Free Capitalist Network - Community Archive
Mises Community Archive
An online community for fans of Austrian economics and libertarianism, featuring forums, user blogs, and more.

Barry Smith, "Aristotle, Menger, Mises: An Essay in the Metaphysics of Economics"

rated by 0 users
This post has 5 Replies | 0 Followers

Top 25 Contributor
Male
Posts 4,914
Points 70,630
wilderness Posted: Mon, Mar 22 2010 5:36 PM

I am looking for this essay by Smith.  I can't find it anywhere for free and so I'd thought I'd take a long shot and see if anybody has found excess to it via the internet for free.  It's been cited in various articles I've read of late and looks extremely interesting.  This is the essay with author:

Barry Smith, "Aristotle, Menger, Mises: An Essay in the Metaphysics of Economics"

--

It is in a book by B. Caldwell which is ca. 400-600 pages long which seems to be a collection of essays that includes this particular one.  If I can't find the essay any other way, then I can always do an interlibrary loan and get this book to excess the essay but I'd thought I'd swing this by here first.

Edit:  And seeing how the rest of that book doesn't look that interesting and it is quite long, I'm not considering buying that book.  I would buy the essay if the price is right, but I haven't been able to find this essay for sale either all to itself.

"Do not put out the fire of the spirit." 1The 5:19
  • | Post Points: 20
Top 50 Contributor
Male
Posts 2,939
Points 49,110
Conza88 replied on Mon, Mar 22 2010 5:47 PM

http://ontology.buffalo.edu/smith/articles/menger.html

?

Ron Paul is for self-government when compared to the Constitution. He's an anarcho-capitalist. Proof.
  • | Post Points: 50
Top 25 Contributor
Male
Posts 4,914
Points 70,630

Smile

You found it!  I really didn't think it would be accessible over the internet.  That was quick!  Thanks Conza.

"Do not put out the fire of the spirit." 1The 5:19
  • | Post Points: 5
Top 25 Contributor
Male
Posts 4,914
Points 70,630

Just thought I'd post this part.  This article is very interesting and informative.  (Bold is from original article and is not mine).  From Article:

"What then is the basic doctrine of Austrian Aristotelianism that is shared, above all, by Menger, Brentano and their immediate followers? If, at the risk of a certain degree of painful obviousness, we attempt an assay of the common axis running through a number of otherwise disparate modes of thinking, then the basic doctrine might be said to embrace the following theses:

1. The world exists, independently of our thinking and reasoning activities. This world embraces both material and mental aspects (and perhaps other sui generis dimensions, for example of law and culture). And while we might shape the world and contribute to it through our thoughts and actions, detached and objective theorizing about the world in all its aspects is nonetheless possible.

2. There are in the world certain simple `essences' or `natures' or `elements', as well as laws, structures or connections governing these, all of which are strictly universal, both in that they do not change historically and in the sense that they are capable of being instantiated, in principle (which is to say: if the appropriate conditions are satisfied), at all times and in all cultures. The fact that the simple essences and essential structures do not themselves change or develop implies in addition that historical change is a matter, not of changes in the basic building blocks of reality, but of changes in the patterns of their exemplification and in the ways in which they come together to form more complex wholes.

Propositions expressing universal connections amongst essences are called by Menger `exact laws'. Such laws may be either static or dynamic they may concern either the co-existence or the succession of instances of the corresponding simple essences or natures. It is exact laws, as Menger sees it, which constitute a scientific theory in the strict sense. The general laws of essence of which such a theory would consist are subject to no exceptions. In this respect they are comparable, say, to the laws of geometry or mechanics, and contrasted with mere statements of fact and with inductive hypotheses. The aim of the `exact orientation of research' is, as Menger puts it,

the determination of strict laws of the phenomena, of regularities in the succession of phenomena which not only present themselves as exceptionless, but which, when we take account of the ways in which we have come to know them, in fact bear within themselves the guarantee of their own exceptionlessness (1883, p. 38, Eng. p. 59, translation corrected)

3. Our experience of this world involves in every case both an individual and a general aspect. As in Aristotle himself, so also in Menger and in the work of other Aristotelians such as Brentano and Reinach, a radical empiricism hereby goes hand in hand with essentialism. The general aspect of experience is conceived by the Aristotelian as something entirely ordinary and matter-of-fact. Thus it is not the work of any separate or special faculty of `intuition' but is rather involved of necessity in every act of perceiving and thinking a fact which makes itself felt in the ubiquitous employment of general terms in all natural languages. Thus the general aspect of experience is as direct and straightforward as is our capacity to distinguish reds from greens, circles from squares, or warnings from congratulatings.

