01 Dec 2013

Respecting Sacred Cows

Religious 817 Comments

There is a strain of libertarians who revel in their atheism, such that they actively go out of their way to offend theists. They might explain their consistency along the lines of, “I respect no rulers or gods.” Or they might say, “At this blog (Facebook page etc.), there are no sacred cows.”

That has never been my approach, even when I was an atheist. When my Jewish neighbors invited me over for a meal that had religious overtones, I was constantly asking (discreetly) things like, “Is it OK for me to drink that?” to make sure I didn’t unintentionally offend their guests.

Even taking the metaphor literally, if I were in a group of devout Hindus, I would do my best not to disrespect cows in front of them.

People might respond to the above by saying, “But you need to confront error wherever you find it!” OK, but I don’t think insulting people is the way to change their minds. I have literally had agnostics email me and say words to the effect, “I don’t believe in God, but the Sunday comments at your blog are so obnoxious when atheists gang up on you, it almost makes me.”

817 Responses to “Respecting Sacred Cows”

  1. Bob Roddis says:

    I’ve always had a problem in not wanting to criticize other libertarians. I’ve been working on that. One of the dumbest attributes of libertarians (IMHO) has been to alienate religious people who could/should be drawn to living in private, voluntary religious neighborhoods with private, voluntary religious schools. Obviously, all such areas would have the right to include or exclude anyone for whatever reason.

    Most libertarians apparently hate religious people (especially Christians) so much that they will not even approach them to explain how they and their children might live their lives free of druggies, thugs and popular culture. What else explains why libertarians have never welcomed the advent of drug testing which would allow private screening for drugs in lieu of the catastrophic drug war?

    Southern Christians should be very receptive to this vision but they think we want to impose a regime on them where they would live next door to meth cookers, the children of whom would go to public school with their kids. What a vision with which to sell the public. (I’ve heard pollsters suggest that this was the main reason why Ron Paul made little headway among southern voters).

    Rothbard:

    Libertarianism holds that the ONLY proper role of violence is to defend person and property AGAINST violence, that any use of violence that goes beyond such just defense is itself aggressive, unjust, and criminal. Libertarianism, therefore, is a theory which states that everyone should be free of violent invasion, should he free to do as he sees fit except invade the person or property of another. What a person DOES with his or her life is vital and important, but is simply irrelevant to libertarianism. [emphasis in the original]

    http://archive.lewrockwell.com/rothbard/rothbard12.html

    BTW, I’m not about to start arguing religion online.

    • Samson Corwell says:

      Obviously, all such areas would have the right to include or exclude anyone for whatever reason.

      This is always struck me as the paradox of libertarianism.

      • Major_Freedom says:

        It’s actually not a paradox for the individual to practise protecting his property rights, in a libertarian world.

        Libertarianism doesn’t mean you can just walk into someone’s house and eat their food or sleep in their bed. That’s actually an anti-libertarian activity, for such an activity would be a violation of the liberty of the homeowner. Attacking someone’s means of life is an attack on their bodily health.

        • Samson Corwell says:

          Yeah, sure. “Property rights.” That answer flies like a brick.

          • Joseph Fetz says:

            As if nobody has some conception of property rights? Please …

            • Ken B says:

              Thats precisely the problem Joe. Everyone has an idea and they aren’t all thebsame. So just saying “no problem property rights handles it” wont work.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                You’re right. We should promote those who think protecting one’s property rights means to declare everything theirs, and that using guns to take possession of goods produced by others is a defense against anyone who thinks otherwise.

                We have to continue “the debate” or else we’ll know definitively who is full of it and who isn’t.

          • Major_Freedom says:

            I guess you would have no problems with people throwing bricks through the window of what you ignorantly believe is your home.

      • Bob Roddis says:

        Why is avoiding people such a problem but bossing them around with SWAT teams and locking them up in cages for years on end just fine?

        • Samson Corwell says:

          Um, strawman. It doesn’t have to do with a problem with “avoiding people”. My point is that it changes nothing and instead makes everything a case of “voting with one’s feet”. It just props up a new state.

          • Bob Roddis says:

            I have no idea what that means. No one is forced to live in an enclave. However, others may not use violence or the threat of violence to stop you from living in an enclave if that’s what floats your boat.

            The laws protecting property, person and contract rights already exist and are generally understood. I’m still waiting for the empirical evidence to support the allegation that they fail.

            http://consultingbyrpm.com/blog/2013/11/potpourri-171.html#comment-90836

            • Samson Corwell says:

              Um, I’m not sure what markets have to do with this.

              • Bob Roddis says:

                And that’s a weird way to frame it.

                It’s unclear why describing criminal and tortious actions pursuant to the well known legal terms for those actions is “a weird way to frame it”.

                What you guys call private communities that are like the size of cities are de facto states.

                If there is no violation of rights, there is no “state”. There would be voluntary governance instead. I would call it a voluntary community.

                Um, I’m not sure what markets have to do with this.

                When people respect each other’s property and person and engage in voluntary transactions, that is the market. I maintain that this system does not fail in the manner claimed by Keynesians and progressives and does not require “intervention” as described here:

                http://consultingbyrpm.com/blog/2013/11/potpourri-171.html#comment-91928

                More to the point, it makes one’s rights a function of location, something I profoundly disagree with.

                The non-aggression principle and prohibition on fraud are universal. Putting these lifestyle choices up for a majority rule votes implies that they are proper subject for such a vote (which can go either and/or many ways) which often leads to ethnic and religious strife and ethnic cleansing.

                Are you actually curious or do you just want to obfuscate easily understood concepts and forms of analysis?

              • Samson Corwell says:

                If there is no violation of rights, there is no “state”. Tthere would be volutary goverance instead. I would call it a voluntary community instead.

                Gobbledygook. I think you have an incredibly idiosycratic definition of states and a mistaken conception of constitutes politics.

                The Fourteenth Amendment in combination with Supreme Court jurisprudence bars local communities from abridging rights found in the Bill of Rights and I’ll be damned if I allow “libertarians” to muck it up.

                When people respect each other’s property and person, and engage in voluntary transactions, that is the market. I maintain that this system does not fail in the manner claimed by Keynesians and progressives[…]

                Once again, I don’t see how what I’m talking about has to do with markets or even economics. I’m talking about law and rights.

              • Ken B says:

                You should know Samson that you’re in a group of people here many of whom despise the 14th amendment.

              • Bob Roddis says:

                Samson Corwell:

                I think I was clear enough already. I do not have the energy to attempt undoing your attempt at obscurantism.

                BTW, what 14th Amendment rights are I insisting that you give up?

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Samson:

                To clarify, markets are systems of voluntary exchanges, agreed?

                Voluntary exchanges implies private property, agreed?

                Private property is the foundation of markets. You can’t have markets if the state owns and controls everything.

                Please note that independent communes, consisting of a group of voluntarily participating individuals who agree to joint ownership, is a private property scenario, for the ownership of the commune necessarily excludes, in terms of control rights, those individuals who are not a member of that commune.

                If in a particular privater property society, A aggresses against B, and violates what you call “The Bill of Rights”, then while the victim would have every right to defend themselves and seek restitution, while the aggressor is in the wrong, while it is permissible for A to seek protection against B’s aggression, what is NOT true is the notion that it is justified to aggress against C, or a D, to take their property or violate their rights, so that A can be protected. That’s where states fail. In order for states to protect A against B, the state has to violate C and create a new victim. Stealing money from people in California, to pay for police in New York, is a violation of rights against those in California.

                I’ll watch as your head explodes trying to cobble together a solution that doesn’t create new victims of aggression in the process.

              • Ken B says:

                Samson, major freedoms solution is private gangs of thugs for hire. If you can afford to hire to hire a private gang to enforce justice you may have justice. This spares that poor Californian.

              • Samson Corwell says:

                nugatory

                Had to look that one up.

                Yeah, I’ve been wracking my brain over analyzing the proposition.

              • Samson Corwell says:

                Oops. I should’ve posted that one in the next branch down.

              • Samson Corwell says:

                Major_Freedom, the question isn’t one of aggression. It’s about whether or not it’s justified.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Corwell:

                Aggression against those who do not initiate it, is unjustified.

                Protecting private property against invaders, trespassers, and robbers, is justified.

                Is this too difficult?

            • Ken B says:

              Bob Roddis believes in my right to buy a 1 inch circular strip of land around his property and refuse him or anyone else to access that 1 inch strip. You decide if that forces him to live in an enclave.

              • Samson Corwell says:

                Rothbardian libertarianism presents such a strange view of property. It’s so incredibly narrow in focus, too.

              • Ken B says:

                Even worse it treats other rights as property and therefore fungible with property. They see no in type distinction between your right to speech or your right to a free trial and my right to own a tree and then track of land which I never visit. Property rights can be abridged by different processes of these other rights. I can win a civil suit by preponderance of the evidence. Making the right to a fair trial a property right suggests that I sue you for aand win. The whole thing makes no sense. It’s one of the besetting sins of the Rothbard approach.

              • Bob Roddis says:

                That’s a lie, Ken B. The common law would grant to an easement for ingress and egress.

                The purpose of the NAP is not trivial.

                http://www.flickr.com/photos/bob_roddis/8525140770/

              • Ken B says:

                I agree the common-law would Bob. But the NAP would not, as interpreted by the Rothbard crew. Look you have a dilemma here. You treat all rights as property rights including the right to a fair trial and the right not to be raped. So if you are going to grant easements against property rights why are you not granting them against these rights? Either you consider them different rights qualitatively, which case describing them as property rights is pointless and misleading, or you do not. If you do not and you must grant easements against all or none.

                Common-law is flatly incompatible with Rothbard’s ideas.

              • Ken B says:

                I want to emphasize this point. Some of us think that property rights principally a social convention, useful and valuable but not the same thing as the right to free speech the right to free trial right to safety and your own person. The Rothbard crew disagrees and in so doing degrades all these other rights. It is no answer to say that oh there are degrees of property right and we put those in a higher degree of property right and tree ownership in a lower degree of property right, for the word property has become nugatory.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Ken B you’re highly confused. The right to free speech is subsumed under private property rights. You can say anything you want on your own land, but you cannot yell fire in a crowded movie theatre that is owned by someone else if they did not grant you the permission to say such a thing. You can kick people out of your house for swearing at your wife, but you can’t kick your neighbor out of his own house for swearing.

                The right to own a tree is subsumed under the original appropriation principle, the foundation of land property rights.

                The right to a fair trial is subsumed under the private property rights of both the plaintiff and the defendent. Committing fraud against the defendent is a violation of their property rights.

                There is no “dilemma”. You’re making a mountain out of a mirror.

              • Bob Roddis says:

                Ken B:

                The NAP is a bare bones minimum to prevent murder, assault, rape, pillage, genocide etc… You know, the problems that have always afflicted mankind as opposed to a “lack of aggregate demand”. Once safe from those serious problem, they can and will then draft whatever voluntary rules they prefer. I just cited Rothbard on that issue:

                http://consultingbyrpm.com/blog/2013/12/respecting-sacred-cows.html#comment-93019

              • Major_Freedom says:

                You are very much entitled to that right. But that doesn’t mean you can succeed in doing this in every situation. If private property law reigns, do you actually think people would be stupid enough NOT to enter into agreements whereby local neighbors agree to certain rules of conduct, including rights of sale of land that would prevent such a thing from occurring?

                At any rate, governments coerce others into this situation and yet you are not crying foul at all. Lesotho for example is completely surrounded by South Africa. If the S. African government decided to put up a blockade, preventing all goods and all travel in and out of the country, then who would help the Lesothoans? Can we count on you to commit to the moral code you’re claiming is consistent with libertarianism?

                You would very much have a right to seek recompense for Roddis violating your one inch strip of land. How is that an argument against a private property society?

              • Ken B says:

                Bob Roddis meet major freedom. Major freedom, Bob Roddis.

              • Samson Corwell says:

                Even worse it treats other rights as property and therefore fungible with property. They see no in type distinction between your right to speech or your right to a free trial and my right to own a tree and then track of land which I never visit. Property rights can be abridged by different processes of these other rights. I can win a civil suit by preponderance of the evidence. Making the right to a fair trial a property right suggests that I sue you for aand win. The whole thing makes no sense. It’s one of the besetting sins of the Rothbard approach.

                The idea has even made its way across the pond to someone with a positively authoritarian worldview. I can’t find a link right now, but it was about some Czechoslovakian paleoconservative who was appointed chair of that country’s human rights commission or something like that. (Though I don’t think this immediately makes property rights authoritarian.)

                Anyway, Rothbard’s proposition that all rights are property rights sort of make sense and sort of doesn’t. But on closer examination this creates a bigger mess than it tries to clean up and turns out to be almost unintelligible. There are several things that strike me about that I just can’t articulate. It sort of screwed up the way I see things. When I sit down and recall my views of rights before I ran into the proposition, however, my old view begins to return to me.

              • Samson Corwell says:

                Major_Freedom, when you say that social institutions are property rights, which I’ve seen you do on this site, then I think you lose credibility because that is definitely a category error.

              • Ken B says:

                Samson, You will find that the Rothbard crew never conceive of rights as mediating between persons. There is always an object or physical entity in the way. This is really rather mystical. Look into their ideas of homesteading for a clearly mystical idea.

              • Ken B says:

                “The idea has even made its way across the pond to someone with a positively authoritarian worldview.”

                Technically this is called a “full circle.”

              • Samson Corwell says:

                Samson, You will find that the Rothbard crew never conceive of rights as mediating between persons. There is always an object or physical entity in the way. This is really rather mystical. Look into their ideas of homesteading for a clearly mystical idea.

                Ayn Rand made exactly this point: Rights only make sense in a context of two or more people. This doesn’t mean that Edmund Burke’s idea about interwoven society or whatever stands, though.

                “The idea has even made its way across the pond to someone with a positively authoritarian worldview.”
                Technically this is called a “full circle.”

                Points for funny.

              • Bob Roddis says:

                Ken B:

                Bob Roddis meet major freedom. Major freedom, Bob Roddis.

                What’s your point? Actual damages vs. encirclement. Two different issues.

                I don’t recall Rothbard being an obsessive compulsive about de minimis violations of rights. Maybe you’ve found some evidence?

              • Samson Corwell says:

                On second thought, I’m not sure what you mean by “full circle”.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Corwell:

                “But on closer examination this creates a bigger mess than it tries to clean up and turns out to be almost unintelligible. There are several things that strike me about that I just can’t articulate.”

                Try telling a story about private property rights that you think comes close to showing something about such a world that irks you.

                “It sort of screwed up the way I see things. When I sit down and recall my views of rights before I ran into the proposition, however, my old view begins to return to me.”

                Old view instilled in you how? By whom?

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Corwell:

                “Major_Freedom, when you say that social institutions are property rights, which I’ve seen you do on this site, then I think you lose credibility because that is definitely a category error.”

                I said “social institutions are property rights”? I didn’t say that anywhere on this blog. I am losing credibility over something I didn’t even say. Cool.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                “Samson, You will find that the Rothbard crew never conceive of rights as mediating between persons. There is always an object or physical entity in the way.”

                That’s like Ken B. Humans need external objects to live and be happy. Human life is contingent. Objects are ALWAYS “in the way” as you put it.

                Private property rights are just how we should understand who has exclusive control over what objects, in order to prevent conflict and ultimately war.

                “This is really rather mystical. Look into their ideas of homesteading for a clearly mystical idea.”

                Homesteading is not a mystical concept.

              • Samson Corwell says:
              • Samson Corwell says:

                …in order to prevent conflict and ultimately war.

                Bollocks. You prevent war through negotiation, intimidation, or remaining allies with one’s others.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Corwell:

                “Bollocks. You prevent war through negotiation, intimidation, or remaining allies with one’s others.”

                That presupposes private property rights.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Corwell:

                “Check and mate, Major.”

                Huh? You said I said social institutions are private property rights.

                What I actually said is that social institutions require property rights.

          • Samson Corwell says:

            More to the point, it makes one’s rights a function of location, something I profoundly disagree with.

            • Bala says:

              It does not do what you claim it does. It only says that your rights do not include the freedom to violate another person’s rights. You cannot claim the freedom to violate another person’s right to his person or property.

              • Samson Corwell says:

                And that’s a weird way to frame it.

              • Samson Corwell says:

                And yeah, it most certainly does. What you guys call private communities that are like the size of cities are de facto states. There’s no way around it.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                They are not “de facto states” because each individual property owner in the city is 100% sovereign. They are not forced at gunpoint to pay protector B over anyone else.

            • Tel says:

              Isn’t that always the case with private property? If you leave your TV sitting in the street and someone takes it, that’s entirely different to the same guy taking the TV out of your lounge room.

              What’s the point of ever closing your front door unless you have a right of exclusion?

              • Samson Corwell says:

                You know very well that that is not what I mean. I do consider there to be a qualitative difference.

              • Tel says:

                I suggest you should be careful to choose where the qualitative difference starts to appear, and why exactly.

                How about a corporation that owns a building? Let’s say 100 shareholders jointly own the corporation and those shareholders decide between themselves to lock the front door of their building. Is that legitimate exclusion?

            • Ken B says:

              Do you believe that the 14th amendment applies in Peru?

              • Major_Freedom says:

                All laws die with their creators.

                The only laws that continue are those passed on through private exchanges. Homeowner A sells his house to B, who sells it to C, and any applicable laws contained in the contracts, are the only valid laws.

              • Samson Corwell says:

                No, I do not. I do believe, however, that most of the things it incorporates are things all countries should recognize. I’m not a believer in natural rights, though, and I think most rights talk has corrupted ethical discourse in our times.

              • Ken B says:

                Just checking. We have a lot of natural rights types around here too. And MF believes the 14th amendment doesn’t apply so there are some strange opinions floating around.

              • Samson Corwell says:

                The best way I can connect my notions of his worldview to a visual is to imagine many blocks so close together that they cannot move. Such is the danger of Platonic beliefs.

              • Samson Corwell says:

                Ken, I am sympathetic to the natural rights view, but most of the people I usually hear spouting it in this country are clowns marked by a complete ignorance of political theory or Supreme Court jurisprudence, so I consider the rhetoric to be poisoned.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Dead people’s laws don’t apply to the unborn, or to the living.

            • Major_Freedom says:

              No, it makes property rights a “function” of one’s actions. Yes, as an actor you are located where you are and no place else. That’s life.

      • knoxharrington says:

        Checkout the “Utopian Framework” offered by Nozick in Anarchy, State and Utopia. I’m not saying I agree with it but I think it offers one answer to your “paradox.”

        • Samson Corwell says:

          I’ve checked it out. It was a pretty interesting idea. But when it got around to homesteading an entire town, then it sort of dropped off at that point.

        • Samson Corwell says:

          Either way, legally, I don’t believe that towns founded in the manner he described would/should be able to set rules like that in America.

          • Major_Freedom says:

            The only way you can manifest your disagreement in action, as opposed to just complaining about it, would be for you to initiate force against those town founders.

            • Samson Corwell says:

              What the hell are you talking about? There are some times when if I disagree with someone all that you have available is violence.

            • Samson Corwell says:

              In other words, if the members of the wished to, say, string me up for saying the wrong thing and there was no convincing them to not do it or if they wished to torture me, then I’d be left with no choice but to violently defend myself and with extreme prejudice in some cases.

            • Ken B says:

              Complaint is action. Don’t you read Mises?

              • Tel says:

                But if you have no choice it is not action any more, it is merely the inevitable consequence of an earlier action by someone else.

    • Ken B says:

      “BTW, I’m not about to start arguing religion online.”

      I think you and Lord Keynes have been doing that since before I arrived on this blog.

  2. Bob Roddis says:

    This is consistent with my broad general approach to both libertarianism and Austrian Economics. I do not propose to tell you how to life or how to “set” your prices. And I’m not looking to renew the battle over the latter subject.

    • Bob Roddis says:

      Typos typos typos

      I do not propose to tell you how to LIVE…

  3. Keshav Srinivasan says:

    Bob, for the record, Hindus do view cows as sacred, but I don’t think that many Hindus would be offended if you insulted or joked about cows. The major thing is that we’re against killing them and thus beef.

    • Keshav Srinivasan says:

      That’s why the expression is “killing sacred cows”.

    • Ken B says:

      Are you a practicing Himdu Keshav, or a cultural one?

      • Keshav Srinivasan says:

        A practicing traditional Hindu.

  4. Z says:

    “I don’t believe in God, but the Sunday comments at your blog are so obnoxious when atheists gang up on you, it almost makes me.”

    I believe I sent you a message like this before. Not exactly, but just that I don’t particularly find atheists as people any more admirable than religious, and thus I refuse to join in the frenzy as to give the impression that I think being atheist actually makes you better.

    • Ken B says:

      We are usually responding to the implication belief makes one better. I concede MF said atheism made him better, but I don’t recall him saying it would make others better; it was a personal experience.

  5. Yancey Ward says:

    I am more or less an atheist (the truth is that I can’t rule out the possibility of a higher power), but I have usually found other atheists to be embarrassingly and insufferably arrogant.

  6. Ken B says:

    Just curious. Is going onto the web to argue that one’s own religion is true, or rational, or suported by the evidence, the same thing as inviting a neighbour over for a special dinner?

  7. Major_Freedom says:

    It’s easier to respect and demur to others when they are practising their religion, when you are a practising Christian yourself.

    Murphy, try thinking about how strongly you would go about respecting and demuring to the practises of statists. For example, you go to somebody’s house, and you try to “respect” their practise of stealing other people’s money, because you just happened to dine at an IRS agent’s house.

    The lack of enthusiasm in your average libertarian’s respecting statist beliefs and practises, is similar to the lack of enthusiasm in your average atheist’s respecting theist beliefs and practises.

    There is a deep resentment towards the other’s beliefs and practises. It isn’t just being mature and couthe. It’s about recoiling in anger and pathos for the ridiculous beliefs other people have that you think are destroying the world, to whatever positive degree.

    • RIchard Moss says:

      It’s easier to respect and demur to others when they are practising their religion, when you are a practising Christian yourself.

      So much for the common atheist line that religious disputes are the major cause of violence in the world…

      • Major_Freedom says:

        So much for easier being different from easy.

        • RIchard Moss says:

          Yes, but I think your notion that because Bob was a Christian it made easier for him to respect other religions did exert a certain tension on that common atheist line – one I am confident you adhere to.

          Anyway, I thought it more interesting than just pointing out the Bob explicitly said that he was respectful toward his religious neighbors despite him being an atheist at the time.

          Not to mention I think he is civil toward critics that you would call ‘statists’, so I didn’t get why he should think it is so hard for other libertarians to behave the same way towards them.

          • Major_Freedom says:

            I don’t think it’s so hard. Where did I imply that? All I said was that it is easier vis a vis atheists versus theists. Easier does not mean easy, nor does it mean hard.

      • Ken B says:

        There’s an error here. It’s easier to defer to the notion that you should have faith and that you should toss rationality and evidence out the window. You can do that whilst still having excessive devotion to your own faith. So there is in fact no conflict here.

        It is practically open season on Christians in Egypt these days, yet Christians and Muslims are cooperating throughout much of the world to try to enforce blasphemy laws. We see here both sides of the coin.

        • Ken B says:

          Wow, Siri can be very disturbing. I made a comment here, perfectly innocent, and when I read what Siri had done to it, I had the distinct feeling that a perverted sctological God moves through Siri, his wonders to perform.

        • RIchard Moss says:

          Ken B.

          There’s an error here. It’s easier to defer to the notion that you should have faith …

          All I read MF say was that it is easier for one to respect and demure to the practice of other religions because Bob was a Christian (religious).

          I didn’t read that as saying it is easier to see why others should have faith, but not necessarily respect that faith because if you’re religious reason and evidence tend to go out the window.

          If that is what he meant then I am not sure why he should have thought Bob the Christian would have an easier time when it came to respecting the practice of another religion.

          • RIchard Moss says:

            2nd paragraph should be “All I read MF say was that it is easier for him…”

          • Ken B says:

            You said that the phenomenon mf postulated refuted the idea that religion lies at the heart of most of the world’s violent struggles. That’s not so. They might simply hate atheists more than each other. Again look at the attempts around the world to criminalize blasphemy.

            • Major_Freedom says:

              “That’s not so. They might simply hate atheists more than each other.”

              I am inclined to agree with that. A radical Christian or radical Muslim who inquires into someone’s beliefs, and are told “I don’t believe in God” instead of “I do believe in God” would likely have more animosity and contempt than if that same person said “I believe in Yahweh” (to the radical Muslim or “I believe in Allah” (to the radical Christian) instead of “I believe in Zeus”.

              Note that I am very much conscious of tip toeing towards a “persecution complex” to make one’s point. I think I am avoiding it.

              • Ken B says:

                Well, we live in North America, and move in educated circles, where actually it’s Christians who are somewhat under siege intellectually at least.
                This is partly of course because Christians don’t blow things up when you criticize them.
                I do expect that to change. Our society is creating perverse incentives based on the way we treat some particular religious groups. The lessons will be learned.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                I doubt that. If by “siege” we mean domination, control, and coercion, then the government, which is predominantly Christian in its activity, are laying siege on secular life. Atheists are getting caught in the cross-fire of another Crusades.

                If you mean an intellectual siege, then that battle was already won a long time ago.

              • Ken B says:

                I mean intellectual, status, mockery, the sort of thing Bob complains about. He’s complained in the past about being dissed as a Christian. I think he’s right. I don’t mean legally. Quite the reverse as I mentioned above there’s a push to enforce blasphemy laws. It’s even worse with criticism of Islam.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                In a world of legal persecution of atheism, I think atheists are justified in fighting back at least intellectually, which makes it appear as though Christians are being unfairly attacked.

                If instead we lived in a “legally” atheist world, and Christians were being physically harassed and harmed, then I would not feel justified in claiming there is an intellectual persecution of atheism at the behest of Christians. I would think Christians were the underdogs, who should be encouraged, not discouraged.

            • razer says:

              There is truth to this. Atheists are the common enemy to theists of all stripes. Once we’re dealt with they turn on each other.

              • Tel says:

                The “Progressive” movement seems to be trying to hold together an alliance of feminists, homosexuals, socialists, alternative lifestylers, unionists who want the right to prevent people from working, poor immigrants who want to work, race baiters like Al Sharpton, and also radical Islam.

                There’s a lot of volatile, incompatible ingredients in the mix, but so far they are holding it together. None of those groups can seriously expect to be able to settle their difference with the others on a long term basis.

                http://standpointmag.co.uk/node/4904/full

                Just one example of the sort of problems.

              • Ken B says:

                Don’t even the way Bob phrase the opening of this post. He talks about atheists and theists collectively. A pretty clear case of seeking allies against the common enemy.

            • RIchard Moss says:

              I am looking at MF said. If, according to MF, it is easier for Bob to respect other religions because he is religious, I am not sure why it would also make it more difficult. And, if it did, why that would not undermine the point MF wanted to make.

              Yes, MF’s comments would not cover the religious vs. atheists. But, I have always understood the quip to apply to people of different religions. That is how my atheist friends have always meant it.

    • Tel says:

      For example, you go to somebody’s house, and you try to “respect” their practise of stealing other people’s money, because you just happened to dine at an IRS agent’s house.

      You don’t “just happen” to be dining at someone’s house. You get invited and you choose to either accept or decline the invitation. If you feel it’s a matter of conscience not to eat with a tax collector then you should politely decline the invitation.

      The lack of enthusiasm in your average libertarian’s respecting statist beliefs and practises, is similar to the lack of enthusiasm in your average atheist’s respecting theist beliefs and practises.

      I dunno, tax is an imposition on me directly. If Bob wants to go to Bible study and do Bible stuff that doesn’t really interfere with my lifestyle all that much. Each person can individually choose to be Christian or not and the decision largely remains an individual matter. Tax is decided by a Democratic process, and the outcome affects everybody. That process isn’t perfect by any means, but it could be worse. I don’t entirely blame the tax collector, some of the blame must fall on the voters (and choosing to not vote is still a vote, the responsibility remains).

      • Major_Freedom says:

        Tel:

        “You don’t “just happen” to be dining at someone’s house. You get invited and you choose to either accept or decline the invitation. If you feel it’s a matter of conscience not to eat with a tax collector then you should politely decline the invitation.”

        Fair enough Tel. Try a different example. I think my point stands. Suppose we’re all in a community park, or floating in the vacuum of outer space.

        “I dunno, tax is an imposition on me directly.”

        As a libertarian, yes, but then you’d only be agreeing with me.

        • Tel says:

          I would be agreeing that no one likes to be taxed, but I would not agree this is equivalent to the people next door saying prayers.

          My point was that religion is a voluntary activity (for most religious groups it is) while tax gets imposed collectively, thus they are quite different.

          • Anonymous says:

            You forgot about some people. Height impaired ones – that sais a lot about You. NO it was not voluntary on me, I had no saying in the matter. Find it genuinely abusive and I never heard sorry for what I had to suffer.

            Maybe, just maybe if You think from my kid perspective you’ll get why we seem so angry, Bob.
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22QrCHRi8TM

          • Major_Freedom says:

            That’s exactly what I am saying. It’s easier for a person to respect someone next door praying, that it is for a libertarian to live next door to someone who keeps stealing their lawnmower.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      MF, two things:

      (1) When I was an atheist, I was very polite to theists. So my present courtesy isn’t an artifact of my theism.

      (2) You don’t have to make it hypothetical–most of my life involves interaction with statists. Do you think there are a lot of people in Nashville saying, “Man that Murphy is such a jerk, always calling me a killer and thief.” ?

      • Major_Freedom says:

        1) Fair enough. For me, I’m courteous when others are courteous, theist or atheist. It’s rare that I find a courteous theist though, because of all the pain and suffering they expect their God to unleash upon me for not believing. It’s very common that I hear a tone of relishing and patronization in them explaining what their God will do to me, almost as if they get a kick out of telling non-believers that they’re going to suffer an eternity of pain and torment.

        2) I would welcome murderers and thieves being called out as such, at the very least, if they are immune from punishment.

        • Tel says:

          I would agree that there’s no obligation to be polite to someone who makes it obvious they have no respect for you. You should at least give them every opportunity to cooperate, because perhaps they will change their mind.

