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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/5430/the-other-fields-of-praxeology-war-games-voting-and-ethics/

The Other Fields of Praxeology: War, Games, Voting… and Ethics?

August 5, 2006 by

Update: see this post for more on this.

***

I asked recently of some colleagues if anyone recalled where Mises said that economics or catallactics is the most developed or highly elaborated branch of praxeology, but that someone was working (at the time) on applying praxeology to the study of conflict, or war. Sudha Shenoy pointed me to the answer: in Mises’ Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science Mises writes:

Up to now the only part of praxeology that has been developed into a scientific system is economics. A Polish philosopher, Tadeusz Kotarbinski, is trying to develop a new branch of praxeology, the praxeological theory of conflict and war as opposed to the theory of cooperation or economics.[6] 

[6] T. Kotarbinski, “Considérations sur la théorie générale de la lutte,” Appendix to Z Zagadnien Ogólnej Teorii Walki (Warsaw, 1938), pp. 65-92; the same author, “Idée de la methodologie générale praxeologie,” Travaux du IXe Congrés International de Philosophie (Paris, 1937), IV, 190-94. The theory of games has no reference whatever to the theory of action. Of course, playing a game is action, but so is smoking a cigarette or munching a sandwich. See below, pp. 87 ff.

***

Update: I stumbled across Adam Knott’s working paper, Rothbardian-Randian Ethics and The Coming Methodenstreit in Libertarian Ethical Science. Knott writes,

Specifically, praxeology has not succeeded to date, in arriving at cause and effect laws in the social-ethical realm. In the strictly scientific sense as understood by praxeology, there are no known laws of ethical phenomena akin to the various economic laws established since the beginning of economic science several centuries ago. 

Not sure why Knott does not mention (if only to criticize) Hoppe’s work on extending praxeology to the field of ethics.I’m not sure if Kotarbinski or anyone else ever completed this, or any other systematic study of a field of praxeology outside economics (and wouldn’t Mises’ and Rothbard’s analysis of intervention in the market be a type of application of praxeology to conflict?). I did find this unusual paper by Alexander Mosely, Praxeology and Cultural Convergences in the Rules of War, but this does not seem to be apropos.

Interestingly, in his Reply to Schuller, Rothbard writes:

The categories of praxeology may be outlined as follows:
Praxeology–the general, formal theory of human action:
A. The Theory of the Isolated Individual (Crusoe Economics)
B. The Theory of Voluntary Interpersonal Exchange (Catallactics, or the Economics of the Market)
1. Barter
2. With Medium of Exchange
a. On the Unhampered Market
b. Effects of Violent Intervention with the Market
c. Effects of Violent Abolition of the Market (Socialism)
C. The Theory of War–Hostile Action
D. The Theory of Games (e.g., Von Neumann and Morgenstern)
E. Unknown
Clearly, A and B–Economics–is the only fully elaborated part of praxeology. The others are largely unexplored areas. 

See also MESPM, p. 74, where Rothbard writes: “What is the relationship between praxeology and economic analysis? Economics is a subdivision of praxeology—so far the only fully elaborated subdivision. With praxeology as the general, formal theory of human action, economics includes the analysis of the action of an isolated individual (Crusoe economics) and, especially elaborate, the analysis of interpersonal exchange (catallactics). The rest of praxeology is an unexplored area. Attempts have been made to formulate a logical theory of war and violent action, and violence in the form of government has been treated by political philosophy and by praxeology in tracing the effects of violent intervention in the free market. A theory of games has been elaborated, and interesting beginnings have been made in a logical analysis of voting.”

Rothbard’s mention of games apparently contradicts Mises’s disparagement of games as a possible field of praxeology; and Rothbard’s mention of the logic of voting seems a bit like public choice economics, but I am not sure. What other possible fields are there?

