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All Statements are Praxeological Statements

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AJ Posted: Mon, Jan 31 2011 9:10 AM

"Action is an attempt to substitute a more satisfactory state of affairs for a less satisfactory one." Mises on pg. 97 of Human Action.

Claim: All statements are praxeological statements, and all knowledge is praxeological knowledge. It is only possible to interpret a statement - or to apprehend knowledge - insofar as one can figure out what it means for one's future actions.

Definitions:

By statement, I mean basically the usual thing: any utterance that purports to express the speaker's knowledge.

By praxeological statement, I mean any statement of the form, "If you do X, Y will result," or any statement that can be only be usefully interpreted in this way. That is, any statement interpreted as being potentially relevant for the interpreter's efforts to move to a more satisfactory state of affairs.

By praxeological knowledge, I mean knowledge that is potentially relevant to the knower's efforts to move to a more satisfactory state of affairs.

Explanation:

This is more or less tautological, but everything I know is interpretable into a statement (or set of statements) of the form, "If I do X, Y will result." Suppose I know that this text is black. This knowledge only has any relevance to me to the extent that I can guide my actions by it. To actually use that knowledge I have to think something like, "If I try to change the text to black, wasting my time will be the result (since it already is black)." You can probably see how I can come up with any number of other "If I do X, Y will result" statements based on this knowledge. 

One objection is, "What about my knowledge that a speck of dust just moved somewhere on Pluto? That means nothing for me action." Well, that is an rather un-useful piece of knowledge precisely because knowledge like, "If I go to Pluto expecting to find that no dust has ever moved there, the result will be disappointment," is rather unlikely to come in handy. In other words, you give me an esoteric fact, I'll give you an esoteric praxeological ("If I do X, Y will result") statement. 

Another objection is, "Just knowing that a speck of dust just moved on Pluto doesn't automatically mean I have considered any action I might take." This is a great objection, because it gets to the heart of the matter: the claim in this post is that it does mean I have considered at least one action. The claim is that one cannot even comprehend such a thing as dust moving on Pluto without considering a potential action and consequence. The minimal action many people probably consider is, they imagine themselves viewing the planet and seeing a speck of dust move in some direction (did you see it?). This post's contention is that that imagining constitutes something like, "If I were to go to Pluto right now somehow, that [view of the dust moving] is what I would see," which is a praxeological statement: "If I do X, Y will result." 

The full explanation is left as an exercise, meaning if you see it upon reflection that is great, and if you don't then please raise more objections so that I can know where to fill in more explanation. I am not standing behind this claim necessarily; I am throwing it out here for discussion, though I do suspect I will stand behind something rather similar to it.

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I'm not convinced. 

In a same way, you could argue 'all statements are humane statements, because in some way, it is always related to humans' - just because of the mere fact that only humans can utter meaningful statements 

"Chess is a game." is a statement, but not a praxeological statement. It's not a statement that 'if one wants to do x, one must do y'. This knowledge can be used for a praxeological statement - 'if you want to play a game, you could play chess' - but that doesn't mean the statement in itself is a praxeological statement. Just because you need bricks to build a house, doesn't mean a brick is a house. It seems like a fallacy of composition. 

The state is not the enemy. The idea of the state is. 

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I think there is a huge missing piece here.A praxeological statement [as the phrase is used commonly] is NOT anything of the form, "If you do X, Y happens." It is a TRUE statement in such form, that can be PROVEN using the rules of deductive reasoning from initial assumptions [also proven to be true].

Thus "there is dust on Pluto" is not such a statement. If we know it is true, it is not praxeological knowledge, but empirical knowledge.

Had you said "All knowledge is relevant to human action", you might have a case.

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AnonLLF replied on Mon, Jan 31 2011 10:42 AM

AdrianHealey:

"Chess is a game." is a statement, but not a praxeological statement.

 

If I understand the above description correctly then using his reasoning "chess is a game" is praxeological in the sense that to play chess you must follow rules of games- chess being a subset of games.

 

 

I don't really want to comment or read anything here.I have near zero in common with many of you.I may return periodically when there's something you need to know.

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AnonLLF replied on Mon, Jan 31 2011 10:45 AM

AJ:

"Action is an attempt to substitute a more satisfactory state of affairs for a less satisfactory one." Mises on pg. 97 of Human Action.

Claim: All statements are praxeological statements, and all knowledge is praxeological knowledge. It is only possible to interpret a statement - or to apprehend knowledge - insofar as one can figure out what it means for one's future actions..........

