'The existence of individual consciousness'

Posted by ProjectC 
<blockquote>'The fundamental axiom, then, for the study of man is the existence of individual consciousness, and we have seen the numerous ways in which scientism tries to reject or avoid this axiom. Not being omniscient, a man must learn; he must ever adopt ideas and act upon them, choosing ends and the means to attain these ends. Upon this simple fundamental axiom a vast deductive edifice can be constructed. Professor Mises has already done this for economics, which he has subsumed under the science of praxeology: this centers on the universal formal fact that all men use means for chosen ends, without investigating the processes of the concrete choices or the justification for them. Mises has shown that the entire structure of economic thought can be deduced from this axiom (with the help of a very few subsidiary axioms).

Since the fundamental and other axioms are qualitative by nature, it follows that the propositions deduced by the laws of logic from these axioms are also qualitative. The laws of human action are therefore qualitative, and, in fact, it should be clear that free will precludes quantitative laws. Thus, we may set forth the absolute economic law that an increase in the supply of a good, given the demand, will lower its price; but if we attempted to prescribe with similar generality how much the price would fall, given a definite increase in supply, we would shatter against the freewill rock of varying valuations by different individuals.


Having discussed the properly scientific, as contrasted to the scientistic, approach to the study of man, we may conclude by briefly considering the age-old question of the relationship between science and values. Ever since Max Weber, the dominant position in the social sciences, at least de jure, has been Wertfreiheit: that science itself must not make value judgments, but confine itself to judgments of fact, since ultimate ends can be only sheer personal preference not subject to rational argument. The classical philosophical view that a rational (that is, in the broad sense of the term, a "scientific") ethic is possible has been largely discarded. As a result, the critics of Wertfreiheit, having dismissed the possibility of rational ethics as a separate discipline, have taken to smuggling in arbitrary, ad hoc ethical judgments through the back door of each particular science of man. The current fashion is to preserve a façade of Wertfreiheit, while casually adopting value judgments, not as the scientist's own decision, but as the consensus of the values of others. Instead of choosing his own ends and valuing accordingly, the scientist supposedly maintains his neutrality by adopting the values of the bulk of society. In short, to set forth one's own values is now considered biased and "nonobjective," while to adopt uncritically the slogans of other people is the height of "objectivity." Scientific objectivity no longer means a man's pursuit of truth wherever it may lead, but abiding by a Gallup poll of other, less informed subjectivities.

The attitude that value judgments are self-evidently correct because "the people" hold them permeates social science. The social scientist often claims that he is merely a technician, advising his clients—the public—how to attain their ends, whatever they may be. And he believes that thereby he can take a value position without really committing himself to any values of his own.


The true science of man bases itself upon the existence of individual human beings, upon individual life and consciousness. The scientistic brethren (dominant in modern times) range themselves always against the meaningful existence of individuals: the biologists deny the existence of life, the psychologists deny consciousness, the economists deny economics, and the political theorists deny political philosophy. What they affirm is the existence and primacy of social wholes: "society," the "collective," the "group," the "nation." The individual, they assert, must be value-free himself, but must take his values from "society." The true science of man concentrates on the individual as of central, epistemological and ethical importance; the adherents of scientism, in contrast, lose no opportunity to denigrate the individual and submerge him in the importance of the collective. With such radically contrasting epistemologies, it is hardly sheer coincidence that the political views of the two opposing camps tend to be individualist and collectivist, respectively.'
- Murray N. Rothbard, The Mantle of Science</blockquote>