Ludwig von Mises' theory of the methodological foundations of economics - aprioristic praxeology - is patently false (see below). I have come to this conclusion a long time ago. However, the shortcoming did not bother me too much, for despite his considerable original achievements, 95% of the good economics in his work stems from other scholars with no such misguided pretension.
Only when I came into closer contact with the amazingly dogmatic Rothbardian von Mises crowd did I return to the issue of von Mises' problematic economic methodology - with a sense of alarm.
Von Mises' praxeology is an attempt at proving how absolute, indubitable, and wholly conclusive knowledge works in the field of economics, and indeed in all areas of human action. What rationalistic conceit!
Sure enough, an irresistible attractor to those with a pronounced penchant for dogmatism. Enter Murray Rothbard and his following. Rothbard pretends to have found - thanks to von Mises' praxeological apriorism - the key to absolute truth in the fields of ethics and political theory. I have discussed this hubristic aspect of Rothbard's work in The Elementary Errors of Anarchism (1) and The Elementary Errors Anarchism (2).
In More Geometrico, I have alluded to the fundamental problem of aprioristic praxeology.
Below is a brilliant article that spells out more fully the grotestque errors of praxeological apriorism. Have a great philosophical weekend:
Robert Murphy, like Mises, cannot properly distinguish between (1) pure
geometry and (2) applied geometry (on which, see Salmon 1967: 38). When
Euclidean geometry is considered as a pure mathematical theory, it can
be regarded as analytic a priori knowledge, and asserts nothing
necessarily of the external, real world, since it is tautologous and
non-informative. (An alternative view derived from the theory called
“conditionalism” or “if-thenism” holds that pure geometry is merely a
set of conditional statements from axioms to theorems, derivable by
logic, and asserting nothing about the real world [Musgrave 1977:
109–110], but this is just as devastating to Misesians.)
When Euclidean geometry is applied to the world, it is judged as making synthetic a posteriori statements (Ward 2006: 25), which can only be verified or falsified by experience or empirical evidence. That means that applied Euclidean geometrical statements can be refuted empirically, and we know that Euclidean geometry – understood as a universally true theory of space – is a false theory (Putnam 1975: 46; Hausman 1994: 386; Musgrave 2006: 329).
The fact that the refutation of Euclidean geometry understood as an
empirical theory leaves pure geometry untouched does not help Murphy,
because pure geometry per se says nothing necessary about the universe,
and is an elegant but non-informative system.
Albert Einstein was expressing this idea in the following remarks about mathematics in an address called called “Geometry and Experience” on 27 January 1921 at the Prussian Academy of Sciences:
“One reason why mathematics enjoys special esteem ... is that its laws are absolutely certain and indisputable, while those of all other sciences are to some extent debatable and in constant danger of being overthrown by newly discovered facts. In spite of this, the investigator in another department of science would not need to envy the mathematician if the laws of mathematics referred to objects of our mere imagination, and not to objects of reality. For it cannot occasion surprise that different persons should arrive at the same logical conclusions when they have already agreed upon the fundamental laws (axioms), as well as the methods by which other laws are to be deduced therefrom. But there is another reason for the high repute of mathematics, in that it is mathematics which affords the exact natural sciences a certain measure of security, to which without mathematics they could not attain. At this point an enigma presents itself which in all ages has agitated inquiring minds. How can it be that mathematics, being after all a product of human thought which is independent of experience, is so admirably appropriate to the objects of reality? Is human reason, then, without experience, merely by taking thought, able to fathom the properties of real things. In my opinion the answer to this question is, briefly, this:- As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.”
If we were to pursue this analysis further as applied to economic
methodology, it would follow that praxeology – if it is conceived as
deduced from analytic a priori axioms – is also an empty,
tautologous, and vacuous theory that says nothing necessary of the real
world. And the instant any Austrian asserts that praxeology is making real assertions about the world, it must be judged synthetic a posteriori, and so is to be verified or falsified by experience or empirical evidence.
What Murphy fails to mention is that the only way to sustain his whole praxeological program is to defend the truth of Kant’s synthetic a priori knowledge, which, as we have seen from the last post, is a category of knowledge that must be judged as non-existent.
Do make sure to consult the source with its respective video excerpts of Murphy's explanations.
Mises's Non Sequitur on synthetic a priori Knowledge; Tokumaru on Mises's Epistemology; Reply to a "Red Herring on Praxeology"; Mises versus the Vienna Circle; Mises's Flawed Deduction and Praxeology.