          It may still be strategic to pretend to be polite for some time, depending on the circumstance…

        • Bob Murphy says:

          MF wrote:

          It’s rare that I find a courteous theist though, because of all the pain and suffering they expect their God to unleash upon me for not believing. It’s very common that I hear a tone of relishing and patronization in them explaining what their God will do to me, almost as if they get a kick out of telling non-believers that they’re going to suffer an eternity of pain and torment.

          Major Freedom, buddy, I mean this from the bottom of my heart: If that’s the impression you are getting from theists, then I apologize. But that’s not really important.

          The important thing is, there really is a God who loves you just as you are. But He’s not going to force you to spend eternity with Him.

          Really, He’s everything you would want, given your value system. I realize you don’t believe in Him right now, but don’t let idiot Christians stand in your way.

          • Ken B says:

            This I agree is courteously expressed. But it’s still what MF was talking about, telling him that he is going to hell.

          • Major_Freedom says:

            Murphy, I know you’re trying to be courteous, and on the surface it seems as much. If I didn’t know Christianity, I might even consider what you said as a serious course of action.

            But….

            You can only coat so much sugar around telling me I’m going to suffer an eternity of torment. At some point, I’ll find the center nugget, and I’ll continue to be agast at how you can seriously entertain the notion that I am going to suffer for an eternity, even if it is derived from your belief in God.

            It is like the difference between someone presenting to you a pill of cyanide on either a silver platter, with a free glass of champagne to wash it down, or from your hand, whereby it will be shoved down your throat with an aftershot of turpentine.

            How can you be smiling and all happy by telling someone that you believe that they are going to experience the most excruciating pain and suffering imaginable, simply for not believing in the existence of your God?

            Idiot Christians is what happens when Christians cease sugar coating the same underlying belief. I’m not impressed by sugar coating.

  8. Scott says:

    “I don’t think insulting people is the way to change their minds.”

    If we, as a culture, could learn just one lesson, I think I would want it to be this.

    • Major_Freedom says:

      What if there arises a large enough portion of the population who won’t change their minds unless they are insulted, that makes insulting the best way to change most people’s minds? What if we’re already there?

      • Bob Murphy says:

        MF wrote:

        What if there arises a large enough portion of the population who won’t change their minds unless they are insulted, that makes insulting the best way to change most people’s minds?

        And here I thought you were on Team Empirical!

        • Ken B says:

          His presence was unmeasurable so we replaced him.

        • Major_Freedom says:

          Not sure how asking a question can establish such a thing, but OK.

          • Tel says:

            I think that Bob means you can go out and try insulting a few people and see how enthusiastic they are about your pet cause.

            • Major_Freedom says:

              Oh OK.

              Well, I’m already doing that….for those who are themselves insulting myself and others.

  9. Bob Murphy says:

    BTW everyone, let me clarify something:

    P: Calm, rational persuasion doesn’t work on a lot of people.

    does NOT imply

    I: Insulting opponents is the way to maximize our side.

    • Major_Freedom says:

      Agreed. But what do we do if we’re being insulted, despite our calm, rational argument? I think each individual is best approached in a unique way, special to their mentality and circumstances.

      Those who seem to only be capable of insulting others in the course of argument, may only favorably respond to arguments if they are presented in an insulting way as well. For others, not so much.

      I don’t think there is a one size fits all style of argument that works.

      • razer says:

        Liberty has no central plan.

        • Major_Freedom says:

          …except a universal prohibition against private property violations.

          • Tel says:

            For which the definition of “private property” can be somewhat subjective, especially when joint property is owned by shareholders.

            • Samson Corwell says:

              I think the word you’re looking for is “murky” instead of “subjective”.

            • Major_Freedom says:

              Private property grounded on original appropriation and exchange is neither murky nor subjective.

              What is murky or subjective is establishing what exactly is originally appropriated and what exactly is exchanged. But these are questions of enforcement, not questions of legitimate ownership. Whatever the case, we can gradually improve our understanding of these concepts through trial and error, and learning.

              • Samson Corwell says:

                I think questions of enforcement would be directly tied to questions of ownership (possibly).

              • Ken B says:

                If I may say so you missed the most important part of MF’s claim. This is that phrase original appropriation. Get MF to explain this. You will find it I expect mystical and somewhat laughable.

              • Samson Corwell says:

                No, I already understand the idea of homesteading. A more likely the approach is that includeas several different scenarios for appropriation.

              • Samson Corwell says:

                And you are right. His idea of it is nonsensical.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Homesteading is not mystical Ken B, nor is it “nonsensical” Corwell.

                Even 4 year olds have a natural understanding that when one of their friends builds a fort, they should first seek some form of approval from the builder before they can go in and play.

                If you build a farm, the farm is your property, not mine as the non-builder. It is not a difficult concept.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                Major_Freedom, do you believe in the Lockean proviso?

              • Major_Freedom says:

                No, because Locke’s proviso could lead to a ban of all private ownership of land, since one can always say that the reduction of available land leaves everyone else, who could have appropriated the land, worse off. Plus, there is no way of measuring or knowing if or when they are worse off.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                Is that a consequentialism argument?

              • Samson Corwell says:

                Is that a consequentialism argument?

                Sounds like it to me!

              • Major_Freedom says:

                It may seem consequentialist, and one could present it as such, but what I had in mind is all instantaneous property rights. A ban on private property would be a continuous violation of private property rights established via activity.

                The confusion is that it has both a priori and consequentialist aspects. A ban on private property would have the outcome of constant conflict, but it would also imply a constant violation of a priori rights.

    • Harold says:

      Unfortunately there is some evidence that this in in fact the case.
      http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2013-09/why-were-shutting-our-comments

      People were exposed to fictional stories on different technologies, either accompanied by civil or rude comments:
      “In the civil group, those who initially did or did not support the technology continued to feel the same way after reading the comments. Those exposed to rude comments, however, ended up with a much more polarized understanding of the risks connected with the technology.”

      • skylien says:

        I am not sure that this study says something new.

        Yes I absolutely think that insults and rude behavior makes the issue more polarized since it becomes emotionally loaded, how could it be otherwise? This is Bob’s point. As they said people who were against something already before became even more concerned about it after reading rude comments about it. Yet no one changed his mind because of insults, right? Insults und unkindness (at least accompanied by sound arguments) don’t increase the likelihood of convincing others to change their entire position.

        I am not saying it isn’t possible in individual cases (there are always some contrarians), but not on the average.

        • Harold says:

          Well, it does say “Uncivil comments not only polarized readers, but they often changed a participant’s interpretation of the news story itself…Simply including an ad hominem attack in a reader comment was enough to make study participants think the downside of the reported technology was greater than they’d previously thought. ” I think you could say that insults and unkindness did increase the likelihood of convincing others to change their position, although probably only those who did not hold a strong position originally.

          • skylien says:

            There is no word of changing sides. It is always becoming even more convinced of the side they already were on. This is exactly what I had expected.

  10. Ken B says:

    This is a follow-up to some of our discussions. What are the effects of prayer? http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2515637/Does-prayer-help-resist-temptation-Talking-God-boosts-self-control-emotional-stability-claims-study.html
    I am not endorsing the study. I’m just passing it along. Bob will seize upon it as evidence of God working in mysterious ways his wonders to perform; I might suggest is evidence that religion has adaptive value which I think undercuts the argument for its truth, by suggesting our minds became susceptible to it for reasons other than convincing arguments or evidence.

    • Drigan says:

      Yes, it’s certainly true that this doesn’t prove anything, but it’s very interesting nonetheless.

      I don’t really understand why so many atheists make claims implying that to believe in religion, one must check their brain at the door. The scientific method was invented by the Catholic Church to learn about God, and has always claimed to be completely reasonable. That doesn’t mean that everything logically flows from personal experience, but it *does* mean that it is at least logical. Things like “Virgin Birth”, “Transubstantiation” and “Resurrection” aren’t meant to be foisted upon the illiterate, but rather things that are emphasized *because* they break with our understanding of the way things work.

      Because these claims are so fantastic, they warrant closer examination. Only after careful scrutiny about the claims does it make sense to become a Christian . . . unfortunately many Christians have merely been born into Christianity, and don’t make this examination themselves.

      To be fair, I don’t really know how to determine “Virgin Birth”, (aside from faith that it either *did* happen or *couldn’t possibly* happen) and it’s difficult to determine the resurrection this far removed from the event . . . although it’s pretty easy to see that the 11 thoroughly believed it to be true. (I don’t think anyone willingly gets tortured to death, blessing their tormentors for a lie.) On the other hand, Transubstantiation has a few rather exotic miracles attributed to it.

      My apologies for not responding to any questions directed my way . . . I’ve not been to this blog in several months, and doubt I’ll be back in less than a few weeks to debate religion.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      So Ken, if the study found that prayer did NOT help, you would be concerned that it was evidence in favor of the existence of God?

    • Tel says:

      I might suggest is evidence that religion has adaptive value which I think undercuts the argument for its truth, by suggesting our minds became susceptible to it for reasons other than convincing arguments or evidence.

      Does that undercut the argument for truth?

      What makes logic king? After all, some problems (e.g. various recursive puzzles like Godel) cannot be solved by logic, they require some leap of understanding. Given the lack of any universal mechanism for grinding out truth, we are left with the messy process of going with what works… and religion has been somewhat successful.

      • Ken B says:

        Undercuts. Not dispositive.

        Anyway logic is better than Kings; Kings only rule by Divine Right.

  11. Ken B says:

    I confess to a little curiosity. Bob is at dinner and the host expresses the view that he hopes never to be like the Jews or the Christians, but to follow a better, straight, path. I give Bob enough credit that I doubt he’ll say “half right!” , but how would you react Bob?

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Ken I don’t understand what you’re saying. Are you talking about a different hypothetical dinner, or the one hosted by devout Jews?

      • Tel says:

        It was when they started serving pea and ham soup that Ken was tipped off.

        These guys aren’t as devout as I was led to believe.

      • Ken B says:

        Different hypothetical dinner. Your host in this hypothetical dinner is not Jewish.

  12. Anthony L says:

    It’s not about insulting a theist but questioning why they believe what they believe. Just as atheists and others have had to defend their positions over the centuries with rigorous empirical proof of every aspect of the physical world that was once explained by “the gods did it,” so to should theists have to defend what they believe. Everyone believe what you want, but how is is offensive to ask why someone believes what they do?

  13. Samson Corwell says:

    I’d normally think that believers would think that liberals are bigger offenders when it comes to religion.

  14. Jon C says:

    Well said Bob, I am glad you wrote this. Sometimes the comments are a bit much on your Sunday posts; honestly, even if I do not always agree with what you post, I appreciate your honest take on the matter.

  15. mike says:

    If one read say the old testament there are many passages in which violence is used against innocent people and this violence is sanctioned and even in some cases directly perpetrated by god.

    Lets take the example of the ancient Hebrews. god supposedly visited a plaque upon Egypt that killed the first born sons. Now these innocent men and children had probably nothing do to with Hebrew slavery and yet god deemed it necessary to kill these people. The pharoh was really the problem couldn’t god have just changed the pharoh’s mind or killed the pharoh instead?

    God violated the non aggression principle…and that was not the only time.

    It not that atheists necessarily hate religious people its just that we ( I ) think that they are incredibly stupid to believe such patently absurd nonsense. And then in the face of writings which religious people themselves take as historically valid or true, and that say that all kinds of atrocities have been committed in the name of and directly by god, they are still willing to give god a “pass”

    I think god (if he/she exists) should be called to answer for the murder of all those first born innocent sons.

    And any one who claims to be a libertarian should reject this deity outright for violating the non-aggression principle.

    Furthermore libertarians who are believers are always claiming that they believe in freedom and liberty but how free are you really when there’s some creepy sky -god up there watching your every move and reading your every thought. You have set yourself up in what Hitchens called a “celestial north Korean” But at least N Koreans can die and get out. For christians they can be tortured after death. Imagine that torture after death…that’s a really sick concept.

  16. Ken B says:

    FWIW Bob most people assume I’m a believer. They see me reading religious books and supporting right of center politicians. And as I’ve mentioned I hear mass more often than most priests.

  17. Magus says:

    Internet atheists are doing God’s work, gradually converting agnostics to theism one at a time through the sheer revolt most normal people feel at their personas. I personally know people who were so put off by the nature of the virulent atheists (online and off) and their petty argumentativeness that they started reading up more on religion and gradually converted to Christianity.

    He truly works in mysterious ways.

    (this is not to say all atheists are like that, but certainly the majority whose voice is heard online)

  18. Philippe says:

    You probably shouldn’t eat cow if you want to respect sacred cows.

  19. Samson Corwell says:

    Regarding religion, I’m not so sure about what I believe anymore. I guess it could be said I have a residual belief.

    • Ken B says:

      Well here’s a tie into the subject of this thread. I did not like his Dawkins’s the God delusion. Much too aggressive. I did like Dennett’s book breaking the spell. Or the end of Faith by Harris, which is much more crisply argued than Dawkins or Hitchens.
      Better than any of these though is Darwins dangerous idea By Dennett.

      • Major_Freedom says:

        Intuition Pumps is Dennett’s latest, and best IMO.

      • Lord Keynes says:

        Ken B,

        The best philosophical defence of atheism with straightforward arguments without the aggressiveness of Hitchens or Dawkins is Michael Martin’s Atheism: A Philosophical Justification.

        • Major_Freedom says:

          “If the book is not written in syllogistic form, then there is something fundamentally wrong with it.” – LK

  20. Bob Roddis says:

    I really hadn’t read much of Ken B before.

    Lord Keynes November 21, 2013 at 7:43 AM
    Murphy’s fans are some of the worst know-nothings you’ll find anywhere.

    Ken B November 24, 2013 at 8:02 AM
    They really are. It’s sometimes truly astounding the level of ignorance. One poster has used his computer to upload to a server the argument, which is then transmitted to my computer, that machines do not communicate information. I don’t know how many times I’ve had to explain very simple ideas evolutionary biology, over and over.

    Lord KeynesNovember 24, 2013 at 8:13 AM
    I am sorry I missed that!

    Ken BNovember 24, 2013 at 8:37 AM
    At one point in time I thought of collecting the howlers. But eventually they were just too many of them. The south did not want to extend slavery, chamberlain was right at Munich, lend lease was a bad idea, Man did not evolve, biology is not a science, science does not involve empirical testing, all mathematical axioms are true, and the list just goes on and on

    Lord Keynes November 24, 2013 at 11:31 AM
    Ken B,

    I am entirely sympathetic to anyone who is reduced to utter exasperation by these people and their irrationality and ignorance.

    Take a look at M_F’s comment here:

    http://consultingbyrpm.com/blog/2013/11/fellow-rothbardians-the-jig-is-up.html#comment-83431

    It is completely incoherent, as far as I can see.

    He is saying there is no such thing as a actual market clearing price/level to which a price can fall or rise to, but then says that “ALL prices and price changes tend towards clearing.”

    If that is so, to what do they “tend” towards?

    Ken B November 24, 2013 at 3:54 PM
    Themselves.

    ***********

    Ken B November 21, 2013 at 12:30 PM
    LK (aka Darth Vader) & Nic
    They are going nuts over there! Just look at the responses to my rather mild and still Krugman-faulting notice that this isn’t a real gotcha. Or MF’s absurd response to Keshav.

    What I have pointed out to them repeatedly and they just don’t get is that I am their target audience. I am a pro market civil libertarian who wants less govt. If they can’t persuade me they are in trouble. And they seem to take pride in being so purist and doctrinaire that I am the enemy! Both funny and sad at the same time.

    Lord Keynes November 21, 2013 at 7:23 PM
    Ken B, don’t you understand that to MF and co. everyone who isn’t a Rothbardian is an “evil” socialist? :)

    Ken B November 21, 2013 at 8:06 PM
    Nope. I am working so hard trying to understand the fundamental concept of economic calculation that I haven’t time for anything else. I wasn’t born in Austria is the problem; I hear only Austrians can grasp it.

  21. Bob Roddis says:

    Ken B November 20, 2013 at 9:51 AM
    This just drives me crazy about these guys. We can’t be wrong, we don’t need evidence, do as we say or it’s a disaster. Absurd.

    Equally absurd is their insistence that only they use or understand counterfactuals! I have seem them repeatedly assert that engineering, physics, biology never use counterfactuals, as if saying “the shuttle exploded because the O ring froze” isn’t one. They only see ceteris paribus as a logical get out of jail free card.

    I like Keshav Srinivasan’s question: why hasn’t anyone formalized Austrian axiomatics? Then non-Austrians can check their rigor.

    http://socialdemocracy21stcentury.blogspot.com/2013/11/a-simple-question-for-austrian.html?showComment=1384969911968#c2941428083971119009

  22. Bob Roddis says:

    Why hasn’t anyone formalized Austrian axiomatics?

    It would just get ignored and/or distorted anyway.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/bob_roddis/9646722001/

    • Ken B says:

      Well Bob thank you for publishing these exchanges, saves me typing.
      regards

      • Major_Freedom says:

        Reading your comments posted by Roddis shows me that you’re lost, and have a bad attitude.

    • Richie says:

      He’s just a smart ass. He’s worthy of you continuing to ignore him.

    • Ken B says:

      Italicized is the key question, and the answer exposes praxeology as the hollow sham it is. They haven’t because they can’t. It isn’t rigorous.

      • Major_Freedom says:

        Super secret:

        Ken B’s attempt to criticize praxeology must itself be characterized as an action for it to be something other than random rustling in the wind, or natural weather formation.

        Actually, you’re right that praxeology is hollow. But it isn’t a sham. In order to give a coherent interpretation to history, praxeology is not enough. We need to also use thymology. Praxeology is like the steel girders in a skyscraper. Thymology is the concrete and drywall that completes the floors.

        Austrian axioms have been formalized, as a matter of fact. It just isn’t the line by line, syllogistic form that your typical mathematics textbooks utilizes. This is because praxeology is an understanding. Even the most sophisticated of mathematics text, say for example Mathematica Principia, is not an axiomatic explication of understanding. The text does not explain or justify itself. The text does not understand itself. It is, to quote your term, “hollow”. It contains many statements, propositions, rules of symbol manipulation and transformation. But there is nothing in the text that constitutes your mind understanding what it is that is written in the text.

        Praxeology is a very subtle, almost elusive field of inquiry. It is the science of addressing what it is that is taking place when you read and think about mathematics texts (and every other text).

        I will be honest with you and tell you that by reading your comments, praxeology is a mile above your head. You’re just not at the intellectual level necessary to grasp it (Yet? Ever?).

        When you say it isn’t “rigorous”, you’re really just communicating your desire to have praxeology translated into Dr. Seuss stories in crayon.

        You can’t understand praxeology through syllogisms. For praxeology is the study of the ACT of making syllogisms. It isn’t capable of being expressed in a syllogism. If it ever could for argument’s sake, then the syllogism would become a self-aware, conscious entity.

        In order to have a deep understanding of praxeology, you’re going to have to read far more philosophy than what you have up to now exposed yourself to. You have to read the history of Rationalism, German Idealism, Empiricism, in the very least. You have to read Mises’ influences, and the influences of Mises’ influences, and so on.

        Those who have an understanding of praxeology can’t explain it when they get it, but everyone finds themselves knowing that it clicks in their mind. It takes painstaking self-reflection. You have to actually consider what is going on when you criticize it, indeed anything. Right now you’re just too damn ignorant, and it’s likely because of your holier than thou attitude is keeping you from learning more.

        • Lord Keynes says:

          “Even the most sophisticated of mathematics text, say for example Mathematica Principia, is not an axiomatic explication of understanding. The text does not explain or justify itself. The text does not understand itself.

          Another M_F’s priceless idiotic ramblings.

          Neither Ken B nor anyone else has ever said written texts are sentient, nor be guilty of a level of utter stupidity to think they ever could.

          But wait:

          “You can’t understand praxeology through syllogisms. For praxeology is the study of the ACT of making syllogisms. It isn’t capable of being expressed in a syllogism. If it ever could for argument’s sake, then the syllogism would become a self-aware, conscious entity.”

          lol.. Does this lunatic even bother to make coherent arguments anymore?

          He’s saying that if anyone ever wrote out as Human Action as formal valid deductive argument, then it would ” become a self-aware, conscious entity”!!

          M_F’s standard of argument — which was never high — is collapsing before our eyes.

          • Lord Keynes says:

            ““You can’t understand praxeology through syllogisms. For praxeology is the study of the ACT of making syllogisms. It isn’t capable of being expressed in a syllogism. If it ever could for argument’s sake, then the syllogism would become a self-aware, conscious entity.””

            And how do you know this?

            Is it

            (1) a probable outcome given what your observed in the world before??

            This would suggest you live in a world where you’ve seen texts become sentient.

            (2) do you know it a priori? If so, how?
            You’re saying that it is a necessary truth known a priori that if anyone ever wrote out as Human Action as formal valid deductive argumenst, then it would ”become a self-aware, conscious entity”!
            ——

            Either way, we’re glimpsing M_F’s truly unhinged and crazy mind here.

            • Major_Freedom says:

              “And how do you know this?”

              Ask yourself what is happening in the course of you asking that question. I cannot force you to understand it. It has to come from within you in self-reflection.

              “do you know it a priori? If so, how?”

              Yes, it is a priori.

              “Either way, we’re glimpsing M_F’s truly unhinged and crazy mind here.”

              You have a cute way of saying you don’t understand and prefer to keep it that way.

          • Major_Freedom says:

            “Neither Ken B nor anyone else has ever said written texts are sentient”

            I never said he did. I said that is a consequence of expecting praxeology to be put into a syllogism.

            “Does this lunatic even bother to make coherent arguments anymore?”

            It’s clear you do not understand the meaning of “coherent.” Incoherent does not mean “I disagree with it and cannot understand it or refute it.”

            “He’s saying that if anyone ever wrote out as Human Action as formal valid deductive argument, then it would ” become a self-aware, conscious entity”!!”

            Praxeology deals with the action of writing syllogisms, not the content of syllogisms.

            “M_F’s standard of argument — which was never high — is collapsing before our eyes.”

            No, it’s where it was before, namely, correct and you not understanding it.

            • Lord Keynes says:

              So you are truly saying that if anyone ever wrote out as Human Action as formal valid deductive arguments such as syllogisms, then it would ”become a self-aware, conscious entity”??

              Yes or no?

              Or will we see run in terror from this lunatic argument? Are you going to perhaps assert that you never made in the first place at all, contrary to facts before our eyes?

              Do tell, Mr “Books-can become-Sentient”.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                “So you are truly saying that if anyone ever wrote out as Human Action as formal valid deductive arguments such as syllogisms, then it would ”become a self-aware, conscious entity”??”

                I am saying that if understanding could ever be encapsulated by an external object, that object would necessarily understand itself.

                If you are going to insist that understanding can be made fully explicit on a piece of paper with symbols written on it, then I am saying that the implication of that (flawed) argument is that the paper would understand itself.

                It’s a reductio argument, to show you that action cannot be expressed via symbols. Action concerns the creation of symbols, not the symbols themselves.

              • Lord Keynes says:

                So all the above is:

                (1) straw man idiocy where you are falsely accusing opponents of thinking that human conscious understanding can be “encapsulated by an external object,”

                Ken b says nobody has ever formalized HA “line by line, [in a] syllogistic form that your typical mathematics textbooks utilizes”.

                You agree.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                It’s not a straw man. It’s a reductio argument to show the logical conclusion of insisting that action can be fully expressed via symbols.

                “Ken b says nobody has ever formalized HA “line by line, [in a] syllogistic form that your typical mathematics textbooks utilizes”.

                Actually I said that, not Ken B. Do try to keep up with who says what.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                Major_Freedom, “actions cannot be expressed in symbols” doesn’t answer why praxeology books are written in informal English rather than in a more formal language. In.both cases, the the praxeology book would be written in symbols, it’s just a question of which set of symbols to use.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Books on praxeology are written in standard English, i.e. they are “verbal”, because such language is not as restrictive as mathematical symbols. Verbal analysis can do what mathematical symbology cannot do.

                This is not to say that mathematical symbols can’t help us stay focused and consistent throughout a complex argument. But at some point, mathematical symbols are going to have to be explained, if only by the reader to themselves, which of course requires something more than mathematical symbols.

                Most people, when they read mathematical formulae for example, translate the formulae into plain English. Professors do it in the classroom to help the class make sense of them. I am pretty sure everyone on this blog does it as well.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                Major_Freedom, even if you’re right that some verbal analysis cannot be expressed in mathematical symbols, some verbal analysis clearly can be. If someone were to write a praxeology text that used as little informal English as possible, and used it only when it could not be replaced by mathematical symbols, then I might be more convinced that praxeology is a rigorous subject. The fact that such a text has not been written suggests that there are perhaps difficulties in writing it, for instance a lack of rigor on the part of Mises and Rothbard.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Keshav:

                “Major_Freedom, even if you’re right that some verbal analysis cannot be expressed in mathematical symbols, some verbal analysis clearly can be. If someone were to write a praxeology text that used as little informal English as possible, and used it only when it could not be replaced by mathematical symbols, then I might be more convinced that praxeology is a rigorous subject.”

                All syllogisms can be translated into everyday language.

                I don’t understand your fascination with syllogisms as a requirement. It’s just a language transformation. Everything that is in syllogisms can be expressed in terms of every day language, but not all every day language can be expressed via syllogism.

                Your use of the term “rigorous” is really just an appeal to sound more sophisticated and true than it really is. There is nothing that makes syllogisms stand on a higher plane than verbal analysis. In fact, it’s the opposite, at least when it comes to economics.

                For economics, rigor requires verbal analysis. Verbal language is always the most rigorous.

                “The fact that such a text has not been written suggests that there are perhaps difficulties in writing it, for instance a lack of rigor on the part of Mises and Rothbard.”

                You see? That is just pure prejudice masquerading as an informed, intellectual judgment. All you are saying is that you want to read the same thing in your own language.

                You might as well say that you refuse to read anything in German because it isn’t “rigorous” like English. You’re just communicating a preference in how you want to read the same arguments.

        • Anonymous says:

          Major_Freedom, you say “Austrian axioms have been formalized, as a matter of fact. It just isn’t the line by line, syllogistic form that your typical mathematics textbooks utilizes.” When you say, it has been formalized, what do you mean by that? To me, “formalized” means written in a formal language, Is that what you mean? Don’t you think that least SOME of the text of Mises and Rothbard could be rewritten in line by line, syllogistic form? Does the word “therefore” occur at all in praxeology books? If it does, doesn’t that mean that some logical reasoning has occurred? And doesn’t that mean that you can rewrite that reasoning in the form of numbered steps?

          Wouldn’t it at least be possible to write out a praxeological text that marks clearly exactly where it’s engaging in normal, syllogistic reasoning, and where it’s expressing reasoning that’s for some reason or other inexpressible in such a form? Don’t you think a praxeological text can make clear exactly what assumptions it’s invoking at each stage of an argument, and what previous results it’s lying upon?

          Also, you say “You can’t understand praxeology through syllogisms. For praxeology is the study of the ACT of making syllogisms. It isn’t capable of being expressed in a syllogism. If it ever could for argument’s sake, then the syllogism would become a self-aware, conscious entity.” This reasoning seems ridiculous to me. Couldn’t you just as well say “You can’t understand praxeology through paragraphs. For praxeology is the study of the ACT of making paragraphs. It isn’t capable of being expressed in a paragraph. If it ever could for argument’s sake, then the paragraph would become a self-aware, conscious entity.”?

          Finally, you say “In order to have a deep understanding of praxeology, you’re going to have to read far more philosophy than what you have up to now exposed yourself to.” Forget a deep understanding. I’m fine with any understanding. What do you recommend that I read? I’ve glanced at the beginning of both Mises’ book and Rothbard’s book, and they both seem filled with meandering imprecise sentences. Are there any praxeological texts that just list all their assumptions, note exactly when the reader has to engage in introspection in order to proceed, and is at least organized into definition-theorem-proof format, even if not in syllogistic format?

          • Keshav Srinivasan says:

            Ignore this comment. I wrote it when I wasn’t signed in, but I covered pretty much everything in it in other comments of mine.

            • Major_Freedom says:

              I’ll answer it anyway…

            • Ken B says:

              Balk! It’s such a good comment I refuse to ignore it. Well put Keshav.

          • Major_Freedom says:

            “When you say, it has been formalized, what do you mean by that? To me, “formalized” means written in a formal language, Is that what you mean? Don’t you think that least SOME of the text of Mises and Rothbard could be rewritten in line by line, syllogistic form? Does the word “therefore” occur at all in praxeology books? If it does, doesn’t that mean that some logical reasoning has occurred? And doesn’t that mean that you can rewrite that reasoning in the form of numbered steps?”

            Sure, you can explicate certain limited propositions in this way. But action cannot be so expressed. Action would refer to the writing of line by line syllogisms.

            “Also, you say “You can’t understand praxeology through syllogisms. For praxeology is the study of the ACT of making syllogisms. It isn’t capable of being expressed in a syllogism. If it ever could for argument’s sake, then the syllogism would become a self-aware, conscious entity.” This reasoning seems ridiculous to me. Couldn’t you just as well say “You can’t understand praxeology through paragraphs. For praxeology is the study of the ACT of making paragraphs. It isn’t capable of being expressed in a paragraph. If it ever could for argument’s sake, then the paragraph would become a self-aware, conscious entity.”?”

            Sure, you can say that, but then how is that a counter-argument? And wouldn’t all counter-arguments be an action?

            “Finally, you say “In order to have a deep understanding of praxeology, you’re going to have to read far more philosophy than what you have up to now exposed yourself to.” Forget a deep understanding. I’m fine with any understanding. What do you recommend that I read?”

            Forget a deep understanding…I can’t say I’m encouraged or enthusiastic.

            Read the bibliographies Keshav. They’ll list sources. Then read the bibliographies of those sources. And so on. Identify the strands of thought throughout.

            “I’ve glanced at the beginning of both Mises’ book and Rothbard’s book, and they both seem filled with meandering imprecise sentences.”

            Such as?