For Menger, as for Aristotle, what is general does not exist in isolation from what is individual. Menger is, like other Aristotelians, an immanent realist.(9) He is interested in the essences and laws manifested in this world, not in any separate realm of incorporeal Ideal Forms such as is embraced by philosophers of a Platonistic sort. As Brentano formulates the matter in his study of Aristotle's psychology:

the scientist wants to get to know the crystals and plants and other bodies that he finds here on earth; if therefore he were to grasp the concepts of tetrahedra and octahedra, of trees and grasses, which belong to another world, then he would clearly in no way achieve his goal. (1867, p. 135, Eng. p. 88)

Things are no different even in the case of mathematical knowledge:

The individual straight line which is in the senses, and the being of this line which the intellect grasps, are essentially identical. One is therefore not allowed to suppose that the intellect should grasp something more immaterial than sense, that it should take into itself something incorporeal or at least something non-sensory. No: the very same thing which is in the intellect is also in the senses, but related to other things in different ways. (op. cit.)

As Menger puts it:

the goal of research in the field of theoretical economics can only be the determination of the general essence and the general connection of economic phenomena. (Menger 1883, p. 7, n. 4, Eng. p. 37)

The theoretical scientist, then, has to learn to recognize the general recurring structures in the flux of reality. And theoretical understanding of a concrete phenomenon cannot be achieved via any mere inductive enumeration of cases. It is attained, rather, only by apprehending the phenomenon in question as

a special case of a certain regularity (conformity to law) in the succession, or in the coexistence of phenomena. In other words, we become aware of the basis of the existence and the peculiarity of the essence of a concrete phenomenon by learning to recognize in it merely the exemplification of a conformity-to-law of phenomena in general. (Menger 1883, p. 17, Eng. pp. 44f.)

4. The general aspect of experience need be in no sense infallible (it reflects no special source of special knowledge), and may indeed be subject to just the same sorts of errors as is our knowledge of what is individual. Indeed, great difficulties may be set in the way of our attaining knowledge of essential structures of certain sorts, and of our transforming such knowledge into the organized form of a strict theory. Above all we may (as Hume showed) mistakenly suppose that we have grasped a law or structure for psychological reasons of habit. Our knowledge of structures or laws can nevertheless be exact. For the quality of exactness or strict universality is skew to that of infallibility. Episteme may be ruled out in certain circumstances, but true doxa (which is to say, `orthodoxy') may be nonetheless available.

5. We can know, albeit under the conditions set out in 4., what the world is like, at least in its broad outlines, both via common sense and via scientific method...." - Barry Smith

Anyways... thanks again Conza for finding it.

 

"Do not put out the fire of the spirit." 1The 5:19
  • | Post Points: 5
Top 25 Contributor
Male
Posts 4,914
Points 70,630

For those interested in history there is a insightful explanation that I quote part of here from this essay.  I also thought this curious as there has been a Marx thread of recent and this gets into some of the nitty-gritty that seemed to have come up during that particular dialogue (again bold not mine but of original essay):

"4. The Special Doctrine (Forms of Aristotelianism in the Social Sciences)

We have not yet gone far enough, however, in picking out the essence of the doctrine of Austrian Aristotelianism. For Aristotelianism played a crucial role also in the philosophy of German social thinkers such as Marx,(14) and many other German political economists and legal theorists of the 19th and even of the 20th centuries could have accepted at least the bulk of what has been presented above.(15) The opposition between German and Austrian modes of thinking should not, in this respect, be exaggerated. Thus Brentano, normally and correctly regarded as the Austrian philosopher (and as the philosophical representative of Austrian Aristotelianism) par excellence, was in fact born in Germany. Moreover, his Aristotelianism was decisively influenced by the thinking of the great German metaphysician F. A. Trendelenburg. Equally, however, it would be wrong to ignore the crucial differences, above all as between Marx's methodology on the one hand and the basic doctrine of Austrian Aristotelianism on the other. Thus Menger's doctrine of the strict universality of laws is denied by Marx, for whom laws are in every case specific to `a given social organism'.(16) Moreover, while Marx and Menger share an Aristotelian antipathy to atomism, the holism or collectivism propounded by Marx is in this respect radically more extreme than anything that could have been countenanced by Menger.

