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Mises, Quine, and the analytic/synthetic distinction.

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Jesse Posted: Thu, Jul 29 2010 2:04 AM

Mises was a neo-Kantian in the sense that he presented human action as a category of knowledge, rooted in the synthetic a priori. His methodology relies on the analytic/synthetic distinction, because (according to Mises) the fact that men act purposefully is analyticly true.

I'm wondering if any (more recent) Misesians have updated their arguments in light of the attacks on the analytic/synthetic distinction, from Quine and others. What is the Misesian response to these attacks? If anyone could point me to some literature on the subject, that'd be great.

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AJ replied on Thu, Jul 29 2010 7:48 AM

The analytic/synthetic distinction is merely an artifact of language-based explanation. In other words, it's useful in casual speech to distinguish between two types of statements: those that are "logically necessary" (analytic) and those that "factually correspond with reality" (synthetic). For example, "All bachelors are unmarried." vs. "There have been black dogs in the world."

But when we really get down to it, both statements are "analytic" for most people, because most people have a set of assumptions that already entails that there have been black dogs in the world. For example, most people have seen black dogs, and one of their assumptions is that what they see (under certain conditions) is "in the world."

Hence both statements can be phrased as "logically" necessary (i.e., "analytic") given the premises most people have in evaluating them:

"Bachelor" means unmarried man.

Therefore, all bachelors are unmarried.

 

I have seen black dogs.

Everything I have seen is something that has been in the world.

Therefore, there have black dogs in the world.

Indeed, both statements are "analytic." There is no difference, other than that one relies on a different category of premises than the other. As with virtually everything in philosophy, people have let verbal phrasing - which is after all just a communicate device - distort their reasoning, leading to a grand mess of nonsensical theory. I am amazed at this time and time again. 

Now someone can correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think Mises exactly relies on the distinction, but instead just uses it for purposes of explanation.

A way to rephrase Mises's notion that "the fact that men act purposefully is analytically true" without referencing the analytic/synthetic issue is as follows:

"The fact that men act purposefully follows from my premises (and I have a reasonable expectation that it follows from your premises as well)." Or even simpler, "The fact that men act is obvious."*

*While this is quite accurate, it is too easy to misinterpret, and/or it will make people say, "Well so is my theory!" Remember that one putting forth a theory must do two things at once: (1) phrase the theory accurately so as to avoid people poking holes in it, and (2) bridge the inferential gap with one's readers with enough explanatory, relatively "casual" verbiage to enable people to grasp your intended meaning. 

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Mises doesn't rely upon it, all that will be necessary for his argument is that the denial of it is self-contradictory. Whether it's "analytic" or "synthetic" is quite frankly uninteresting. I'd recommend you read Laurence BonJour's In Defense of Pure Reason as he lays into Quine pretty heavily and has some very interesting arguments on rationalist epistemology's behalf.

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Jesse replied on Thu, Jul 29 2010 5:47 PM

AJ:

Now someone can correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think Mises exactly relies on the distinction, but instead just uses it for purposes of explanation.

If the distinction goes away, I think that a lot of the strength in his argument does, too. For instance, his argument against the possibility of socialism is that no private property → no exchagnes → no prices → no rational allocation of reasources. Without the analyitic/synthetic distinction, I don't think that this verbal argument is enough. Mises would have to demonstrate that his premises are "true in the real world" in order for his argument to true (analyitically, or otherwise).

This seems to be the route that Hayek took, by the way. I wonder if Quine's arguments played a role in this.

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Mises argument is true for all worlds. so if 'the real world' is just one among those, doesn't look like we have much to worry about

Where there is no property there is no justice; a proposition as certain as any demonstration in Euclid

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Jesse replied on Thu, Jul 29 2010 10:51 PM

nirgrahamUK:

Mises argument is true for all worlds.

 

How do you know this?

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How do you know the LNC applies for all possible worlds?
 

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Jesse replied on Fri, Jul 30 2010 3:03 AM

Jon Irenicus:

How do you know the LNC applies for all possible worlds?
 

 

Certainly not analyticly.