            “Are there any praxeological texts that just list all their assumptions, note exactly when the reader has to engage in introspection in order to proceed, and is at least organized into definition-theorem-proof format, even if not in syllogistic format?”

            Not that I am aware of. Praxeology is a new science, in its infancy. It’s newer than quantum mechanics. We need a Bertrand Russell or a Carl Sagan to “popularize” it for the masses to understand.

            • Keshav Srinivasan says:

              I don’t want “Praxeology for Dummies”, I think Bob’s study guides take care of that. I want “Praxeology for Mathematicians”.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                I don’t want economics for dummies, which is why I don’t want to read an economics book full of syllogisms.

            • Keshav Srinivasan says:

              And I’m perfectly willing to have a full understanding, but I see no reason to do that until I first find out that there’s any “there” there. Reading all the texts listed I’m bibliographies is too much work unless I’m convinced that it’s worthwhile to do so. What do do you think is the absolute minimum that I can read such that I’m likely to be convinced that it’s worth reading more?

              • Ken B says:

                This question has been asked and answered on this blog. Bala gave the answer that Rothbard’s book man economy and state is a very rigorous almost mathematical approach to praxeology. I very strongly disagree with that assessment, but that is the answer that we get from practicing praxeologists.

              • Lord Keynes says:

                And M_F has just said, no, Human Action can’t be written in formal deductions, because the book would become sentient if that happened. lol.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                LK, you have not refuted that argument. You have only acted like a 5 year old in response to it.

          • Bala says:

            I’ve glanced at the beginning of both Mises’ book and Rothbard’s book, and they both seem filled with meandering imprecise sentences.

            I read the first page and a half of HA and found not a single meandering and imprecise statement. So are you going to substantiate your charge? As of now, it looks like smear to me.

            • Ken B says:

              1. Purposeful Action and Animal Reaction
              HUMAN action is purposeful behavior. Or we may say: Action is will put into operation and transformed into an agency, is aiming at ends and goals, is the ego’s meaningful response to stimuli and to the conditions of its environment, is a person’s conscious adjustment to the state of the universe that determines his life. Such paraphrases may clarify the definition given and prevent possible misinterpretations. But the definition itself is adequate and does not need complement of commentary.
              Conscious or purposeful behavior is in sharp contrast to unconscious behav- ior, i.e., the reflexes and the involuntary responses of the body’s cells and nerves to stimuli. People are sometimes prepared to believe that the boundaries between conscious behavior and the involuntary reaction of the forces operating within man’s body are more or less indefinite. This is correct only as far as it is sometimes not easy to establish whether concrete behavior is to be considered voluntary or involuntary. But the distinction between consciousness and uncon- sciousness is nonetheless sharp …

              • Bala says:

                Substantiating means explaining why the charge is valid. Not citing. It may be so in the understanding of door knobs that do not understand the difference between demand and quantity demanded. I was expecting a reply from someone better than a door knob.

              • Bala says:

                And remember, my dear door knob! If something is unclear to you, the deficiency could very well be yours.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                The point is, it’s not written with sufficient precision, unlike a mathematical text. It’s more of a discussion than a precise description of definitions, assumptions used, theorems, and proofs. That’s what I would want at a bare minimum if I am to be convinced that praxeology is a rigorous subject. And preferably, it should be written in the form of numbered steps, so we can easily discern how rigorous the reasoning is.

              • Bala says:

                Keshav,

                What it contains is precise definitions.What could be a more precise definition than saying

                HUMAN action is purposeful behaviour

                If you can’t explain what is imprecise in this apart from its being non-mathematical (read as not to your liking), you are only engaging in smear.

              • Ken B says:

                Keshav, next up is Bala impugning your competence as a mathematician.

              • Bala says:

                Dear Door Knob,

                I am asking Keshav to explain what is imprecise in that statement. I do understand that it is beyond your comprehension, but do let him answer it since you can’t.

                Have you finished untangling demand from quantity demanded?

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                Bala, I’m fine with a statement like “Human action is purposeful behavior.” That’s not the part of praxeological texts I’m criticizing. That is quite a mathematics-like definition, similar to “a circle is the set of point a fixed distance from some point.” My problem is the rest of the text. A rigorous text would label clearly what sentences constitute definitions, what constitutes a claim that needs to be proven, what constitutes an assumption being made, what constitutes a piece of reasoning designed to establish a result, what constitutes an invocation of an assumption or a previously established result, what constitutes side-discussion, speculation, or refutation of critics (and preferably keeping all that stuff to a minimum), etc. In other words, displaying the reasoning in a precise and transparent manner.

                Unless such a praxeological text is written, it remains an open question (to non-praxeologists) if the arguments and results of Mises and Rothbard would really hold up if subjected to that kind of rigor.

              • Lord Keynes says:

                Dear Door Knob,

                I am asking Keshav to explain what is imprecise in that statement.

                He just chose the wrong passage.

                Here is some Freudian gobbledygook from Mises:

                ““It cannot be the task of this book to discuss the problem of social cooperation otherwise than with rational arguments. But the root of the opposition to liberalism cannot be reached by resort to the method of reason. This opposition does not stem from the reason, but from a pathological mental attitude – from resentment and from a neurasthenic condition that one might call a Fourier complex, after the French socialist of that name. “

                And direct from that divine text Human Action where everything is painstakingly deduced by formal deduction from the action axiom:

                “The psychoanalytical subconscious is a psychological and not a praxeological category. Whether an action stems from clear deliberation, or from forgotten memories and suppressed desires which from submerged regions, as it were, direct the will, does not influence the nature of the action. The murderer whom a subconscious urge (the Id) drives toward his crime and the neurotic whose aberrant behavior seems to be simply meaningless to an untrained observer both act; they like anybody else are aiming at certain ends. It is the merit of psychoanalysis that it has demonstrated that even the behavior of neurotics and psychopaths is meaningful, that they too act and aim at ends, although we who consider ourselves normal and sane call the reasoning determining their choice of ends nonsensical and the means they choose for the attainment of these ends contrary to purpose.

                The term ‘unconscious’ as used by praxeology and the terms ‘subconscious’ and ‘unconscious’ as applied by psychoanalysis belong to two different systems of thought and research. Praxeology no less than other branches of knowledge owes much to psychoanalysis.

                I suppose Bala is going to scream that nobody these days would ever question that action stemming from “forgotten memories”, “suppressed desires … from submerged regions” and the mysterious “id” is “imprecise”, pseudo-scientific or just plain hogwash.

                Mises said it: it must be true and follow with apodictic truth!

              • Bala says:

                Keshav,

                You are giving a litany of excuses for laziness. Find one unjustified assumption on one error in reasoning. Then we can talk shop.

                No one needs to respond to mindless mudslinging. As of now, your statements amount to just that.

              • Bala says:

                LK,

                As always, you do not comprehend what you read. Mises was not making pronouncements on psychological or psychoanalytical concepts. He was just identifying the point that even such action is purposeful. He is identifying a common objection and addressing it in the light of the definition he has given. It has no role to play in the theorising that follows. I wonder why this is so difficult to grasp unless you do not want to.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                Bala, I’m not claiming that there are errors. I’m claiming that it’s not clear to me that it’s impossible for there to be errors. In its current form, praxeological texts are written in long-winded informal English sentences. English is a vague and imprecise language, and it’s very easy to sneak in unstated assumptions. Unless a praxeological text is written in a form which allows no errors, vagaries, or leaps in logic, it’s hard to accept that the results of Mises and Rothbard have really been rigorously established. I’m not claiming that the results of praxeology are wrong, I’m saying that it’s hard to know for sure that they’re right.

              • Lord Keynes says:

                “Mises was not making pronouncements on psychological or psychoanalytical concepts..”

                So wrong:

                “But the root of the opposition to liberalism cannot be reached by resort to the method of reason. This opposition does not stem from the reason, but from a pathological mental attitude – from resentment and from a neurasthenic condition that one might call a Fourier complex, after the French socialist of that name. “”

                I suppose you will now twist this passage and torture it to desperately make it mean the contrary of its plain sense.

                Keshav Srinivasan
                above complained that some passages of HA are imprecise.

                The passage above from HA with its Freudian rubbish is imprecise and now you admit it cannot be logically derived by deduction form the action axiom.

                There are plenty more passages like this in HA.

              • Bala says:

                So, Keshav, work hard and try to wrap your head around it. Laziness was never a route to knowledge and understanding.

                Based on your responses, I infer that all you are able to do is throw a lot of mud and are not ready to put in the effort to comprehend what was written and then, if you spot the errors, critique the arguments.

              • Bala says:

                LK,

                I repeat. This has precious nothing to do with the economic reasoning in the book. I know you do not want to understand this but I have no option but to keep throwing this back at you.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                LK:

                Which a priori synthetic statementsin Human Action cannot be shown as grounded on action?

    • Lord Keynes says:

      “Why hasn’t anyone formalized Austrian axiomatics?

      Because they can’t. Praxeological theories are not derived by valid formal deduction from the action axiom. That is a delusion.

      • Major_Freedom says:

        Yes, they are derived by valid formal deduction from the action axiom. It is no delusion.

        • Lord Keynes says:

          You’ve already said above:

          “Austrian axioms have been formalized, as a matter of fact. It just isn’t the line by line, syllogistic form that your typical mathematics textbooks utilizes.”

          Therefore unless you are guilty of violating the law of non-contradiction, then you are committed to the view nobody has formalized it “line by line, [in a] syllogistic form that your typical mathematics textbooks utilizes”.

          Fool.

          • Major_Freedom says:

            “Therefore unless you are guilty of violating the law of non-contradiction, then you are committed to the view nobody has formalized it “line by line, [in a] syllogistic form that your typical mathematics textbooks utilizes”.”

            Valid formal deduction is not limited to line by line syllogisms.

            • Lord Keynes says:

              “Valid formal deduction is not limited to line by line syllogisms.”

              You said nobody has formalized HA “line by line, [in a] syllogistic form that your typical mathematics textbooks utilizes”.

              Is this correct?

              Once you say yes, my argument is true.

              But of course you won’t answer a straight question will you?

              You’ve been defeated and now we’ll see desperate evasions and mind-boggling stupidity

              • Major_Freedom says:

                “You said nobody has formalized HA “line by line, [in a] syllogistic form that your typical mathematics textbooks utilizes”.”

                Right. Action concerns the formation of line by line syllogisms. It concerns the writing of symbols. It cannot be expressed by symbolic syllogisms. It can only be understood. Action refers to the formation of symbols. You can never fully encapsulate understanding what symbols mean, via symbols.

                At some point, you are going to have realize that the thing you create, from symbols on paper to computer code, is not the action of creating them. You are an actor. What you create is not you.

        • Keshav Srinivasan says:

          Major_Freedom, what does “formal deduction” mean to you? To me, it means logical deduction written in a formal language, as opposed to an informal language like English. Is that what it means to you?

        • Keshav Srinivasan says:

          Major_Freedom, what does “formal deduction” mean to you? To me, it means logical deduction written in a formal language, as opposed to an informal language like English. Is that what it means to you?

          • Major_Freedom says:

            Not quite. Formal deduction does not exclude self-understanding, which cannot be written on paper, for it concerns the act of writing on paper.

            • Lord Keynes says:

              In other words, here is someone who just redefines words/terms at will.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Once again, when you’re stumped, you fall back on the “You’re redefining terms on me and confusing me!”

            • Keshav Srinivasan says:

              What’s your definition of the word formal? Also, do you think praxeology books contain any reasoning that CAN be written in numbered steps/syllogisms?

              Why doesn’t someone write a book that tries to write in syllogistic form whatever reasoning is expressible in syllogistic firm, and then points out exactly where the reader has to engage in self-reflection, and exactly what the reader has to reflect about.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                “What’s your definition of the word formal?”

                It’s not really important. If we’re going to understand action, then we should focus on what is happening when, or what it means if, someone defines a term. The act of defining terms is where praxeology has something to say.

                “Also, do you think praxeology books contain any reasoning that CAN be written in numbered steps/syllogisms?”

                Sure, the symbols are guideposts for the reader to do what only they as individuals can do: engage in self-reflective analysis. A book cannot force you to do it. It requires you. You are needed to make praxeology a field of inquiry. If all that existed were books on praxeology, but no actors, because they all died for whatever reason, then praxeology would not exist. Praxeology requires action. Action comes from the individual.

                “Why doesn’t someone write a book that tries to write in syllogistic form whatever reasoning is expressible in syllogistic firm, and then points out exactly where the reader has to engage in self-reflection, and exactly what the reader has to reflect about.”

                That’s what Mises attempted to do with Human Action. If you think it is incomplete, then you can invite yourself to create more symbols and reasonings, to help yourself and others self-reflect in a way that reading Human Action might not encourage. Everyone is different.

              • Lord Keynes says:

                M_F ramblings simply evade the whole question Ken B raised : why hasn’t some Austrian formalized the arguments of Human Action to show exactly how all the arguments really are formally valid deductive arguments.

                M_F’s latest reply is the stupid straw man that an inanimate object does not have conscious human understanding.

                But nobody here said inanimate objects have conscious human understanding.

                Earlier he made this ludicrous statement:

                “You can’t understand praxeology through syllogisms. For praxeology is the study of the ACT of making syllogisms. It isn’t capable of being expressed in a syllogism”

                WTF? Russell’s Principia Mathematica is written formally, yet who would deny that its deductive arguments allow a human being to understand the arguments used and to easily check whether they really are valid.

                According to M_F, Mises’ praxeology in HA cannot even be written in formally valid deductive arguments.

                If so, it follows that praxeological theorems cannot be logically and necessarily true, because only formally valid and sound deductive arguments can yield apodictic truth.

                So M_F has just destroyed the central claim of praxeology.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                Lord Keynes the thing is, the thing is, Major_Freedom presumably doesn’t believe that “only formally valid and sound deductive arguments can yield apodictic truth.” He believes that you can acquire knowledge through synthetic a priori intuition, and that the texts of Mises and Rothbard are a way to help that intuition discover certain truths.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                So he’s only destroyed the central claim of praxeology if there’s no such thing as synthetic a priori truth, a proposition that you believe that you believe but Major_Freedo, and the praxeologists do not.

              • Ken B says:

                What do you make of the claim by Rothbard that the “deductions” of praxeology are absolutely true? He’s not talking about the insights or the revelations, but the deductions. The validity of deductions and surely be assessed through formal methods. If mf denies the possibility of this he is surely undercutting the main claim to fame of the praxeology approach, which is to deduce certain foods from an axiom.
                You are right that MF’s statement does not deny the possibility of any apodictic truth from praxeology, but it does certainly gut the approach. Praxeology is explicitly described as a science based on a very few clearly true axioms. This in contrast to say the book of Revelations. Many believe the book of revelations but none considerate a scientific theory worked out with careful logic.

              • Ken B says:

                Certain truths not certain foods. Siri.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                Major_Freedom seems to believe that deduction is fundamentally an activity of the human mind, and only some deductions can be expressed in the form of syllogisms and numbered steps. So he thinks the results of praxeology do follow logically from the action axiom, but that reasoning is something that can only exist in the minds of men, or at best expressed in informal English sentences, not written down in the symbolism of logic.

                So the part of your comment that he would reject is where you say “The validity of deductions can surely be assessed through formal methods.” (Although he may deny rejecting this, because he seems to give a different meaning to the word “formal”, wherein even mental reasoning qualifies as formal.)

              • Major_Freedom says:

                LK:

                “why hasn’t some Austrian formalized the arguments of Human Action to show exactly how all the arguments really are formally valid deductive arguments.”

                If by “arguments” you mean the various “economic laws”, then many have already been formalized.

                But they are not in the syllogistic form, but rather they are verbally explained.

                “M_F’s latest reply is the stupid straw man that an inanimate object does not have conscious human understanding.”

                I did not attribute that view to anyone. I said that view is the outcome of a reductio argument. I made that reductio in order to show a prior argument as false.

                “But nobody here said inanimate objects have conscious human understanding.”

                I didn’t say anyone did. I said that if it were possible to write down the full nature of action on paper, then the paper would be a self-conscious actor itself.

                “Earlier he made this ludicrous statement:”

                “You can’t understand praxeology through syllogisms. For praxeology is the study of the ACT of making syllogisms. It isn’t capable of being expressed in a syllogism”

                That isn’t a “ludicrous” statement.

                “WTF? Russell’s Principia Mathematica is written formally, yet who would deny that its deductive arguments allow a human being to understand the arguments used and to easily check whether they really are valid.”

                The Principia is a text on mathematics, not action. Action is presupposed in the writing of the Principia, but nowhere in the Principia is action even explicitly addressed.

                Does this mean that we cannot attribute the Principia to the creation of any actor? That it is the product of mechanical processes of cause and effect such as the weather?

                Did Whitehead or Russell prove that they are actors in the text? Or did you just a priori assume that the book is written by actors?

                “According to M_F, Mises’ praxeology in HA cannot even be written in formally valid deductive arguments.”

                Any attempt to do so, because it must be logically characterized as an action, obviously cannot prove action. Action must be, and can only be, understood. Anything written on paper is an inanimate object. It cannot possibly provide you with detailed, explicit knowledge of action. It can only guide you in your thinking, where you have to choose to self-reflect or not.

                “If so, it follows that praxeological theorems cannot be logically and necessarily true, because only formally valid and sound deductive arguments can yield apodictic truth.”

                No, that’s false. It is not true that only symbols on paper can prove anything. That’s just an unjustified bias and prejudice on your part.

                “So M_F has just destroyed the central claim of praxeology.”

                Conscious destruction of anything is an action as well, LOL.

                Action cannot possibly be refuted if destroying the concept of action is itself an action. Action remains.

    • Bob Roddis says:

      It seems to me that the topics covered by Bob Murphy’s chart are empirically based. Whether they are self evident and/or testable is a separate matter. I do not think they are refutable and they are essential aspects of human action and exchange. Since Keynesianism ignores and suppresses them completely, what good are Keynesian statistics when Keynesian theory ignores such a basic and fundamental aspect of human interaction?

  23. Gamble says:

    The people that cant keep their hands to themselves and that cant stop stealing, these are the only that need to change. Libertarians have already changed into peaceful people who understand and respect private property. Property including, but not limited to your person places and things.

    All this government just because a few lunatics don’t understand basic human cooperation and peace.

    Geesh, if we just stopped subsidizing bad behavior, it would go away…

  24. Bob Roddis says:

    I read antiwar.com and I used to worry a lot about stuff like how social democracy in multi-ethnic societies leads to ethnic strife and ethnic cleansing.

    http://original.antiwar.com/updates/2013/12/01/46-killed-70-wounded-across-iraq-bomber-attacks-sahwa-funeral/

    But now I know that the real problem facing mankind in the future will be people buying up one inch circular strips of land to encircle other people and (I guess) starve them to death. The internet is so cool.

    • Ken B says:

      Funny, I always thought the big problem was people who don’t take even their own arguments seriously, because then they can justify any damn thing.

      • Major_Freedom says:

        You aren’t taking your arguments seriously Ken B.

    • Lord Keynes says:

      “I read antiwar.com and I used to worry a lot about stuff like how social democracy in multi-ethnic societies leads to ethnic strife and ethnic cleansing.”

      And do you think it leads to this with necessary and universal certainty?

      Or is it only probable? Maybe in only 80% of cases? 60%? 50% 30%?

      And how long dopes it take? 50 years? 1000 years? 58 million? lol

      • Bob Roddis says:

        Most of Africa. Iraq. Egypt. Why most Muslim countries dare not go democratic. Sri Lanka. India and Pakistan. Belgium. Israel.

        A 12GB book for you to ignore or distort:

        http://www.stanford.edu/~rabushka/politics%20in%20plural%20societies.pdf

        Actually, why don’t you provide a counter example other than Switzerland which through its cantons further proves my point.

        • Lord Keynes says:

          And yet the US, Canada, UK., France, Australia, New Zealand don’t have such problems, and they all have multiethnic populations.

          As for Egypt, its population is 99.6% ethnic Egyptian:

          “The vast majority of the population of Egypt consists of ethnic Egyptians The vast majority of Egyptians are native speakers of modern Egyptian Arabic (Masri).
          ….
          The CIA World factbook lists “Egyptians” as 99.6%, and “other” as 0.4% (2006 census).

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Egypt#Ethnic_groups

          Is that your definition of a multietnnic society?? Where 0.4% of the population are ethnic minorities?

          If that is so, then we’d expect top see Canada or most Western European nations tion by “ethnic strife and ethnic cleansing”.

          But then logic, reason and knowledge were never your strong suits, were they.

          • Bob Roddis says:

            10% Coptic Christian. Read the book.

            • Lord Keynes says:

              That is an ever more stupid reply, because religion — while it might be an important element in ethnic difference — is not a necessary difference.

              Coptic Christians form 10% of Egypt’s population, but by the criterion of religion only.

              But the Copts are **ethnically Egyptian**.

              If you are now so stupid that you want to say all multireligious societies collapse into “ethnic strife and ethnic cleansing”, then why aren’t multireligious Western European societies or colonial European societies — such as Australia or New Zealand — collapsing ethnic strife and ethnic cleansing”? These nations have GREATER religious diversity than Egypt.

              Perhaps you just know by magic, or telepathy.

              • Ken B says:

                I hate to say this but I do think that you are missing Bob’s point Lords canes. If we look at what happened in Japan after the earthquake, or the consensus on social programs in Sweden, it is easy to see that these are societies with a very homogeneous makeup. Once there is a great deal of transfer in the economy through government programs lack of uniformity serves as a source of resentment and strife.
                Roddis as a better case here and I think you’re giving him credit for.

                (Anyone have some tolerably flavored soap? :) )

              • Lord Keynes says:

                “Once there is a great deal of transfer in the economy through government programs lack of uniformity serves as a source of resentment and strife.”

                Which suggests that such problems are largely an issue for developing nations, not first world ones?

                Furthermore, how do you justify such a theory?

                Is roddis saying it is a universally true process with no exceptions that he knows will happen a priori?
                That is just absurd.

                Is it a mere empirical generalization based on experience? Experience suggests it does not happen to first world nations. Even if you took a sample of third world nations, what percentage have been subject to such problems?

                Latin America has its share of multiethnic societies. They not all collapsing in this way. Not even a majority of them are.

                Yugoslavia was a rare exception. But even there this is ethnic strife that is decades with deep seated historical causes.

              • Ken B says:

                Further on the point of “greater “diversity. Just depends on how you measure the extent of diversity. Quite a lot of the religious majority in Egypt want to kill or expel the Copts. That I think counts as a great deal of diversity.
                Roddis’s argument does not depend upon any particular indicia of diversity. It only depends on groups who see themselves as in conflict or fundamentally different. A martian arriving on Earth in the 30 years war might marvel at the uniformity of northern Europeans; they even kill each other in the name of the same God.

              • Ken B says:

                Of course Roddis pushes a legitimate concern too far. Have you per chance seen him do that before?

                That doesn’t mean that the argument is completely without merit, only that as usual the praxeology faction have pumped it up because it serves their agenda.
                We will in the future need to strike a balance between the extent and nature of the social programs we can support or wish to support. A greater ethnic diversity inevitably means that some social programs will be “playing favorites “. This is undesirable. The smaller government with a simpler social support infrastructure partly adverts this problem.
                I think you should answer the best form of the argument, not just the Bob Rhodhiss form.

              • Lord Keynes says:

                “It only depends on groups who see themselves as in conflict or fundamentally different. “

                Bingo: it is a matter of particular historical and contingent factors.

                Plenty of different ethnic groups have do not have that level of conflict or hatred, or the historical tensions have been reduced to minimal levels.

              • Bob Roddis says:

                Ken B said: the praxeology faction have pumped it up because it serves their agenda.

                I don’t see anything “praxeological” about the empirical observation that people tend to vote with and for their ethnic group. I’ve linked to that Shepsle/Rabushka book perhaps 20 times in the comments to this blog and it always appeared to me in the 40 years I’ve owned it to have followed the usual poly sci formalities for studies.

                You guys just like to shoot your mouths off about things you don’t understand and that you JUST DON’T WANT TO BE TRUE.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                “Bingo: it is a matter of particular historical and contingent factors.”

                Then you are violating that assumption by attributing conscious action to past individuals. If you claim all reality is historical, then that is itself a transhistorical claim. You’re contradicting yourself.

            • Bob Roddis says:

              There can be ethnic strife and “mere” ethnic voting patterns without ethnic cleansing. Canada has had ethnic strife with the French who have been given much greater autonomy. Didn’t I mention the cantons of Switzerland?

              Ethnic: Of, relating to, or characteristic of a sizable group of people sharing a common and distinctive racial, national, religious, linguistic, or cultural heritage.

              As I recall, elections preceded the horrors of Bosnia.

              You’ve taken your shot. You missed.

              • Lord Keynes says:

                So obviously you now concede that “ethnic cleansing” is not an inevitable result.

                And now you’ve redefined “ethnic strife” in a manner so feeble that it has lost its original meaning.

                Yes, some countries like Canada have ethnic voting blocs or comparatively minor ethnic tensions. Yet Canada is still a stable and viable democracy.

                Canada isn’t collapsing any time soon, contrary to your wingnut theories.

              • Ken B says:

                Canada might fragment, it will not collapse.

              • Bob Roddis says:

                I never said Canada (or Belgium, which I also mentioned) were going to collapse and I never said that ethnic strife invariably leads to ethnic slaughter. Read the freakin’ book.

  25. Ivan Jankovic says:

    Bob, my experience with your Sunday posts is quite different that that of your email correspondent: I am not a Christian believer, but in terms of cultural wars in America I am much more on your side than on the side of the radical atheists who want to use “science” as a means of social engineering. However, I read your blog because I find your writing on economics intelligent and rational, and your arguments generally of a very high quality. And to me, your Sunday posts simply look silly and as a travesty of rational discourse and intelligent argument: from the Young Earth creationism, to the claims that Adam Smith literally believed that invisible hand was God’s hand, to the flat-out assertions recently that something is true even if it does not make any sense, because you and your pastor happen to believe so. Simply, there is an internal inconsistency here, a tension between your rational and sophisticated writing on economics and your silly and crude propaganda of your form of Christianity that repels and even angers people. I am wondering what is the reason for the Sunday posts at all: you can create a separate blog if you wish and invite all interested to participate. Why mixing that religious stuff with economics?

    • Ken B says:

      That was more or less my thinking for a while. But take a look at some of the recent posts Bob has made including his videos explaining the Mises approach to economics, and his embrace of praxeology. Bob has repeatedly dismissed the importance of empirical results in economics.

      When a group of prominent thinkers and writers was asked the question what is the most difficult challenge we face Michael Crichton gave the answer “how do we know what’s true”. There is a seamlessness in the approach Bob takes to determining what is true in economics religion and biology. Seeing his approach to religion or to Krugman in action undermines one’s confidence in his underlying economic theorizing, because there is a clear similarity in the style of argumentation.

    • Tel says:

      … but in terms of cultural wars in America I am much more on your side than on the side of the radical atheists who want to use “science” as a means of social engineering.

      I can’t resist pointing out that the physical sciences have a well established and well respected division between Science and Engineering.

      Science is the discovery of natural laws, it has no specific purpose, just find stuff, test it, catalog it, move on. Science (when working properly) cannot produce answers containing political truth, you cannot have Republican gravity, or Democrat wave equations. Science cannot be right or wrong in a moral sense, it can be correct or incorrect… and that’s all.

      Engineering involves application of the laws of Science toward a purpose. Generally with commercial Engineering the purpose is fulfilling whatever contract, but the money is merely an intermediary, the point is with Engineering that someone decides they want it that way, and they will hire Engineers to get what they want. Things that get built do tend to reflect the morals and inclination of the builders.

      This is a very important split. Currently the problem with Economics is that it wants to be both things at once: Economics as Social Science, and also Economics as Social Engineering. Those are not simultaneously compatible. The clear division of discipline is important. That’s not to say the same person cannot be both Scientist and Engineer, but not both at the same time.

      Maybe I’ve meandered from the topic a bit here, but getting back to religion, clearly religion is not neutral. It has a sense of purpose, of right and wrong. It does not revolve around measurably correct or incorrect statements. Thus, religion is more closely aligned with Social Engineering than with Social Science. Economics as it stands today contains a lot of religion and a lot of politics too (often the two are interwoven). You can’t tell me that Krugman writes purely out of unattached analytic observation, no way, he strongly imposes his own moral judgements on the subject (even his own personal hypocrisy when it suits him). This is not Science, but in Economics it’s pretty much normal.

      Maybe that’s just the nature of the beast, we all do it to some extent, because we all have personal perspectives and since Economics and religion involve your day to day life, objectivity is difficult.

  26. Ken B says:

    Let’s try to summarize here. The question was asked, why has praxeology not been formalized? I have seen here two distinct answers.
    1. No in fact it has – Read Rothbard.
    2. It cannot be it is a higher form of truth, not susceptible to formalization. In fact its truths subsume formalization.

    I Passover in silence the incompatibility of these two answers, both given by frequent commenters here, who both claim The infallibility of praxeology.

    1 is clearly wrong as anyone with any training in formal logic can see from reading even a small amount of Rothbard.
    2 is vague mystical and nonsensical. Further no arguments have been advanced in support of this position. It is hard to see how any could be, since they would require logical deduction to be applicable.

    Neither of these then constitutes an answer to the question.
    The praxeology faction has had many decades to answer this challenge. This challenge was issued upon the first publication of human action. I’m natural inference is that it cannot be done.

    • Lord Keynes says:

      Yes, Ken B.

      Schuller has never been answered:

      “Acceptance of Mises’ stated axioms does not necessarily imply acceptance of the ‘principles’ or ‘applications to reality’ which he has drawn from them even though his logic may be impeccable. When a logical chain grows beyond the limits set by stated assumptions, it uses unstated assumptions. The number of unstated assumptions (axioms, postulates, or other) in Human Action is enormous. If Mises denies this, let him try to rewrite his book as a set of numbered axioms, postulates, and syllogistic inferences using, say, Russell’s Principia” (Schuller, G. J. 1951. “Mises’ ‘Human Action’: Rejoinder,” American Economic Review 41.1: 185–190. at p. 188).