 

If I understand correctly it's axiomatically true however it's trivial.

 

 

I don't really want to comment or read anything here.I have near zero in common with many of you.I may return periodically when there's something you need to know.

Near Mutualist/Libertarian Socialist.

 

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AJ replied on Thu, Feb 3 2011 10:44 AM

AdrianHealey:
"Chess is a game." is a statement, but not a praxeological statement. It's not a statement that 'if one wants to do x, one must do y'. This knowledge can be used for a praxeological statement - 'if you want to play a game, you could play chess' - but that doesn't mean the statement in itself is a praxeological statement. Just because you need bricks to build a house, doesn't mean a brick is a house. It seems like a fallacy of composition. 

This objection was anticipated in the OP: the claim is that in order to even understand the statement, "Chess is a game," you have to consider a potential action and consequence. Moreover, you only can be usefully said to understand the statement to the extent you have considered potential actions and consequences.

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AJ replied on Thu, Feb 3 2011 10:51 AM

Scott F:

AJ:

"Action is an attempt to substitute a more satisfactory state of affairs for a less satisfactory one." Mises on pg. 97 of Human Action.

Claim: All statements are praxeological statements, and all knowledge is praxeological knowledge. It is only possible to interpret a statement - or to apprehend knowledge - insofar as one can figure out what it means for one's future actions..........

If I understand correctly it's axiomatically true however it's trivial.

As mentioned in the OP, it is tautological in a sense, but whether it is trivial depends on your point of view. It is a non-trivial in the sense that people have imagined there is a distinction between praxeological statements and non-praxeological statements.

 

Dave,

If we define praxeological statements to be only those if-then statements about one's actions that are true, that is fine with me. Make the necessary changes in the OP and it doesn't change the status of the mutatis mutandis claim: all true statements are praxeological statements.

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AJ,

You left out the essence. It should be all true statements that can be PROVEN using the rules of deductive reasoning from initial assumptions [also proven to be true].

The difference between the two is the following type of statement. The sky is blue. That cannot be proven using praxeology. But it is true.

Another example: Obama was born in Hawaii. Assuming this to be true for the moment, it is however not a praxeological statement, since it cannot be proven from first principles. You have to go out into the real world and snoop around.

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AJ replied on Thu, Feb 3 2011 11:55 AM

That is a good point, Dave, and my answer to that is this whole giant thread. That is also my favorite thread ever, so I'm happy for any chance to link to it.

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AJ:

AdrianHealey:
"Chess is a game." is a statement, but not a praxeological statement. It's not a statement that 'if one wants to do x, one must do y'. This knowledge can be used for a praxeological statement - 'if you want to play a game, you could play chess' - but that doesn't mean the statement in itself is a praxeological statement. Just because you need bricks to build a house, doesn't mean a brick is a house. It seems like a fallacy of composition. 

This objection was anticipated in the OP: the claim is that in order to even understand the statement, "Chess is a game," you have to consider a potential action and consequence. Moreover, you only can be usefully said to understand the statement to the extent you have considered potential actions and consequences.

While I can concede that in order for 'Chess is a game' you have to understand certain potential actions and consequences, I don't think it follows that the statement itself is a praxeological statement. Again: sure, it's related to action, but why does it follow that it is 'a' praxeological statement? 

How about these kind of statements: 7+5 = 12 on the one hand and  'I have a square circle' or 'The French king is bold' on the other. 

I don't think you have answered my counterpoint: as far as I see it, you have just repeated: 'well, the brick is used for a house - and can only be used for a house - and therefore the brick is a house'. I can understand that it is related to a house, but that doesn't mean it is a house. I can understand that 'chess is a game' is related to a praxeological statement, but that doesn't mean it is a praxeological statement. 

Given your definition: " That is, any statement interpreted as being potentially relevant for the interpreter's efforts to move to a more satisfactory state of affairs." well, admittedly; because 'chess is a game' is potentially relevant for the interpreter's efforts, it follows that it follows from your definition that it is a praxeological statement. But I've got some quibbles with that definition. (Again: it feels like you're defining it like this: 'A brick is a house, if a brick can be used (and can only be used) to build a house'.) 

The state is not the enemy. The idea of the state is. 

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AJ:

That is a good point, Dave, and my answer to that is this whole giant thread. That is also my favorite thread ever, so I'm happy for any chance to link to it.

