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Are the Social Sciences Yet Unborn?

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Neodoxy posted on Thu, Nov 3 2011 10:06 PM

Something that seems to be continually skipped over in the works of Mises, and especially in the works of Rothbard, are the logical ramifications of praxeology and the epistemological problems of the social sciences. The positivistic method, without proper adherence to praxeology in order to measure its limitations, is bound to fall into a fair number of false conclusions and fallacies. 

So when I refer to the "social sciences: that would seem to be significantly altered by a praxeological perspective would be:

Economics (duhh), Sociology, History, Philosophy, anthropology, and political science/theory

All of these are today, to some extent or other, based upon the positivistic method of empirical research which, as everyone here should know, are fallacious when applied to human affairs in the absence of praxeological concerns. Now there are some saving graces here, all of these sciences look to some extent or other at "human nature" which comes back to some degree or other to something resembling praxeology. Sociology has a fortunate reliance upon psychological laws, historians have become much more limited in their judgements in the past decades since the various waves of revisionism and all sciences accept the post hoc fallacy to some degree.

With all of this being said, do you believe that, with the exception of economics, the social sciences are, for the most part, yet unborn? That a real, logical, investigation based upon the epistemological which naturally correlate with the actions of rational man in the various fields which exist under the umbrella of the "social sciences" has not yet been undergone? Is the current body of existing knowledge in these areas insofar as they connect to human behavior and laws little more than a collection of fallacious judgements and a hodge podge of half truths?

Rothbard did history and moral philosophy, but his philosophy was decidedly un-praxeological in any but his critiques of other ethical systems. Austrians have obviously done various historical works, although even these I sometimes question as being less in tune with the nature of praxeology and more of an attempt to make capitalism look more respectable. Austrians have also seemed rather reluctant to engage in any sort of political theory based upon entirely praxeological concerns. Sociology is practically untouched by Austrians. The most promising developement of recent years has been Hoppe's "Democracy: The god that failed" which combined praxeology with political theory and helped to greatly broaden the scope of what has yet been done with political theory, most of which had been laid down by Rothbard.

Thoughts? 

At last those coming came and they never looked back With blinding stars in their eyes but all they saw was black...
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I do have to something small to add:

A few days ago I was writing about voluntary market regulations, and it seemed perfectly logical, so I asked myself the question anyone would ask: Then why didn't that happen at the turn of the century? Mainstream history teaches us that the government had to pass the meat inspection act to prevent the meatpackers from selling rancid meat. This makes no logical sense: why would the public continue to buy bad meat if there were problems with it?

Starting with an apparent logical rejection of the mainstream, I did a bit of research and found this:

http://www.libertariannews.org/2010/09/17/meat-packers-rape-you-and-you-love-it/

If the above is correct, then it shows that logic can indeed be used to revisit history. The mainstream simply makes little sense if we assume any sort of semi-rational human being. Rothbard's explanation is much more logical and makes quite a bit of sense. I hope to investigate more on this, because it seems quite damning to the "Gilded Age disproves capitalism" mantra.

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How about the merging of Praxeology and Thermodynamics?  I know it sounds nuts, but I think if one were to expand the Action Axiom beyond human beings, you can essentially work all the way back to entropy as the ultimate driving force of the universe.

"What Stirner says is a word, a thought, a concept; what he means is no word, no thought, no concept. What he says is not what is meant, and what he means is unsayable." - Max Stirner, Stirner's Critics
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@JLR: There is no advantage to this. Clearly, because human beings are physical, they are subject to all the laws of physics, including the second law of thermodynamics. However, there are such large holes in human knowledge regarding the causal connections between physics, biology, psychology and so on that it would be nothing short of mysticism to treat them as a single subject. Mises addresses these issues in the beginning of HA (I'm basically restating what he said).

There are a few useful things we can say about the human economy from physics. For example, we can conclude that pollution is inevitable. That is, the more physical work that the "heat engine" of the human economy performs, the more waste energy it must exhaust into the environment. An interesting sidebar to this is that the whole idea of a "green" economy is silly. There will never be a pollution-free human economy because it's physically impossible. This idea comes from Eric Beinhocker's book The Origin of Wealth.

As has already been pointed out, there is plenty of room for extension of the praxeological approach into other areas of social science. I think the area that could use it the most is the theory of law.