      • Bala says:

        Schuller has only smeared with no substantial charge (at least as per what you have cited).

        When a logical chain grows beyond the limits set by stated assumptions, it uses unstated assumptions. The number of unstated assumptions (axioms, postulates, or other) in Human Action is enormous.

        Please cite them first. If you can’t, this is smear. And do not even think of citing your well-worn example of the disutility of labour. Mises himself has disposed of it. Rothbard completed that job even more elaborately. So, I am still waiting.

        • Keshav Srinivasan says:

          The burden is on the praxeologist to write his reasoning in such a form that it is evident that he is making no unstated assumption. The burden is not on the critic to try to find a flaw.

          • Bala says:

            HA does it. Since the critic is critiquing it, he needs to identify something that is wrong with it. Failing that, it is only smear. If you can’t identify one assumption, on what basis are you making the claim that it has assumptions? I am surprised you can’t see this.

            • Keshav Srinivasan says:

              It is simply not true that Human Action is written in such a way that it is obvious at a glance that there cannot possibly be unstated assumptions or leaps in logic.

              Again, the burden of proof is on the praxeologist who claims that his reasoning is logically valid and without flaws, not on the critic who doubts the praxeologist’s claim.

              • Bala says:

                Missing the point again. He who makes the claim that there are assumptions must first identify them. Otherwise, he is just engaging in mudslinging. The claim here is not made by Mises.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                But I’m not making a claim that there are unstated assumption. I’m just doubting your claim that there aren’t. So the burden is on you to prove that the logic is sound.

              • Bala says:

                Oh!! I did not say that there are no assumptions. I am only saying that the source LK has quoted and keeps quoting is just throwing mud when he claims that there are unstated assumptions without mentioning a single one.

                So, so try to understand my point before replying again.

        • Lord Keynes says:

          Easy:

          Mises’ statements about case and class probability do not follow from the action axiom.

          He needs the vast set of knowledge — unstated — about probability theory that has come from empirical investigation of the world, as in the relative frequency theory of probability:

          http://socialdemocracy21stcentury.blogspot.com/2013/09/misess-flawed-deduction-and-praxeology.html

          The case for free trade and comparative advantage depends on two hidden assumptions:

          (1) technology is unchanging and uniform; and

          (2) there are no returns to scale.

          http://socialdemocracy21stcentury.blogspot.com/2011/01/mises-on-ricardian-law-of-association.html

          • Bala says:

            The explanation of class and case probability has precious little impact on the economic reasoning other than explaining concepts often dragged (quite wrongly) into the discussion.

            As for your 2 points, my answer is simple – ceteris paribus.

            • Lord Keynes says:

              “The explanation of class and case probability has precious little impact on the economic reasoning other than explaining concepts often dragged (quite wrongly) into the discussion.”

              No, that’s idiocy: Mises’ concept uncertainty has very significant economic implications, which Mises uses numerous times.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                It has little impact on economic reasoning.

                It has a large impact on empirical reasoning.

              • Bala says:

                Numerous!! You should then be able to identify where in the train of economic reasoning he uses it. At least one.

              • Lord Keynes says:

                Human Action, Scholars’ Edition

                p. 250, 414
                uncertainty means people have a motive for holding cash: this has economic effects.

                p. 650
                economic effects of uncertainty on employees are described

                p. 291
                ultimate source of profit and loss is uncertainty about future demand and supply

                Many more examples exist

              • Major_Freedom says:

                These aren’t statements concerning probability per se, LK. You may interpret uncertainty in terms of probability, but Mises (and his brother I believe) reject the notion that economic events are objectively described via a probability form that assumes repeatability.

          • Bala says:

            Oh!! You need to demonstrate that there are indeed returns to scale.

            • Lord Keynes says:

              Any business with sufficient large production process and unused capacity will have falling total costs as overhead costs fall per unit as output increases:

              http://socialdemocracy21stcentury.blogspot.com/2013/11/price-average-total-cost-average.html

              • Bala says:

                OMG!! Do you even understand the point that the Austrian analysis takes into account payments to factor owners as only payments for the services of the factors and not for the whole factors themselves? Do you realise that payments to capital goods owners in Fig 41 of MESPM are payments for the services of the capital goods for the period of production in question?

                Combine this with the point that the price of a whole durable capital good is nothing more than the discounted present value of the future stream of unit rental prices and you can see how silly your criticism is.

          • Major_Freedom says:

            “Mises’ statements about case and class probability do not follow from the action axiom.”

            On the contrary, probability does require, and is grounded on, action. Repeated experiments is repeated action.

          • Major_Freedom says:

            “The case for free trade and comparative advantage depends on two hidden assumptions:”

            “(1) technology is unchanging and uniform; and”

            “(2) there are no returns to scale.”

            No, these are not necessary. Even if A is increasing technological knowledge faster than B, there is still opportunity for A and B to mutually gain through trade via specialization.

            Even if there are returns to scale, if A has higher returns to scale than B, then there is still an opportunity to gain through trade.

            • Lord Keynes says:

              The particular case for free trade as made by Mises in this context is between nations, not individuals.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Free trade benefits nations for the same reason it benefits individuals.

                Mises was a methodological individualist. He did not distinguish between nations and individuals, when it comes to his economic theories.

                When he delved into politics, that’s another story.

      • Lord Keynes says:

        As you note,

        (1) the first answer is contrary to plain fact. Rothbard provides no “numbered axioms, postulates, and syllogistic inferences: in the style of ” Russell’s Principia”

        (2) and M_F’s is mystical, irrational nonsense. If the formal deductions cannot be stated, and further argument is not even offered as to why apodictic truth can be obtained from HA through intuition or some mysterious non formal deduction, then HA cannot be proving things with necessary truth in the conventional manner understood in modern logic.

        Presumably its truth lies in a higher realm akin to religious revelation: it is only perceptible to “true believers.”

        • Major_Freedom says:

          “If the formal deductions cannot be stated, and further argument is not even offered as to why apodictic truth can be obtained from HA through intuition or some mysterious non formal deduction, then HA cannot be proving things with necessary truth in the conventional manner understood in modern logic.”

          It isn’t mystical. It requires no assumption of any supernatural realm or being. It is you, on Earth, finite and mortal.

          Praxeology vis a vis modern logic is the self-reflective study of action concerning the usage of modern logic, not the content of modern logic.

          This can be understood by supposing that you write logical syllogisms on paper, and then realize that the activity of writing the logical syllogisms, is not the action itself, but a creation of action. An actor creates a logical syllogism. The actor isn’t the logical syllogism itself.

          It is understandable that a crude mind such as yours would fall pray to the notion that a distant relationship or affinity between the concept of Earthly individual activity and what the ancients thought of as God’s activity, to mean that they are identically supernatural.

          No God and no religion is required. It only seems that way to you because you have been brainwashed by positivist empiricism. To you, the only truth about the universe is what can be observed. To you the mind plays but a subsidiary role. A tabula rasa. But to Rationalists, the mind itself provides, through self-reflection, truths about the universe constrained to action.

          We can only understand action. We cannot observe action.

          Even the concept of “observation” itself must be grounded on something other than observation, if the validity of “observation” to provide us with information and knowledge is to be something other than circular logic. Observation cannot be validated or justified on the basis of observation. Even proposing the concept of observation, by virtue of it being expressed and understood, implies that it has already been transcended.

          LK, you are using a priori understanding when you claim to grasp the concept of observation. The very fact that you are even giving it a real world meaning, proves that you are transcending it as an actor. Actors utilize observation. Observation does not utilize actors. The truth about making observations cannot be grounded on observation.

          The truth of action does not lie in any “higher” realm. It is on an equal ontological footing with the external, causal world. Action and Causality are co-existent. The former is not the latter and the latter is not the former.

          • Lord Keynes says:

            So you’re saying that HA cannot be written as formal deductions, but can only be grasped as “self-reflective study” and intuitive truth?

            In other words, HA cannot be proving things with necessary truth in the conventional manner as understood in modern logic.

            “Intuition” does cut it — except for the religious fundamentalist or irrational cult member.

            • Major_Freedom says:

              “So you’re saying that HA cannot be written as formal deductions, but can only be grasped as “self-reflective study” and intuitive truth?”

              Of course. Any attempt to write syllogisms on paper, must be regarded as an activity. The symbols themselves are not activity. The activity remains you. You can’t escape your activity by writing “X leads to Y, and Y leads to Z.”

              At any rate, logical syllogisms are not self-contained. They do not prove themselves. CS Lewis wrote an essay that showed any logical syllogism, of premises followed by a conclusion, is not omnipotent in the sense of becoming absolute truth in and of itself. Any logical syllogism requires an self-understanding actor to “complete” a particular thought.

              For example, if I wrote down:

              1. If A, then B
              2. A
              3. Therefore B.

              This is a syllogism that doesn’t actually prove what you think it proves. The 3rd statement is actually grounded on an unstated tacit assumption. Action always transcends syllogisms.

              What you are doing, unintentionally, is seeking to understand action by destroying it, that is, by turning it into a rigid stasis with no further change or activity. But that’s impossible.

              Action is the only concept that I know of that cannot be understood through externalization. Externalization is itself an action. Action cannot leave the actor. It stays with the actor. That’s why it must be understood.

              “In other words, HA cannot be proving things with necessary truth in the conventional manner as understood in modern logic.”

              Conventional logic is incomplete. It’s why it keeps being modified and adjusted over the centuries. Why can’t someone write the be all and all of logic? You demand a fully explicit and expressed tome on action. Well, why not logic? Why hasn’t anyone written a book on logic that will stand forever as the decisive text on the subject?

              ““Intuition” does cut it — except for the religious fundamentalist or irrational cult member.”

              Intution does cut it. Mathematics is based on intuition. Formal logic is based on intuition.

              • Lord Keynes says:

                “Conventional logic is incomplete. It’s why it keeps being modified and adjusted over the centuries.

                In other words: HA cannot be proving things with necessary truth in the conventional manner as understood in modern logic.

                Ken B is vindicated.

                The rest of your bizarre rambling is fit only for true believing mystics.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                “In other words: HA cannot be proving things with necessary truth in the conventional manner as understood in modern logic.”

                No, that is a non-sequitur. You keep conflating action, with the laws grounded on action.

                HA can be used to prove economic laws.

                Modern logic is how such laws as the law of marginal utility are expressed.

                Modern logic cannot prove action however. That is my argument.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                Major_Freedom, you keep saying that action cannot be written down, but no one is asking for action itself to be written down in logical symbols, any more than Mises and Rothbard wrote down action in the verbal formal English. All I want is a text which takes what Mises and Rothbard said in verbal form, and as much as possible rewrites it in logical symbolism, noting those instances where it cannot be rewritten and must be said in informal English. That way, to the extent that there is some ordinary logical reasoning in Humn Action, we can verify that the logic is valid, and that Mises is not invoking any assumptions that he didn’t explicitly state. Until that is done, it’s hard for outsiders to accept that Mises and Rothbard really did find some a priori truths about economics.

                Also, you say “Why can’t someone write the be all and all of logic? You demand a fully explicit and expressed tome on action. Well, why not logic?” But no one is claiming that either logic or praxeology is a completed field. But books on logic can be written with great rigor, “fully explicit and expressed”, which is not to say complete. So no one is making a demand on praxeology that we wouldn’t make on logic.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                Also, you say “Mathematics is based on intuition. Formal logic is based on intuition.” Well, a lot of people believe that logic and mathematics is based on reason, which they view as completely seperate from intuition.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                I use reason and intuition interchangeably.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Keshav:

                “All I want is a text which takes what Mises and Rothbard said in verbal form, and as much as possible rewrites it in logical symbolism, noting those instances where it cannot be rewritten and must be said in informal English.”

                What if praxeological arguments are best expressed verbally? Wouldn’t that mean that if a text is predominantly verbal, it’s because most of praxeology cannot be best expressed through syllogism?

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                Well, if you use them interchangeably, that might be causing much of the confusion between you and Lord Keynes. Do you agree that the method by which we acquire analytic a priori truth is different from the method by which we acquire synthetic a priori truth. The distinction between the two methods is what people call the distinction between reason and intuition. Lord Keynes is saying that if you believe that results of praxeology can be established using the action axiom and the human faculty of reson, then the chain of decuction should be expressible in logical symbolism. If on the other hand, you believe that establishing the results of praxeology requires the continued use of the human faculty of intuition, then Lord Keynes is saying that praxeology is not a rigorous subject at all, but instead has the epistemological status of religious revelation.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                Major_Freedom, I’m OK if praxeology is not expressed as “best” as it can be. I would prefer it to be in a form where the validity of its logical reasoning, insofar as it does engage in some ordinarly logical reasoning, is utterly transparent, and that is best achieved by rendering as much of it as possible in the symbolism of logic.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Keshav:

                “Major_Freedom, I’m OK if praxeology is not expressed as “best” as it can be. I would prefer it to be in a form where the validity of its logical reasoning, insofar as it does engage in some ordinarly logical reasoning, is utterly transparent, and that is best achieved by rendering as much of it as possible in the symbolism of logic.”

                Action can only be understood. I don’t know how many times this needs to be repeated. Action is not alienable. Even alienating a concept, such as the product of labor, doesn’t destroy action.

                Every syllogism requires self-reflective understanding. No syllogism can express itself. Expressing is an action.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                When did I disagree with “action can only be understood”, or when did I say that understanding syllogisms does not require action?

              • Major_Freedom says:

                When you demanded that Action be written in syllogism.

        • Major_Freedom says:

          Typo:

          “This can be understood by supposing that you write logical syllogisms on paper, and then realize that the activity of writing the logical syllogisms, is not the action itself, but a creation of action”

          Should say

          “This can be understood by supposing that you write logical syllogisms on paper, and then realize that the written symbols of the logical syllogisms, is not the action itself, but a creation of action

    • Bala says:

      is clearly wrong as anyone with any training in formal logic can see from reading even a small amount of Rothbard.

      This, coming from a person who cannot disentangle demand from quantity demanded and then fails to recognise the point that “that quantity of money that is not offset by an increase in the need for money” does not mean that demand for money cannot be held constant is absolutely priceless.

      • Lord Keynes says:

        Show us where Rothbard provides “numbered axioms, postulates, and syllogistic inferences” in the style of ” Russell’s Principia”?

        Put up or shut up, as they say.

        • Bala says:

          Wait! That’s your demand. Why is it necessary to fulfill it? You still have to explain why that demand has to be fulfilled. You haven’t found anything wrong with the text.

          So, you comprehend or find one hole or shut up.

          • Keshav Srinivasan says:

            The reason that it’s important for that demand (or something similar to it) to be fulfilled, is that otherwise, there’s pretty much no way to know for sure that Mises hasn’t snuck in some assumption that no one has noticed. In contrast, if it was written in the form of numbered steps, it would be much harder to sneak in unstated assumptions or leaps in logic.

            • Bala says:

              You are missing the point. LK cites a guy who makes a claim that there are many assumptions. That, without a single one identified, is nothing short of mudslinging. There is no imperative to respond to mudslinging.

              As for your demand, if you can’t comprehend it, how about the case that the failing is yours and that you need to apply a little more thought before making a demand?

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                But if the text were written in the form of numbered steps, it would be transparent. There would be no need to make great efforts to comprehend it.

                The fact that no praxeologists have written it in suggests that perhaps they cannot, and that the reasoning of Mises and Rothbard would fall apart if subjected to such rigor. The burden is on the praxeologist to show that the reasoning is airtight enough that it would withstand such rigor.

              • Bala says:

                The fact that no praxeologists have written it in suggests that perhaps they cannot

                Wrong. It could also mean that they didn’t think it was worth the effort. It may be that they didn’t care about catering to the laziness of the lazy.

              • Lord Keynes says:

                As I said above, Mises’ statements about case and class probability do not follow from the action axiom.

                He needs the vast set of knowledge — unstated assumptions — about probability theory that has come from empirical investigation of the world, as in the relative frequency theory of probability:

                http://socialdemocracy21stcentury.blogspot.com/2013/09/misess-flawed-deduction-and-praxeology.html

                The case for free trade and comparative advantage depends on two hidden assumptions:

                (1) technology is unchanging and uniform; and

                (2) there are no returns to scale.

                http://socialdemocracy21stcentury.blogspot.com/2011/01/mises-on-ricardian-law-of-association.html

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                As I said, the burden is on the praxeologist who is trying to convince the rest of us that he has established a priori truths about economics. If you don’t want to convince the rest of us because we’re too lazy to wade through paragraphs to try to find out what Mises’ logic is, that’s up to you.

              • Bala says:

                900 odd pages is not a lot of wading to do, especially when what you can learn is a lot. On top of it, slinging mud on what you are lazy to go through is not a good approach.

              • Ken B says:

                Well here we are again over at the page margin for everything is very thin and small. Praxeology is imprecise. I have a truly marvelous demonstration of this proposition which this margin is too small to contain. If you are not too lazy you can work out the details yourself.

              • Bala says:

                Dear Door Knob,

                Praxeology is imprecise.

                You have made a positive assertion. You have not provided a substantiation that can be read. All you have is snark.

                It is understandable considering that you still haven’t managed to untangle demand from quantity demanded. How’s that job coming along?

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Action is not imprecise. It is “precisely” not subject to constant causal factors.

                To be precisely not something, is to be precise.

              • Ken B says:

                Yeah I was pretty sure you wouldn’t get the joke. But Keshav does.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                So you’re saying that praxeology is precise?

              • Bala says:

                Yeah! I know I often do not get jokes, but when I am dealing with door knobs, I prefer to take my precautions.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                Major_Freedom, no one is saying that action is imprecise. They’re doubting the claim that Mises’ and Rothbard’s work studying action is precise, rigorous, and logically airtight.

              • Bala says:

                Keshav,

                You said this

                They’re doubting the claim that Mises’ and Rothbard’s work studying action is precise, rigorous, and logically airtight.

                Actually, the discussion here is about a claim (cited by LK) that it is not all these.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                Bala, if we have an atheist and a theist, which of them do you think is making a positive claim, and who should the burden of proof be on?

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                Ken B’s joke was about Fermat’s last theorem, which was stated by Fernat on the margin of one of his books. He claimed to have a proof of it, but it was too large to be contained in the margin. It went unproven for four hundred years before someone managed to prove it.

              • Ken B says:

                Better Keshav would be a theist and an agnostic.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                Ken B, even between a theist and an atheist, the atheist has concluded there’a no god because he sees no reason to believe that there is one. So the burden is on the theist to give such a reason.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Keshav:

                “Major_Freedom, no one is saying that action is imprecise.”

                So you’re saying action is precise?

              • Bala says:

                Keshav,

                The theist is the one making the positive claim that God exists. Similarly, it is Schuller and, by extension, LK, you and the door knob who are the ones making the positive assertion that the theorising has assumptions.

                So, like it is for the theist, the onus is on you to substantiate your charge. Failing that, you have only been engaging in the intellectual equivalent of mudslinging.

  27. Major_Freedom says:

    Here’s LK in a nutshell:

    “Praxeology cannot be proven using modern logic.”

    What does “prove” mean?

    “Prove means to establish as true.”

    What does “establish” mean?

    “Establish means to declare and make explicit.”

    What does “declare” mean?

    “Declare means to communicate.”

    What does “communicate” mean?

    “Oh piss off, you’re just going to keep asking me what these terms mean, when everyone UNDERSTANDS what modern logical proof means and don’t have to keep asking!”

    QED

    • Lord Keynes says:

      M_F concedes defeat:

      What if praxeological arguments are best expressed verbally? Wouldn’t that mean that if a text is predominantly verbal, it’s because most of praxeology cannot be best expressed through syllogism?

      http://consultingbyrpm.com/blog/2013/12/respecting-sacred-cows.html#comment-95233

      Right. Mises’ economic theories are not capable of being deduced by formally valid deductions from the some few axioms.

      M_F has to invent new and mysterious forms of logic by intuition and mystical insight to establish apodictic truth.

      • Ken B says:

        Correct. Rothbard explicitly states that he can use the action of action and a few subsidiary axioms to deduce all of the results of praxeology. Deductions from axioms should be formalizable. If not then there is more required than a few axioms . You need at the very least an entirely different system of inference which is inexplicable in terms of formal logic.

        • Major_Freedom says:

          No, it’s incorrect. I said action cannot be expressed via syllogism.

          But economic laws can. They would just be requiring a reader to understand them. They won’t explain themselves. The syllogisms of the laws are necessarily incomplete because it will always be missing the key “understanding” ingredient.

          Actually, all syllogisms are like this. They are all based on unstated assumptions.

          • Keshav Srinivasan says:

            Major_Freedom, even if you’re right that syllogisms are not the pinnacle of rigor, isn’t it at least possible to derive the law of economics with at least the rigor of a syllogism?

            • Major_Freedom says:

              Of course. You can take any economics law, explained verbally, and translate it into a syllogism. But if the laws are better expressed with the rigor of verbal argument, why would you use syllogism?

          • Lord Keynes says:

            And nobody on this blog said that the formal deductions require no human to be understood.

            • Major_Freedom says:

              I didn’t claim anyone did say that the formal deductions require no actor.

              I said that action cannot be put onto paper, but the creations of action, such as logical syllogisms that we call economic laws, can be put onto paper, but those statements will not be complete and self-contained, but rather they will be contingent upon action being present.

            • Major_Freedom says:

              What a silly habit you have LK. You seem to take my arguments to be accusations that people are saying the opposite. But that’s flawed logic.

              Merely not denying something is not the equivalent of understanding that same something. You need to do more than merely not deny it. For example, as of now, you are not denying the WKB approximation in quantum mechanics. But does this imply you understand it? No.

              So when I say stuff about paper becoming sentient, it isn’t because I am accusing people of having that belief. That is how you think. It isn’t how I think. You are busying yourself with attacking people (name calling, etc). I am busying myself with ideas and ideas only (other than being distracted by anti-intellectual behavior from you).

              If you can understand that formal deductions are incomplete on their own, then you have totally conceded my argument that action is not what can be put onto paper, but is what understands what is on paper. What is on the paper are logical deductions contingent upon an actor reader.

      • Major_Freedom says:

        “Right. Mises’ economic theories are not capable of being deduced by formally valid deductions from the some few axioms.”

        Again, you’re conflating action with the economic laws grounded on action.

        Economic laws can be expressed logically, but action is understood.

        There is nothing mystical about this.

        • Ken B says:

          You claim to be able to determine by introspection of your own thoughts apodictic truths about me that cannot be expressed logically nor tested empirically. Calling this Mystical is kind.

          • Major_Freedom says:

            If you’re an actor, then my self-reflection on being an actor applies 100% to you. It’s not mystical.

            If you present to me arguments that intend to refute me, then you would have to admit that I would have to understand your words to be an argument, an action, rather than meaningless symbols.

            If you’re an actor, then you MUST incur costs to your actions. You must forgo alternatives if you choose to do X instead of anything else.

            This is not mystical. I really don’t have to prove YOU’RE an actor for me to know what is true for myself as an actor. If you’re not an actor, then why should I consider your words to be something that you seem to want me to understand as a product of your purposeful behavior?

        • Keshav Srinivasan says:

          Major_Freedom, when did anyone ever demand that action itself be put into symbolic form?

          • Major_Freedom says:

            You did, when you demanded that human action be put into logical syllogism before you’ll take it seriously.

            • Keshav Srinivasan says:

              When did I demand that action be put into logical symbolism? I wanted the text of Mises and Rothbard to be put into logical symbolism, not action itself.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                If a text on action is to be put into syllogism, then action must be put into syllogism.

                Action cannot be dissolved into syllogistic symbols on the on hand, and understanding on the other. It stays as understanding.

              • Ken B says:

                If a text on black holes is to be put into syllogisms then black holes must be put into syllogisms. That’s going to be one hard paper to submit. If they reject it How do you get it back?

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                Major_Freedom, can’t you equally say “If a text on action is to be put into French, then action must be put into French.”?

                No one is demanding that action be dissolved into logical symbolism, any more than Mises dissolved action in to the letters of the English alphabet.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Except Black holes are not categorically cognitive.

                Ken B, as soon as you use an analogy to describe action, by referencing external objects, you’ve lost.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                French is not a cognitive concept either. It is a form of communication, capable of being expressed, partially, by symbols. But it still requires an unwritten understanding to make sense of French words.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                You can’t write French words in such a way that the whole understands itself.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Keshav:

                “Major_Freedom, can’t you equally say “If a text on action is to be put into French, then action must be put into French.”?”

                Yes, you can equally say that.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                So Major_Freedom, you don’t believe that Mises’ and Rothbard’s texts on action can be translated into French?

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                Major_Freedom, I’m not claiming that logical symbolism can understand itself. All I want is a translation of Mises and Rothbard’s text into symbolic language, in the same way that you could translate it into French. I’m not demanding that action itself be reduced to symbolic language.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                Major_Freedom, when did I say that it doesn’t require understanding to make sense of logical symbolism?

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Keshav:

                “So Major_Freedom, you don’t believe that Mises’ and Rothbard’s texts on action can be translated into French?”

                Of course they can. Nothing I said implies otherwise.

                “Major_Freedom, I’m not claiming that logical symbolism can understand itself. All I want is a translation of Mises and Rothbard’s text into symbolic language, in the same way that you could translate it into French. I’m not demanding that action itself be reduced to symbolic language.”

                Economics is better expressed verbally. You can translate every argument in any verbal-based textbook into a syllogism.

                “Major_Freedom, when did I say that it doesn’t require understanding to make sense of logical symbolism?”

                When did I say you did say that?

            • Lord Keynes says:

              You did, when you demanded that human action be put into logical syllogism before you’ll take it seriously

              No, we did not.

              And this proves that M_F is a dishonest idiot whose main tactic is the fallacy of equivocation

              • Major_Freedom says:

                “No, we did not.”

                I wasn’t talking to you. I was talking to Keshav. Yes, he did demand it be presented that way before he’ll take it seriously. He said it would be more “rigorous.”

        • Lord Keynes says:

          “Economic laws can be expressed logically, but action is understood.”

          In which case, this buffoon M_F is now saying that HA CAN be formalised in deductions when ever Mises is informally deduced economic laws.

          • Major_Freedom says:

            I see you’re still confused, despite repeated responses correcting you. Once again:

            Action cannot be expressed.

            The logic of the laws deduced from action can be expressed, but they will not be self-contained and complete. They will all be contingent upon self-reflection. If self-reflection is not present to give the words meaning, then the symbols will be “dead”.

            In other words, I am distinguishing between activity on the one hand, and creations of activity, such as syllogisms on paper, on the other hand.

  28. Ken B says:

    Keshav writes “Major_Freedom, no one is saying that action is imprecise.”

    Right, no one has argued that on this thread yet. But we’ll get to it. Is a beating heart action? The praxeology Krugel say no, but look at the definitions apply. The beating heart certainly serves a purpose. The question is is it behavior? If not then we are owed some explanation or definition or criteria why not.
    And one can ask similar questions about behavior of the entire corporeal person. For example is sleepwalking an action? Is nocturnal emission an action? Are all human doings actions or are some outside that category? These questions all to be answered to put praxeology upon a firm formal basis.

    • Major_Freedom says:

      Keshav said it is imprecise.

      He wrote: “The point is, it’s not written with sufficient precision, unlike a mathematical text”

      • Ken B says:

        “Pronoun trouble” as Daffy Duck would say.

      • Keshav Srinivasan says:

        When did I ever say that action is imprecise? I was talking about the books of Mises and Rothbard, not about action itself.

        • Ken B says:

          Like Bob Murphy on the Kontradictions threads, Major Freedom suffers from Red Queen-by-proxy Syndrome.
          ‘When you use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.’

          • Major_Freedom says:

            How else do definitions come into existence? God? LOL!

            • Ken B says:

              Paging Lord Keynes! Paging Lord Keynes!

              LK you owe me at least a pint for this one!

              • Major_Freedom says:

                You choose to use definitions as well. Sometimes you choose to use definitions on the basis of popularity, sometimes not.

                How is this controversial?

              • Lord Keynes says:

                Several pints: just look at the his absurd comments above and below.

                The instant he accused people here of saying actual human actions can be put into symbol form, he he just admitted he is re-defining the term as used by us.

                Either that or he is so stupid he has severe reading and comprehension problems.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                “The instant he accused people here of saying actual human actions can be put into symbol form, he he just admitted he is re-defining the term as used by us.”

                I never said it could be put into symbol form. I was the one who said that if YOU insist on it being presented that way, then there will be an outcome that you would not accept, sush as sentience of the paper and written symbols.

                Either that or he is so stupid he has severe reading and comprehension problems.

          • Lord Keynes says:

            “Major Freedom suffers from Red Queen-by-proxy Syndrome.
            ‘When you use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.’”

            Exactly, Ken B, exactly.

            • Bob Murphy says:

              Please please please tell me that Lord Keynes and Ken B. are different people. If you are just the same guy playing out different personas, that really freaks me out.

              • Ken B says:

                Bugger. Bugger bugger bugger. The jig is up. Bugger bugger bugger.

            • Ken B says:

              Nice to see someone here can catch the reference!

  29. Keshav Srinivasan says:

    Major_Freedom, I just wanted to make sure you saw my comment here:
    http://consultingbyrpm.com/blog/2013/12/respecting-sacred-cows.html#comment-95237

    I think it may clarify at least some of your disagreement with Lord Keynes.

    • Major_Freedom says:

      “Do you agree that the method by which we acquire analytic a priori truth is different from the method by which we acquire synthetic a priori truth.”

      What is analytic “truth”?

      “The distinction between the two methods is what people call the distinction between reason and intuition. Lord Keynes is saying that if you believe that results of praxeology can be established using the action axiom and the human faculty of reson, then the chain of decuction should be expressible in logical symbolism.”

      It can’t be expressed va syllogism, if the ultimate premise is a concept that can only be understood.

      No syllogism is self-explanatory. They all require an actor to add a conscious component.

      “If on the other hand, you believe that establishing the results of praxeology requires the continued use of the human faculty of intuition, then Lord Keynes is saying that praxeology is not a rigorous subject at all, but instead has the epistemological status of religious revelation.”

      Intuition is not necessarily mystical.