Arguably Hoppe’s extension of praxeological type reasoning to the field of ethics might fit under Rothbard’s category E, as Rothbard himself hinted at: regarding Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s argumentation ethics defense of libertarian rights, about which Rothbard wrote:

In a dazzling breakthrough for political philosophy in general and for libertarianism in particular, he has managed to transcend the famous is/ought, fact/value dichotomy that has plagued philosophy since the days of the scholastics, and that had brought modern libertarianism into a tiresome deadlock. Not only that: Hans Hoppe has managed to establish the case for anarcho-capitalist-Lockean rights in an unprecedentedly hard-core manner, one that makes my own natural law/natural rights position seem almost wimpy in comparison. 

Rothbard, Beyond Is and Ought; see also Rothbard, Hoppephobia. Especially interesting in the context of this post, Rothbard concludes his piece,

A future research program for Hoppe and other libertarian philosophers would be (a) to see how far axiomatics can be extended into other spheres of ethics, or (b) to see if and how this axiomatic could be integrated into the standard natural law approach. These questions provide fascinating philosophical opportunities. Hoppe has lifted the American movement out of decades of sterile debate and deadlock, and provided us a route for future development of the libertarian discipline. 

Interesting how Rothbard talks about possible extensions of praxeology as well as “axiomatics,” the logical-deductive approach of Hoppe that is compatible with, if not a type of, praxeology.

Notice that two of Rothbard’s books are Ethics of Liberty and The Logic of Action. Mayhap Hoppe’s use of praxeology to investigate political ethics is a case of the Ethics of Action: a unification of Austrian economics and epistemology with libertarian justice. It is no wonder that, in drawing from the economic and methodological insights of Misesian-Austrian economics, Austro-libertarian theory is so powerful and sound.

Update on the praxeology of war: see Joseph Salerno, Imperialism and the Logic of War Making.

{ 26 comments }

Nick August 5, 2006 at 1:57 am

Kotarbinski’s praxeology is the only approach to praxeology widely known in Poland. Most of professional philosophers didn’t even heard about Austrian view on praxeology.

Curt Howland August 5, 2006 at 11:05 am

The image of a “professional philosopher” seems very silly to me.

Like, ok, you philosophed, now grab that hammer and get some work done.

Student August 5, 2006 at 2:30 pm

Check out David Friedman’s critical assessment of Hoppe’s ethical arguments. It’s even more interesting than Rothbard’s unconditional praisings and can be found in the same link.

http://www.hanshoppe.com/publications/liberty_symposium.pdf

Hoppe replied to counter arguments at the bottom of the document, but I don’t think he adequatley addressed all of Friedman’s comments (in fact he only addresses one of Friedman’s points, and not very well imo).

But read the whole document and decide for yourselves.

Ike Hall August 5, 2006 at 2:37 pm

I have long felt that sociology was ripe for a praxeological overhaul. In a perfect world, Human Action would have been the touchstone for this. From my limited readings in sociology, it seems that good studies of group interactions have lost sight of the fact of methodological individualism (if they ever used it as a tool of analysis in the first place).

gary lammert August 5, 2006 at 5:22 pm

As somewhat of a praxeological endeavor:
Is it possible that the macroeconomy operates according to near ideal noncomplex mathematical laws? Would this really be so surprising? Mightn’t one expect natural laws as part and integral to a very nonrandom process that is ultimately quantified in the integers 0 through 9?

The alcove of the Economic Fractalist has posed such a hypothesis – that the global macroeconomy with its integrative money growth, money growth cresting, and ultimately money decline, that is, its credit cycle, is exactly represented by simple quantum fractal growth and decline natural laws directly reflected in the daily and weekly and yearly trading valuations of its great composite equity, bond, and commodity markets. In a prospective fashion a mathematical x/2.5x/2.5x discontinuous fractal growth has been identified that appears to represent the limits of the global credit cycle system.

While the integrative process is a complex mixture of facilitated debt and money creation, resultant asset and commodity inflation, ultimately limited by ongoing wages, consumption saturation, and increasing debt obligations via accelerating debt instruments, e.g., ARMS -the predictable evolution of the summation quantum simple patterns strongly appear to herald major directional changes.

