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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/4878/doubt-the-action-axiom-try-to-disprove-it/

Doubt the Action Axiom? Try to Disprove It

April 5, 2006 by

At the core of praxeology lies the incontrovertible proposition that humans act. Action is the purposeful employment of means to achieve ends in accord with the actor’s values. The existence of action is axiomatic; the very attempt to deny it will result in its affirmation. Here, G. Stolyarov defends this validation of the action axiom — a validation that has been criticized as a self-referential statement. FULL ARTICLE

{ 104 comments }

fabio July 31, 2006 at 5:37 pm

hi paul, thanks for your kindness, however simply dismissing the point in the following manner does nothing to help disprove it:

“To the extent that action differs from reaction, reaction is irrelevant to economics and ethics. To the extent that reaction is relevant, it is subsumed by action.”

reaction as in darwinian adaptation type responses for instance has everything to do with economics… and has precious little to do with action as per mises imo… but yes perhaps i am just a bit crazy after all, you could be right!

Paul Edwards July 31, 2006 at 6:30 pm

Fabio,

Perhaps it would help me to know if you understand the study of economics to be anything at all like how Mises characterizes it in Human Action:

“The subject matter of catallactics is all market phenomena with all their roots, ramifications, and consequences.”

“All that can be contended is this: Economics is mainly concerned with the analysis of the determination of money prices of goods and services exchanged on the market. In order to accomplish this task it must start from a comprehensive theory of human action. Moreover, it must study not only the market phenomena, but no less the hypothetical conduct of an isolated man and of a socialist community. Finally, it must not restrict its investigations to those modes of action which in mundane speech are called “economic” actions, but must deal also with actions which are in a loose manner of speech called “noneconomic.”

And this is how he views praxeology in relation to economics:

“The economic or catallactic problems are embedded in a more general science, and can no longer be severed from this connection. No treatment of economic problems proper can avoid starting from acts of choice; economics becomes a part, although the hitherto best elaborated part, of a more universal science, praxeology.”

“It is no longer enough to deal with the economic problems within the traditional framework. It is necessary to build the theory of catallactics upon the solid foundation of a general theory of human action, praxeology.”

If it is human action which is the base of market behavior, which it seems to me to be, then Darwinian adaptation, which has nothing to do with human action, could have nothing possibly to do with economics. Animals do not purposefully evolve and human rational purpose is a very central theme to human action, and therefore to economics.

I don’t think you’re crazy for posing the question, but rather that you’re perhaps not completely familiar with Mises and the Austrian school, which is nothing unusual, or you have a vastly different concept of economics from him and the Austrians.

But if you were wondering how at least I view what Mises’s take is on Darwinian evolution and reaction, I’d say he thinks it is way outside the field of economics.

fabio August 1, 2006 at 8:00 am

“I don’t think you’re crazy…”: i know, i was just replying tit-for-tat and only in jest

“or you have a vastly different concept of economics from him and the Austrians”: that is correct, that is what i am trying to say in my earlier post… the austrian perspective / analysis certainly has a place, but also has its limitations

“If it is human action which is the base of market behavior, which it seems to me to be”: this is where we differ… to me its not either / or… i guess i shld try harder to at least ‘illustrate’ the principle of reaction vs action… for instance, actions based on fear / panic belong in the irrational, or a-rational to avoid semantic quarrels… but one cld say this is still ‘action’ as contemplated by mises (i doubt it but…)… fanning / exploiting fear though, would be ‘action’ indeed, even though it may have unintended consequences at times radically opposite to the actor’s intention… but let’s jump above the human actors perhaps, without being too presumptuous :-)… lets take oil… one could probably have predicted from the start of the industrial revolution that as fears of oil shortages develop, tensions would rise, wars would be waged etc along those centuries… the root cause being the fact that oil is finite, a mere environmental factor… v. simplistic and i apologize, but at a level, human action cld have been to move away asap from a finite source of energy, e.g. go nuclear to a much greater extent than current, with all the risks… but again here fears have ‘prevailed’ to an extent, even if the picture may change in coming years

pls do keep in mind, this is not intended as the start of an argument over nuclear vs oil etc, just an attempt to illustrate where ‘reaction’ differs from ‘action’ as an analytical premise and in some cases may be a more appropriate framework to analyse mkt behaviour on a particular timeframe… now perhaps on a shorter timeframe, praxeology yields more ‘relevant’ results, am not disputing that… as i said, my point is simply that i do not believe it is either / or between, say, praxeology and darwinism… and going a bit further from a pure methodology standpoint, i do not think it is beneficial to ‘stick’ to an either / or divide, if only for the fact that there is more to gain when more than one approach is used / is available to tackle / analyse a situation… but that’s just a view

another ‘illustration’ perhaps cld be the type of abortion / criminality relationships described by Stephen Levitt for instance (Freakonomics). or th type of relationships described by J.Diamond, i.e. ‘shaping’-type influences to which humans ‘react’ without being fully conscious of the fact that they do, in the sense, here, that whatever action they may take is in no way purposefully nor rationally related / directed towards the forces that are actually shaping (some of) the mass behaviours on a larger scale

having said that, i would agree that, whenever any such reaction-type framework has been identified as sufficiently ‘valid’ by a ‘critical mass’ of people, in those cases where the framework is contemporaneously ‘actionable’, it falls in the hands of the praxeological analysis framework… (at the risk of quickly becoming unactionable in fact, but that’s a different discussion)

thing is, the distinction is not all down to a law of ‘unintended’ consequences of course, although that is a symptom

“But if you were wondering how at least I view what Mises’s take is on Darwinian evolution and reaction, I’d say he thinks it is way outside the field of economics.”: i think Mises was more ‘reacting’ to the fact that Darwinism was too much the all and everything of his times, and that couldn’t be right either, but let’s not get too philosophical!

nice chatting with you

fabio August 1, 2006 at 8:02 am

i forgot to mention, yes i am familiar with chapter 14, and a few others ;-)

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