 

Since I disagree with your first post there, it might see that the difference in opinion is connected to the issue discusses there. 

("There is no difference, other than that one relies on a different category of premises than the other." is like saying 'there is no difference between a house and a door, other than that there pure essence is different.') 

The state is not the enemy. The idea of the state is. 

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AJ:

Great insight.

"..everything I know is interpretable into a statement (or set of statements) of the form, "If I do X, Y will result.""

 

For example, "London exists"

a. if you look in a dictionary, then you will see a definition of a place called London.

b. if you get in a plane and fly to xyz location and ask people where you are, then they will say "you are in London."

c. if you ask people whether London exists, then they will say yes.

(underlined indicates the action supposed)

In a way, this is the positivist verification principle, conceived not as part of a theory of nature, but conceived as part of a theory of action.  The idea is that we can translate all statements about nature ("planets exist") and all statements about knowledge ("I know planets exist") into praxeological-type statements of the general form: (action taken) and (consequence of action taken).   If you look through your telescope at xyz region of space, then you will see an object having abc characteristics.  If you get in a rocket ship and fly to xyz location, then you will encounter an object having abc characteristics.

Here is a passage from Sir Arthur Eddington's The Philosophy of Physical Science:

"We have seen that every item of physical knowledge, whether derived from observation or theory or from a combination of both, is an assertion of what has been or would be the result of carrying out a specified observational procedure." (p.12)

Thus, Eddington shows us that what we may have considered purely "objective" knowledge can be conceived as praxeological knowledge of the type:  If you carry out xyz observational procedure (supposed action), then you will observe abc (consequence or result of supposed action).

 

 

 

"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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But why is that? Is it because knowledge is inherently praxeological or is it because our monkey brains can only conceive of praxeological knowledge? Is it a deficiency in biology or a property of the cosmos?

"They all look upon progressing material improvement as upon a self-acting process." - Ludwig von Mises
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AJ replied on Fri, Feb 4 2011 3:36 AM

AdrianHealey:
While I can concede that in order for 'Chess is a game' you have to understand certain potential actions and consequences, I don't think it follows that the statement itself is a praxeological statement. Again: sure, it's related to action, but why does it follow that it is 'a' praxeological statement? 

Indeed not "a" (single) praxeological statement, but a whole set of them. I am saying that, in order for you to interpret what "Chess is a game" means in any useful sense, you have to interpret it as at least one "If I do X, Y will result." Probably you will interpret it as many, many such statements, or even as statements that can only be interpreted by being further broken down themselves into "If I do X, Y will result" statements. 

Example: "Chess is a game."

Interpretation: "If I play chess, I will either win or lose." (This isn't true to us, of course, but that is irrelevant: it is one interpretation an individual actor may see.)

Sub-interpretation of the interpretation: "If I lose, I will feel unpleasant." (This is the final level of interpretation: pain and pleasure, happiness and unhappiness, satisfaction and dissatisfaction. Once I have traced a path to my anticipated pain/pleasure, I am done interpreting that aspect of the statement, as I have now decided what it really means for me.)

Another sub-interpretation of the interpretation: "If I win, I will get money." (Remember, this is just the actor's perception.)

Sub-interpretation of the sub-interpretation: "If I get money, I can buy that car. If I buy that car, I will become popular. If I become popular, I will be happy. " (OK, got to happiness. Interpretation (of becoming popular) complete! Interpretation of "buying that car" perhaps not complete, because I may yet think of other "If I buy that car, Y will result" conclusions that I believe will lead to respective pain and pleasure outcomes.)

Let me summarize in a diagram:

Does that make more sense? 
 
To the side questions:
AdrianHealey:
How about these kind of statements: 7+5 = 12 on the one hand and  'I have a square circle' or 'The French king is bold' on the other.
7+5=12 will be similar to the above. 
 
"I have a square circle" could be interpreted as some actual object (say a plastic square cookie cutter with rounded corners), in which case it would be similar to the above. If it is taken to be uninterpretable it would not be a praxeological statement - you are right, strictly speaking I have to limit the OP to statements that are actually interpretable. "Square circle" is, in that case, simply not communicating anything, so I would hesitate to call it a statement, despite appearances.
 
"The French kind is bold" is a complex statement, that is, two statements in one: "There is a French king" and "He is bold,"  each of which will be evaluated similarly to the first example.
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AJ replied on Fri, Feb 4 2011 3:47 AM

AdrianHealey:

AJ:

That is a good point, Dave, and my answer to that is this whole giant thread. That is also my favorite thread ever, so I'm happy for any chance to link to it.