Such a change occurred for the Wilshire 5000, the composite US equity proxy marker, on 5 May 2006. That day represented the secondary closing high for the Wilshire after its a 142 year credit growth cycle from its predecessor stock summation proxy indicators starting in 1858 and ending in March of 2000. 5 May 2006, the secondary high to March 2000, was marked by a minutely exhaustion gap with a closing high for the last 6 years.

Now on 4 August 2006, another possible minutely high exhaustion gap high has occurred accompanied by a very curious sequential exhaustion gap to the low side – covering the same trading valuation territory – all within the same day.

The x/2.5x/2.5x extended fractal evolution from the Wilshire’s lows in 2002 and 2003 to its 5 May 2006 closing high has been well described in the serial posting of EF. From the October 2005 low, the daily fractal pattern has been:

x/2.5x/2x/1.5x or 12/30/24/18 days.

Day 18 initiated a new fractal sequence with a 21-22 day base.:

21/53/53 or x/2.5x/2.5x with day 53 of the third fractal growth sequence 4 August 2006.

Interestingly day 42 – exactly 2X of the 21 day base – of the second fractal growth sequence was …. 5 May 2006.

Was 4 August 2006 the final x/2.5x/2.5x extended lower high representing the second shoulder of the 5 May 2006 second shoulder to the March 2000 high?

The US ten-year note has ominously inverted below the 3-month treasury for the last two trading days. Ten-year treasuries at near 5 percent in a massive deflationary environment would seem the prudent investment – and expected natural money flow move.

As always expect the discontinuous and the nonlinear … unexpected. Gary Lammert

Peter August 6, 2006 at 12:16 am

Student: what do you think is so “interesting” about Friedman’s misunderstanding of Hoppe?

Paul Edwards August 6, 2006 at 1:56 am

Stephan,

“the logical-deductive approach of Hoppe that is compatible with, if not a type of, praxeology.”

Hoppe’s argumentation ethics always struck me from the start to be a completely praxeologically based thesis. Argumentation is an action, and the entire argument seems to me to be founded in the necessary and praxeological implications of the act of arguing. It seems to me that ethics sits right beside economics as another field of praxeology. Ethics, the moral justification of assigning scarce resources, and economics, the science of understanding how men utilize scarce resources to maximize wealth production both seem to me to fall under the umbrella of praxeology.

It seems as if you almost see it this way, but not quite, but if not quite, what am I missing?

Student August 6, 2006 at 2:34 am

Peter,

What did Friedman misunderstand? Given Hoppe’s restatement at the end of the argument, Friedman seems dead on.

The only point Hoppe halfway addresses is Friedman’s last and smallest point (that Hoppe’s argument seems to imply that no one has ever ben able to argue philosophy since there’s never been a libertarian society).

Hoppe, totally ignores Friedman’s more imporant argument–that Hoppe’s argument rests on n two false premices. What did Friedman not get?

Paul Edwards August 6, 2006 at 2:37 am

Student,

What i find very interesting about all criticisms of Hoppe’s argumentation ethics including Friedman’s, is that they carry with them a single consistent theme: an inability to accurately articulate Hoppe’s thesis as a starting point from which to launch their criticism.

This just strikes me as very odd. What i would like to see is someone who can state the argument up front, without butchering the argument, and then proceed to defeat it fair and square. So far, all i can see are arguments that defeat pretty obvious misunderstandings of it.

The thing that compounds the strangeness of this is that it is also sometimes libertarians and Austrians doing this. I could understand this situation for non-libertarians and non-Austrians such as Friedman, as they are not used to dealing with the rigor of praxeological arguments. But Austrians should be able to keep up with the argument at least long enough to be able to re-state it properly.

iceberg August 6, 2006 at 8:26 am

In Mises’s “Theory and History”, he wrote several times throughout the book that economics is just one subset of praxeology, although I do not recall him mentioning other examples of possible subsets.