      • Ken B says:

        What is analytic truth asked jesting Pilate, and would not stay for the analysis of an answer.

      • Keshav Srinivasan says:

        An example of an analytic a priori truth is “Bachelors are unmarried”.

        • Major_Freedom says:

          OK, so you define an analytic truth as a created relationship between and semantic order of, those words.

          If I said Bachelors are Married, then that is an analytic truth, if I define “Married” to mean what you mean by “Unmarried”.

          Where’s this going?

          • Keshav Srinivasan says:

            Obviously we can only discuss the truth or falsity of a sentence once we’ve fixed the meaning of the words. “Human action is purposeful behavior” would be false if you defined behavior to be chickenpox, and “the earth is round”would be false if you defined round to be square.

            In any case, what distinguishes an analytic a priori truth from other truths is that it’s always possible to know the truth of an analytic a priori sentence as long as you know the meaning of the words in the sentence.

            Many people believe that logic and mathematics are analytic a priori. For instance, they think “1 + 1 = 2″ is a truth that follows just from the meaning of 1, plus, equal and 2.

            In any case, “reason” refers to the method by which we come to know analytic a priori truths. Lord Keynes believes that if it is possible to to conclude through reason alone that A implies B (even if the premise A cannot be established through reason), then it is possible to write down in logical symbolism a proof that A implies B. So when you tell him that, for instance, it’s impossible to write down in logical symbolism a proof that the action axiom implies the law of demand, he concludes that you don’t believe that it’s possible to conclude through reason alone that the action axiom implies the law of demand, which means that the law of demand is not a logical consequence of the action axiom.

            • Major_Freedom says:

              “Obviously we can only discuss the truth or falsity of a sentence once we’ve fixed the meaning of the words.”

              What do you mean by “fixed”? Why don’t they come pre-fixed by nature?

              “In any case, what distinguishes an analytic a priori truth from other truths is that it’s always possible to know the truth of an analytic a priori sentence as long as you know the meaning of the words in the sentence.”

              So the words alone are not enough. There is required an actor to create, understand, and communicate these truths.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                “What do you mean by “fixed”? Why don’t they come pre-fixed by nature?” Human beings give meanings to words. When did I ever dispute that?

                “So the words alone are not enough. There is required an actor to create, understand, and communicate these truths.” Again, when did anyone disagree with that? Could you respond to the points I actually made?

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Keshav:

                “Human beings give meanings to words. When did I ever dispute that?”

                You didn’t. It’s your lack of addressing this that I am directing your attention towards.

                What do you mean by “give”?

                “So the words alone are not enough. There is required an actor to create, understand, and communicate these truths.”

                “Again, when did anyone disagree with that?”

                I didn’t say you did disagree. Again, it’s your lack of addressing it that is the issue.

                “Could you respond to the points I actually made?”

                I am responding. I am trying to help you understand what this is all about by asking you to think a little differently than you presently are.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                I don’t see how this is clarifying anything, but here goes: when I say “give”, I mean that in order to facilitate the communication of ideas, humans develop language in which sounds and characters are assigned ideas that they correspond to, so that humans can exchange ideas with one another just by exchanging sounds and characters.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Keshav:

                What do “develop”, “assign” and “exchange” mean?

                Preferably in mathematical symbology please.

            • Major_Freedom says:

              Keshav:

              “So when you tell him that, for instance, it’s impossible to write down in logical symbolism a proof that the action axiom implies the law of demand, he concludes that you don’t believe that it’s possible to conclude through reason alone that the action axiom implies the law of demand, which means that the law of demand is not a logical consequence of the action axiom.”

              No, the law of demand is a logical implication of action. The initial premise just can’t be expressed. But the propositions can. All syllogisms are not able to explain themselves. They are dead when abstracted from action.

              The law of demand can be understood by a series of propositions in one’s mind, grounded on understanding what it means to understand, that is, what it means to act.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                Major_Freedom, do you or do you not believe that the series of propositions required to show that he action axiom implies the law of demand is capable of being written in syllogistic format? Again, no one is claiming that syllogisms are “able to explain themselves”.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Any economic law can be expressed via syllogism. The crucial point however is that the ultimate grounding of the truth of the syllogism is not capable of being contained in the syllogism itself. All syllogisms are true because of an additional
                “external” cognitive component.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                Major_Fredom, when you say “any economic law can be expressed via syllogism”, that is all I wanted, and I think that’s all Lord Keynes wanted as well. So now the question becomes, if they can be expressed via syllogism, why doesn’t someone express them like that?

                To reiterate, I’m not disputating that syllogisms require human understanding.

              • Ken B says:

                Keshav, leave MF has contradicted himself in the last few comments. He says that all economic loss to be expressed by syllogism, and that the law of demand is an economic law. But he denies that it can be expressed by syllogism because he denies that the premise can be expressed symbolically.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Keshav:

                “Major_Fredom, when you say “any economic law can be expressed via syllogism”, that is all I wanted, and I think that’s all Lord Keynes wanted as well. So now the question becomes, if they can be expressed via syllogism, why doesn’t someone express them like that?”

                I think we’ve already gone over this. All syllogisms can be communicated equivalently via verbal discussion. Since economics is best expressed via verbal discussion, so too will you see economic laws so expressed.

              • Ken B says:

                Keshav, I am mailing you the complete MF debate kit.

              • Ken B says:

                It is a laminated index card.
                The first side reads “turn over”.
                The second side reads “turn over”.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Ken B:

                “Keshav, leave MF has contradicted himself in the last few comments. He says that all economic loss to be expressed by syllogism, and that the law of demand is an economic law. But he denies that it can be expressed by syllogism because he denies that the premise can be expressed symbolically.

                No, I said that understanding (which is the Kantian root of action) cannot be expressed symbolically.

                You can write an economic law, such as the law of marginal utility (as for example stated by Hoppe) verbally:

                “Whenever the supply of a good increases by one additional unit, provided each unit is regarded as of equal serviceability by a person, the value attached to this unit must decrease.

                “For this additional unit can only be employed as a means for the attainment of a goal that is considered less valuable than the least valued goal satisfied by a unit of such good if the supply were one unit shorter.”

                I am sure that you fans of syllogisms can translate this into a syllogism.

                Once you do, or if you do, you’ll notice that throughout this explanation, there are terms that can only be understood, namely, all the terms that are grounded on action, such as “valuation”, “employed”, “attainment of a goal”, etc.

                These terms are guideposts for the reader to self-reflect, and add an additional component to the syllogism that is necessarily lacking in the syllogism itself.

  30. Ken B says:

    Lord Keynes are you there?
    We need a new verb. I suggest “bepretzel”.

  31. Ken B says:

    Major freedom you are evading one of keshav’s main points. He does not demand that praxeology be reduced to a text which understands itself. He does not demand to create a self-aware sentence. He is attempting to answer the question how rigorous are the inferences made in praxeology, and to determine which inferences cannot be deduced from previously stated or proven propositions. Formal logic is a tool for helping to do this.

    • Major_Freedom says:

      “He does not demand that praxeology be reduced to a text which understands itself.”

      You keep missing the point of the reason why I keep saying that. I keep saying it not because I actually think Keshav believes words can understand themselves, but rather, that action (understanding), if we assume can be written into symbolic syllogism, would be self-conscious. Since it is prepostrous that words would understand themselves, it means that action cannot be expressed symbolically.

      Formal logic is a useful tool, I agree. However, you should be clear on the fact that all formal logic requires an additional cognitive component for it to to do what you believe it does. This additional component is the subject matter of praxeology.

  32. Keshav Srinivasan says:

    Lord Keynes, I think we finally have an answer from Major_Freedom:
    http://consultingbyrpm.com/blog/2013/12/respecting-sacred-cows.html#comment-95368

    He thinks economic laws can be expressed via syllogism. He just doesn’t think that action itself can be expressed via syllogism, and he wants to make clear that syllogisms alone do not establish truth, in the absence of a human to understand them.

    • Ken B says:

      Even if we grant and have his correct in all those propositions, how does that address the question that lk and I and you posed?

      Further I do not think he believes that the law of demand can be expressed in a syllogism from the axiom of action because he denies that the XM of action can be expressed symbolically. Therefore he is really denying that praxeology can be expressed as a series of syllogisms because it always starts with the action axiom.

      His comments in short are contradictory.

      • Keshav Srinivasan says:

        I don’t think he believes that the action axiom can’t be stated as a premise in a syllogism. He only believes that action itself, which he views as the “ultimate premise”, can’t be stated as a premise in a syllogism.

        • Ken B says:

          “No, the law of demand is a logical implication of action. The initial premise just can’t be expressed.”

          • Keshav Srinivasan says:

            Yes, as I said, he doesn’t think that action itself can be expressed. The action axiom can be expressed as a premise in syllogism though.

            • Major_Freedom says:

              Right. I can write the word “action” as a premise, and I can write until my fingers hurt in explaining what it means, but however much I write, the words themselves are dead unless there is an actor to add their understanding. Then the syllogism is doing what you have always thought they do.

      • Keshav Srinivasan says:

        But yes, I agree we still don’t have an answer for the ultimate question “If it can be, why hasn’t it been?”

        • Major_Freedom says:

          Because verbal analysis is a better tool for explicating economics.

        • Major_Freedom says:

          Can you imagine if all I posted were syllogisms? Can you imagine how difficult things would be?

          • Ken B says:

            Actually as a mathematician I suspect he can. But that was not the question. The question was not why don’t we just correspond in formal logic. The question was why has nobody ever attempted to capture the logical deductions formally to allow them to be checked by others? If Formal logic is a tool that can be deployed to answer criticism and convince skeptics why has it not been so employed?

            • Major_Freedom says:

              “The question was why has nobody ever attempted to capture the logical deductions formally to allow them to be checked by others?”

              Because economics is better expressed verbally. Verbal argument can certainly be “checked by others”, as long as they understand English (or German, whatever the case may be).

              Please don’t confuse yourself. The reason Austrian economics is not written in syllogisms is not due to some flaw or inferiority or corruption of the theory. Quite the opposite. It is because verbal language gives the actor the largest domain with which to think, communicate, and teach, and to give economics the best opportunity to be understood, verbal analysis is the way to go.

              If you asked me, if economics were reduced to syllogisms, it would become degraded and far more prone to misunderstanding and confusion.

              I mean, even when we read syllogisms, we tend to translate them into everyday language when thinking about them. Why not just use verbal discussion the whole time? Saves a lot of wasted time and energy.

          • Major_Freedom says:

            Sometimes when I read formal logic textbooks, I cannot help but ponder whether the authors are just lazy by reducing what is already expressed in English, down to single symbols. Or pehaps they are trying to feel sophisticated by inventing parsimonious language to feel separated from the idiots. They use non-English symbology to represent what already has English words.

            For example, the symbol “For every” is a backwards E, and the upside A means “For all.”

            When you read Human Action, versus when you read the Principia Mathematica, I submit that Human Action is far more clear. When you see pages and pages of unorthodox symbols, for me I have to translate them all to every day language first.

            I have a question for you Ken B: Why have no formal logic academics ever written a purely verbal book on logic? After all, the entirety of the Principia Mathematica could certainly be translated into plain English.

            WHY HASN’T ANYONE DONE THIS M_F?!? I WON’T TAKE IT SERIOUSLY UNTIL IT IS TRANSLATED INTO MY PREFERRED LANGUAGE!

            • Ken B says:

              As has been explained patiently by more than one trained mathematician, formal logic allows each inference and each assumption to be noted and tested. There are standards of proof in formal logic. They allow pretty rigorous checking of any claim. That is why disputes in mathematics and quickly.

              The answer that you and Bella give fundamentally is “don’t wanna.”
              Do not be surprised when other people shrug their shoulders and say okay fine with me and then dismiss you.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                “As has been explained patiently by more than one trained mathematician, formal logic allows each inference and each assumption to be noted and tested”

                So can those same inferences translated into verbal statements be so noted and tested.

                Why aren’t there any translations into every day language, where those statements are noted and tested with subsequent verbal analysis? Is there something wrong with formal logic?

                Seems like you simply “don’t wanna” translate such symbols and syllogisms into more rigorous verbal statements.

              • Ken B says:

                Keshav, you see the futility.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Just repeating your prejudice back at ya Ken B, so that you can understand the content of your statements.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                I was kinda hoping you would come back with “Because formal logic is better expressed using syllogisms and non-verbal symbology.”

                That I would have agreed with, and then I would have said “That same reason is why Austrians use verbal analysis in their texts.”

                Then we can all go home.

              • Ken B says:

                It’s not prejudice. Formal languages allow easier checking. That is why mathematicians use them. It is why computer programmming languages are specified with formal grammars. Explain to me why HTML and XML are used to describe webpages not English. Is it just a prejudice?

                Plus what was really asked for was numbered propositions with an explanation of how each proposition should be categorized. That doesn’t even require formal symbols. That has not been done either.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Ken B:

                “It’s not prejudice. Formal languages allow easier checking. That is why mathematicians use them.”

                Keshav is saying it’s because it is more “rigorous.”

                You are saying it’s because of laziness in following verbal arguments.

                Yeah, it’s not prejudice.

                “It is why computer programmming languages are specified with formal grammars. Explain to me why HTML and XML are used to describe webpages not English. Is it just a prejudice?”

                Like I said below, if you would say that formal logic is written the way it because it is a better method, then I would have let it go. But you two are presenting it as if it is universally better. Not so. In economics, verbal analysis is better.

                “Plus what was really asked for was numbered propositions with an explanation of how each proposition should be categorized. That doesn’t even require formal symbols. That has not been done either.”

                You are free to translate all Austrian texts into less useful syllogisms if you want. There is nothing stopping anyone from doing it, just like there is nothing stopping people from translating Principia Mathematica into plain language.

                So the question is why aren’t people doing this? It should be obvious. It’s because some languages are better suited to specific fields of inquiry.

                A professor of classical literature would probably be making heads turn if he presented it via syllogism.

  33. Ken B says:

    We are pushing 400 comments. Many of them being about the question that Keshav, Lord Keynes and I asked. Just out of curiosity Keshav and Lord Keynes do you feel you’ve received an adequate answer? I do not. I feel we’ve received several ridiculous ones, but no adequate ones.

    • Major_Freedom says:

      Ken B, I thought I answered all of your questions. If you’re not satisfied, perhaps if you restate the question you think is going unanswered, and I promise to do my best to answer it.

    • Lord Keynes says:

      (1) Bala gave an answer but refuses to rcognise that MES is not in symbolic form.

      (2) M_F is just incoherent. In these latest comments above he has changed his position.

      • Hank says:

        The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money was not written in symbolic form either.

      • Major_Freedom says:

        “M_F is just incoherent. In these latest comments above he has changed his position.”

        No, I haven’t.

  34. Ken B says:

    http://consultingbyrpm.com/blog/2013/12/respecting-sacred-cows.html#comment-95498

    No one here is saying that blue cheese mixed with feta cheese is an unappealing combination. No one has discussed cheese at all.
    “so you’re saying blue cheese mixed with feta cheese is appealing?”

    • Major_Freedom says:

      A simple no would suffice. But I am suspicious of whether his answer really is no, which is why I asked. I didn’t ask because I think it logically follows from the lack of saying it’s imprecise.

      This is a good example of a logical puzzle that Ken B has obviously never heard of. It’s called post hoc ergo propter hoc.

      To wit:

      “I don’t wanna translate syllogisms into plain English whereby they can be noted and tested by others.”

      “So you’re saying you like hamburgers?”

      “That doesn’t follow.”

      “I never said it did.”

      “That “so” really sounded like you did.”

      “So as I was saying, do you or do you not like hamburgers?”

      “That doesn’t follow either.”

      “I know, I just like throwing the use of “so” around.”

  35. Bala says:

    Dear Door Knob,

    Since you are trying to summarise the discussion, here it is.

    1. Keshav and LK threw a lot of mud and pretended to be engaging at an intellectual level
    2. We showed that everything they had to say was nothing more than mudslinging
    3. Keshav was quick to accept that he is not saying that praxeology is imprecise or is making assumptions, unjustified or otherwise
    4. LK was especially hilarious in pulling statements out of HA only to be shown that he just didn’t understand the economic theorising or the statements themselves were not core to the economic theorising.
    5. Keshav acknowledged that his problem is that praxeology hasn’t been written the way he is comfortable comprehending. That’s the intellectual equivalent of a 3-year old in a toy store stomping his feet and bawling “I want thaaaaaaat toy.”
    6. Keshav acknowledged that he is so far unable to identify the errors or the assumptions in praxeology. LK has admitted as much the moment he stopped pulling statements out only to be shown for the economic ignoramus he is.
    7. The door knob, as usual, failed to comprehend anything and was reduced to making smart alec, snarky remarks

    I hope this has been a good summary.

    • Ken B says:

      This has been a wonderful summary! It’s everything I could’ve hoped for! I hope everyone reads it!

      • Bala says:

        Are you done untangling demand from quantity demanded?

  36. Hank says:

    Dear Ken B,

    All propositions expressed verbally can also be expressed symbolically. The reason this was never done by Mises is because symbolic logic is a relatively new concept that stems from the love affair with mathematics. You are free to convert any proposition of Mises into symbolic form and show how it is wrong. There is literally nothing stopping you from doing this. For thousands of years people have written without using symbolic form. I guess we should dismiss Aristotle and start from scratch because he didn’t use Ken B’s math symbols. Oh well.

    Dear Keshav,

    Any propitiation has the same value from a logical stand point. Both “there is a god” and “there is no god” are both statements that I cannot prove. Why must I accept the proposition that the burden of proof lies with the theist OR the atheist? If you tell me you saw a pink elephant the other day (or god), how am I supposed to prove you wrong? YOU saw it. There is nothing ILLOGICAL about a pink elephant. Surely you could conceive something that is both pink and is an elephant.

    • Ken B says:

      Hank You too are hilarious. ” thousands of years”. Have you ever read Euclid?

      • Ken B says:

        Really this comment from Hank is just too funny. From the time of the ancient Greeks until about the 18th century Euclid was the gold standard in careful reasoning and the most successful and widely used textbook in history. To suggest that carefully identifying postulates axioms and inferences and numbering statements and explaining which category they belong to is something new bespeaks a profound ignorance.

        • Hank says:

          “Mathematical logic emerged in the mid-19th century as a subfield of mathematics independent of the traditional study of logic (Ferreirós 2001, p. 443)”

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

          This is from Wikipedia and uses an outside source. Euclid was not alive, troll.

      • Hank says:

        Thank you.

        You have yet to make an attempt to reveal any contradictions. However, you seem to enjoy trolling.

  37. Ken B says:

    And there you have it. The praxeology crowd cannot frame an argument nor refrain from calling names.

    • Major_Freedom says:

      Hey now, don’t lump me in with name callers.

      Also, I don’t see you chastising LK for name calling. He’s been insulting and name calling in virtually every post, and yet you’re insinuating it’s only the “praxeology crowd.”

      You’re being disingenuous.

      • Ken B says:

        You maybe right; calling someone lost and saying they have a bad attitude isn’t actually name-calling. Saying that someone is an argument for retroactive abortion isn’t actually name-calling either, so on that narrow basis you are exempt. Consider yourself only lumped in with those who cannot frame an argument in response to the question that was asked.

    • Hank says:

      You are a troll because instead of trying to show any real contradiction, you are complaining what form it’s in. You said I was “hilarious” which is an obvious provocation.

  38. Bala says:

    Very interesting. Hank says THIS…

    For thousands of years people have written without using symbolic form. I guess we should dismiss Aristotle and start from scratch because he didn’t use Ken B’s math symbols. Oh well.

    And the response to that is THIS

    From the time of the ancient Greeks until about the 18th century Euclid was the gold standard in careful reasoning and the most successful and widely used textbook in history. To suggest that carefully identifying postulates axioms and inferences and numbering statements and explaining which category they belong to is something new bespeaks a profound ignorance.

    Amazing. Now who doesn’t get logic? Hank’s point was Verbal reasoning has been used very gainfully and effectively by some of the best minds for thousands of years. What’s the response? Euclid used symbols in his reasoning.

    Did Hank say ONLY verbal reasoning was used? Were there hidden words all of us mere mortals cannot see?

    Mindblowing stuff. Very revealing.

    • Ken B says:

      Euclid used numbered propositions axioms theorems and conclusions and clearly identified what kind of statement each was. That is what the praxeologists were asked for.

      “If Mises denies this, let him try to rewrite his book as a set of numbered axioms, postulates, and syllogistic inferences”
      That quote appears above in this thread.

      That point has been made repeatedly on this thread by several of us.
      Schuller fact suggested ttwo books Misys could have used as models , books which do this careful logic, russell or neuman book on game theory.

      • Hank says:

        The propositions are true whether they are “numbered” or not. At least Mises made an argument. You, on the other hand, have yet to make an argument.

        • Keshav Srinivasan says:

          But the logical validity of Mises’ arguments would be more easily discerned if there were numbered propositions.

          • Ken B says:

            Let’s review the bidding. Mises claims that there are no hidden assumptions in his development. The easiest way to demonstrate that is through a careful cataloging of the actual assumptions he made, the structure and sequence of each proof so that it may be easily determined whether the assumptions called out explicitly are sufficient to establish the propositions. That would effectively silence the critics. It works in other fields of endeavor such as mathematics, which is also concerned with a priori propositions. Yet it has not been done.

            • Bala says:

              Mises claims that there are no hidden assumptions in his development.

              Having to repeat this over and over again is sickening, but this statement of yours is a false representation of this 400+ comment thread.

              The correct representation is that you guys presented Schuller’s mudslinging as sufficient to necessitate the cataloguing of assumptions. The real requirement is that YOU guys list out at least 1 unjustified assumption in the economic reasoning. 400+ comments are done and Keshav, LK and you are yet to show a single instance. Whatever LK tried was destroyed in a couple of sentences. Telling, isn’t it?

              • Lord Keynes says:

                “Whatever LK tried was destroyed in a couple of sentences. “

                Only on your fertile imagination, Bala.

              • Lord Keynes says:

                It is already shown that

                (1) Mises needs to prove that the difference between case and class probability is real, and that he can defend his understanding of uncertainty

                (2) (1) requires vast hidden and unstated assumptions and theories from the frequency theory of probability: Mises CANNOT do it by mere deduction from the action axiom.

                (3) contrary to Bala’s idiocy, Mises’s concept of uncertainty is used repeatedly in economic analysis IN HA to prove things:

                p. 250, 414
                uncertainty means people have a motive for holding cash: this has economic effects.

                p. 650
                economic effects of uncertainty on employees are described

                p. 291
                ultimate source of profit and loss is uncertainty about future demand and supply
                e.g.,

              • Bala says:

                LK,

                You are yet to show where it is critical in the economic reasoning. As of now, I am chasing ghosts.

              • Lord Keynes says:

                Yes, Bala we know you are obviously such an idiot you cannot see that fundamental (non-calculable) uncertainty IS “critical in … [Mises's] economic reasoning”.

                E.G., uncertainty is the source of profit and loss (HA, p. 291) and the cause of why people have a motive for holding cash, which itself has very significant economic effects.

                I expect you think the ability to deduce why profit and loss happens is not in any way “critical” to economic reasoning.

                Fool.

              • Bala says:

                And pray how does Mises establish that uncertainty exists? By any chance does he classify it as a category of action? I mean to say, does he say the very fact of action presupposes uncertainty?

              • Lord Keynes says:

                Human action in the way Mises describes it in his action axiom can only be established as true empirically, not a priori or by introspection. So even Mises’ first claim falls to pieces.

                And the existence of non-calculable probability is NOT contained in the action axiom. One has to use a vast set of unstated arguments from empirical reality and probability theory to establish the noncalculable nature of some probabilities and the concept of radical uncertainty.

              • Lord Keynes says:

                “And pray how does Mises establish that uncertainty exists?”

                Answer: he does not by formal deduction from the action axiom because he CANNOT.

              • Bala says:

                Here’s Mises on Uncertainty and Acting.

                THE uncertainty of the future is already implied in the very notion of
                action. That man acts and that the future is uncertain are by no means two independent matters. They are only two different modes of establishing one thing.

                We may assume that the outcome of all events and changes is uniquely determined by eternal unchangeable laws governing becoming and development in the whole universe. We may consider the necessary connection and interdependence of all phenomena, i.e., their causal concatenation, as the fundamental and ultimate fact. We may entirely discard the notion of undetermined chance. But however that may be, or appear to the mind of a perfect intelligence, the fact remains that to acting man the future is hidden. If man knew the future, he would not have to choose and would not act. He would be like an automaton, reacting to stimuli without any will of his own.

              • Lord Keynes says:

                (1) he is wrong that it is implied in the action axiom.

                (2) He is wrong:

                “We may assume that the outcome of all events and changes is uniquely determined by eternal unchangeable laws governing becoming and development in the whole universe. We may consider the necessary connection and interdependence of all phenomena, i.e., their causal concatenation, as the fundamental and ultimate fact. We may entirely discard the notion of undetermined chance.

                Quantum mechanics has undetermined chance events.

              • Lord Keynes says:

                And how can Mises know that no human being has ever had the “mind of a perfect intelligence” to whom the future is not hidden?

                Answer: empirically, not priori.

              • Bala says:

                he is wrong that it is implied in the action axiom.

                Did you read this?

                If man knew the future, he would not have to choose and would not act. He would be like an automaton, reacting to stimuli without any will of his own.

                Perfect knowledge of the future eliminates the need and possibility of purposeful behaviour. However, man acts. Hence man cannot be in possession of perfect knowledge of the future. To state that an entity is simultaneously a man and in possession of perfect knowledge of the future is to violate the law of non-contradiction.

                So, this

                empirically, not priori.

                is just mindless non-stuff.

              • Bala says:

                Immediately after this

                We may entirely discard the notion of undetermined chance.“

                he says this

                But however that may be, or appear to the mind of a perfect intelligence, the fact remains that to acting man the future is hidden.

                To me, it looks like Mises is saying “even if you remove the concept of undetermined chance, acting man faces a future knowledge about which is hidden from him.”

                So the quip about QM is actually quite silly.

              • Ken B says:

                Either Mises uses unstated assumptions or he doesnt. If he does then he has not derived his results from just the notion of action. But Mises does claim that.

              • Lord Keynes says:

                “If man knew the future, he would not have to choose and would not act.”

                That is itself a non sequitur, and does not establish the existence of non-calculable uncertainty. Mises is wrong and deluded.

                In fact, that all human action by non-mentally-ill human beings aims at ends does not establish that implies radical uncertainty exists or the unknowability of the future.

                It would be possible for beings fully aware of the consequences of all present and future action to still act and act with a purpose when they act.

                Your can quote all the idiot lines from Mises you like, but it doesn’t refute the argument above.

              • Lord Keynes says:

                “Perfect knowledge of the future eliminates the need and possibility of purposeful behaviour”

                It does no such thing.

                An agent with perfect knowledge of the future could still act with a purpose: he would just be certain of all consequences of action.

                All these lame quotes you drag from Mises just show how wretched and stupid Mises’s thinking was, and what a third rate thinker he was.

              • Bala says:

                LK,

                Purposeful behaviour is impossible when an alternate outcome cannot even be conceived of. There can be no purpose when there is no choice. Purpose presupposes choice.

                Perfect knowledge implies that alternate outcomes and hence choice are eliminated. Therefore, perfect knowledge of the future implies the impossibility of purposeful behaviour.

                I know this is too much for you to comprehend. So screaming non sequitur is the easier way out. Keep doing it. Anyone reading will find it easy to spot the idiot.

              • Lord Keynes says:

                “Purposeful behaviour is impossible when an alternate outcome cannot even be conceived of”

                It does not follow that no “alternate outcome cannot even be conceived”: it is just not possible.

                You are also assuming no free will, when Mises leaves open the question whether people have free will:

                “They may be right or wrong from the point of view of the prime mover or the cause of itself.”

                Secondly, even if we assume no free will, then this totally invalidates the idea that people freely choose to act now: so Mises can’t even say that people who are uncertain freely choose and act voluntarily, because with no free will they cannot act voluntarily.

                With free will of course the argument is fine.

                Even with no free will Mises’ argument is still incoherent.

              • Lord Keynes says:

                “Perfect knowledge implies that alternate outcomes and hence choice are eliminated. Therefore, perfect knowledge of the future implies the impossibility of purposeful behaviour.”

                False. It does not entail it.

                Even if the future is “known” that does not necessarily entail no free will: you could choose from different actions at each point in time and know the different worlds that would result from each choice: just like possible worlds modal logic.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                LK:

                If the future is known, then that implies one future. If instead you’re saying to know the future is to know all possible futures based on all conceivable choices which have their own outcomes, then the future is not actually known at all, because the chooser can’t be regarded as knowing what he himself will choose in the future when the time comes.

                For if the chooser did know what he will choose in the future, then we’re back with only one future to be unfolded. That is the equivalent of no choice at all, because choice requires more than one possible future, which enables a selection of different courses of action today. To know something, anything, has a significant implication. If you argue that one KNOWS the future “choices” they make, then by definition there is no deviating from that path. A single world that will exist in the future, eliminates any possibility of choice altering the course of history. History would be inevitable.

                Bala is correct. You, as usual, are wrong.

                Freedom actually requires less that full knowledge of reality. In other words, action implies uncertainty. This is why uncertainty is regarded as a category of action in praxeology.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                LK:

                “Quantum mechanics has undetermined chance events.”

                Quantum events are not actions.

              • Ken B says:

                There you go taxonimizing the natural world after you promised not to!

              • Major_Freedom says:

                I didn’t promise that.

                Gee whizz, you are so lost.

              • Bala says:

                MF,

                Exactly my train of thought. Thanks

    • Ken B says:

      Speaking of which where in my remarks about Euclid did I refer to symbols. This is yet another fantasy of Ballas fertile imagination. My remarks make plane that I was talking about Euclids careful numbering and classification. Euclid did not use the machinery of modern mathematical logic. However he did fulfill the conditions in Sholars challenge. Is no excuse to say that mathematical logic was a new idea in Mises’s time. Von neuman’s book is contemporaneous, Russell’s book is earlier.