Clayton -

http://voluntaryistreader.wordpress.com
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Clayton,

OK, I'll buy that.  This seems like a subject with some gravitas.  I think I'll start a new thread for it (as to not mess this one up).

"What Stirner says is a word, a thought, a concept; what he means is no word, no thought, no concept. What he says is not what is meant, and what he means is unsayable." - Max Stirner, Stirner's Critics
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Is the current body of existing knowledge in these areas insofar as they connect to human behavior and laws little more than a collection of fallacious judgements and a hodge podge of half truths?
yes.
Keep the faith, Strannix. -Casey Ryback, Under Siege (Steven Seagal)
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I think there is a good ground work outside of the Austrians for "real" social science.  I think the "Austrians" may be the focal point of putting things together, and just showing the obvous faults, BS and word games going on with the British method (and it's hijack on the words "empiricism" and "science") and left wing priests who are trying to backdoor their way into promoting the humanities via the most obviously stupid methods.

That said everything from Marx, Weber, Aristotle, Husserl, and I think most importantly a look at psychologies that actual are accepted as "scientific and academic" (Freud, etc) are all things to be optimistic about.  From the looks of what I listed - I think the Anglo-American world just is not that aquainted with German Subjectivism - and I don't think it has ever seriously engaged it. 

My guess is partly because the social sciences outside of maybe psychology are too academic and esoteric . There is a real drive to turn these "descriptive" sciences into "proscriptive" managment theories for what ever is fashionable at the time...hence a lot of cranks, idealogues, and "true believers" who enter the field on one side; and on the other "science nerds" who just want a well paying job doing govt research or getting an already established position they can strive for - in which case a major methodological overhaul would just be an undesirable thing.

"As in a kaleidoscope, the constellation of forces operating in the system as a whole is ever changing." - Ludwig Lachmann

"When A Man Dies A World Goes Out of Existence"  - GLS Shackle

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Jackson

Clayton is perfectly correct in this instance, it's not directly applicable. We can say nothing about the action of something which does not follow laws of human response and action according to values. It doesn't work if we apply it to rocks, why thermodynamics?

Indeed it's somewhat interesting that you should suggest this. Many early social scientists were so inspired by the advancements that Newton made that they attempted to erect their systems in such a way that in place of his driving factor which dictated the motions of the universe, gravity, they would place self interest and other factors. You are in a way, doing the opposite, although praxeology is more general and scientific than the term "self interest"

However, as has been stated this cannot be done, there is nothing which indicates that this can be done. The reason praxeology works is because we know a priori one ultimate fact about all that man does, whereas we do not know this about thermodynamics. Furthermore in this discipline we can hold variables constant which can tell us far more about the world than can praxeology, making the a prioristic method inferior in the first place even if one central law could be discovered.

At last those coming came and they never looked back With blinding stars in their eyes but all they saw was black...
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Also - if only the "British Empiricists" would just chill out - we would actually probably ground and help overall their metaphysical views and help show why they use the language they use.

"As in a kaleidoscope, the constellation of forces operating in the system as a whole is ever changing." - Ludwig Lachmann

"When A Man Dies A World Goes Out of Existence"  - GLS Shackle

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Humans act.  Why? Temperature gradients in the universe.

"What Stirner says is a word, a thought, a concept; what he means is no word, no thought, no concept. What he says is not what is meant, and what he means is unsayable." - Max Stirner, Stirner's Critics
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I think there is a good ground work outside of the Austrians for "real" social science.  I think the "Austrians" may be the focal point of putting things together, and just showing the obvous faults...

In another thread you called praxeology a dialectic, and I think that fits here too.  Meaningful inquiries into the social sciences can't get far without regularly  "checking in" with the logical ramifications of praxeology, but also keeping in context with the actual psychological content of man at the same time.  "Good" praxeology already embraces both - the ends-means structure that we narrowly call praxeology and the empty space where we input the the data. In other words, praxeology is as equally dependent on the things that it says nothing about as it is on the things that it says everything about.

Anyway, to tie this back in with the OP, I don't think the social sciences are "yet unborn," but I do think taking the ideas we already have and keeping them in context with each will help us weed out the nonsense and maybe bring about new insight.  

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