Stephan Kinsella August 6, 2006 at 9:36 am

Paul, “Hoppe’s argumentation ethics always struck me from the start to be a completely praxeologically based thesis. Argumentation is an action, and the entire argument seems to me to be founded in the necessary and praxeological implications of the act of arguing. It seems to me that ethics sits right beside economics as another field of praxeology. Ethics, the moral justification of assigning scarce resources, and economics, the science of understanding how men utilize scarce resources to maximize wealth production both seem to me to fall under the umbrella of praxeology.

It seems as if you almost see it this way, but not quite, but if not quite, what am I missing?”

I tend to think you are right. I think it’s sort of a semantic issue, plus a classification issue. As far as I can tell, you are right. But I think a more precise investigation into the proper definition for, and understanding of, praxeology, would be helpful; plus an understanding of its place within philosophy.

For example, how do you classify the endeavor of studying praxeology itself–of knowing whether a given field *is* praxeology? is this meta-praxeology? Etc.

Student August 6, 2006 at 10:25 am

Paul Edwards,

But how did Friedman mis-state Hoppe’s argument? That is exactly how I would have frammed the debate, given my understanding (or misunderstanding?) of Hoppe.

Help set Freidman and I straight. How would you state Hoppe’s argument?

Walt D. August 6, 2006 at 3:21 pm

Stephan

Why does argumentation imply the employment of scarce means? What is the essential difference between “Intellectual Property”, which we contend as an idea, is neither scarce nor property, and argumentation, which we contend is scarce and is property?

Stephan Kinsella August 6, 2006 at 3:39 pm

Walt: Read Hoppe on this. He explains it. Argumentation is an activity that occurs between two or more indivuals. It is a type of action and as such necessarily involves the use of one’s body, as well as various scarce means. Intellectual property essentially tries to grant property rights in information–knowledge, patterns.

Paul Edwards August 7, 2006 at 3:00 am

Student,

I wrote a small answer to Friedman’s argument here a while ago:

http://blog.mises.org/archives/004745.asp

which you can find if you search on this string: “If belief in a proposition is inconsistent”.

However, I think it would be more productive and interesting to you to read Hoppe’s many explications of his thesis and also Stephan Kinsella’s response “Defending Argumentation Ethics: Reply to Murphy & Callahan” at

http://www.anti-state.com/article.php?article_id=312

to get a better fundamental understanding of Hoppe’s argument. From my perspective, the root of the issue seems to be this: what is the essence of the argument? What is the purpose of the argument, and given this purpose, what are the necessary and essential presuppositions of argumentation? The purpose of argumentation, especially in proposing ethical norms, is to arrive at universalizable “golden rule” conclusions of which any person can in principle agree with based on the soundness of the argument alone: that is without the need for the threat of force to extract agreement. Secondly, or further, or therefore, it presupposes the conflict free use of scarce resources in one’s own body to make the argument and to evaluate the other person’s counterargument without physical conflict. It therefore presupposes self-ownership and homesteading of scarce resources because all those who use their own bodies to make argument presume to have the right to exclusive use and control of their body and homesteaded resources as only the principles of self ownership and homesteading allows for the conflict free, civilized cooperation presupposed in the act of argumentation.

Presupposing conflict free use of scarce resources in argument, such as one’s self and other homesteaded resources and contractually acquired resources, is another way to say such assumptions are a logical necessity to render the argument meaningful. However, it does not mean that meaningless, or incoherent or self contradictory or internally inconsistent, or unjustifiable arguments, situations and states of affairs cannot arise in reality. It merely means that such situations, if they do arise, are not justifiable. So for instance, Hoppe does not set out to prove that a slave cannot argue. He sets out to show that the praxeological implication of argumentation is that participants in the argument must and do presuppose conflict free interaction, and therefore a right to exclusive control over their own bodies and also over the resources that they homestead and acquire contractually.