      • Bala says:

        No, my dear sir. The key point was that you completely missed Hank’s point and went off on a tangent. That Euclid did it that way does not mean others did not or that it was a superior way in all situations. I know it is beyond you to comprehend basic stuff the way it is difficult for you to comprehend the difference between demand and quantity demanded.

      • Hank says:

        GO BACK TO YOUR CAVE!

        I just googled Sholars challenge and didn’t find anything. Did you make it up? Whether it exists or not, you still have yet to point out a contradiction of Mises, or make any argument for that matter.

        Keynes didn’t use “careful numbering”. I guess we should dismiss him. Come to think of it, Adam Smith didn’t either. Well I guess we should just throw it all out!

        • Ken B says:

          Siri did. SCHULL ER. The man quoted above.

          • Bala says:

            All Schuller did was to throw mud. Since when has intellectual mudslinging been a valid approach to a debate? I can understand LK being excited by the idea because that’s all he wants to do. How about you?

          • Hank says:

            Schuller was responded to by Rothbard:

            http://mises.org/rothbard/Misescomment.pdf
            http://mises.org/rothbard/schuller.pdf

            In the quote, Schuller says, “it uses unstated assumptions”. Conveniently, Schuller doesn’t give us an example. Even so, do assumptions render a proposition false? Is there something toxic about assumptions that I am missing? Do you have an argument? These are questions I will never receive an answer to.

      • Bala says:

        OK I do stand corrected. You are saying Euclid used numbered propositions in his work. My response is

        So what??? Does that mean it was the only proper method or the best method in ALL cirdumstances?

        And then you wonder why you aren’t being taken more seriously.

        • Major_Freedom says:

          Wouldn’t 10 sentences that constitute a paragraph already be implicitly numbered by virtue of them being in the order they are written in?

          What, do we need to include phonics as well?

          • Bala says:

            Precisely. That’s what these guys are completely failing to comprehend.

            Phonics would be a good idea, incidentally. Many pre-schoolers find it very useful.

            • Major_Freedom says:

              Phonics make an argument “more rigorous.”

              It’s likely phonics aren’t in academic journal papers on mechanical engineering for example, because there is something wrong with them. Why hasn’t anyone included phonics in these papers?? I demand phonics or else I won’t take it seriously!

              • Ken B says:

                Keshav, you there? You still think you can have a sensible debate?

              • Hank says:

                What debate? For a debate, you need an actual argument.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Sorry Ken B, I forgot, only you can be smarmy. When others act like you do, then all of sudden sensible debate is impossible.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                You’re being very hypocritical Ken B. What I said there is tame compared to the snarkiness you bring to the table on a consistent basis.

                Since when were you serious about ideas?

          • Ken B says:

            Yes that’s what everybody meant. Just number your sentences. That’s what made Euclid special. Thats what Keshav means, he likes numbered sentences, because otherwise he loss track.
            You people make no effort to understand the point, which is why debating you is useless.

            MURPHY! Do you agree that Keshav and I and the rest are simply asking for numbered sentences?

            • Bala says:

              If this is all you meant, why is what MF has said above not a valid reply? You seem to be ignoring his main point (as always).

              Wouldn’t 10 sentences that constitute a paragraph already be implicitly numbered by virtue of them being in the order they are written in?

            • Bob Murphy says:

              I think all of you should be limited to 10 sentences per day.

          • Keshav Srinivasan says:

            Major_Freeom, when I say that I want numbering, I don’t just mean that I want the sentences ordered; of course they’re ordered already. I want a numbering which makes clear the role of each sentence in the argument. Basically, what I want is a text written in definition-theorem-proof format. Look at Book I of Euclid’s Elements for an example:

            aleph0.clarku.edu/~djoyce/java/elements/bookI/bookI.html

            • Hank says:

              Do you hold every economist to such a standard? It seems to me this is not the case.

              Do you not have the reading comprehension to follow Mises as it is written?

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                No Hank, I don’t hold other economists to this standard, because unlike Mises, they’re not claiming to establish a priori truth. They view economics as an empirical science, and try to establish synthetic a posteriori facts.

                Now it is true that mainstream economists often use models, and in that context they are concerned with establishing a priori what conclusions follow from what assumptions. But mainstream economists generally use mathematical models, so the a priori nature of the theorems they prove relies on mathematics, which most people consider to be an a priori subject with well-studied rigorous foundations.

              • Hank says:

                So you are only concerned with Mises style and not his substance?

                If not, then why not refute his substance? I don’t think many people are too concerned with his stylistic choices.

            • Major_Freedom says:

              “Major_Freeom, when I say that I want numbering, I don’t just mean that I want the sentences ordered; of course they’re ordered already. I want a numbering which makes clear the role of each sentence in the argument. Basically, what I want is a text written in definition-theorem-proof format.”

              Today is your lucky day Keshav! All you have to do is read Human Action, and trace each of the main argument’s conclusion and supporting premises. Then all you have to do is number each premise 1 through n, culminating with a conclusion.

              Brilliant.

              Or, you know, you can just read the text and follow the arguments using your mind. That also works I hear.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                Major_Freedom, the thing is, Human Action does not seem to me to be written in a clear and precise enough manner that doing this would be easy. But if someone managed to do this, that would be great, and it might convince a large number of people that Mises actually did discover nontrivial a priori truths about economics. But until someone does this, I remain skeptical of the claim that Mises’ arguments would hold up if they were subjected to this kind of rigorous treatment.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                “Or, you know, you can just read the text and follow the arguments using your mind.” The thing is, Mises’ arguments may make sense to me, but it would be hard for me to verify that I’m not overlooking some subtle point that hasn’t occurred to me. In other words, it would be hard for me to know for sure that I was in possession of a priori knowledge of the results Mises claims to demonstrate.

                That’s what makes formal logic so useful: it allows me to examine the logical validity of an argument in a mechanical way that leaves relatively little room for me to make an error.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Keshav:

                Do you agree or disagree with the argument that translating Human Action into logical syllogisms would not change the content of the premises or conclusions, but would only be a cosmetic change?

                If you agree, then an intelligent person would be able to translate it on their own as they read it if they so desired, the way a worldly person would be able to read a book that is in a language different from their native, home language.

                Mises was able to read books in Latin.

                Why can’t you put forth the effort and read Human Action in English?

                Seems like you’re demanding the world to sink to your level, no offense.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                “That’s what makes formal logic so useful: it allows me to examine the logical validity of an argument in a mechanical way that leaves relatively little room for me to make an error.”

                What if errors are MORE likely if a full text is reduced to syllogisms? What if syllogisms make a treatise worse off? What if verbal analysis is actually the best way to express economic science?

  39. Joseph Fetz says:

    Bob, I have an anecdotal story that has relevance to this post (it’s from my days in the Navy). I won’t say it here, but you know how to get a hold of me (if you’d like to hear it).

  40. Lord Keynes says:

    Ken B,

    Look how Rothbard totally refutes M_F’s earlier mystical view of logic:

    “Schuller maintains that Mises “provides no clear test of incorrect versus
    ‘correct praxeological reasoning.’” The tests are, on the contrary, clear
    enough. Praxeology consists of two main elements: (1) the fundamental
    axioms, and (2) the propositions successively deduced from these axioms.

    Neither the axioms nor the deduced propositions can be “tested” or verified
    by appeal to historical fact. …. The deductive propositions are tested according
    to the universally accepted laws of logic
    . (Laws, incidentally, which are
    also a priori to historical fact.) The fact that a proposition comes at the end
    of a “long chain of deduction” makes it no less valid than a proposition at
    the end of a short chain.

    Rothbard, Murray N. 1951. “Mises’ ‘Human Action’: Comment,” The American Economic Review 41.1: 181–185, at p. 181.

    Mises’s “deductive propositions are tested according to the universally accepted laws of logic”: not some new mystical form of logic nobody has ever heard of before.

    • Ken B says:

      Yes, that certainly sounds like Rothbard accepts the usual standards of logical proof. Correct prexy a logical reasoning is judged according to exactly the same standards as correct mathematical reasoning. As I noted elsewhere Rothbard claims to need only a relatively small number of axioms.

      Rothbard is here laying out a coherent and sensible position. The question is whether it is correct. Most people who have looked at it do not believe it is. One of the reasons they do not believe it is they do not accept claim all of the inferences are drawn by careful deductive reasoning from the small prescribed set of accidents. The Rothbardians could refute those objections by presenting a formal development of the theory.

      • Hank says:

        The formal development has been laid out numerous times. Your only critique seems to be their stylistic choices.

        • Ken B says:

          Cite one.

          • Hank says:

            Really? Why should I even bother at this point?

            Human Action.

            • Keshav Srinivasan says:

              How does Human Action quality as “formal”?

              • Hank says:

                I have been thinking about your comparison to Euclid. I think there are two main reasons he did not lay out his treatise in this way:

                1. Economists did not generally write in this way, so it would have been odd.

                2. The groundwork for praxeology is so simple that it would be silly

                However, this is just my opinion.

    • Major_Freedom says:

      “Look how Rothbard totally refutes M_F’s earlier mystical view of logic”

      LK, that quote is actually 100% consistent with what I said.

      The fundamental axioms on the one hand, and the deduced propositions on the other. Action on the one hand, and economics laws on the other.

      Yes, economic laws (deductive propositions) are all tested against logic, but, these rules of logic are not just any system of logic, floating in mid air where the rules can be whatever people want them to be, but rather, the logic is constrained to action.

      There is no “mysticism” in praxeology, nor in anything I am saying. The law of non-contradiction is what grounds the validity of the “inexpressible in syllogism” concept of action.

      • Lord Keynes says:

        “Yes, economic laws (deductive propositions) are all tested against logic, but, these rules of logic are not just any system of logic, floating in mid air where the rules can be whatever people want them to be,”

        Nobody said that logic floats in the mid air, you fool.

        “Conventional logic is incomplete. It’s why it keeps being modified and adjusted over the centuries. Why can’t someone write the be all and all of logic? You demand a fully explicit and expressed tome on action. Well, why not logic? Why hasn’t anyone written a book on logic that will stand forever as the decisive text on the subject?

        ““Intuition” does cut it — except for the religious fundamentalist or irrational cult member.”

        Intution does cut it. Mathematics is based on intuition. Formal logic is based on intuition.”

        http://consultingbyrpm.com/blog/2013/12/respecting-sacred-cows.html#comment-95184

        • Major_Freedom says:

          “Nobody said that logic floats in the mid air”

          I didn’t say anyone did. I am arguing what they are not, so as to make it clear what they are.

          Again, you seem to have a bad habit of inferring accusations where there are none.

  41. Ken B says:

    This thread is already too long but…

    No one has answered my question about what is the scope of the definition of action. Is sleepwalking action? Is nocturnal emission action? Is choking on a Fishbone action? Is rolling over in your sleep action? Is breathing action? Do people in comas have actions? Is making a choice under the influence of a mind altering drug action? Are reflexes actions? Is being thirsty and action?
    If there is a clear definition of action it should be easy to answer all of these questions and to explain the answer.

    I predict that as usual the Rothbard claque here will miss the point. They will jeer how stupid they say some of these questions are, rather than trying to see how they like might limit the scope of what is an action. Is anything a human body does is an action ? If so The axiom of action is clearly false, as the brain dead grow nails. If not they need to be able to delimit what is an action.

    • Lord Keynes says:

      Well, Ken B, Mises does carefully limit what he means by “human action”:

      “Human action is purposeful behavior. Or we may say: Action is will put into operation and transformed into an agency, is aiming at ends and goals, is the ego’s meaningful response to stimuli and to the conditions of its environment, is a person’s conscious adjustment to the state of the universe that determines his life. Such paraphrases may clarify the definition given and prevent possible misinterpretations. But the definition itself is adequate and does not need complement of commentary.

      Conscious or purposeful behavior is in sharp contrast to unconscious behavior, i.e., the reflexes and the involuntary responses of the body’s cells and nerves to stimuli. People are sometimes prepared to believe that the boundaries between conscious behavior and the involuntary reaction of the forces operating within man’s body are more or less indefinite. This is correct only as far as it is sometimes not easy to establish whether concrete behavior is to be considered voluntary or involuntary. But the distinction between consciousness and unconsciousness is nonetheless sharp and can be clearly determined.

      The unconscious behavior of the bodily organs and cells is for the acting ego no less a datum than any other fact of the external world. Acting man must take into account all that goes on within his own body as well as other data, e.g., the weather or the attitudes of his neighbors. There is, of course, a margin within which purposeful behavior has the power to neutralize the working of bodily factors. It is feasible within certain limits to get the body under control. Man can sometimes succeed through the power of his will in overcoming sickness, in compensating for the innate or acquired insufficiency of his physical constitution, or in suppressing reflexes. As far as this is possible, the field of purposeful action is extended. If a man abstains from controlling the involuntary reaction of cells and nerve centers, although he would be in a position to do so, his behavior is from our point of view purposeful.

      The field of our science is human action, not the psychological events which result in an action. It is precisely this which distinguishes the general theory of human action, praxeology, from psychology. The theme of psychology is the internal events that result or can result in a definite action. The theme of praxeology is action as such. This also settles the relation of praxeology to the psychoanalytical concept of the subconscious. Psychoanalysis too is psychology and does not investigate action but the forces and factors that impel a man toward a definite action. The psychoanalytical subconscious is a psychological and not a praxeological category. Whether an action stems from clear deliberation, or from forgotten memories and suppressed desires which from submerged regions, as it were, direct the will, does not influence the nature of the action.” (Mises 2008: 11–12).

      It follows that “human action” is to be strictly limited to:

      (1) the conscious behaviour of humans;

      (2) to exclude unconscious and involuntary behaviour, and

      (3) (presumably) to non-mentally ill human beings.

      But as I pointed out here, Mises requires empirical evidence to demonstrate what even constitutes “voluntary” as opposed to “involuntary” behaviour with a purpose

      http://socialdemocracy21stcentury.blogspot.com/2013/07/what-is-epistemological-status-of.html

      • Hank says:

        The concept of action already implies that it is voluntary, obviously. How you continually fail to grasp this is beyond me.

      • Major_Freedom says:

        “But as I pointed out here, Mises requires empirical evidence to demonstrate what even constitutes “voluntary” as opposed to “involuntary” behaviour with a purpose”

        No, that is not true. You can know for yourself, without observing anyone else, what actions are voluntary and what are involuntary. Someone who ONLY observed you as an object, and did not infer anything about you with regards to consciousness and self-understanding, would not be able to distinguish between you as a robot and you as an actor.

        Mises held that action is a priori, it must be understood. It is not established on the basis of observation, it is what gives observation the meaning we ascribe to it.

        • Lord Keynes says:

          “You can know for yourself, without observing anyone else, what actions are voluntary and what are involuntary. “

          That is still empirical evidence.

          And if you do not have a say a nervous tic, you MUST ask other people and rely on empirical evdience

          • Major_Freedom says:

            “That is still empirical evidence.”

            No, it is self-reflective.

            You’re just calling everything empirical now.

            “And if you do not have a say a nervous tic, you MUST ask other people and rely on empirical evdience”

            The people I ask would have to rely on self-reflection. What I am asking about are the non-empirical, non-observational, self-reflective thoughts of others.

            You’re not refuting the existence of non-empirical, self-reflective knowledge of the real world.

    • Hank says:

      Ken B,

      The concept of action is so easy to grasp, that when you bring up these objections is seems you are being facetious. As David Gordon wrote, ” Any conscious behavior counts as action—an action is anything that you do on purpose”.

      Is it really that hard?

      • Ken B says:

        Who said these are objections? You need a way to distinguish actions from non-actions. If people can do things that are not actions that will confound any analysis.

        • Tel says:

          Ken, FWIW I get your point. If you can either predict, or manipulate someone else’s behaviour then there’s profits to be made in that, as anyone who works in sales & marketing can explain.

          However, I think there’s a hidden assumption that gradually the complete suckers will be eliminated from the system, and very likely this has already been happening for a long time. Thus, the remaining people are overall pretty good at looking after their own affairs.

          I agree by the way that Mises attempting to sharply distinguish purposeful from unpurposeful is unsuccessful and not really useful anyway. Whether your genetics from a million years ago is forcing you to have sex, or whether you do it because you enjoy it doesn’t make a big difference… from an empirical point of view.

          However this does bring up the problem of the utility function. If we believe that purposeful behaviour is maximising subjective individual utility, then we are stuck with the problem that the exact utility value is hidden even to the person themselves. One questions the advantage in creating a hidden variable that is perpetually undiscoverable. It feels like the ether theory of wave propagation.

          • Ken B says:

            Yes these are some of the points I’m driving it. But you can’t argue that people will be eliminated from the system. The people will still be there weather there in the marketplace or not they will still be doing things and those will still be economically significant to account for. Remember the praxeology people claim to deduce things everything basically from the action axiom. That’s got to include everything that everybody does or there are too many gaps for their analysis to be useful.

            • Tel says:

              I’d argue that many people already have been eliminated from the system, visit your local graveyard of pick up a history book.

              You are trying to pretend it makes no difference, which seems implausible.

      • Ken B says:

        So I mistakenly put a nickel in the parking meter thinking that I’m putting a dime in the parking meter. Is that an action or not? I suspect Misys would say yes. But According to the definition you just quoted it’s not. My actions were all conscious and deliberate it did not match my purpose. I did not put the nickel and on purpose. “purpose” is not such a simple single idea as you pretend.
        You can have it either way but you can’t have it both ways.

        • Hank says:

          “So I mistakenly put a nickel in the parking meter thinking that I’m putting a dime in the parking meter.”

          There are at least three actions implied by this sentence.

          First: You put a dime in the parking meter.

          Second: You check whether you actually put a dime in the parking meter.

          Third: You decide that you mistakenly put a nickel in the parking meter.

          All of these are actions.

          • Ken B says:

            Three does not seem to fit mises’s definition. No will was put into effect anywhere.

            If you guys are going to be the pinnacle of rigor you have to have crisp clear unambiguous answers to all of these questions.

            • Major_Freedom says:

              If only you had the same standard for your ideological allies…

              Sigh

      • Ken B says:

        So I repeat, is sleepwalking an action?

        • Hank says:

          I don’t know, Ken, are they sleepwalking on purpose?
          This doesn’t deserve an answer. Think about it.

          • Ken B says:

            I appreciate you don’t like questions Hank. The pope doesn’t like being questioned either. However if you want to argue that you’re being rigorous have to be able to answer questions like this. There are logical consequences to your answer.
            I take it your answer is no. My next question is how can you tell if somebody is sleepwalking?

            • Hank says:

              I understand that to know if a someone else is sleepwalking, you must observe them sleepwalking. Praxeology is not concerned with this.

              Assuming someone is sleepwalking (whether you actually observe them sleepwalking or not), this is not an action because sleepwalking, by DEFINITION, is not an action, because action, by DEFINITION, is purposeful.

              Actual events taking place is not LOGICALLY requisite in order to draw analytic conclusions from them. Sleepwalking, however, is an actual event that takes place. At least in my conception of sleepwalking, it is not purposeful, as I’m sure you would agree.

              • Ken B says:

                How about sleep sewing or sleep trading?

                Here is the point. You have to have some way of distinguishing which human doings are actions without reference to internal states of the doing person. You can define it in terms of internal states of the human, that is intention or purpose, but unless you have an objective criteria that can be applied there is no way to tell whether it doing is an action and subject to your reasoning or not. If nonaction doings can affect actions or the results of actions then praxeology cannot derive meaningful results.

              • Hank says:

                Is there some reason you cannot apply the definition we have elaborated about a billion times? I am honestly not following.

                Objective criteria to determine whether something is an action:

                Ask: Does it fall under the definition of an action?

                If yes, it is an action.

                If no, it is not an action.

                This is groundbreaking.

              • Ken B says:

                Simple question. Can I trade in Apple for a pear and have it not be an action? If I do it in my sleep or if I’m unconscious while I’m doing it or if my mind is impaired or blank while I’m doing it is it an action? If I do it as a result of random activity in my brain caused by a virus is it an action?

                If your definitions a rigorous you should be able to answer these questions easily. Then we can see where we go from there.

              • Hank says:

                Okay, I will give you simple answers.

                Trade is, generally speaking, an action.

                Performing a trade while unconscious is not an action because you aren’t doing it on purpose.

                “as a result of random activity in my brain” – depends if the activity is on purpose. Since you said random, it is not an action.

                Anymore inane questions?

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Ken B:

                What do you mean by “trade” as in “trade an apple for a pear”?

  42. Hank says:

    Here is something that might shine some light for Ken. From Adam Knott:

    “It is common in an introduction to praxeology to find what amounts to a proposed classification of objects of the “external” world (a proposed classification of the objects of nature). Sanchez writes:

    ‘Action does not include non-purposeful change. For example, let us say a piece of wood from Crusoe’s ship also rises to the surface. This is not an action. The wood was not pursuing an end. It naturally floats in water due to its physical properties. Non-purposeful changes are called natural phenomena. Other natural phenomena include: lightning strikes, plan growth, chemical reactions, heartbeats, erosion’

    It is worthwhile to note that this type of classification exercise is pleonastic since all phenomena of the natural world may be treated by praxeology simply by considering them objects of action. For example, a lightning strike is seen, or observed, or heard. These are all actions. A chemical reaction is seen, or observed, or initiated, or described. These are all actions. Thus, there is no reason to embark on a taxonomy of the objects of nature. All such objects, processes, or events, are comprehended by praxeology in the sense that they are objects of action (objects of conscious conduct). We may translate any physical or “objective” phenomenon into a social or subjective phenomenon simply by conceiving the object in question as an object of action.”

    • Ken B says:

      LK, two pints!

    • Major_Freedom says:

      Very well written summary of what I have been saying to Ken B and LK, seemingly on deaf ears…

      • Ken B says:

        Hearing is an action. A piece of wood bobbing up isn’t an action, unless you see it, or hear it, or feel it, then it’s an action.

        This para Exemplifies The kind of vague and woolly gobbledygook the Keshav rightly finds in adequate and unconvincing.

        The only part that isn’t gobbledygook is the paean to ignorance. “There is no reason to embark on a taxonomy of the objects of nature”.

        • Major_Freedom says:

          “Hearing is an action. A piece of wood bobbing up isn’t an action, unless you see it, or hear it, or feel it, then it’s an action.”

          No, you’re still confused. A wood bobbing up and down is not an action, even if it is heard, felt, or seen. What is action is the hearing, the feeling, and the looking.

          “This para Exemplifies The kind of vague and woolly gobbledygook the Keshav rightly finds in adequate and unconvincing.This para Exemplifies The kind of vague and woolly gobbledygook the Keshav rightly finds in adequate and unconvincing.”

          It isn’t vague and it isn’t gobbledygook. You’re just wrong about how to think about this, and in your confusion, you blame others.

          “The only part that isn’t gobbledygook is the paean to ignorance. “There is no reason to embark on a taxonomy of the objects of nature”.”

          You’re ignorant.

    • Ken B says:

      Seriously if this is your best answer to why can’t praxeology be made formal and rigorous, we can just pack it in now.
      But it’s an excellent quote, very revealing, very very convincing.

      • Major_Freedom says:

        It’s very revealing, and very, very, VERY convincing, when read in the context of the whole work.

        But taking arguments in context was never your strong suit.LOL

      • Major_Freedom says:
      • Hank says:

        Your inability to comprehend this concept is truly fascinating. The concept is so simple, yet it boggles your mind. The only way I can rationalize it is that you are tolling.

      • Lord Keynes says:

        A key point is also that introspection is nothing but empirical evidence and to even determine what is a mentally healthy human being and mentally ill human being, and voluntary and involuntary action requires a vast amount of empirical evidence.

        The notion that the human action axiom is know a priori is false.

        • Major_Freedom says:

          “A key point is also that introspection is nothing but empirical evidence and to even determine what is a mentally healthy human being and mentally ill human being, and voluntary and involuntary action requires a vast amount of empirical evidence.”

          LK is going into the land of contradiction and doubling down. Now he’s falsely claiming that even introspection is empirical. This is true faith ladies and gentlemen.

          Introspection is not empirical. Empiricism is based on observation. That which is doing the observing is separate from what is observed. If the observer and observed were the same, then the universe would be one single concept without any sense perception.

          What is action and what is not action is not grounded on empiricism, but rather, our understanding of ourselves as actors is what enables us to even go about delineating action from non-action phenomena. Collecting evidence is action.

          “The notion that the human action axiom is know a priori is false.”

          No, the notion that human action axiom is known a posteriori is false.

          To collect evidence, to test a theory, to establish a conclusion, all of this PRESUMES and IMPLIES that there is already a known actor.

          • Lord Keynes says:

            (1) No, MF, you shown us you are so incompetent you do not understand that a priori knowledge is not based on introspection:

            ” The basis of a priori knowledge is not perception, introspection, memory, or testimony (cf. Casullo 2003, 29-30; BonJour, 1998, 7). If there were such things as telepathy and clairvoyance, they also would not be the basis of a priori knowledge (Casullo 2003, 149; BonJour 1998, 7-8). A priori knowledge and justification seem to be based on reason alone, or are based solely on understanding the proposition being considered.”

            http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/apriori/

            Introspection IS about observation:

            “Introspection is examination of one’s own conscious thoughts and feelings. In psychology the process of introspection relies exclusively on observation of one’s mental state,”
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Introspection

            It does not only involve observation of others.

            (2) If you do not have a nervous tic, does introspection allow to to know a priori that nervous tics are involuntary with necessary truth? Do you need to ask people and look at the empirical evidence from science about the human nervous system and biology?

            I suppose you know by magic that nervous tics are involuntary do you? lol

            • Ken B says:

              LK
              First, i still cannot comments to work chez vous.

              Second, I think you’re not grokking MF’s main and only argument which is
              “because action”.
              He has variously argued that you can put praxeology into syllogisms that you can’t put praxeology into syllogisms that you can put praxeology into French that you can’t put praxeology into French and so on. But all these can be resolved! How you ask? “Because action”.

              • Lord Keynes says:

                (1) Apologies: I don’t know why you can’t comment on my blog.
                It seems to be working though.

                (2) yes, M_F’s arguments have involved multiple violations of the law of non contradiction.

                (3) he also hasn’t answered the question about nervous tics,

              • Major_Freedom says:

                LK:

                I’ve already dispensed with your false accusation that I am committing “multiple” violations of non-contradictions, by showing you where you went wrong.

                You didn’t ask me about nervous ticks.

            • Major_Freedom says:

              “A priori knowledge and justification seem to be based on reason alone, or are based solely on understanding the proposition being considered.”

              That is what I consider to be introspection. Considering propositions is considering one’s own mental state.

        • Hank says:

          Lord Keynes,

          You know that “involuntary action” is a contradiction in terms, right? Per definition of the concept, actions are voluntary, or else they would not be actions. (action as a term describing purposeful behavior)

          You have simply violated the principle of contradiction.

          Also, no one made the proposition that mentally ill people cannot act. When they use means to achieve ends, they act, however ill-conceived you or I may think their of their actions.

          • Hank says:

            Sorry, *noncontradiction

          • Lord Keynes says:

            You know that “involuntary action” is a contradiction in terms, right?

            Only because you arbitrarily limit its definition to “voluntary human action.”

            One standard definition of “action” in the Oxford English Dictionary is:

            “”The process or condition of acting or doing; the exertion of energy or influence; working, agency, operation”"

            That is why people can speak of “action at a distance” to refer to to non-human action.

            • Major_Freedom says:

              That is an equivocation of the term “action.”

            • Lord Keynes says:

              You need empirical evidence to determine what is a mentally healthy human being and mentally ill human being, and what is voluntary and involuntary action.

              If you do not have a nervous tic, how would know that nervous tics are involuntary? Do you need to ask people (a form empirical knowledge) and look at the evidence from science about the human nervous system and biology? (another form empirical knowledge)

              • Ken B says:

                That’s just the tip of the ice. If I light a match how many actions are involved? I take the match out of the matchbook I cover the matchbook I strike the match. How many actions are in full chest and striking the match? My arm has to move it has to move halfway there has to move remaining and then it has to move the remaining ass etc. How many actions are there? Is each of those mini steps and action and is the whole process of moving my arm to strike the match and action, it is the whole process of lighting the match and action, and if I looked the match in order to light a cigarette is lighting the cigarette connection? How many actions are there here, there seem to be an infinite number that’s just letting a cigarette. So the praxeology people have to give us at crisper definition of what isn’t An action or which action which actions support which kind of conclusion. It may be possible but what they present certainly isn’t formal or rigorous. Which is the subject of this discussion.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                “You need empirical evidence to determine what is a mentally healthy human being and mentally ill human being, and what is voluntary and involuntary action.”

                You need an actor who knows he is an actor PRIOR to engaging in empirical research. You need action as a concept in order to even make the concept “empirical research have the meaning that you ascribe to it.

                On the other hand, I don’t need to do empirical research in order to know I am an actor.

                “If you do not have a nervous tic, how would know that nervous tics are involuntary?”

                What do you mean by “nervous tic”? What is it that you are talking about?

                Do you mean a conscious, intentional behavior, like what I am doing right now with my eyelids on purpose, where I am rapidly blinking?

                Or do you mean an unconscious, unintentional behavior, like what sometimes happens to my left pinky finger, where I do not consciously intend to make it move, but it moves anyway?

              • Lord Keynes says:

                (1) You need an actor who knows he is an actor PRIOR to engaging in empirical research. You need action as a concept in order to even make the concept “empirical research have the meaning that you ascribe to it.

                On the other hand, I don’t need to do empirical research in order to know I am an actor.

                That did refute what I said:

                “You need empirical evidence to determine what is a mentally healthy human being and mentally ill human being, and what is voluntary and involuntary action.”

                (2) your waffling idiocy on what is a nervous tic precisely proves you can’t know a priori what it is without empirical evidence.

                All your questions can only be answered empirically.

                You’ve proved the point

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Ken B:

                What you’re alluding to is the difference between constitutive means, and other means.

                See Roderick Long.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                “That did refute what I said:”

                Really?

                “You need empirical evidence to determine what is a mentally healthy human being and mentally ill human being, and what is voluntary and involuntary action.”