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Jesse:

 For instance, his argument against the possibility of socialism is that no private property → no exchagnes → no prices → no rational allocation of reasources. Without the analyitic/synthetic distinction, I don't think that this verbal argument is enough. Mises would have to demonstrate that his premises are "true in the real world" in order for his argument to true (analyitically, or otherwise).

Could you kindly explain which of the premises in the argument against socialism that you quoted would have to be demonstrated as true in the real world?

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Jesse replied on Fri, Jul 30 2010 4:25 AM

Smiling Dave:

Jesse:

 For instance, his argument against the possibility of socialism is that no private property → no exchagnes → no prices → no rational allocation of reasources. Without the analyitic/synthetic distinction, I don't think that this verbal argument is enough. Mises would have to demonstrate that his premises are "true in the real world" in order for his argument to true (analyitically, or otherwise).

Could you kindly explain which of the premises in the argument against socialism that you quoted would have to be demonstrated as true in the real world?

All of them, I would guess. I don't know. to be honest I'm not really that familar with Quine's arguments — I was just wondering if they would pose a challange to Mises and his approach to the social sciences. Since I'm not finding much information on the subject, I'm guessing that the answer is no.

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I'm not really that familar with Quine's arguments — I was just wondering if they would pose a challange to Mises and his approach to the social sciences. Since I'm not finding much information on the subject, I'm guessing that the answer is no.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and ramble on about something I know very little about.

An intellectual used to have it easy. The axioms of geometry were considered self evident by everyone, the rules of logic Euclid employed were also considered self evident, and the results he got were unshakably true. And there was not much else that was considered significant knowledge of the real world.

Then along came challenges to the axioms, Marx challenging logic itself [though I doubt that has to be taken seriously], and a new kid on the block, scientific induction, which was coming up with spectacular real world results. So that what we thought was the best and only way to arrive at the truth [start with self evident axioms] was taking an ignoble second place to a very intellectually unsatisfying way [if it works, it must be true].

A search began for a path back to the Garden of Eden.

The first question that had to be tackled was, how can we make sure we won't get fooled again? What criteria will make sure that any axioms we choose this time around will really be self evident? This turned out to be a very difficult task, one might say impossible, basically. And this is where where Quine fits in, showing that it's not that easy.

The second question was, how can we give some repectability to the very fishy, logically unsatisfying methods of discovery applied scientists were using? I think it's Hume who first showed how weak their arguments really were logically, despite their undeniable success. And I don't think anyone has really done much in this field, despite great efforts.

Where does Mises fit into this scheme? As he writes in the intro to Human Action, economics was coming under attack in his time, for very ugly reasons. People did not like the conclusions it was arriving at. Things like: don't steal people's money and everyone will become wealthier automatically as time passes. Just stay out of the way. Forget socialism, interventionism, planned economies, tarrifs, unions, they all are doomed to failure.

So they attacked it from every angle. 1. Your assumptions are flawed. 2. Your logic is flawed. 3. You personally, Mr Economist, are immoral.

So the first thing Mises felt obligated to do was defend the methods economists were using. The hardest one to deal with was number 1. What with the impossibility, basically, of knowing in a rock solid fashion that our axioms are true in any field whatsoever, and the logical shakiness of inductive reasoning, where could he turn?

Now the truth is, if it were not for the fact that so much money and power were at stake, no one would doubt for a second his axioms. Of course people use means to achieve ends. Can there be any possible doubt about that? And all the arguments claiming no axiom can be known to be self evident [like Quine's] are all highly theoretical. No one in real life uses them to doubt, say, the law of gravity, even though they could, in theory.

But Mises found an argument that did a little better than a mere appeal to the evidence staring us in the face. The old "Try to disprove me and you are just giving another instance that I am right" trick.

End of ramble. Be interesting to see what someone more well informed on these matters has to say.

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Smiling Dave, great post, very informative. If this is what you know little about, I'll have to check your post history on what you know a lot about. Also curious to see if others disagree with anything you said.

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Certainly not analyticly.