Those who object to Hoppe’s thesis tend to think he is saying what we all know to be untrue: that liberty must emerge from the fact that we can argue. He is not saying this. What he is saying is that the argument merely presupposes liberty and the argument justifies only liberty. It does not make it the default state of affairs obviously.

Franklin Harris August 9, 2006 at 1:55 pm

I shall be interested to see Hoppe’s response to Murphy and Callahan’s paper in the new JLS (http://mises.org/journals/jls/20_2/20_2_3.pdf), as they seem to restate Hoppe’s argument accurately and, successfully I think, point out severe flaws in it, concluding that it fails on its own terms. (E.g., argumentation doesn’t prove self-ownership. No one needs two kidneys to argue.) I believe a praxeological approach to ethics may still be possible, but I suspect it lies in going back to examining action as a whole and not simply one form of action (i.e., argumentation).

Stephan Kinsella August 9, 2006 at 2:07 pm

Franklin, I don’t think H will reply, and I have already done a reply to an earlier version of the same paper, as mentioned by Edwards above.

Franklin Harris August 9, 2006 at 2:17 pm

Stephan, and, of course, I turned up your response just seconds ago. I need to pre-Google these things.

jeffrey August 9, 2006 at 2:32 pm

Right, I doubt Hoppe will reply. His replies to some of the same criticisms are already published in his new book on property.

JIMB September 21, 2006 at 11:26 am

Perhaps. But Hoppe’s argument sounds deficient — one cannot go from a physical reality (control of one’s body) to a universal ethic.

1 – I control my body (unarguable)
2 – I can act (unarguable)
3 – Others have the same characteristics (unarguable)
4 – I am can act but cannot pass the point where I infringe on the non-consentual control of another’s body

Hmmm. I see communism fall right out of this … not to mention #4 doesn’t follow from #3.

Paul Edwards February 16, 2007 at 10:38 pm

As i mentioned earlier in this thread: it is unusual indeed for someone who disputes Hoppe’s A-E to be capable of accurately stating it.

Bogdan April 8, 2007 at 10:33 am

I appreciate Hoppe’s ethics, but I think most people – like Stepahn Kinsella, for example – just don’t want to see, besides the very original approach, its serious limitations.

Hoppe does not – and cannot – resolve the is-ought dichotomy. Control over one’s body, voice included, does not entail legitimate property. The slave can argue but he is still a slave. Legitimate ownership is a normative matter.

Also, the fact that one argues simply entails that he owns his voice, his body – but you cannot derive, by the laws of logic, ownership of land and external factors, all that the homesteading principle implies. The jump is from statement A (I argue, therefore I own my body) to statement B (because I own my body, I have a right to homestead property)is, tough common sense, logically fallacious if considered from a purely formal logic point of view.

P.S. Hoppe is dead wrong when he thinks government restrictions on immigration is legitimate or beneficial and Block’s critic is spot-on. I may be a cultural conservative, but as a libertarian I don’t care about any conservative-statist agenda, even if it comes from Hoppe or Lew Rockwell.

Geoffrey Allan Plauche December 21, 2007 at 1:29 pm

“The jump is from statement A (I argue, therefore I own my body) to statement B (because I own my body, I have a right to homestead property)is, tough common sense, logically fallacious if considered from a purely formal logic point of view.”

Actually, the non sequitur jump is from “I argue” to “therefore I own my body.” That doesn’t follow. What would follow from “I argue” is “I control my body.” You can’t deduce an ought (“I own my body.”) from that is without a teleological ethics and some additional premises.

Regarding Kotarbinski, a while back I looked over some of his work that is in English, including one chapter on the praxeology of war, and didn’t find his brand of praxeology similar to the Austrian type. It looked more like ontology, describing phenomenalogically the concepts and strategies, etc., but not really uncovering any causal laws. I don’t think his main work on the praxeology of war, cited by Mises, is in English though, so I can’t speak to that.

