MISESIAN EPISTEMOLOGYJournal: MEST Journal (Vol.7, No. 1)
Publication Date: 2019-01-15
Authors : Christian Torsell; Walter E. Block;
Page : 118-126
Keywords : Mises; methodology; praxeology;
Like all science, economics is essentially a truth-seeking enterprise. As such, it necessarily runs up against certain epistemological questions. What kinds of facts or expressions may count as economic truths? What method or methods might enable us to ascertain those facts? Is there any such approach that is both appropriate to the nature of the facts of economics and capable of generating substantial, interesting, or useful knowledge? Ludwig von Mises recognized the central importance of such questions. Much of his work is devoted to spelling out and refining his distinctive "Austrian" position on epistemology and economic method. We offer a summary and analysis of Mises’s bi-modal thesis concerning scientific methodology: that the approach in the physical and social sciences diverges, the former being an empirical enterprise, the latter (including economics), a logical-deductive one. This is because the object of the social sciences is a man, a creature who acts freely and purposively. The empirical method of the physical sciences, adequate for the study of objects and systems that are not purposive in this way, is inappropriate in this domain. Therefore, methodological dualism is justified. Mises’s alternative aprioristic approach takes into account the uniquely human features of consciousness and freedom as well as the complexity and unquantifiability of social phenomena; these he saw as the main barriers to empiricism’s usefulness in social science. This paper focuses in particular on the intellectual context in which Mises articulated this theory, emphasizing the divergence between his contribution and the dominant methodological views among practitioners of the social sciences in his time.
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