The argument on whether the praxeological a priori is analytic or not stems from the fact that Mises sometimes says the premises of the action axiom (a conceptual truth) are "unpacked", which is akin to an analytic truth (like unmarried men being already 'contained' in the word 'bachelor'.) Personally I find the whole debate on analytic vs synthetic truths pointless, a mere linguistic barrier. There's ways you can turn any synthetic a priori truth into an analytic one, bolstering the strength of the analytic a priori. I'd give Henry Veatch's Two Logics and the BonJour book I mentioned a read for very interesting critiques and expansions on this Kantian dichotomy. It's been a while since I've read them so I can't remember quite a lot but they have awesome clarifications of the concepts in them that will help people understand the topic better. BonJour also has a great discussion on the problem of induction and geometry, that would nicely supplement Hoppe's own arguments.

 

All of them, I would guess. I don't know. to be honest I'm not really that familar with Quine's arguments — I was just wondering if they would pose a challange to Mises and his approach to the social sciences. Since I'm not finding much information on the subject, I'm guessing that the answer is no.
Indeed not. They pose more of a threat to the analytic-synthetic dichotomy than anything else.

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Jesse, I would claim that Quine actually dismantles the Misesian rebuke of empiricism. Quine, in essence, claims that whatever we were calling "a priori knowledge" is within a web of belief that originates from sensation.

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I. Ryan replied on Mon, Aug 2 2010 6:15 PM

Neoclassical:

Jesse, I would claim that Quine actually dismantles the Misesian rebuke of empiricism. Quine, in essence, claims that whatever we were calling "a priori knowledge" is within a web of belief that originates from sensation.

What exactly is a "sensation"? Is it an experience of the public world, such as that of my computer sitting in front of me?

If I wrote it more than a few weeks ago, I probably hate it by now.

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Your neural intake, "the triggering of sensory receptors" as Quine said.

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I. Ryan replied on Mon, Aug 2 2010 6:23 PM

Neoclassical:

Your neural intake, "the triggering of sensory receptors" as Quine said.

What is a "neural intake"? What is a "triggering of sensory receptors"? It would be easier to just directly respond to what I already said:

I. Ryan:

Is [a "sensation"] an experience of the public world, such as that of my computer sitting in front of me?

If I wrote it more than a few weeks ago, I probably hate it by now.

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sensory_receptor

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I. Ryan replied on Mon, Aug 2 2010 6:32 PM

Neoclassical:

Is that a yes or a no to my original question?

If I wrote it more than a few weeks ago, I probably hate it by now.

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Ha! Fine, you're right. The only caveat I want to make is that sensory receptors are more fundamental than your consciousness.

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AJ replied on Mon, Aug 2 2010 6:52 PM

"Quine, in essence, claims that whatever we were calling "a priori knowledge" is within a web of belief that originates from sensation."

Oh wow, I thought that was only my theory! It strikes me as completely obvious that all conscious experience is sensation, hence all knowledge must be from sensation. The problem I suppose people have had with this is, "What about thoughts?" My response is that all conscious thought is only available to us via sensations (see my sig), and that this is already entailed in what we mean by the word "conscious": if we are not aware (i.e., sensing) something, it cannot be called a conscious experience. 

Now this is exciting because I've never heard of anyone who shares this idea with me. However, what about subjectivity? Sure, as a third party we can talk about neurons and such, but the only evidence I have as a consciousness (or a committee of consciousnesses in this mind as it may be) of the existence of said neurons is through my subjective experience in the five senses. At this level of analysis, it no longer makes sense to put scientific discoveries about neurons ahead of my own sensory experiences, because it is only through these subjective senses that I can even read about these theories of neurons at all. The tail would be wagging the dog, as it were.

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Angurse replied on Mon, Aug 2 2010 7:05 PM

 

The only caveat I want to make is that sensory receptors are more fundamental than your consciousness.

More fundamental to what?
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AJ replied on Mon, Aug 2 2010 7:26 PM

Neoclassical: "The only caveat I want to make is that sensory receptors are more fundamental than your consciousness."

If I read you correctly here (i.e., if you could have written "my consciousness" instead "your consciousness"), this is an abuse of standards of evidence. If you're conscious experience is anything like mine, you can only say you "know" about sensory receptors through your conscious experience (synonymous with sensory experience). Whatever your method of evaluating the evidence for sensory receptors, that evaluation must pass through your conscious sensory experience.