Paul Edwards February 1, 2008 at 5:15 pm

“Hoppe does not – and cannot – resolve the is-ought dichotomy. Control over one’s body, voice included, does not entail legitimate property.”

The arguer, especially the arguer who argues about normative issues and property rights issues, must at the very least presuppose a right to engage in such discourse. It makes no logical sense to presume to put forward arguments about what one is right and not right in doing, without at the very least implying a right to put forward such arguments. This applies to all who participate in argumentation.

But this also implies further rights: a presumed right to be alive, a right to exclusive control over one’s body, a right to appropriate for consumption what one can without violating another’s rights. Each arguer, to participate in argumentation, must logically suppose these rights.

“The slave can argue but he is still a slave. Legitimate ownership is a normative matter.”

But there are logical norms of argumentation independent of other facts of life. While engaged in truth seeking argumentation, even the slave must presuppose self-ownership – logically. The question of his status wrt to society and the “law”, is not relevant. The issue is logic. What must logically be presumed for the argument to take place? The answer is summed up in the libertarian ethic.

“Also, the fact that one argues simply entails that he owns his voice, his body – but you cannot derive, by the laws of logic, ownership of land and external factors, all that the homesteading principle implies.”

But there is more implied in argumentation than cooperative truth seeking between two independent actors. There is the question of survival, and the fact that scarce resources are required for this and that they must be exclusively controlled and consumed by particular actors. And furthermore, argumentation implies a right to this. And yet argumentation implies all of this done in a conflict free manner.

Therefore, it is simply a fact that ownership, not only of one’s own person, but of other scarce resources, is implied in argumentation. And the only conflict free methods of obtaining ownership in such property is appropriation via homesteading and cooperative contracting with other homesteading property owners.

“The jump is from statement A (I argue, therefore I own my body) to statement B (because I own my body, I have a right to homestead property)is, tough common sense, logically fallacious if considered from a purely formal logic point of view.”

So to sum up, the jumps are:
1. I argue. therefore
2. i presume the right to argue. therefore
3. i presume the right to exclusive control of myself but also
4. i presume the right to be alive and also
5. i presume a conflict free cooperative existence (during argumentation)
6. i can propose no actions contrary to the presuppositions, therefore
7. i must presume a right to homestead and own property and
8. i must presume a right to voluntarily contract with other homesteading and contracting property owners.
9. all propositions in contradiction to the above must logically be ruled out.

Paul Edwards February 25, 2008 at 1:21 am

“P.S. Hoppe is dead wrong when he thinks government restrictions on immigration is legitimate or beneficial and Block’s critic is spot-on. I may be a cultural conservative, but as a libertarian I don’t care about any conservative-statist agenda, even if it comes from Hoppe or Lew Rockwell.”

This quotation from Hoppe’s “The Economics and Ethics of Private Property” p71, should do something to underscore that Hoppe’s views on immigration are often misunderstood.

“Each new period of peace means a higher level of governmental interference as compared with the previous one: internally in the form of increased restrictions on the range of choices that private property owners are allowed to make regarding their own property; and externally, as regards foreign relations, in the form of higher trade barriers and of increasingly severe restrictions on population movements (most notably on immigration and emigration). Not the least because it is based on increased discrimination against foreigners and foreign trade, any such peace contains the increased risk of the next international conflict, or pressures the affected governments into negotiating bi- or multilateral interstate-agreements aimed at cartelizing their respective power structures and thereby jointly exploiting and expropriating each other’s populations.*

* FN:
“The most vicious of such agreements is very likely that of restricting entry for non-criminal persons wanting to immigrate into a given territory — and the chance for those living in this territory to offer employment to them — and of extraditing them back to their home countries.”

Adrian Brenes October 25, 2009 at 3:02 pm

I recently gained access to Arnold Kaufmann’s The Science of Decision-making: an introduction to praxeology, a work originally written in French which in page 10 atributes the term “praxeology” to Kotarbinski. Since the book is available through Amazon, maybe it can be an easy way to know more about the Kotarbinskian tradition.

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