Can we capture the error of “scientism” in a single reminder? Let’s give it a try. Here’s the reminder: the error of “scientism” arises when a scientist practices “explanation” by the elimination or the forgetting of non-eliminable components of the problem which gave rise to the theoretical constructions of his discipline. Famous examples are: (1) in biology when population biologists mistake their mathematical constructions and circular definitions for physical systems in the real world — and eliminate or forget the humanly observed teleological forms that give rise to the problem of adapation in the context of the origin of species; (2) in economics when mathematical economists mistake their general equilibrium and “perfect competition” constructs for the market process in the real world — and eliminate or forget the imperfect re-ordering of plans and undesigned dove-tailing of purposes which give us the problem of the global division of labor; and (3) in philosophy when logicians mistake their conceptual constructs and logical models for language, the mind, science, morality, or the world itself — and eliminate or forget the shared goings on together and the world-self-community interactions that give rise to conceptual significance and the shared structures of language necessary to formally cast the most vexed puzzles of language and logic, mathematics and self — and every special domains of human inquiry.
My argument with Hulsmann concerns Ludwig Mises’ “greatest lifetime achievement”. I believe Mises’ greatest achievement is to help us overcome a ready bewitchment with our conceptual constructions. And Mises does this by following Menger back to thinking about how an individual ordering his affairs in a changing world can help us address real world problems of undesigned interpersonal coordination. An example is Mises’ work on money. Mises follows Menger back to the most basic problem in all of monetary economics — the problem of the origin of money itself. And what Mises essentially says is that it is a mistake to eliminate or forget this problem, and the relation of this problem to its solution.