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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/14309/positivism-and-behaviorism/

Positivism and Behaviorism

October 20, 2010 by

The most obtrusive champion of the neopositivist program concerning the sciences of human action was Otto Neurath, who, in 1919, was one of the outstanding leaders of the short-lived Soviet regime of Munich and later cooperated briefly in Moscow with the bureaucracy of the Bolsheviks. FULL ARTICLE by Ludwig von Mises

{ 14 comments }

Ryan October 20, 2010 at 7:58 am

Great article.

Did anyone else notice that there is a high degree of similarity between Mises’ description of “panphysicalists” & “behaviorists” versus Ayn Rand’s “mystics of spirit” & “mystics of muscle?”

Inquisitor October 20, 2010 at 8:34 am

Considering the degree to which individuals corresponding to these categories in the former case correspond to individuals who rely on “revealed doctrine (treat the natural world as if teleologically motivated) and the latter (so-called scientific progressives) treat everything through the lens of “hard science” (read: scientism), relying on disciplines like sociology etc. to micromanage the populace, I would say yes. She didn’t mean the terms in those particular way but there is significant overlap imo.

J Cortez October 20, 2010 at 9:06 am

Interesting post. I haven’t read through all of Theory and History, so I’ve never seen this. Thanks for posting it.

I saw Neurath mentioned and I immediately thought of Mises’ quote on Otto Neurath at Bohm Bawerk’s seminar. Since Bohm Bawerk ran his seminar as open as possible, he allowed anyone, no matter how zealous or illogical, to voice an argument. From Memoirs, page 32:

“Unfortunately, babblers sometimes abused the freedom to speak that was allowed participants. Especially disruptive was the nonsense that Otto Neurath asserted with fanatical force.”

Deefburger October 20, 2010 at 9:27 am

Quantum mechanics and quantum physics are throwing a monkey wrench into positivist cause and effect. If you assume that as “I” you are Heidegger’s “Dasein” AND you also assume yourself to be complex, then you can begin to tease the causality out of the physics without disturbing the more complex and unknown structure of self.
Yes, I am a collection of atoms.
Yes, I am a complex collection of atoms as molecules.
Yes, I am a complex of molecules that form a biology.
Yes, I am a complex of biological systems that form a functioning human body.
Yes, I am a human body.
Yes, I am a living breathing THINKING human being.
BUT, all of the systems, all of the complex layers of being, are unique in their experience of being. Every atom within me is a fundamental particle of my unique and complex existence.

Dasein is the quintessential quantum particle. What it looks like depends upon how you observe it. If you are looking at it’s behavior, then you will see it’s waveform and not it’s substance. If you look at it’s substance, you will see it’s mass but not it’s behavior.

If the atoms within me, acting acording to their individual natures, regularly form predictable outcomes in general that result in molecules, and biological systems, then the outcomes are the observation of the behavior, and the individual actions of each atom cannot be known by measurement. To know this would have required the direct observation of each particle, in each moment of each interaction. Particle or wave?

As a complex system of change, “I” am unknown to all but myself and my creator. It’s not a physics problem but a Quantum Physics problem! It’s not about causality, but rather Observation and Perspective. The observer must be aware of the complex nature of his own self and perspective if he is to observe anything and understand it’s meaning.

Donald Rowe October 20, 2010 at 10:40 am

“The observer must be aware of the complex nature of his own self and perspective if he is to observe anything and understand it’s meaning.” (emphasis added)

May I suggest a corollary?

One need not be aware of the complex nature of his own self and its perspective, but he should not then expect to understand its meaning.

Lacking understanding, action taken to ‘improve’ one’s situation is nothing other than a random act of trial and error. Given the primary lack of understanding, one should not expect to understand the outcome of that act either.

Jordan Viray October 20, 2010 at 8:29 pm

“Dasein is the quintessential quantum particle.”

So that’s why I never got Heidegger.

FYI: It’s “its”, not “it’s” unless it’s “it is”.

Allen Weingarten October 21, 2010 at 7:29 am

Heidegger’s notion of Dasein was a central part of his thesis in the colossal work “Being and Time”. However, he would have made a greater and more understandable contribution if instead he had written “Being on Time” because it is surely correct that it is advantageous to do so.

Allen Weingarten October 21, 2010 at 1:46 pm

I hasten to add that Heidegger would approve my recommendation, because Der Führer vas alvayz on time.

Allen Weingarten October 22, 2010 at 12:06 pm

“BUT, all of the systems, all of the complex layers of being, are unique in their experience of being. Every atom within me is a fundamental particle of my unique and complex existence.”

Deefburger, although I couldn’t help but make a bon mot about Heidegger, I appreciate and agree with your above comment. Perhaps one would say that the individual is singular, as are his eventful moments.

Alvin Lowi October 20, 2010 at 3:21 pm

Positivism and behaviorism are not examples of the most recent incarnation of the method of natural science. Had Mises understood this method completely, he would have had no problem reconciling it with the teleological plus apriori method employed in his praxeology, nor would he have had any objections to the scientific epistemology of Arthur Eddington applied to social phenomena. He seems oblivious to the fact the scientific method employs an inductive generalization (a postulated cause re. effect) in order to proceed. Any pragmatism would have to be disciplined by such postulates or principles. Authentic science is quite clear as to the difference between correlation and causality.

Allen Weingarten October 21, 2010 at 4:06 pm

Perhaps in contrasting the methods of ‘natural science’ with ‘praxeology’, it would help to characterize these terms. Here I submit that natural science is intention-independent, whereas praxeology is intention-dependent. I have not encountered any definition of natural science that is intention-dependent, or can be understood from within. Rather, science is presented axiomatically, as could be ‘understood’ by a computer (that has no inner life). Moreover, science can present any (non-contradictory) set of axioms, no matter how counter-intuitive they may be, so long as they explain the facts. Praxeology is confined to axioms of which one is certain.

Jordan Viray October 20, 2010 at 8:46 pm

Alvin Lowi said: “He seems oblivious to the fact the scientific method employs an inductive generalization (a postulated cause re. effect) in order to proceed.”

He does not seem oblivious based on this article. “Panphysicalism” is a supposed science which proceeds with a “purely causal treatment of human action” But how to they arrive at these causes? “Sense experience, which conveys to man his information about physical events, provides him also with all information about the behavior of his fellow men.”

The cycle of moving from induction to deduction with testing to discern causes is effective for natural science – or at any rate, better than teleological methods. But it is not so for the science of human action which does, as you mention, employ both teleological and a priori method. Indeed it must.

Anonymous October 21, 2010 at 12:06 am

The wise are instructed by reason; ordinary minds by experience; the stupid, by necessity; and brutes by instinct (Cicero)

Gene Berman October 21, 2010 at 4:26 am

Alvin Lowi:

From your comment, one could be forgiven for suspecting that you’d never read Mises beyond the odd excerpt. In fact, I doubt whether there are, anywhere, clearer expositions of the procedures (and the reasons for them) of the natural sciences and their relationship with the science of human action.

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