivable or observable objects appear in my action (appear to my consciousness) I attribute to these objects, in addition, attributes which I do not perceive or observe.  Paraphrasing the quote from Hayek above: 

We thus always supplement what we actually see….. by projecting…. a system of classification ….. which we know, not from observing…..but because it is in terms of these classes that we think ourselves.

In this way, any object that appears in my action may be conceived as constituted of the various categories of my action.

 

Conclusion

Due to the past success of the natural sciences, it is commonly assumed that if we had more knowledge of physical processes we could explain consciousness—and thus social phenomena—entirely in physical terms.  The belief that natural science will one day provide answers to social questions implies that we have a choice between two different ways to understand social phenomena; we may choose science or discursive philosophy.  However, for epistemological reasons, it may be impossible to provide a physical explanation of social phenomena.  Can a science that relies on observation provide a satisfactory explanation of phenomena comprised of unobservable aspects?  This is a question that has important implications for praxeology.

"It would be preposterous to assert apodictically that science will never succeed in developing a praxeological aprioristic doctrine of political organization..." (Mises, UF, p.98)

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filc replied on Sun, Nov 25 2012 3:55 PM

Your critique brings attention to the why or the reason for means/ends. Praxeology is not concerned with this nor is refuted by it.  Praxeoogy is the formal acceptance that means and ends exist and considers the consequences of those items repsectively. Praxeology does not analyze the phsycological, naturalistic, or biological reasons for why means/ends exist. It accepts those things as givens and leaves that particular field of study to other, non-social, sciences.

So long as man is given at least the superficial control over his social destiny it is relevant for us to consider how best social discourse can proceed. If at some point in the future we reach the singularity, arrive at nirvana, or otherwise become assimilated into autamatons our consideration for praxeology and its study will likely expire. Untill then natural sciences really cannot speak for it or against it.

The concept of action involves the use of scarce means for satisfying the most
urgent wants at some point in the future, and the truths of economic theory involve the formal relations between ends and means, and not their specific contents. A man’s ends may be
“egoistic” or “altruistic,” “refined” or “vulgar.”
Or they may be driven by some naturalistic, chemical, or bioloical reason as mentioned .
 
Economics is not concerned with their content, and its laws apply regardless of the nature of these ends.
 
Murray Rothbard (2004). MES, Mises Institute

 

[EDIT]

Apologies. Jon already answered eloquently above. (3 posts above this one)

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Thanks for the post Adam. Basically most attempts I've seen at bringing subjective phenomena in line with materialism have been to re-define them in terms of something else, i.e. some sort of proxy, perhaps locating them in some defined area of the brain.

The thing is, to give a completely physical account of them, the individual doing so needs to be able to do so in a way that they could describe them as a perfectly neutral observer, with no possession of such concepts. You couldn't because you'd never see them, let alone understand someone communicating them to you (I am leaving aside any complications arising from thoughts too being mental phenomena.)

Unless reductionist thinkers circumvent the self-referentiality of mental phenomena, I don't think a purely physical account is possible. You can always show which areas of the body are active in conjunction to the sensation of a mental phenomenon but in so doing you are not identifying the two with one another. You are still missing out the essentials of what makes a mental phenomenon just that. I'll re-read your post over the weekend since there's quite a lot packed into it, but I think it's a good starting point.

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hashem replied on Mon, Nov 26 2012 9:05 PM

@Jon Irenicus

It seems you're implying reality can be described in terms of a not-physical account. That's blowing my mind, can you clarify please?

bringing subjective phenomena in line with materialism

Isn't this redundant, or circular, or some kind of fallacy? Subjective perception is a mental phenomenon. But we exist in a material universe, so the burden seems to be on people who say mental phenomena aren't physical.

Also, you aren't using reductionism to mean "science", so what are you using it to mean? And what is it opposed to (e.g. reductionism vs what)?

...the sensation of a mental phenomenon...

A mental phenomenon is not sensed; the sensory organs don't consciousness experience, for example, and conversely, for example, the consciouesness doesn't require sensory organs. Can you clarify?

You can always show which areas of the body are active in conjunction to the [experience? perception?] of a mental phenomenon but in so doing you are not identifying the two with one another.

A boat rises with the current, but it isn't identified with the current? What does that even mean? So we establish that a current causes a boat to move, but we haven't "identified" them? Please understand if I'm sort of confused by your reasoning here...what's your point?

Science is advanced through identifying connections, and the more thoroughly a connection is established the more complete a theory (for example, of mental phenomena) becomes. But the component parts aren't "identified" with one another? Whatever that means, what bearing does it have on the fact of whether a theory plays out consistently?

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect. —Mark Twain
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Isn't this redundant, or circular, or some kind of fallacy? Subjective perception is a mental phenomenon. But we exist in a material universe, so the burden seems to be on people who say mental phenomena aren't physical.

It isn't redundant. You'd have to show why it'd be a fallacy, and also in what manner it'd be circular. Or at least educate yourself on the context in which these questions arose, i.e. attempts by materialists to explain mental phenomena like consciousness and qualia through a purely physical description. It isn't a burden of proof hot potato situation.

Also, you aren't using reductionism to mean "science", so what are you using it to mean? And what is it opposed to (e.g. reductionism vs what)?

Here, go find out for yourself.

A mental phenomenon is not sensed; the sensory organs don't consciousness experience, for example, and conversely, for example, the consciouesness doesn't require sensory organs. Can you clarify?

What makes you think sensation refers solely to sense-perception? It can refer to a simple awareness of something.

A boat rises with the current, but it isn't identified with the current? What does that even mean? So we establish that a current causes a boat to move, but we haven't "identified" them? Please understand if I'm sort of confused by your reasoning here...what's your point?

Materialist philosophers have tried to identify mental phenomena with physical phenomena, usually the brain or neural system. They're not trying to merely establish correlations and hypothesise causation but to reduce the mental phenomena to physical phenomena, i.e. render an explanation of them purely in physical terms that leaves no further question marks. So it is a question of identification and not merely cause/effect connections.

 

 

Freedom of markets is positively correlated with the degree of evolution in any society...

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