Hegel, too, is correctly described as an Aristotelian in many aspects of his thinking. His case is somewhat different from that of Marx, however, since it seems that he denied thesis 1. More precisely, Hegel failed to draw the clear line between act and object of cognition which 1. requires, and he refused to acknowledge any sort of independence of the latter from the former. As he himself writes (in dealing with Aristotle): `thought thinks itself by participation in that which is thought, but thought becomes thought by contact and apprehension, so that thought and the object of thought are the same.'(17) Or as Allen Wood expresses it: `Marx parts company with Hegel precisely because Hegel makes the dialectical nature of thought the basis for the dialectical structure of reality, where Marx holds that just the reverse is the case.' (1981, p. 215)

To specify, therefore, the exact nature of the Austrian Aristotelian view, it will be useful to add to our basic doctrine a number of additional theses specific to the domain of social science which are formulated in such a way as to bring out as clearly as possible the opposition between the Austrian view and views shared by the principal German social theorists who had been influenced by Aristotelian ideas:

8. The theory of value is to be built up exclusively on `subjective' foundations, which is to say exclusively on the basis of the corresponding mental acts and states of human subjects. Thus value for Menger in stark contrast to Marx is to be accounted for exclusively in terms of the satisfaction of human needs and wants. Economic value, in particular, is seen as being derivative of the valuing acts of ultimate consumers, and Menger's thinking might most adequately be encapsulated as the attempt to defend the possibility of an economics which would be at one and the same time both theoretical and subjectivist in the given sense. Among the different representatives of the philosophical school of value theory in Austria (Brentano, Meinong, Ehrenfels, etc.) subjectivism as here defined takes different forms.(18) All of them share with Menger however the view that value exists only in the nexus of human valuing acts.

9. There are no `social wholes' or `social organisms'. Austrian Aristotelians hereby and leaving aside the rather special case of Wieser embrace a doctrine of ontological individualism, which implies also a concomitant methodological individualism, according to which all talk of nations, classes, firms, etc., is to be treated by the social theorist as an in principle eliminable shorthand for talk of individuals. That it is not entirely inappropriate to conceive individualism in either sense as `Aristotelian' is seen for example in Aristotle's own treatment of knowledge and science in terms of the mental acts, states and powers or capacities of individual human subjects.(19)

Economics is methodologically individualist when its laws are seen as being made true in their entirety by patterns of mental acts and actions of individual subjects, so that all economic phenomena are capable of being understood by the theorist as the results or outcomes of combinations and interactions of the thoughts and actions of individuals. Such combinations and interactions are not mere `sums'. Thus neither ontological nor methodological individualism need imply any sort of atomistic reductionism: the individual of which the social theorist treats is, as a result of different sorts of interaction with other individuals, a highly complex entity. He might more properly be conceived as something like a node in the various spontaneous orders in which he is involved. This is a familiar idea, which extends back at least as far as Aristotle.(20) As the Hungarian philosopher Aurel Kolnai puts it in his defence of `conservative libertarianism' published in 1981:

society is not only composed of various parts it is composed of various parts in a multiplicity of ways; and consequently its component parts cannot but overlap. In other words, it consists ultimately of individuals, but only in the sense that it divides into a multiplicity of individuals across several social subdivisions, such that it comprehends the same individual over and over again in line with his various social affiliations (p. 319).

Every individual therefore `embodies a multiplicity of social aspects or categories', and these play a crucial role in determining which sorts of essential structures the individual might exemplify.

10. There are no (graspable) laws of historical development...." - Barry Smith

"Do not put out the fire of the spirit." 1The 5:19
  • | Post Points: 20
Top 150 Contributor
Male
Posts 633
Points 11,275
Torsten replied on Tue, Jan 8 2013 11:29 AM

8. The theory of value is to be built up exclusively on `subjective' foundations, which is to say exclusively on the basis of the corresponding mental acts and states of human subjects. Thus value for Menger in stark contrast to Marx is to be accounted for exclusively in terms of the satisfaction of human needs and wants. Economic value, in particular, is seen as being derivative of the valuing acts of ultimate consumers, and Menger's thinking might most adequately be encapsulated as the attempt to defend the possibility of an economics which would be at one and the same time both theoretical and subjectivist in the given sense. Among the different representatives of the philosophical school of value theory in Austria (Brentano, Meinong, Ehrenfels, etc.) subjectivism as here defined takes different forms.(18) All of them share with Menger however the view that value exists only in the nexus of human valuing acts.

Can anyone point to the relevant workd so those people?

9. There are no `social wholes' or `social organisms'. Austrian Aristotelians hereby and leaving aside the rather special case of Wieser embrace a doctrine of ontological individualism, which implies also a concomitant methodological individualism, according to which all talk of nations, classes, firms, etc., is to be treated by the social theorist as an in principle eliminable shorthand for talk of individuals. That it is not entirely inappropriate to conceive individualism in either sense as `Aristotelian' is seen for example in Aristotle's own treatment of knowledge and science in terms of the mental acts, states and powers or capacities of individual human subjects.(19)

Does social holism have to be excluded a priori? I recall some philosophers even disputing the existence of a self. I think the historical school sometimes argued with "social organisms".

  • | Post Points: 5
Page 1 of 1 (6 items) | RSS