After all, you could have just dreamed you read a paper about sensory receptors.

Now for others - since you said "your consciousness" - this is fine, but if you include yourself this becomes inconsistent. (Or rather, if I include myself it becomes inconsistent - you could just be a figment of my imagination! (This is only half-joking...I believe this is the level of rigor we need to to maintain in order to keep making sense here.)

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AJ:
"Quine, in essence, claims that whatever we were calling "a priori knowledge" is within a web of belief that originates from sensation."

Oh wow, I thought that was only my theory! It strikes me as completely obvious that all conscious experience is sensation, hence all knowledge must be from sensation.

Congratulations, you're an empiricist! You probably thought you were the only one because you're surrounded by Austrian economists!

For the rest of your post, I answer: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heterophenomenology.

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AJ replied on Tue, Aug 3 2010 7:00 AM

Wow, I wonder if I'd technically be considered an empiricist or more of a trivial empiricist.

Anyway, thanks for the link. The thing is, Dennett's whole pursuit seems to be talking about the search for communal knowledge. Yet at the end of the day, I (and I assume you) are really interested in just what I myself can know. I mean, sure, I agree with Dennett in terms of how to extract useful evidence from third parties, and that's quite useful. Just relying on their own subjective descriptions for my evaluation of their mental state is surely inferior, but this is not what I am after.

I am talking about my subjective evaluation of my own mental state (or, for example, your subjective evaluation of yours). In such case it would make no sense, or at least be of no use to me, if scientists were to prove I am not experiencing pain when in fact in my subjective experience I am. See what I mean? It's not that subjective sensation is primary in general, it's that my subjective sensation is primary for me (and presumably yours for you, etc.).

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I. Ryan replied on Tue, Aug 3 2010 7:43 AM

Neoclassical:

Ha! Fine, you're right. The only caveat I want to make is that sensory receptors are more fundamental than your consciousness.

AJ:

It strikes me as completely obvious that all conscious experience is sensation, hence all knowledge must be from sensation.

I probably need to have "sensations" to be able to prefer, but preference isn't a "sensation". It isn't possible to observe preference in the public world until you observe it in your private world.

If I wrote it more than a few weeks ago, I probably hate it by now.

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I. Ryan replied on Tue, Aug 3 2010 7:55 AM

AJ:

The problem I suppose people have had with this is, "What about thoughts?" My response is that all conscious thought is only available to us via sensations (see my sig), and that this is already entailed in what we mean by the word "conscious": if we are not aware (i.e., sensing) something, it cannot be called a conscious experience.

Just because a computer can't run without a hard drive doesn't mean that all computing is just having a hard drive. So, by the same token, just because we prabably can't think of anything if we aren't "sensing" something doesn't mean that all of our thoughts are "sensations".

If I wrote it more than a few weeks ago, I probably hate it by now.

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AJ:
I am talking about my subjective evaluation of my own mental state (or, for example, your subjective evaluation of yours). In such case it would make no sense, or at least be of no use to me, if scientists were to prove I am not experiencing pain when in fact in my subjective experience I am. See what I mean? It's not that subjective sensation is primary in general, it's that my subjective sensation is primary for me (and presumably yours for you, etc.).

Like Dennett, I actually think your "first-person" perspective is not more privileged than an outsider, scientific viewpoint. That is, you could be mistaken. For instance, you will not verbally inform me of your saccadic eye movement, but I could observe it. Additionally, you can have inform me of pain without painfulness!

Furthermore, it is technically feasible to observe your brain and understand what processes are happening--those that are leading to conscious experience or otherwise.

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I would claim that preference is ill-defined mentalistic garbage. Can someone explain it to me?

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AJ:
Wow, I wonder if I'd technically be considered an empiricist or more of a trivial empiricist.

Anyway, thanks for the link. The thing is, Dennett's whole pursuit seems to be talking about the search for communal knowledge. Yet at the end of the day, I (and I assume you) are really interested in just what I myself can know. I mean, sure, I agree with Dennett in terms of how to extract useful evidence from third parties, and that's quite useful. Just relying on their own subjective descriptions for my evaluation of their mental state is surely inferior, but this is not what I am after.