Since I disagree with your first post there, it might see that the difference in opinion is connected to the issue discusses there. 

("There is no difference, other than that one relies on a different category of premises than the other." is like saying 'there is no difference between a house and a door, other than that there pure essence is different.') 

If the previous post didn't address this, could you elaborate?

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AJ replied on Fri, Feb 4 2011 3:52 AM

Adam Knott:

In a way, this is the positivist verification principle, conceived not as part of a theory of nature, but conceived as part of a theory of action.  The idea is that we can translate all statements about nature ("planets exist") and all statements about knowledge ("I know planets exist") into praxeological-type statements of the general form: (action taken) and (consequence of action taken).   If you look through your telescope at xyz region of space, then you will see an object having abc characteristics.  If you get in a rocket ship and fly to xyz location, then you will encounter an object having abc characteristics.

Here is a passage from Sir Arthur Eddington's The Philosophy of Physical Science:

"We have seen that every item of physical knowledge, whether derived from observation or theory or from a combination of both, is an assertion of what has been or would be the result of carrying out a specified observational procedure." (p.12)

Thus, Eddington shows us that what we may have considered purely "objective" knowledge can be conceived as praxeological knowledge of the type:  If you carry out xyz observational procedure (supposed action), then you will observe abc (consequence or result of supposed action).

Yes, this is exactly what I mean. The OP claim is that all knowledge is praxeological knowledge, and as a consequence, all statements are praxeological statements. The latter follows trivially from the former if we take statement to mean "utterance intended to convey knowledge," which I think aligns fairly well with current English usage.

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AJ replied on Sun, Feb 6 2011 5:05 AM

<bump>     I'm curious what the response is to this diagrammatic elucidation of the OP, from the post where it appears above.

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The reason not all statements of the form 'If you do X, Y will result' cannot be praxeological is because they can refer to particulars rather than universals. Praxeological statements always refer to categories, not instantiations of a category.

So for example 'action' in Mises statement above is an umbrella under which an undenumerable number of actual actions take place, and the praxeological statemnent is a claim to a description of every single human action that has occured, past future and present.

Whereas the statement ' "If I try to change the text to black, wasting my time will be the result (since it already is black." is a particular instance, and that statement has no ability to describe any other instances.

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AJ replied on Sun, Feb 6 2011 7:39 AM

JohnnyFive:
The reason not all statements of the form 'If you do X, Y will result' cannot be praxeological is because they can refer to particulars rather than universals. Praxeological statements always refer to categories, not instantiations of a category.

OK, that may be the proper terminology. In that case I just mean an "If you do X, Y will result"-statement everytime I wrote praxeological statement above.

The main thing I wanted to put up for discussion is that we can only interpret a statement insofar as we can complete one or more branches of the tree in the above diagram.

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If I understand your point correctly it would seem that it actually applies to individual words as well as statements. In the act of communication complex thoughts are compressed by the writer into a single symbol (that we call a word) and need to be unpackaged at the other end by the reader. So we can use the word 'chess' or 'game' or even use them in combination, but quite obviously those word have an almost unlimited number of associations that they may invoke. It is the reader's task to interpret the context of the word and therefore to unpackage the associations in the manner most conducive to effective communication. 

So your claim must be that for a word OR a statement to be comprehensible, at least one of the associations invoked by the word/statement must be of the form "X causes Y", where X is a human action?

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AJ replied on Sun, Feb 6 2011 12:02 PM

How we interpret words in a grammatical structure is an interesting question in its own right, but the reason I chose statements is that they are the language correspondent of knowledge. The idea was to say that all knowledge is praxeological knowledge, and statements are - basically by definition - utterances aimed at conveying knowledge. (A word is part of an utterance, but I can interpret "blue" alone by seeing the color blue, without having it suggest anything to me like, "If I do X, Y will result.")

There being no knowledge that is not praxeological, or not understood in terms of satisfactory/dissatisfactory outcome "trees," was the deeper thing I wanted to lead toward. The statements are kind of peripheral to the thoughts, but I thought starting with statements would be a better lead-in. It's like all meaning is just pain and pleasure...and sometimes this is even reflected in English, where it is not too strange to say something like, "Going to the dentist means a great deal of pain." For that speaker, that is the primary significance/import/meaning of the idea of going to the dentist. 

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