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Mises video mistake on praxeology

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vive la insurrection posted on Tue, Jul 17 2012 1:28 AM

In this HHH video entitled Praxeology: The Austrian Method

It has problem at the gate.  Praxeology is a science, not a method.

"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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"Just skim the chapter on "From Mises to Lachmann""

"That's the general idea what I was getting at.  Along with the Don Lavoie use of Hermeneutics."

"Basically it seems legit to have a Weber - Shutz - Hayek - Shackel - Lachmann line under the science in so much as praxeology isn't a method."


Yes, but you haven't put forth your alternate definition of praxeology or put forth an alternate definition advocated by another thinker.

Here are three that I have seen:

The aim of this orientation, which in the future we will call the exact one, an aim which research pursues in the same way in all realms of the world of phenomena, is the determination of strict laws of phenomena, of regularities in the succession of phenomena which do not present themselves to us as absolute, but which in respect to the approaches to cognition by which we attain to them simply bear within themselves the guarantee of absoluteness.  It is the determination of laws of phenomena which commonly are called “laws of nature,” but more correctly should be designated by the expression “exact laws.” (Menger)

Essentially, praxeology is the study of those propositions concerning human action that can be grasped and recognized as true simply in virtue of an inspection of their constituent concepts. (Roderick Long)

...the system of tautologies---those series of propositions which are necessarily true because they are merely transformations of the assumptions from which we start... (Hayek)

What is your proposed definition of 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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This topic is fascinating and extremely important. There seems to be several definitions of praxeology and no consensus at all.

Does anyone know of a diagram showing the relationship between praxeology, economics, politics, ethics, sociology and history? I would be very helpful to all austrians.

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Hi Geurt

I don't think there is universal agreement on the relationship between these.  The Rotbardian explanation is different from the Misesian.

What I have argued is that in Mises's conception praxeology is conceived as a general, formal science of all forms, or classes, or types, of human action (all types of goal-directed activity).

Praxeology studies the universal or formal structure of action; those apects which all concrete actions have in common.

We can conceive of various forms of action.  For example thinking is an action; an attempt to reach a conclusion or find an answer. (reference: Mises, Gordon)   There are political acitons. (reference: do Soto)   There are interpersonal actions, which I have written about.  Thus, praxeology in the Misesian conception is a formal science (like mathematics and geometry) that studies the various types of actions with respect to their "invarient relations."  

Mises conceives that economics is the study of those actions conducted on the basis of monetary calculation. (HA, 3rd rev. p.234)

The other branches of praxeology study other forms or kinds of action--those not conducted on the basis of monetary calculation: acts of government (regulating, adjudicating, punishing, etc.), interpersonal actions (fighting, talking, coercing, etc.), mental actions (thinking, deliberating, imagining, etc.), physical actions (walking, lifting, striking, etc.).

Thus, praxeology studies the same realm of activity studied by political science, ethics, and sociology, but from the point of view of the exact laws (invarient regularities) of goal-directed action.  Instead of studying these realms with respect to norms (normative discipline) or with respect to inexact or empirical laws, praxeology studies these realms with respect to exact laws of human action.   This conception is consistent with both Mises's and Megner's views.

As for history, in the Misesian lexicon, it belongs to the second or opposed branch of social science, Thymology.   Thymology may be defined negatively in relation to praxeology and generally includes the study of the concrete, individual, and non-universal or non-necessary aspect of social phenomena.  Examples are:

1.  Concrete situations:  John ate an apple.

2.  Historial narratives depicted in terms of a number or sequence of actions: John ate an apple, then he went outside.

3.  Forcasting of concrete situations:  The "in" color next year will be blue.

In other words, Thymology treats the non-aprioristic aspects of human action; those concrete aspects of action that may have been different than they were, or that may be different than we project.   I would argue that this distinction between Praxeology and Thymology is consistent with Menger's distinction between exact science and empirical science, and Mises's distinction between theory and history.



"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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My impression of this whole thread is that someone is totally misrepresenting Rothbard.

I reccomend the Appendix to Chapter 1 of MES, where Rothbard lays out the definitions and scope of all the concepts mentioned here.

To sum up, if we are to make a Venn diagram, biggest circle is prax, study of human action. Inside that are several other smaller circles, [aka proper subsets, for those to whom that says anything]. Each of those circles are mutually disjoint. Those circles are labelled Economics, Theory of  Violent Action, Theory of Games, Theory of Voting. In other writings he has an additional circle labelled with a question mark, meaning who knows what other areas may be worked on in the future.

The Economics circle is itself divided into two subsets, Crusoe economics and Market Economics, aka Catallectics. Theory of violent Action has as subsets theory of war, theory of govt intervention in the free market.

All this is in agreement with Mises.

My humble blog

It's easy to refute an argument if you first misrepresent it. William Keizer

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What do you think about this diagram? It's mostly based on Hoppe.

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