I am talking about my subjective evaluation of my own mental state (or, for example, your subjective evaluation of yours). In such case it would make no sense, or at least be of no use to me, if scientists were to prove I am not experiencing pain when in fact in my subjective experience I am. See what I mean? It's not that subjective sensation is primary in general, it's that my subjective sensation is primary for me (and presumably yours for you, etc.).

I most definitely am not just interested in "what I myself can know," at the exclusion of a community of inquirers. I believe knowledge is very social, like Wittgenstein's consideration of language.

Once again, I actually don't believe your statement: "my evaluation of their mental state is surely inferior." I think it can be far superior.

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AJ replied on Tue, Aug 3 2010 8:32 AM

I. Ryan: "...just because we prabably can't think of anything if we aren't "sensing" something doesn't mean that all of our thoughts are "sensations"."

That's not what I'm saying. I am saying that, by referring to "conscious thought," we can only mean sensations - if I am aware of any conscious thought as something other than sensations, then how I can be "aware" of it at all? What sense would it make, even in our own subjective experience, to call that thought "conscious"? To be aware or conscious of something just means to sense it. 

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AJ replied on Tue, Aug 3 2010 8:40 AM

"Like Dennett, I actually think your "first-person" perspective is not more privileged than an outsider, scientific viewpoint. That is, you could be mistaken. For instance, you will not verbally inform me of your saccadic eye movement, but I could observe it. Additionally, you can have inform me of pain without painfulness!

Furthermore, it is technically feasible to observe your brain and understand what processes are happening--those that are leading to conscious experience or otherwise."

I may report pain without feeling it, but that is a separate issue. Again, I'm not talking about my ascertainment of knowledge about the reports of first-person experience of "a person," but my own experience. I may derive benefit from knowing that I am reporting something that I am not actually experiencing - sure - but no scientific evidence that I am "not actually experiencing pain" will be relevant to me if my subjective experience is that I am in agony (regardless of what I report to others). Someone may prove to me that I am imagining the pain, and that the pain nerves in my hand are not actually firing and nothing's actually hurting me, yet my subjective experience of pain is what matters to me in the end (and I assume to anyone in the same situation).

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AJ replied on Tue, Aug 3 2010 8:49 AM

"I most definitely am not just interested in "what I myself can know," at the exclusion of a community of inquirers. I believe knowledge is very social, like Wittgenstein's consideration of language."

I don't think we're communicating here. I'm talking about, in the end, what I myself can know. Sure that can be informed by the inquiries of others, but ultimately the whole purpose of study is to gain knowledge for myself (or of course to impart it to others, but I mean as far as one's own understanding). That is why I say I am only interested in what I myself can know (qua thinker). Once again, I could just be dreaming that I am working with other scientists. But note that this objection doesn't work for my own subjective experience. You could tell me, "You are just dreaming you are in pain. Your sensory receptors show no evidence of that," but what would I care?

"Once again, I actually don't believe your statement: "my evaluation of their mental state is surely inferior." I think it can be far superior."

That's not in context. I wrote, "Just relying on their own subjective descriptions for my evaluation of their mental state is surely inferior [to scientific observation]," in agreement with Dennett. I have no disagreement with Dennett as far as the communal pursuit of information, but I am saying that the reason for me as a thinker to pursue information as a group is ultimately so that I can improve my own level of knowledge. However, for me, it will always be impossible for any outside evidence - which after all must be viewed through my five senses - to somehow "contradict" my subjective sensory experience. To claim otherwise would not even be wrong; it'd be incoherent. 

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AJ replied on Tue, Aug 3 2010 9:00 AM

Oh, here's an important ambiguity we're running up against: 

Sensation of something vs. subjective experience of sensation in itself

When I say sensation I am referring to the latter, even though they may be one and the same. It is important to maintain the difference, because my subjective sensory experiences are irrefutable* (not irrefutable in terms of "how accurately they reflect the world I am sensing," but simply in the fact that I am sure that I am indeed subjectively experiencing them).

