You mentioned you taught at Caltech? I went there as an undergrad (MIT for grad school), so I assure you I understand the underlying technical mathematics of modern physics. These are irrelevant to Hoppe’s point, which I’m afraid you didn’t grasp (perhaps you are relying on my rather sketchy synopsis, rather than Hoppe’s original writings?).

]]>The claim that engineering and even measurement itself presuppose Euclidean geometry is false. The meter is defined in terms of light travel time (a meter is the distance light travels in vacuum in 1/299792458 s), with no reference to rigid bodies or any other Euclidean constructs. And an engineered system many of us use every day depends crucially on non-Euclidean effects: without the time dilation corrections from special and general relativity, the Global Positioning System would be useless within a day. (For more information on these and related issues, I recommend *Spacetime Physics* by Taylor & Wheeler.)

There is no fundamental barrier to economists doing physics, but without training they will be as bad at physics as the typical physicist is at economics—and, having seen many physicists try to do economics, I can testify that that is very bad indeed.

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As for **geometry and ****optics**, it seems Palmer did not hear Hoppe clearly. I do not believe he stated "that Ludwig von Mises had laid the foundation not

only for economics, but for ethics, geometry, and optics". Rather, as shown in On Praxeology and the Praxeological Foundation of Epistemology (text at notes 60-62, and note 62; from Economic Science and the Austrian Method)), which references Lorenzen, Dingler, Karnbartel, et al., regarding an entire body of "protophysics" –

Further, the old rationalist claims that geometry, that is, Euclidean

geometry is a priori and yet incorporates empirical knowledge about

space becomes supported, too, in view of our insight into the

praxeological constraints on knowledge. Since the discovery of

non-Euclidean geometries and in particular since Einstein’s

relativistic theory of gravitation, the prevailing position regarding

geometry is once again empiricist and formalist. It conceives of

geometry as either being part of empirical, aposteriori physics, or as

being empirically meaningless formalisms. Yet that geometry is either

mere play, or forever subject to empirical testing seems to be

irreconcilable with the fact that Euclidean geometry is the foundation

of engineering and construction, and that nobody there ever thinks of

such propositions as only hypothetically true. [61]

Recognizing knowledge as praxeologically constrained explains why the

empiricist-formalist view is incorrect and why the empirical success of

Euclidean geometry is no mere accident. Spatial knowledge is also

included in the meaning of action. Action is the employment of a

physical body in space. Without acting there could be no knowledge of

spatial relations, and no measurement. Measuring is relating something

to a standard. Without standards, there is no measurement; and there is

no measurement, then, which could ever falsify the standard. Evidently,

the ultimate standard must be provided by the norms underlying the

construction of bodily movements in space and the construction of

measurement instruments by means of one’s body and in accordance with

the principles of spatial constructions embodied in it. Euclidean

geometry, as again Paul Lorenzen in particular has explained, is no

more and no less than the reconstruction of the ideal norms underlying

our construction of such homogeneous basic forms as points, lines,

planes and distances, which are in a more or less perfect but always

perfectible way incorporated or realized in even our most primitive

instruments of spatial measurements such as a measuring rod. Naturally,

these norms and normative implications cannot be falsified by the

result of any empirical measurement. On the contrary, their cognitive

validity is substantiated by the fact that it is they which make

physical measurements in space possible. Any actual measurement must

already presuppose the validity of the norms leading to the

construction of one’s measurement standards. It is in this sense that

geometry is an a priori science; and that it must simultaneously be

regarded as an empirically meaningful discipline, because it is not

only the very precondition for any empirical spatial description, it is

also the precondition for any active orientation in space. [62]

62. On the aprioristic character of Euclidean geometry see Lorenzen, Methodisches Denhen, chapters 8 and 9; idem, Normative Logic and Ethics, chapter 5; H. Dingler, Die Grundlagen der Geometrie (Stuttgart: Enke, 1933); on Euclidean geometry as a necessary presupposition of objective, i.e., intersubjectively communicable, measurements and in particular of any empirical verification of non-Euclidean geometries (after all, the lenses of the telescopes which one uses to confirm Einstein’s theory regarding the non-Euclidean structure of physical space must themselves be constructed according to Euclidean principles) see Karnbartel, Erfahrung und Struktur, pp. 132-33; P. Janich, Die Protophysik der Zeit (Mannheim: Bibliographisches Institut, 1969), pp. 45-50; idem, "Eindeutigkeit, Konsistenz und methodische Ordnung," in F. Karnbartel and J. Mittelstrass, eds., Zum normativen Fundament der Wissenschaft.

Following the lead of Hugo Dingler, Paul Lorenzen and other members of the so-called Erlangen school have worked out a system of protophysics , which contains all aprioristic presuppositions of empiriical physics, including, apart from geometry, also chronometry and hytometry (i.e., classical mechanics without gravitation, or "rational" mechanics). "Geometry, chronometry and hytometry are a-priori theories which make empirical measurements of space, time and materia ‘possible’.They have to be established before physics in the modern sense of fields of forces, can begin. Therefore, I should like to call these disciplines by a common name: protophysics." Lorenzen, Normative Logic and Ethics, p. 60.

So Palmer is wrong. Hoppe did not claim Mises "laid the foundation not only for economics, but for ethics, geometry, and optics"; and does Palmer want to relegate to the dustheep in a wave of the hand thinkers like Lorenzen et al.?! This is a standard branch of apriori reasoning. Palmer may not agree with it, but so what?

]]>Unfortunately my books are all in boxes (I’m in the middle of a move), but Hoppe’s critique is essentially, if one necessarily presupposes the validity of concepts like causality or Euclidean geometry, then it cannot be said that fields of modern physics (which also presuppose these concepts) have falsified them (as one often hears said of quantum mechanics and general relativity).

Stephan, can you dig up any quotes?

]]>I agree with Beckmann that coal poses health threats (in mining, transporting, burning and sludge disposal) magnitudes greater than does nuclear. While enviro opposition to nuclear has had regrettable consequences, such opposition is understandable given the close intertwining of the nuclear power business with the state – which continues to provide caps on liability, and damages the industry by preventing preporcessing and interfering in waste disposal.

As for Dr. Robinson, he is worthy of note chiefly in his role in providing the vehicle for a deliberately deceptive petition project regarding climate change:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oregon_Petition

A bit off topic, but I’m curious as to your thoughts on Hoppe’s criticisms of general relativity and quantum mechanics (admittedly from a philosophical/foundational basis, as opposed to a mathematical/technical basis).

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