overview

Advanced

'..universal nihilism.' - '..diepe crisis in het contemporaine wijsgerige denken..'

Posted by ProjectC 
'..a still more universal nihilism.'

'The radicalism of this wholesale condemnation of economics was very soon surpassed by a still more universal nihilism. From time immemorial men in thinking, speaking, and acting had taken the uniformity and immutability of the logical structure of the human mind as an unquestionable fact. All scientific inquiry was based on this assumption. In the discussions about the epistemological character of economics, writers, for the first time in human history, denied this proposition too.'

- Ludwig von Mises [1]


'..een even diepe crisis in het contemporaine wijsgerige denken: een neostructuralistisch denken dat oude structuren tot en met de fundamenten afbreekt.'

‘De constateerbare crisis van onze samenleving welke inherent is aan de rigoureuze omwentelingen, vindt haar weerspiegeling en haar neerslag in een even diepe crisis in het contemporaine wijsgerige denken: een neostructuralistisch denken dat oude structuren tot en met de fundamenten afbreekt. Deze crisis beweegt zich rond de vraag of de mens in deze beschaving voor zijn bestaan nog wel de betrouwbare zekerheid zal kunnen vinden van een samenleving die hem een leefcultuur biedt waarin hij zichzelf kan zijn, waarin hij thuis kan geraken en zich veiligheid kan voelen. Een «heem» dat hem de kans geeft zicht te «wortelen» in de eigen bestaansgrond, dat wil zeggen, hem de mogelijkheid biedt om zijn essentie, zijn wezen, in zijn bestaan te gronden .. de zin van zijn bestaan: er betekenis en inhoud aan vermag te verlenen.'

- Frans Veldman [2]


'..the differences between social science and natural science is .. the fundamental difference is one of subjectivism versus objectivism.'

'..the differences between social science and natural science is a theme present in Austrian methodology from the beginning. For Menger, Mises, and Hayek the fundamental difference is one of subjectivism versus objectivism.'

- Lawrence H. White, '...the differences between social science and natural science...'


Noten

[1] 2. The Epistemological Problem of a General Theory of Human Action

In the new science everything seemed to be problematic. It was a stranger in the traditional system of knowledge; people were perplexed and did not know how to classify it and to assign it its proper place. But on the other hand they were convinced that the inclusion of economics in the catalogue of knowledge did not require a rearrangement or expansion of the total scheme. They considered their catalogue system complete. If economics did not fit into it, the fault could only rest with the unsatisfactory treatment that the economists applied to their problems.

It is a complete misunderstanding of the meaning of the debates concerning the essence, scope, and logical character of economics to dismiss them as the scholastic quibbling of pedantic professors. It is a widespread misconception that while pedants squandered useless talk about the most appropriate method of procedure, economics itself, indifferent to these idle disputes, went quietly on its way. In the Methodenstreit between the Austrian economists and the Prussian Historical School, the self-styled "intellectuaI bodyguard of the House of Hohenzollern," and in the discussions between the school of John Bates Clark and American Institutionalism much more was at stake than the question of what kind of procedure was the most fruitful one. The real issue was the epistemological foundations of the science of human action and its logical legitimacy. Starting from an epistemological system to which praxeological thinking was strange and from a logic which acknowledged as scientific-besides logic and mathematics--only the empirical natural sciences and history, many authors tried to deny the value and usefulness of economic theory. Historicism aimed at replacing it by economic history; positivism recommended the substitution of an illusory social science which should adopt the logical structure and pattern of Newtonian mechanics. Both these schools agreed in a radical rejection of all the achievements of economic thought. It was impossible for the economists to keep silent in the face of all these attacks.

The radicalism of this wholesale condemnation of economics was very soon surpassed by a still more universal nihilism. From time immemorial men in thinking, speaking, and acting had taken the uniformity and immutability of the logical structure of the human mind as an unquestionable fact. All scientific inquiry was based on this assumption. In the discussions about the epistemological character of economics, writers, for the first time in human history, denied this proposition too. Marxism asserts that a man's thinking is determined by his class affiliation. Every social class has a logic of its own. The product of thought cannot be anything else than an "ideological disguise" of the selfish class interests of the thinker. It is the task of a "sociology of knowledge" to unmask philosophies and scientific theories and to expose their "ideological" emptiness. Economics is a "bourgeois" makeshift, the economists are "sycophants" of capital. Only the classless society of the socialist utopia will substitute truth for "ideological" lies.

This polylogism was later taught in various other forms also. Historicism asserts that the logical structure of human thought and action is liable to change in the course of historical evolution. Racial polylogism assigns to each race a logic of its own. Finally there is irrationalism, contending that reason as such is not fit to elucidate the irrational forces that determine human behavior.

Such doctrines go far beyond the limits of economics. They question not only economics and praxeology but all other human knowledge and human reasoning in general. They refer to mathematics and physics as well as to economics. It seems therefore that the task of refuting them does not fall to any single branch of knowledge but to epistemology and philosophy. This furnishes apparent justification for the attitude of those economists who quietly continue their studies without bothering about epistemological problems and the objections raised by poIylogism and irrationalism. The physicist does not mind if somebody stigmatizes his theories as bourgeois, Western or Jewish; in the same way the economist should ignore detraction and slander. He should let the dogs bark and pay no heed to their yelping. It is seemly for him to remember Spinoza's dictum: Sane sicut lux se ipsam et tenebras manifestat, sic veritas norma sui et falsi est.

However, the situation is not quite the same with regard to economics as it is with mathematics and the natural sciences. Polylogism and irrationaIism attack praxeology and economics. Although they formulate their statements in a general way to refer to all branches of knowledge, it is the sciences of human action that they really have in view. They say that it is an illusion to believe that scientific research can achieve results valid for people of all eras, races, and social classes, and they take pleasure in disparaging certain physical and biological theories as bourgeois or Western. But if the soIution of practical problems requires the application of tbese stigmatized doctrines, they forget their criticism.

- Ludwig von Mises, Human Action: The Scholars Edidtion (1949), page 4 and page 5.

[2] Haptonomie (derde druk, 2003), blz. 9 en blz. 10.