*From my perspective, not from a third party's! In fact, in either case it wouldn't even make sense to "refute" them; Dennett is not talking about refuting subjective sensory experience, he's talking about refuting reported subjective sensory experience. 

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I. Ryan replied on Tue, Aug 3 2010 9:12 AM

AJ:

That's not what I'm saying. I am saying that, by referring to "conscious thought," we can only mean sensations - if we are aware of any conscious thought as something other than sensations, then how can be "aware" of it at all? What sense would it make, even in our own subjective experience, to call that thought "conscious"? To be aware or conscious of something just means to sense it.

I don't think that you are using the word "sensation" how Neoclassical defined it, as experience of the public world.

In my signature, the first link is one to a thread in which I show that Mises and Hume, two of my favorite writers, weren't opposed to each other at all at least in epistemology, though most people would think that they were, because they would see the words that they used, such as "experience" and so on, and see that they used those words in superficially contradictory ways.

If you don't want to read it, I can give you a quick summary of what I was saying, and why it is relevant to what is going on here. Mises defined "experience" as that of the public world, and "reason" as that of the private world, yet Hume defined "experience" as that of either the private world or the public world. So people see Hume talk about experience like it is the only thing that matters to science, and see Mises talk about experience like it can't tell us anything about praxeology, and they think that they are saying entirely different things, and would be super opposed to each other. But they are missing what I already said, that they defined the terms in different ways.

I think that you are doing the same thing.

I asked Neoclassical whether he was using the word "sensation" to mean experience of the public world, and he said yes. But I think that you are switching it up to mean experience either of the private world or the public world. How Hume used the word "experience", yes, I think that experience is the only basis of science. But, how Mises used the word "experience", no, I don't think that experience is the only basis of science. So, in the same way, how you used the word "sensation", yes, I think that sensation is the only basis of science, but, how Neoclassical used the word "sensation", no, I don't think that sensatian is the only basis of science.

I am an empiricist in the tradition of Hume, but a rationalist in the tradition of Mises. I think that the same thing probably applies to you. How that is possible is that people just got tripped up by the words that each of them used, and didn't get a good understanding of what they actually were saying, and they came up with terms to use to contrast them.

But I might be entirely incorrect about you.

Do you think that we can base economics only on our "sensations" how Neoclassical defined it, only on our experience of the public world? Or do you think that we have to base it also on our "sensations" how I think that you defined it, on our experience both of the private world and the public world? Do you think that we can "see" choice in the public world without first having seen it in our own private world? Do you think that we can see preference in the public world without first having figured out what it is by seeing it in our own private world?

If I wrote it more than a few weeks ago, I probably hate it by now.

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[INSULT DELETED] You can't be an empiricist like Hume and a rationalist like Mises! One has to budge!

I still can't even believe you find the two thinkers compatible. If you were right, Kant didn't have much work to do after he discovered Hume.

Let me quote Hume who, really, was a proto-logical positivist, When we run over libraries, persuaded of these principles, what havoc must we make? If we take in our hand any volume of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance, let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames, for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.

See that? He likes mathematics and experimental observations. I mean, when A.J. Ayer likes you, you know you gotta have a pretty hard-nosed epistemology.

"I'm not a fan of Murray Rothbard." -- David D. Friedman

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I. Ryan replied on Tue, Aug 3 2010 9:25 AM

Neoclassical:

I would claim that preference is ill-defined mentalistic garbage. Can someone explain it to me?

If you were to claim that preference is "ill-defined mentalistic garbage", you would be preferring to claim that preference is "ill-defined mentalistic garbage", and would be caught up in a contradiction. The fact that you will see that as a contradiction will reveal the meaning of preference to you. But I will switch to trying to define "desire", because it will be easier to define, and I could have used it to make the same point that this is a response to what you were responding to.

If I were only to desire having A, and were to believe that only doing B would lead only to having A, I would only desire doing B. And, if I were to believe that I don't have A, I would do B. I greatly simplified it to make it into an example, but I think that you probably will be able to get the gist of it. That is the foundation of praxeology, wanting X, believing that you don't have X, and believing that doing Y would lead to having X. That is the starting point of praxeology.