                No, you don’t need empirical evidence in the form of continuous observation and testing, when it comes to establishing which of your actions are purposeful and which are not. You can think which are voluntary and which are voluntary, as you go about each behavior.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                “your waffling idiocy on what is a nervous tic precisely proves you can’t know a priori what it is without empirical evidence.”

                No, it only means I don’t know what YOU mean. You’re dodging engaging the issue you yourself are raising, because you can smell that it is leading to a conclusion that you dislike.

                I asked a simple question. What do you mean by nervous tic? A behavior that you on purpose repeatedly, such as shaking your leg when sitting? Or do you mean an unintentional movement of your body that happens without you choosing to do it?

              • Lord Keynes says:

                “That did NOT refute what I said:”

              • Lord Keynes says:

                Yes, you are clearly in terror with these stupid comments, because you know you’ve lost

                Nervous tic:

                “A tic is a sudden, repetitive, nonrhythmic motor movement or vocalization involving discrete muscle groups.”
                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tic

                Tell us: if you do not suffer from one, can you know that such things are involuntary a priori and
                with apodictic truth?

              • Major_Freedom says:

                “Yes, you are clearly in terror with these stupid comments, because you know you’ve lost”.

                No, I’ve already won a long time ago, and since then it’s just been teaching you. I am actually quite calm and relaxed. You can tell because I’m not insulting people or calling them names on this thread like you are all up and down.

                You name calling is you showing yourself to be scared.

                “A tic is a sudden, repetitive, nonrhythmic motor movement or vocalization involving discrete muscle groups.”

                OK, but this can include me purposefully twitching my eyelids, or me watching my finger twitch without me purposefully meaning for it to do so.

                The definition you provided does not distinguish between voluntary and involuntary movements, thus making it inadequate to serve as a statement in a discussion on praxeology.

            • Hank says:

              You must be joking. I didn’t “arbitrarily” define anything. The sense of action we have always been referring to is purposeful behavior, which cannot, per definition, be involuntary.

              • Lord Keynes says:

                I do not deny Mises limits the definition of action in this way: I just gave you the quote where he does so above.

                My point is the statement:

                “All conscious voluntary human action by non mentally ill human beings is purposeful, in the sense of having a purpose or end in mind”

                can only justified empirically, not a priori

              • Ken B says:

                Purposeful behavior most certainly can be involuntary. There are parasites to take over ants and drive their behavior. This behavior is performed by the ant the benefit of the parasite. The behavior is quite purposeful, Dictated by the genome of the parasite. The ants actions are certainly involuntary and it seems that if we require a humanlike mind to have voluntary then the parasites actions are involuntary too. But the behavior is clearly purposeful.

              • Lord Keynes says:

                Yeah, but the Misesians will immediately complain they are only talking about humans, don’t you know.

                E..g, how do we know the “lapsus” (sometimes called Freudian Slip) is involuntary?

                It is empirical science that tells us it is an involuntary mental and/or mechanical error in speech.

                You can’t know this a priori.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                “can only justified empirically, not a priori”

                No, action is a priori. ENGAGING in the act of empirical testing PRESUPPOSES that there is an actor who knows, indirectly or directly, that he is an actor.

                Empirical research cannot be done without a researcher. This is a priori true. It requires no testing to prove. Indeed, it cannot even be falsified in principle, because to falsify anything, ALSO presupposes an actor who falsifies.

                Face it LK, you’re running around the tree a million times, trying to prove the tree isn’t there. Trust me, it’s there.

                A priori, synthetic knowledge is real. It exists. Nothing you can ever say or do can ever refute this, because any attempt to do so, would a priori be an action itself, and even you would a priori regard it as such, the same way you presupposed the existence of an actor when you suggested empirical testing.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Ken B:

                “Purposeful behavior most certainly can be involuntary.”

                That is a contradictory statement. Purposeful means voluntary, not involuntary.

                And LK accuses me of “redefining terms” with your Salacious B. Crumb support.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                LK:

                “Yeah, but the Misesians will immediately complain they are only talking about humans, don’t you know.”

                Actually praxeology applies to any actor, human or alien.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                LK:

                “E..g, how do we know the “lapsus” (sometimes called Freudian Slip) is involuntary?
                It is empirical science that tells us it is an involuntary mental and/or mechanical error in speech.
                You can’t know this a priori.”

                Empirical testing is grounded on the a priori knowledge of there being a tester to do the testing. If there is no knowledge of a tester, then there is no rational basis for claiming the existence of testing.

              • Hank says:

                Lord Keynes,

                If a mentally ill person is acting, they are acting, regardless of the state of their mental health.

                Whether or not they are mentally ill is an empirical statement.

                Ken B,

                You are arguing definitions. If you want to define action as involuntary behavior you are free to do so. That is obviously not what any praxeologist is talking about and you know it.

              • Lord Keynes says:

                Empirical research cannot be done without a researcher. This is a priori true. It requires no testing to prove.

                It is not a priori true.

                It is only experience which tells us that certain conscious agents do certain things like research.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                “It is not a priori true.”

                “It is only experience which tells us that certain conscious agents do certain things like research.”

                You’re just trying to dodge the necessity by changing the same word “testing” into “experiencing”, hoping that “experience” is general enough to not a priori imply consciousness and action.

                You can say the same thing as many different ways as you want, but testing a priori assumes there is a tester. You can’t claim that a test of the truth of X is established a posteriori, when the very meaning of “testing” already carries with it, a priori, the existence of a tester who knows they are testing.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                In other words, if YOU, LK, engage in testing any theory or proposition, you must have already considered yourself, a priori, to be a tester, before you even engage in the testing.

                You can’t empirically test yourself to have not been a tester during the testing.

                Are you not willing to be logically consistent here or what?

  43. Richie says:

    How about you people get a life? Now there is an action.

  44. Bala says:

    Some people have a knack for taking any discussion off-track. I saw it recently in the discussion that culminated in one enlightened soul getting completely entangled in demand and quantity demanded, unable to distinguish between the two. This time, it is “Is sleep walking action?”, “Is sleeping action?”, etc.

    How on earth do these questions matter? All that matters is that Man acts and there there are logical consequences to this recognition. That’s all praxeology is about. It does not deal with classifying particular movements as action or otherwise.

    That apart, the simple point that separates action from non-action is the existence of choice for the entity. At the instant of going to sleep, if man has the choice to fight sleep and stay awake, sleeping is an action. It is purposefully letting go of certain aspects of consciousness for a certain period. If a person drops off to sleep without the option of fighting it, it is not an action.

    Does the person engaging in sleepwalking possess the option of not engaging in sleepwalking?

    I wonder why these are so difficult to comprehend. Maybe the guy should first disentangle demand from quantity demanded before trying to sound intellectual on these issues.

    • Ken B says:

      You know Bala I try to avoid calling people idiots but you’re an idiot. The point is obvious and I’ve it repeatedly. Even if we grant for the sake of argument that praxeology works fine with those doings which are actions it does not work at all for those doings which are not actions. If there is no way to determine which doings are actions and which doings are not actions then there is no way to use the theory in the real world. So you need to be able to distinguish action from nonaction and you need to be able to do it without referring to the interstate of a human being because that cannot be observed. Your axiom is human beings act. What if most human beings act only once every 10 years and all the rest of their doings are unconscious or involuntary? How do you know at priori that is true? If it is true how do your conclusions about actions apply to the rest of the doings? Now if you were proposing an empirical Siri you could sidestep all of this. But you’re not you’re proposing Aprea Youree apodictic truth with no further assumptions. Well I just identified an assumption.

      • Bala says:

        I too do not normally call people doorknobs, but you are perfection in doorknobs. You are so perfect, you cannot read or comprehend what it said.

        What if most human beings act only once every 10 years and all the rest of their doings are unconscious or involuntary?

        I said this

        That apart, the simple point that separates action from non-action is the existence of choice for the entity.

        Now, go untangle this while you are untangling demand from quantity demanded. Maybe you’ll have success this time around.

      • Major_Freedom says:

        Ken B, just some advise:

        Do you really think you are entitled to a full effort of an answer, after prefacing your post with calling Bala an idiot? Why should people you call idiots give you the time of day? Seriously dude, you’re rude.

        “So you need to be able to distinguish action from nonaction and you need to be able to do it without referring to the interstate of a human being because that cannot be observed.”

        That’s your prejudice coming out again. We are not limited to only observation. We can THINK about OURSELVES. That is not observation.

        Action is by its nature unobservable. Praxeology deals with the act of observing, not that which is observed. You can’t demand to be shown how action is to be distinguished from non-action, by stripping away the only source capable of doing so, namely action! It would be like demanding from a doctor that he prove to you the cure for cancer, without there being a prover, or demanding that an engineer show you how to build a bridge, without there being a builder.

        “Your axiom is human beings act. What if most human beings act only once every 10 years and all the rest of their doings are unconscious or involuntary? How do you know at priori that is true?”

        You ask yourself of course. Ask yourself “If I go to the store, is it because I am compelled by some law to go there? Or is it because I choose to go there? If I assume that I will go to the store because of some inevitable law, then maybe I can think about NOT going to the store, to prove to myself that it is a choice. Or vice versa.”

        Of course, the vulgar materialist would consider ALL thought to be predetermined, such that even if one considers multiple courses of possible action, and even if one thinks one is choosing to go to the store, these considerations are all nothing but mental illusions.

        Can’t you see that you are disagreeing on a philosophical basis? You’re not disagreeing on any scientific, observation based basis. You’re attacking the active mind philosophy, and you want to replace it with a passive mind philosophy. You really just want to transcend your own limitations, by denying the active minds of others.

        Why do you distrust self-reflection so deeply? Why the prejudice against non-observable analysis?

      • Major_Freedom says:

        “Even if we grant for the sake of argument that praxeology works fine with those doings which are actions it does not work at all for those doings which are not actions. If there is no way to determine which doings are actions and which doings are not actions then there is no way to use the theory in the real world.”

        Of course there is a way to determine which things are actions and which things are not actions. Just ask yourself what you are doing when you are claiming that something is an action, or if something is not an action.

        Suppose you thought “My going to the store is likely not an action, because there is likely some law that forced me to go”. What would have to be true in order for this to be true? In other words, you’re going to have to consider the underlying premises that makes this thought constitute a counterargument against the notion that going to the store is an action.

        If your counter-argument cannot be considered an act intended to disprove the argument that going to the store is a choice, then it cannot be considered an argument, but rather a series of meaningless, mechanistic motions and events, akin to water rushing against the rocks on a seashore, or trees swaying in the wind.

        Ask yourself why you’re not presenting the thesis that most of our behavior is non-action to a windmill instead of your friend Sancho.

        • Ken B says:

          I can tell which of the things you do is an action by introspection? I can tell which of the things George W. Bush did were actions by introspection?

          • Major_Freedom says:

            George Bush can.

            You know what your actions are by self-reflection.

            You infer what George Bush’s actions are by asking him. Although, he might attribute his actions in Iraq to be the actions of God, not him. But he would still consider “action” to be responsible.

            Should we finance a study to determine whether we’re all automaton robots or conscious actors? Wouldn’t that….imply action if it is to show what you are suggesting it would show?

            If we’re all robots, none of us are wrong about anything we say or do. So why are you trying to “correct” my mind Ken B?

            • Ken B says:

              So you agree I cannot tell what is an action by introspection. Sometimes I need to seek empirical evidence. So no conclusion that I draw in praxeology which assumes that anyone other than myself has made an action can be known at priori to be true, it will depend upon empirical evidence.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                “So you agree I cannot tell what is an action by introspection.”

                No, I only said that I cannot know that you are an actor, the way I know I myself am an actor. That I am an actor is apodictic and introspective.

                That you are an actor is something I infer, through observing your behavior.

                So yes, there has to be a caveat from the praxeologist: “Assuming that other humans are actors like me…”.

                Just be aware that a priori assumptions ground empiricism no less than it grounds rationalism. For empiricism, the a priori assumption is constancy of truth in nature. That is contained within the structure of empiricism itself. Where does that structure come from? Actors.

  45. Ken B says:

    Murray: my theory explains everything which is red. Only that it’s perfect when it’s discussing read things. Nothing can disprove nothing nothing nothing!

    Skeptic: what about blue things?

    Murray: oh I cannot explain blue things. But they don’t matter.

    Skeptic: why don’t they matter?

    Murray: Only red things matter.

    Skeptic: but if there are more blue things? What if Red things and blue things interact?

    Murray: you’re too stupid and lazy to understand! Stop changing the topic! I was talking about red things dammit!

    • Major_Freedom says:

      Hypocrite: EXPLAIN human action dammit!

      Murray: OK, action is…and action is not…

      Hypocrite: WHY ARE YOU ONLY EXPLAINING RED THINGS?!?!?

  46. Keshav Srinivasan says:

    People may already know about this, but Michael Cordoba is working, or at least was working at some point, on an attempt to put praxeology in symbolic form, and not only that, but to demonstrate that praxeology is an analytic a priori subject, unlike Mises who thought it was only synthetic a priori! See this paper:

    http://www.philosophie.uni-hamburg.de/Team/Cordoba/Materials/oc_Foundations-PraxEcon-05-final_2013-05-28.pdf

    He proves two rather trivial propositions that I think most people would readily admit logically follow from Mises’ definition of action. Something like this would only be convincing if it proved some substantive propositions, like the law of demand, and especially the controversial macroeconomic claims of Austrians, like the nature of recessions and the effects of fiscal and monetary policy. I’m less convinced that such claims can be proven just by assuming that human action is purposeful, but I’m open to changing my mind if Cordoba or other Austrian were to continue his work.

    • Hank says:

      You see? People like you come on these threads and continually spout this drivel. Mises never used the words “synthetic a priori”, even though he was very familiar with Kant’s epistemology. He made a choice not to use these words for a reason.

      Mises conceived all economic propositions to be analytic a priori propositions. He conceived praxeology to be an apriori science, and economics as a subset of praxeology.

      • Lord Keynes says:

        Mises’s book The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science: An Essay on Method (1962):
        “Mises never used the words “synthetic a priori”, “

        Wrong.

        “The essence of logical positivism is to deny the cognitive value of a priori knowledge by pointing out that all a priori propositions are merely analytic. They do not provide new information, but are merely verbal or tautological, asserting what has already been implied in the definitions and premises. Only experience can lead to synthetic propositions. There is an obvious objection against this doctrine, viz., that this proposition that there are no synthetic a priori propositions is in itself a—as the present writer thinks, false—synthetic a priori proposition, for it can manifestly not be established by experience.” (Mises 1962: 5).

        • Hank says:

          Sorry, I should have said he never uses the term in Human Action.

          • Lord Keynes says:

            He does not need to use the strict term to refer to the concept by other words.

            If all of Mises’s theories are analytic a priori they tell us nothing necesaraily true of the real wold.

            Any application of Mises’s theories to the real world requires — like applied geometry — that they be treated as synthetic a posteriori.

            • Major_Freedom says:

              “Any application of Mises’s theories to the real world requires — like applied geometry — that they be treated as synthetic a posteriori.”

              You’re forgetting synthetic a priori knowledge of the real world.

              The law of marginal utility is synthetic a priori, and it tells us something true about the real world.

            • Hank says:

              I think he didn’t address the question on purpose. I think he merely accepted the action axiom as given without attempting to delve into metaphysics. The action axiom is true because to deny it would be a violation of the principle of non-contradiction.

            • Hank says:

              This is beyond Mises.

              The action axiom can be discovered empirically (technically) through inner-reflection, as Rothbard argued. All the other propositions are apriori, so praxeology can be considered an apriori science.

              • Hank says:

                Therefore, since the action axiom is based on empirical reality, all analytic deductions also apply to reality.

              • Lord Keynes says:

                The theories of praxeology are (allegedly) derived by deduction: they could only be a priori because they were derived by valid deduction

                Ken B asks why haven’t all these deductions been set out formally.

                They have not and until they are nobody can demonstrate formally that ANY derived propositions
                follow logically

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Truthful statements are not limited to “formal” ones.

                True statements include, but arr of course not limited to, verbal discussions.

        • Hank says:

          Also, if you think Mises is accepting the existence of the synthetic a priori in this quote, I don’t think that is accurate.

          • Major_Freedom says:

            I don’t know about that. Looks like he’s granting the validity of them. For if he didn’t think they’re valid, why did he go out of his way to argue that he thinks the logical positivists are advancing a false a priori synthetic proposition?

            • Hank says:

              I will break it down as I see it.

              Here is the proposition in question:

              There are no synthetic a priori propositions is in itself a synthetic a priori proposition

              Mises views this proposition as false.

              This is very different from admitting the existence of the synthetic a priori.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Sort of like “There are no non-existent existent invisible elephants”

                It’s a false statement, but it doesn’t mean we have to believe in invisible elephants.

          • Ken B says:

            He says it explicitly. He says the propostion that there are none is a ” to this writer, false” proposition. Thus he thinks there are some.

            Which is to be guys? Synthetic, analytic or empirical your action axiom?

            • Hank says:

              All in all, the question is irrelevant because to deny the action axiom is a violation of the principle of non-contradiction.

              • Lord Keynes says:

                The action axiom can be accept as true by all economists: NO Austrian theory follows unless you show deduction how it is derived.

                You are simply deluded, Hank.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                If you admit that the action axiom cannot be denied without contradiction, then you admit that action is a true synthetic a priori proposition.

                The deduction of various economic laws has already been shown.

            • Major_Freedom says:

              Mises was not interested in epistemology as such.

              We have to glean from his writings whether they are presented as a priori synthetic true, or not.

              Mises did write that causality is a prerequisite of acting. This is synthetic a priori, even though Mises did not explicitly say it at that point in his writings.

              The action axiom satisfies the requirements for a true synthetic a priori proposition. It cannot be denied as true, for the denial would of course have to be characterized as an action. And it is not derived from observation either. There are only bodily movements to be observed but no such thing as action. Action stems from self-reflective understanding.

      • Keshav Srinivasan says:

        Hank, I’m not an expert on Austrians, so tell me, did Rothbard at least believe that praxeology was synthetic a priori. Who was the Austrian thinker who got Austrians to nowadays think of praxeology as synthetic a priori? Hoppe?

        In any case, if praxeology is analytic a priori, then that’s all the more reason that it should be able to be expressed in symbolic form. Is there any other known analytic a priori subject that hasn’t been expressed symbolically?

        • Major_Freedom says:

          Hoppe reintroduced Mises.

          Rothbard held action to be empirical.

          Mises held action to be a category of thought.

        • Hank says:

          I am not an expert either. Please continue to criticize me harshly.

          Rothbard was a neo-Thomist, so he did not admit the existence of the synthetic apriori. I will not talk about Hoppe for fear of upsetting Hoppe fans (he uses the term apriori way too loosely). I don’t know of other subjects. I am not welled versed in mathematical logical symbols.

          Adam Knott does, at least, make use of variables: http://praxeology.org/2013/07/16/the-structural-difference-between-social-science-and-natural-science/

    • Ken B says:

      Keshav, thanks for this. As for the reaction you got, i’ll go all Murphy here: I expect it will serve a greater good.

  47. Ken B says:

    This is going on too long. My final parting thought is a hard truth for praxeologists :Human Action is not a rigorous formal development of anything.

    • Major_Freedom says:

      Yes, it is. Bye.

  48. Lord Keynes says:

    And finally this is what science says about nervous tics:

    Tics are described as semi-voluntary or unvoluntary,[7] because they are not strictly involuntary—they may be experienced as a voluntary response to the unwanted, premonitory urge. A unique aspect of tics, relative to other movement disorders, is that they are suppressible yet irresistible;[8] they are experienced as an irresistible urge that must eventually be expressed.[7]

    That already contradicts the neat division between voluntary and involuntary action assuemd in praxoelogy.

    • Major_Freedom says:

      Since when was the statement of one person the definition of “What science says?”

      Just curious.

      “That already contradicts the neat division between voluntary and involuntary action assuemd in praxoelogy.”

      Actually, such an understanding implies the validity of there being a distinction in the first place, and that is sufficient for praxeology.

      If some behavior is in the grey area, then you’re already granting the black and white areas.

      Praxeology only deals with voluntary behavior. If nervous tics (as defined in that quote) are not clearly one or the other, then this is not a heavier mark against praxeology any more than it is a mark against the concept of choice, free will, and voluntary behavior.

  49. Keshav Srinivasan says:

    Lord Keynes and Ken B, have you taken a look at that Cordoba paper, and do you agree with me that it’s implausible that less trivial propositions of praxeology would be provable in an analogous fashion?

    • Ken B says:

      I only flipped through it, so am not able to give a real opinion until I read it. At first blush, yes. But I’ll look more closely and comment here.

      • Ken B says:

        I skipped the philosophy. In the formalism section all I really see is a little simple predicate logic. I see no underlying abstraction. To be wonkish, I see only a couple axioms, no axiom schemas, and no steps towards a model, no isomorphism for any element of the theory. Contrast this to even ssome simple axiomatization like wedge products.
        So I agree with Keshav, it’s implausible to me this can be a basis of an axiomatization. That should not be read as a claim it can’t be.

  50. Lord Keynes says:

    Keshav Srinivasan,

    I’ve just read that paper.

    50% of it is devoted to arguing against Mises and saying that praxeology is not synthetic a priori! The author is saying — contrary to Mises — that praxeology is analytic a priori:

    “If there is a simple lesson to be learned here it may be this: Don’t be afraid of the logical positivists. Analytic philosophy, at least if conducted soberly, will dismantle many of the arguments mounted against praxeology proper we need not, nor should we, be Kantians in order to save Mises from either error or irrelevance.

    That is hardly any comfort to the apologists here. One of them (M_F) supports the synthetic a priori; the other erroneously claims that Mises never even mentioned synthetic a priori or thought praxeology was synthetic a priori.

    And all Michael Oliva Córdoba does is define 2 theorems in these terms and claim he can prove them once defined by using logic:

    Uneasiness theorem:
    The rest of paper is just creation of analytic propositions: the author makes his propositions true by definition:

    ‘[T]he incentive to act is always uneasiness [...].’ (Mises 1949: 13)
    (x) (x is satisfied → ¬ x acts)
    “if x such that x is satisfied, then it is not the case that x acts”)

    Scarcity theorem:
    ‘[A]ction is the manifestation of scarcity [...].’ (Mises 1949: 70)
    (x) (¬ (∃y) (y is scarce for x) → ¬ x acts
    “if x such that it is not the case that there exists at least one y such that y is scarce for x, then it is not the case that x acts.”
    ———

    So what he has done probably constitutes less than 0.1% of Human Action and never even progresses to economic theories.

    And no analytic a priori system says anything necessarily true of the real world. The author hasn’t proved any Misesian theory has applicability to a real world economy.

    • Keshav Srinivasan says:

      I’d be fine if Cordoba was just able to show that praxeology was a priori, even if he didn’t show that it entails necessary truths about the world. As I see it, the problem is that he picked two propositions that are trivial and pretty much tautologous (or at least he reduces them to tautologies), and it’s rather far-fetched that his methods will still continue to work as Mises’ propositions get less trivial and more substantive as you go on.

    • Major_Freedom says:

      The law of marginal utility and the quantity theory of money (properly stated) are true for all actor lead economies for all time for all places.

      These truths are not derived from observation, and formal logic is insufficient to show their truth. They both apply to real world economies.

      • Lord Keynes says:

        “and formal logic is insufficient to show their truth. “

        And what, pray, is “sufficient to show their truth”?

        Magic? Clairvoyance? Second sight?

        • Ken B says:

          Action.

        • Major_Freedom says:

          “And what, pray, is “sufficient to show their truth”?”

          “Magic? Clairvoyance? Second sight?”

          The same “magic”, the same “clairvoyance” and the same “second sight” that you yourself utilize when you observe a logical syllogism on paper, and despite the logical syllogism not containing any mention of the reader being obligated to accept the conclusion based on the previous premises. Just because there is written a polite and suggestive “therefore” or “thus”, that doesn’t constitute you yourself being forced to accept the conclusion.

          I recommend you read CS Lewis’ parable “What the Tortoise said to Achilles.”

          http://www.ditext.com/carroll/tortoise.html

          Formal logic, alone, is ALWAYS insufficient to showing truths that require and include an unwritten, cognitive component.

          What you call “magic” is what philosophers call reason, or intuition, or understanding.

          • Major_Freedom says:

            Sorry, the author is Lewis Carroll, not CS Lewis.

          • Major_Freedom says:

            As the point of the parable would undoubtedly go over your head LK, here it is:

            The tortoise is making manifest the truth that your mind is not forced by some mystical God to accept the conclusion of a logical syllogism. One could choose to reject it. Now while you can say they are wrong, and in a few cases you might even be right, what you are referring to when you say that someone is “wrong” for not accepting the conclusion, is not that the syllogism on paper is right or wrong, but rather, that their mind is not in a particular state that is required to make the whole reality (meaning the syllogism PLUS the reader’s mind) cohesive and sensible.

            In other words, the Tortoise is showing Achilles that formal logic will ALWAYS be insufficient to making a true proposition that requires a cognitive component to be true. No matter how many premises there are, a syllogism is “dead” on its own. The syllogism is not the complete truth. It is but a GUIDE to helping the reader adjust their mind so that it is in a state that, along with the syllogism, is the actual truth.

            Do you see?

            Syllogisms are really nothing but incomplete blueprints to help you navigate to the truth that is grounded on, and requires, your own action. Without your mind justifying itself, the full truth is absent.

            Do you get it now?

            • Ken B says:

              Lewis Carroll? That’s a dodge, son.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Hopefully LK will “get” the point of the story.

              • Lord Keynes says:

                There is no point to your comments — except another idiotic straw man.

                Yes, a rational human being is required to understand a deduction.

                But nobody here denies that.

                So is M_F now saying that the economic arguments of Human Action CAN be written out as formal deductions that can be understood by conscious rational human beings?

              • Major_Freedom says:

                LK:

                Nothing, I mean NOTHING in that post you responded to contain anything of an accusation or claim towards your beliefs.

                Once again, for the millionth time, you seem to have a very bad, and persistent, habit of accusing me of accusing you of believing this or that, when I really did not.

                “Yes, a rational human being is required to understand a deduction.”

                It’s more than that. Understanding as a concept is itself required to establish a truth. That is why all economic laws, according to praxeologists, are so-called “grounded on action.”

                The syllogism alone is incomplete.

                “So is M_F now saying that the economic arguments of Human Action CAN be written out as formal deductions that can be understood by conscious rational human beings?”

                Action cannot.

                The economic laws (syllogisms, etc) grounded on action can.

      • Keshav Srinivasan says:

        I thought you said all economic laws can be expressed via syllogism. So shouldn’t you be able to start with the action axiom and use for al logic to derive the law of marginal utility?

        • Ken B says:

          (x)(ECONOMIC_LAW(x) -> (ACTION -> x) )

          Et voila.

          • Lord Keynes says:

            If x such that x is an economic law, then if action then x?

            :)

            True by definition!

            • Ken B says:

              A better translation is
              “If x is an economic law then ACTION implies x”

              This is the only axiom M_F needs I think.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Correct! Ladies and gentlemen, please give Ken B a round of applause.

                Just rub it in that the entirety of praxeology is one giant tautology that is not immediately or psychologically known, but must be learned. Learning, of course, means learning about the inner workings of one’s own mind. That is why it typically feels like a tautology at first, and only later after some more thought does it become clear.

    • Hank says:

      If you accept the principles of logic then you accept the action axiom is valid and applies to the real world, regardless of your views on the existence of the synthetic a priori. Lord Keynes has failed to show where Mises admits the existence of the synthetic a priori. Rothbard has explained the empirical nature of the action axiom, so it doesn’t matter how Mises comes to accept the action axiom. Once accepting the action axiom, its (alleged) deductions follow.

      I think Adam Knott can shed some light on the conceptual problems with this paper:

      “In social science we do not compare the attributes of two things X and Y. The foundation of social science is the relationship between an object or state (X) on the one hand, and a desire to change X to something different on the other hand. Here, there is only one entity, X, that has attributes. The focal point of social science is the relationship between X and a desire to change X to something different.”

      “Natural science requires a plurality of observations. Its categorial structure includes, minimally, an initial observation (observation-1) and a follow-up observation (observation-2). The categorial structure of social science entails only one category of observation (only one category of perceptual or sensual data). Social science lacks the categorial structure needed for comparing a plurality of observational, perceptual, or sensual data.”

      Its may be useful to read: http://praxeology.org/2013/07/15/the-categories-of-action-binary-nature/

      • Ken B says:

        Since I can accept logic held before the existence of minds this is clearly false.

        • Major_Freedom says:

          How can logic be “accepted” without a mind?

          • Ken B says:

            Parsing failure.
            I can accept that sexual reproduction worked even before I was born.
            I can accept that helium atoms existed even before I existed.
            I can accept that 2 + 2 = 4 even before life evolved.

            • Major_Freedom says:

              That’s not what I am getting at.

              • Bala says:

                He will never get that.

              • Bala says:

                He will never get the point that the very concept number is an abstraction that only exists in a mind. He will never understand the point that prior to minds, there is only existence and no abstractions. He is too blinded to realise this simple point.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                Bala, are you familiar with mathematical Platonism? There are voluminous arguments for mathematical Platonism. I can briefly summarize them for you if you like.

              • Bala says:

                It will help if you define platonism first so that I may explain why I disagree with that. Once we do that, there won’t be any reason to discuss mathematical platonism.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                Mathematical Platonism, in its simplest form, is that mathematical objects and structures exist in an abstract realm known as “Platonic heaven”, which always existed even when humans and minds did not. It might sound absurd, but it is the philosophy of mathematics which the vast majority of mathematicians subscribe to.

                I should mention are two schools of Mathematical Platonism, and their disagreement is about how humans have access to Platonic heaven. Some people, like Gottlob Frege and Bertrand Russell, believe that humans find out truths about Platnnic heaven through reason, so they think our knowledge of mathematics is analytic a priori. Others, like Kurt Godel and Steve Landsburg, believe that human intuition has some kind of extra-sensory perception of Platonic heaven, so they think our knowledge of mathematics is synthetic a priori.

                Again, it may sound very strange at first glance, but I can try to explain to you why so many people believe in it.