I tried to explain what desire was by showing how it interacts with things like "belief" that I don't think that you will be confused about.

If I wrote it more than a few weeks ago, I probably hate it by now.

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I. Ryan:
If you were to claim that preference is "ill-defined mentalistic garbage", you would be preferring to claim that preference is "ill-defined mentalistic garbage", and would be caught up in a contradiction. The fact that you will see that as a contradiction will reveal the meaning of preference to you.

Don't use "fact" so loosely. I didn't spot the contradiction. How do you know what I "prefer"? Once again, please define it simply, without examples or some sort of supposed logical trap.

I can't clearly understand your notions of "desire" and "belief," either. Are these psychological states, dispositions to act, or what?

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"I regard Quine as one of our most stimulating philosophers." -- F.A. Hayek

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I. Ryan replied on Tue, Aug 3 2010 10:17 AM

Neoclassical:

Don't use "fact" so loosely.

Why can't you just stick to the discussion? Why do you always try to embarress your opponent with such irrelevant, counterproductive attacks? Because you dragged me into this, I will answer the challenge, though I ask that you stop distracting us with such nonsense.

In English, starting a sentence with "that" used as an embedded clause introducer is very awkward. So people tend to either put the noun phrase "the fact" in apposition to it, or switch around the first argument and the second argument of the verb phrase, move the verb phrase to the front, and add "it" in front of it. I chose the first one because it would let me avoid the awkwardness without making what I was trying to say difficult to understand. I don't know why the second option is difficult to understand in this case, but you will be able to see that it is when I show you the three examples.

Awkward: "That you will see that as a contradiction will reveal the meaning of preference to you."

Difficult to understand: "It will reveal the meaning of preference to you that you will see that as a contradiction."

Fine: "The fact that you will see that as a contradiction will reveal the meaning of preference to you."

As I already said, the first is awkward, the second is difficult to understand, and the third is fine, so the third is what I chose. The phrase "the fact", in that case, doesn't add any meaning to anything. It is just a weird aspect of the syntax of English. We usually use "that" as the embedded clause introducer when the embedded clause doesn't start the sentence, but use "the fact that" as the embedded clause introducer when the embedded clause does start the sentence. What people use to introduce embedded clauses in a language is a part of the syntax of the language, not a part of the semantics. It doesn't add any meaning to anything because, the only time that it appears, the sentence is already an assertion asserting what the speaker thinks is a fact.

That is what happens when you try to embarress your opponents in such counterproductive, irrelevant ways, and they know how to respond to it. You get into a ridiculous arguments about things completely irrelevant to what the discussion originally was about.

Just to tell you, though, most people probably would just think that you are annoying, but not tell you about it. To make this more general, one of the most annoying things in arguments is when the person throws out a bunch of appositions to the conclusion of their argument, which is what you do. What I mean by that is that you make an argument where the conclusion is that I am wrong, but then you throw out a bunch of appositions to that, like "don't use the word "fact" so loosely", "you're crazy", and so on.

Neoclassical:

How do you know what I "prefer"? Once again, please define it simply, without examples or some sort of supposed logical trap.

Why shouldn't I use examples to define it? What if the only way that I can think of to define it is by using an example?

And the "supposed logical trap" wasn't supposed to be something like, "oh, look, I embarressed you, haha". It was supposed to be an example. It was supposed to show you what I meant by "preference" by showing you that merely questioning preference is a preference.

But I said that I was going to switch to talking about the definition of "desire", so I don't know why you are again trying to get me to define it.

Neoclassical:

I can't clearly understand your notions of "desire" and "belief," either. Are these psychological states, dispositions to act, or what?

I don't know what I should call them, but they are the foundation of praxeology. To act, we must believe that we have situation non-A, desire to have situation A, and believe that something that we can "will" ourselves to do lies in a causal connection with having situation A.

The categories "means and ends" comes from the combination of the categories "cause and effect", "desire", and "belief". If we desire a situation A and believe that a situation B causes the situation A, the situation A is the ends and the situation B is the means. That might help you understand what "desire" and "belief" is.

If I wrote it more than a few weeks ago, I probably hate it by now.

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