              • Bala says:

                I can see that Mathematical Platonism makes no sense to me for the same reasons that Platonism makes no sense.

                However, on second thoughts, I have decided that I will not engage in a debate on this issue out here. All I wish to state is that our differences are entirely due to deep philosophical differences. Your positions are a logical consequence of your platonism. My positions are a logical consequence of my rejection of platonism and an acceptance of Aristotlean metaphysics (minus the metaphysical essences) as laid out by (the much hated and reviled) Ayn Rand.

                I don’t think a comment thread with 651 comments already out there is the right place to have this discussion. In fact, I don’t believe a comment board is the right place to have this discussion at all. The reason is that in fairness, I should respond in reasonable time if I agree to engage anyone on such a platform. However, work does not permit me to do so.

                I therefore submit that we rest this discussion for the moment.

              • Ken B says:

                You don’t even need to go as far as Russell to believe that a not a cannot both be true independent of the existence of one particular evolved biped on planet earth.

                I disagree with landsburg BTW

              • Ken B says:

                Keshav, just to be sure. Do you believe in you evolution? Do you believe that there was a period before there were sentient creatures?
                Pardon my asking but you are a dualist and you do believe in divine soles so I don’t think this question is quite as off the wall as it sounds.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Keshav:

                “Others, like Kurt Godel and Steve Landsburg, believe that human intuition has some kind of extra-sensory perception of Platonic heaven, so they think our knowledge of mathematics is synthetic a priori.”

                That isn’t what synthetic a priori means.

              • Ken B says:

                My car is blue.

                “That isn’t what blue means.”

                Indeed. But my car is still blue.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                Bala, if you don’t want to continue the discussion, that’s fine. Let me just summarize for your information the main argument for Mathematical Platonism. Mathematics is believed to have four properties that any philosophy of mathematics must make sense of: consistency, fecundity, accessibility, and applicability, and the argument is that only Mathematical Platonism can explain all four.

                1. Consistency: We’ve been doing mathematics for millennia, and we’ve failed to find an inconsistency in mathematics, i.e. an instance where both A and not A are provable using mathematics. The argument is that a sufficiently complex theory can only be consistent if it’s ABOUT something, so mathematics can’t just be an arbitrary creation of the human mind, since our arbitrary mental creations tend to have lots of flaws. So it’s argued that it’s domain of discourse must have a referent that is objectively real, so e.g. the consistency of arithmetic implies the existence of numbers.

                2. Fecundity: Mathematics seems to be bountiful (the technical term is “indefinitely extensible), meanings that there’s always more mathematics yet to be discovered, and you can’t capture all mathematical truths in a single formal system, which suggests that mathematics isn’t just some formal game and it isn’t just some idea we came up with, because it’s too complex for humans to make it up.

                3. Accessibility: How can us measly humans access something so wonderful as mathematics? Mathematical Platonism offers two possible explanations for that, as I discussed in my previous comment.

                4. Applicability: How is mathematics so unreasonably effective in natural science and our understanding of our physical world? And if the answer is that humans came up with mathematics by observing the physical world, why is is it that so little of mathematics is grounded in physical phenomena? (See Hartry Field’s book Science without Numbers) , and why is it that mathematics we came up with happens to explain new physical phenomena we haven’t discovered yet? Mathematical Platonism is that the law of physics and the human mind are both relying on the same source, Platonic heaven.

                And for the record, I don’t think Platonism vs Aristotelianism is really the source of our disagreement in this thread.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                Ken B, what is your disagreement with Steve Landsburg’s beliefs, and what do you believe about the nature of mathematics? I have many disagreements with him, for instance I doubt the primacy of the natural numbers over the real numbers, and I’m more inclined to see mathematics as analytic a priori as opposed to synthetic a priori.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                Ken B, yes, I believe in evolution, and no, I don’t believe there was a time when there was no sentience, indeed I believe that the soul transcends time itself. So yes, as a practical matter I believe that there are always sentient beings, but I still think that even if there had been a time when our souls hadn’t existed, there could still be mathematical truth out there.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                Major_Freedom, this may be a semantic disagreement, but in philosophy the term “intuition” is generally used to refer to a human mental faculty by which synthetic a priori truth comes to be known.

              • Ken B says:

                keshav,
                . In short I reject Steve’s notion that mathematical existence whatever that may mean is the same thing as rock existence or tree existence or mind existence. I have rather harshly Referred to him as St. Anselm of Rochester for this point.
                When I was younger I was a mathematical Platonist. I’ve never been much of a Platonist otherwise. I’m more sympathetic to the intuitionist school these days that I was when I was studying the material decades ago.
                I agree with you but Steve’s argument about the privacy of the integers seems flawed.
                We will have to fight over sentience and mind but this is not the thread for it!

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                Ken B, even if you reject the existence of mathematical objects, do you at least accept that mathematical truths are “out there”, i.e. independent of the human mind? If you do, your position is the same as a lot of modern mathematical Platonists. I’m not really committed to the existence of a perfect square somewhere out there, but that doesn’t mean I’m not committed to the proposition that the diagonal of a square is sqrt(2) times its side. In other words, hat proposition could be an objective truth about objective reality without that objective reality being a place full of squares.

                Concerning intuitionism, how can intuitionism account for mathematics’ consistency, when the thoughts that humans typically produce seem to have all kinds of flaws. And what about the fact that mathematics is so useful in trying to understand the physical world. Why do the laws of physics seem mathematical? And finally, we does it seem like mathematics give more out than we put into it? When you explore the transfinite ordinals, like the Feferman-Schutte ordinal, it seems like we’re discovering a structure that was there before we thought of it, because it emerges even though we didn’t anticipate it when we formed the notion of ordinals.

              • Bala says:

                Sorry, Keshav. This is going to be my absolute last post though I am going to just state my disagreement with you and (maybe) some others out here.

                I said

                My positions are a logical consequence of my rejection of platonism and an acceptance of Aristotlean metaphysics (minus the metaphysical essences) as laid out by (the much hated and reviled) Ayn Rand.

                On account of this, I reject the entire Kantian a priori-a posteriori and analytic-synthetic framework. So, our differences are indeed philosophical in origin. Our different metaphysics leads us to different epistemologies which lead us to different ethics and politics.

              • Ken B says:

                Keshav
                no I agree 2 is even even when the world was empty
                of minds. theere is no time in mathematics. p and not p can nevr be true , except in the minds of praxeologists I have learned. As for intuitionism its not such a metaphysical concernn as a belief the reals are central, and too many axioms are independent. constructivism is appealing therefore. i have no qualms saying Choice is either true or false I just don’t know which it is.
                It may be inconsistent but I’m very attracted to Robinsons theories and nonstandard analysis. , i’m happy to say infinitesimals exist. (i love that you just cannot express the contradiction in his language L)I just don’t expect meet one on the street corner. Steven landsburg thinks 4 is so real he can spread it on toast and eat it. I think nonstandard analysis in the Robinson formulation is a problem for Steve by the way. It seems to me that we can construct sets with infinitesimals and prove contradictions but you cannot do so in language L. Which of these corresponds to reality/

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                Oh, I wasn’t aware that you rejected those Kantian distinctions. I’m not a Kantian at all, but I find those distinctions immensely useful, and most philosophers find them useful as well (even if they disagree with Kant’s use of them). I think that Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle would have all found them useful. Who is the philosopher that you got your rejection of those distinctions from, or did you come up with it on your own? It’s hard to imagine an Austrian rejecting them.

              • Ken B says:

                btw keshav, its been almost 30 years since i did set theory. i understood forcing once, and soloways theorem etc. but i jumped ship from math decades ago.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                Ken B, intutitionists believe that mathematics is an arbitrary creation of the human mind, and then from there they create new restricted versions of math called constructive mathematics. If all you mean is that you’re sympathetic to constructive mathematics, then I share your sympathies. I find people like Edward Nelson, who believes that there may be infinitely many natural numbers less than 80^5000, to be absolutely fascinating. (Not that I necessarily buy it, but I can imagine it being true in a way that Steve presumably can’t.) And yes, I consider nonstandard models of N, for instance computable nonstandard models of Q, to be an important objection to Steve’s beliefs about the natural numbers.

                So we might be pretty close in our philosophy of mathematics.

              • Ken B says:

                I got that impression on a couple of the disputes on Steve’s blog.

                The real problem with constructivism is stuff like that square root two to square root two to square root two proof. Perfectly convincing to me.

              • Ken B says:

                I am also suspicious of landsburg’s dependence on intuition. As best as I can recall back when I studied this stuff, my intuitions were that the axiom of choice is obviously true, Bonnick Turski is obviously false, The godel constructive sets are clearly what we mean by Zed FC as the natural model, and all sets of real numbers are measurable. As you are well aware these are wildly inconsistent intuitions. I don’t trust intuition in these areas quite so much.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                Yes, I find intuitionistic logic, which rejects the law of excluded middle, to be absurd. I’m more interested in intuitionistic, predicativst, finitist, and ultrafinitist mathematics than the logic of those schools.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                Yes, I think there’s a very good chance that Steve is simply wrong that his intuition constitutes an extra-sensory perception of mathematical objects. As I said, I’m more inclined to view mathematics as analytic a priori, along the lines of Frege and Russell, than synthetic a priori.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Keshav:

                “Major_Freedom, this may be a semantic disagreement, but in philosophy the term “intuition” is generally used to refer to a human mental faculty by which synthetic a priori truth comes to be known.”

                Yes, that is true. But that isn’t how you described Landsburg and Godel, which is what I responded to.

                You said that human intuition “has some kind of extra-sensory perception of Platonic heaven”. It is on this alleged accurate description of intuition that you then conclude “so they think our knowledge of mathematics is synthetic a priori.”

                But that isn’t what synthetic a priori means. It does not mean “extra-sensory perception of Platonic heaven.”

                Synthetic a priori means that a truth of empirical reality (not Platonic heaven) can be known where the means of formal logic is insufficient, and observations are unnecessary.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Keshav:

                “Yes, I find intuitionistic logic, which rejects the law of excluded middle, to be absurd.”

                Inuitionist logic does not reject the law of the excluded middle. It is intuition that leads to an understanding of the law of the excluded middle.

                Intuition does not mean unconstrained logical rules.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Keshav:

                “I’m more inclined to view mathematics as analytic a priori, along the lines of Frege and Russell, than synthetic a priori.”

                Then explain the empirical success of mathematics. Coincidence? Chance?

              • Ken B says:

                MF you have wandered into waters you do not understand here. The intuitionist school was a school of mathematicians who rejected the law of excluded middle and pure existence proofs. They are associated with the demand that all proofs be constructivist. I believe Ke$ha and I agree that the rejection of the law of excluded middle is silly but that the demand for constructivism is interesting and serves other purposes.

              • Lord Keynes says:

                Its success — useful and accurate modelling of or prediction of reality — is precisely established by empirical evidence.

                There are many pure mathematical systems that describe nothing the real world:

                ” A mathematician may construct a conceptual scheme of great elegance that has no application to reality.”
                Avrum Stroll, Informal Philosophy, p. 31.

                We know whether any mathematical system is useful in understanding the real world empirically.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Ken B:

                “MF you have wandered into waters you do not understand here.”

                Ken B I am formally trained in mathematics. Sorry to have to break it to you, but your silly attempts at carding people at your ivory tower isn’t going to work on me.

                “The intuitionist school was a school of mathematicians who rejected the law of excluded middle and pure existence proofs.”

                I am well aware of the intuitionist school rejecting the law of the excluded middle. My point is that it is intuition (as opposed to what the intuitionist school claims) that grounds our understanding of the law of the excluded middle.

                “They are associated with the demand that all proofs be constructivist.”

                Secret: The foundational elements on which intuitionist school rejects the law of the excluded middle, includes the law of the excluded middle.

                The “intuitionist” rejects “A or not A”, but accepts as false “A and not A.” Any acceptance of a false proposition implies the law of the excluded middle. For it as associating truth and false to different propositions, not the same proposition. “A and not A” is itself a proposition.

                “I believe Ke$ha and I agree that the rejection of the law of excluded middle is silly but that the demand for constructivism is interesting and serves other purposes.”

                It is not just silly, but impossible (at least for actors).

              • Major_Freedom says:

                LK:

                “Its success — useful and accurate modelling of or prediction of reality — is precisely established by empirical evidence.”

                The theorems are “precisely established” a priori. Mathematical theorems are not “tested”. Mathematics is not an empirical science. When one is engaging in mathematical analysis, one is engaging not in observation and testing, but self-reflective logic and deduction.

                Observation does not falsify or confirm any mathematical statement. Observation does falsify or confirm empirical statements.

                “There are many pure mathematical systems that describe nothing the real world:”

                Mathematics not constrained to action.

                ” A mathematician may construct a conceptual scheme of great elegance that has no application to reality.”

                Reality does not exclude consciousness.

                “We know whether any mathematical system is useful in understanding the real world empirically.”

                Empiricism is grounded on non-empirical intuition, such as the truth of reality does not change over time. Empiricism self-contradicts.

              • Lord Keynes says:

                “The theorems are “precisely established” a priori. Mathematical theorems are not “tested”.

                That is because you conflate pure maths/geometry (which is analytic a priori) with applied maths/geometry (which is synthetic a posteriori).

                Yes, pure maths is done by deduction and other mathematics proof and yields necessary truth.

                Observation does not refute pure maths. It can refute applied maths/geometry, when asserted of the real world.

                If M_F disputes this, let him show us how he can know that non-Euclidean geometry is a description of reality.

                Can he know it a priori?

                By magic perhaps?

              • Major_Freedom says:

                LK:

                “That is because you conflate pure maths/geometry (which is analytic a priori) with applied maths/geometry (which is synthetic a posteriori).”

                No, you’re conflating a priori propositions (2+2=4) with a posteriori propositions (2 apples added to 2 apples resulted in one having 4 apples).

                To you the theory is necessarily empirical, when that is not the case for all theories.

                “Yes, pure maths is done by deduction and other mathematics proof and yields necessary truth.”

                So you understand the argument then.

                “Observation does not refute pure maths. It can refute applied maths/geometry, when asserted of the real world.”

                Bingo. Observation can only refute empirical propositions, such as what you call “applied maths.”

                “If M_F disputes this, let him show us how he can know that non-Euclidean geometry is a description of reality.”

                It is a valid description of reality. The instruments, energy, tools, and other means the researchers use to observe space, is all based on Euclidean geometry being true. If Euclidean geometry is false, then the very instruments and means being utilized to confirm the geometry of spacetime would be improper.

                “Can he know it a priori?
                By magic perhaps?”

                You mean you’re using magic when you assume, via empiricism, that the truths of reality in the past are unchanged during the time you test a theory and make a conclusion? Where else did that assumption come from? You can’t say empiricism as well, because the very structure of empiricism assumes constancy. You therefore can’t test for non-constancy using a model that only has the ability to assume constancy in everything.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                “But that isn’t what synthetic a priori means. It does not mean “extra-sensory perception of Platonic heaven.”” I didn’t say that’s the definition of synthetic a priori. Because they believe that mathematical knowledge is acquired through intuition, they think mathematics is a synthetic a priori. I was just telling their explanation for HOW it’s possible for intuition to yield mathematical truth, and their answer is that human intuition has extrasensory perception of Platonic heaven.

                “Synthetic a priori means that a truth of empirical reality (not Platonic heaven) can be known where the means of formal logic is insufficient, and observations are unnecessary.” I’d almost agree with that definition, except that I’d replace “empirical reality” with just “reality”. So if you could somehow acquire information about Platonic heaven without sensory observation or reason, that would qualify as synthetic a priori.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                “Then explain the empirical success of mathematics. Coincidence? Chance?” The standard answer is that both logic and universe have a connection to Platonic heaven. That’s why the laws of physics are written in the language of mathematics, and that’s how, along the lines of Frege and Russell, we can use formal logic to establish mathematical truth.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                “The “intuitionist” rejects “A or not A”, but accepts as false “A and not A.” Any acceptance of a false proposition implies the law of the excluded middle. For it as associating truth and false to different propositions, not the same proposition. “A and not A” is itself a proposition.” I don’t understand this at all. What if you happen to believe that there are some propositions that are neither true nor false?

              • Lord Keynes says:

                (1) the first half of your comment concedes what I said.

                (2) ““If M_F disputes this, let him show us how he can know that non-Euclidean geometry is a description of reality.”

                It is a valid description of reality. The instruments, energy, tools, and other means the researchers use to observe space, is all based on Euclidean geometry being true. If Euclidean geometry is false, then the very instruments and means being utilized to confirm the geometry of spacetime would be improper.”

                You didn’t answer the question. That was just a cowardly evasion.

                How can we know that non-Euclidean geometry is a description of reality?

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Keshav:

                “I’d almost agree with that definition, except that I’d replace “empirical reality” with just “reality”.”

                Thoughts are not a part of reality? Choice is not a part of reality? Consciousness is not a part of reality? These are all unobservable phenomena.

                To know what it’s like to BE a person, for example me, that is, for me to know what it’s like to be me, cannot be observed by anything else in the universe. Only I can know what it’s like to BE me. Same thing for you. Same thing for every other thing.

                You can observe me as detailed and as closely as you are physically capable of doing, but you will never learn the knowledge of my self-awareness. The only way you can know what it’s like to be me, were if you were me. But you’re not me. So you can never know. By studying me, you can only ever know what it’s like to be you, given that you know a LOT about me through observing me.

                Considering you’re a radical materialist, imagine planning and constructing a highly intelligent robot. You can only a lot about it, but you will never have the knowledge of being that robot. That knowledge is where empiricism cannot penetrate.

                “So if you could somehow acquire information about Platonic heaven without sensory observation or reason, that would qualify as synthetic a priori.”

                Again, that isn’t what synthetic a priori knowledge means.

                “The standard answer is that both logic and universe have a connection to Platonic heaven.”

                From whence is the knowledge of that connection derived?

                “I don’t understand this at all. What if you happen to believe that there are some propositions that are neither true nor false?”

                Then you are still utilizing the law of excluded middle. For you would be presuming that what you are creating is a proposition, rather than a non-proposition. You wouldn’t, indeed couldn’t, be assuming “A proposition and not a proposition.”

                The key is to always self-reflect on what you are doing whenever you engage in thinking about a concept that is not your consciousness, for example arguments like “A and not A” or “A or not A”.

                Typically what tends to happen in mathematics is to ignore performative contradictions being made.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                LK:

                “1) the first half of your comment concedes what I said.”

                Word of advice:

                If you ever find that what I said is something you agree with, it is not because I “conceded” to what you said. It is because I have arrived at that conclusion myself without your help, and you have come to the same conclusion, rightly or wrongly.

                “You didn’t answer the question. That was just a cowardly evasion.”

                There wasn’t a question I was responding to.

                Why should I show Keshav how Euclidean geometry is correct, when Keshav is no less obligated to how how non-Euclidean geometry is correct? I tried to compare and contrast by showing that even non-Euclidean conclusions of spacetime are grounded on a utilization of Euclidean means. I invite you to show how Euclidean means can be used to disprove Euclidean geometry. You have not answered this.

                “How can we know that non-Euclidean geometry is a description of reality?”

                Reality is not homogeneous. There is reality of action phenomena, and reality of non-action phenomena.

                Euclidean geometry is the geometry of action. When scientists act, they use means. The means are considered Euclidean because the scientists are actors. That which is being observed, is not necessarily Euclidean.

                Observing a non-Euclidean “non-action” reality, i.e. observing deep space, is actually the observer recognizing the multi-geometric nature of the combination of themselves and that which is not themselves.

                I am a compatibilist. Namely, I hold that the universe can contain both causal and non-causal phenomena. It is natural for me to be sensitive to the notion that there can be both Euclidean and non-Euclidean geometry as well.

                The general “dualism” springs from the simple recognition that oneself is not the world. I am me, which means there is a not me. There is a truth of me that is not necessarily true about the non-me. There is a truth about the non-me that is not necessarily true about me.

                Most philosophers, mathematicians, and physicists in our age, have a desire to impose a methodological monism on every field of inquiry, even themselves. I think this is a mistake, and has been made because of the fact that positivism works so well in researching the natural world, which is so vastly greater in size and scope than the individual human consciousness, that it has lead to the thought that applying what works in 99.99999999999999999% of the universe must also work on the remaining 0.00000000000000001% that is conscious activity.

                The more we learn about the external world, the less important our own selves seem. You see this in a lot of popularized physics and astronomy.

                “Humans are just a speck of dust in the universe.”

                “We are so small.”

                “We are tiny specks.”

                And so on.

                All great things start out small, but unfortunately too many people believe that good things must start out big.

              • Ken B says:

                MF Keshav is not a materialist radical or otherwise. At least not yet, I’ll work on him.

                And non-Euclidean geometry’s can be defined and studied without any reference to Euclidean geometry.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Ken B:

                Yes, in terms of verbal statements unconstrained to action, you can define anything any way you want.

                But I was responding to LK’s argument (which we debated before) that empirical experiments have “proven” Euclidean geometry as “false.”

                In this context, the problem I mentioned arises.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                “Thoughts are not a part of reality? Choice is not a part of reality? Consciousness is not a part of reality? These are all unobservable phenomena.” Yes, I willing to accept a nonphysical thing called consciousness which is part of reality but which transcends sensory observation. What’s your point?

                “To know what it’s like to BE a person, for example me, that is, for me to know what it’s like to be me, cannot be observed by anything else in the universe. Only I can know what it’s like to BE me. Same thing for you. Same thing for every other thing.
                You can observe me as detailed and as closely as you are physically capable of doing, but you will never learn the knowledge of my self-awareness. The only way you can know what it’s like to be me, were if you were me. But you’re not me. So you can never know. By studying me, you can only ever know what it’s like to be you, given that you know a LOT about me through observing me.” I’m not sure I necessarily buy the claim that only you are able to know what it’s like to be you. (If you ask Bob, I think he’d say that God knows what it’s like to be you.)

                “Considering you’re a radical materialist, imagine planning and constructing a highly intelligent robot. You can only a lot about it, but you will never have the knowledge of being that robot. That knowledge is where empiricism cannot penetrate.” I apologize if at some point I gave you a misleading impression, but I’m actually not a materialist at all. I’m a Hindu. But in any case, I don’t there’s really anything like “what it is like to be a robot”, any more than “what it is like to be an electron”. So I don’t think it’s really meaningful to speak of knowledge of such a state.

                “Again, that isn’t what synthetic a priori knowledge means.” Well, I think we just have a semantic disagreement here. But how would you classify humans learning mathematics through intuition which has an extrasensory perception of Platonic heaven? Which of the categories would you put that in, if it were true?

                “From whence is the knowledge of that connection derived?” The fact that the laws by which the world is governed seems to have a connection to Platonic heaven would be synthetic a posteriori. Logic being able to deduce facts about what’s there in Platonic heaven would be an analytic a priori proposition, derived through logic.

                “Then you are still utilizing the law of excluded middle. For you would be presuming that what you are creating is a proposition, rather than a non-proposition. You wouldn’t, indeed couldn’t, be assuming “A proposition and not a proposition.”” I still don’t understand this. Even if you were presuming that you are creating a proposition rather than a non-proposition, how does that imply that you’re presuming that the proposition must be either true or false?

                “Typically what tends to happen in mathematics is to ignore performative contradictions being made.” I don’t think I quite accept the meaningfulness of the notion of “performative contradiction”. I’m skeptical of argumentation ethics, for example, and the justification of the action axiom wherein doubting the action axiom constitutes an action. What if you believed that “action” did not exist, in the sense that you didn’t believe in free will, but instead thought that you were just a collection of particles behaving deterministically? What’s the contradiction there?

  51. Davis says:

    So, what’s happening here?

    • Ken B says:

      Thread winner.

    • Major_Freedom says:

      We’re trying to break the record for most comments in one thread.

      • Ken B says:

        There are really only 3 comments, they each appear 207 times.

  52. Ken B says:

    Look folks, Keshav, and Schuller, and LK, and I made a simple point. If you can formalize your deductions then you can identify up front the things we need to accept. Like the action axiom. If you follow formal methods then we know you haven’t been able to accidentally equivocate or slip in assumptions. Your logical deductions would be demonstrated to be sound, so we could just worry about the truth of your premises.
    We have had a variety of inconsistent answers but they fall into several groups
    1. Human Action *is* formal
    2. We don’t need to, you do it.
    3. It can’t be done but you can intuit the truth of every word in HA if you try.
    1 is just wrong. 2 is just silly. 3 is M_F, and it’s an example of the sort of vague stuff we are asking you to demonstrate you don’t rely on.

    • Lord Keynes says:

      And on (3) whenever MF is pressed he comes to imply that the economic arguments of HA CAN be written out as formal deductions — before retreating into more desperate evasions and straw man arguments

      • Major_Freedom says:

        Nope. Action cannot be written as a formal deduction.

        The laws grounded on action can.

        • Lord Keynes says:

          Ken B, we have won. It is time to adjourn to your nearest bar for victory drinks!

          The debate is over. Look at MF’s comment above and here:

          http://consultingbyrpm.com/blog/2013/12/respecting-sacred-cows.html#comment-99721

          ———————–
          MF:

          (1) yes, M_F you continue to prove your prize idiocy.

          Nobody on this blog claims that ACTUAL human behavior as an activity or action can be written out as a formal deduction.

          It is only (1) your monumental stupidity that would lead you to think so or (2) more likely a deliberate dishonest use of the straw man fallacy.

          (2) As you admit here:

          >“So is M_F now saying that the economic arguments
          >of Human Action CAN be written out as formal
          >deductions that can be understood by conscious
          >rational human beings?”

          Action cannot.

          The economic laws (syllogisms, etc) grounded on action can.

          Therefore the economic arguments of the BOOK HA establishing the alleged economic laws of praxeology can be written out as formal deductions.

          The question as to why no Austrian has remains answered.

          Schuller’s challenge has never been answered.

          • Bob Murphy says:

            Lord Keynes wrote:

            Ken B, we have won.

            And it only took 628 comments! You guys are good.

            • Ken B says:

              Yup. Good thing this site works better than healthcare.gov or some of those might have got lost! Although in fairness as I noted there were only about 3 comments, each made 200 plus times.

              To shamelessly steal a metaphor, enough of Sancho, on to his master!

          • Lord Keynes says:

            When our main opponent misrepresents and distorts nearly ever argument we make, it rakes that long.

            • Lord Keynes says:

              “every” argument

            • Major_Freedom says:

              What misrepresentation? What distortion? I have already shown that your accusations are on false grounds, because I did not do what you claimed I did.

              • Bob Murphy says:

                MF victory has been declared. Stop arguing.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                There are still problems.

                We’ve come a long way. LK and Ken B now understand praxeology a little better.

                Let them declare victory and run victory laps. WHat matters is whether they can understand more.

          • Lord Keynes says:

            Correction:

            “The question as to why no Austrian has remains unanswered.

          • Major_Freedom says:

            “Ken B, we have won. It is time to adjourn to your nearest bar for victory drinks!”

            Wait, what did you win again? The knowledge that the book HA has not been written in syllogistic language? OK, uh, congrats.

            “Therefore the economic arguments of the BOOK HA establishing the alleged economic laws of praxeology can be written out as formal deductions.”

            “The question as to why no Austrian has remains [un]answered.”

            Actually I answered that above already. It’s because verbal discussion is a better and more useful language to explain economics.

            I never denied that HA cannot be translated into syllogisms. It would just be incredibly cumbersome. I don’t see the value that would come of it. It would be like saying HA should be translated into Hebrew or else something is wrong with the English version.

            • Major_Freedom says:

              Sorry, meant to say

              I never denied that HA can be translated into syllogisms…

            • Major_Freedom says:

              And also meant to say that the deductions of HA, not the action axiom (which is not a PART of HA, but rather of the reader)

  53. Ken B says:

    LK, maybe it’s just the thrill of victory, that has me pumped up, 628!, but I cannot adjourn for a beer until I toss this gauntlet at Bob’s feet.
    http://gene-callahan.blogspot.com/2013/12/jason-brennan-who-by-way-is.html
    Thanks Gene, I’ll drink a beer for you.

    • Major_Freedom says:

      What victory? We established right from the get go that the deductions of HA could be put into syllogistic form.

      What cannot be put into that form is action. The action axiom is the part you bring to the table, that is necessary to make you understand economics with the help of HA.

  54. Ken B says:

    Say Bob, I know it’s a little off-topic but …. Have you ever considered writing the Bible in formal logic with numbered sentences, axioms, deductions etc? May not the whole thing but say just the Sermon on the Mount or the Gospel of Mark?

    /runs for door

  55. Ken B says:

    Pulling out.

    Lord cames has made a point I wanted to make. People little note the spectacular failure of mathematics. It does not seem to me that quaternions properly describe motions around my backyard. It seems to me that arithmetic mod seven does not really describe what happens when I put eggs into my fridge. Bonnick Turski doesn’t really describe baseballs very well.

    We cannot know which mathematics will work well before we look.

    • Major_Freedom says:

      “…does not really…”

      Nice way of saying it does, without saying it does.

  56. Ken B says:

    In the spirit of mild provocation, I would like to ask everyone except Lord Keynes, do Fish think?

    I exempt Lord Keynes because like me he believes fish think.

  57. Ken B says:

    A little interesting background on some of the issues that cash event I have been discussing for non-mathematicians.
    Consider the real line between zero and one. It has a length one unit. You can divided into smaller pieces with smaller lengths. Now using sophisticated ideas you can divided up into all sorts of crazy shapes. Do these crazy shapes all have a length? You can define a generalized notion of links called measure. This is a rigorous definition and theorems can be proved about it. One of the most important things about measure is that it corresponds to probabilities. So if you divide the line into a bunch of crazy shapes and you look at the generalized notion of length their measure you would expect that the measure would add up to one. You pretty much need this if you’re going to be assigning probabilities to these crazy subsets. But here’s the thing. Using the axiom of choice you can prove that you can divide the line into sets which do not have a measure. You cannot consistently assigned a measure to them. The consequences of this fact for probability theory are somewhat unclear and disturbing, at least if these sophisticated mathematical tricks that you used to create these non-measurable sets correspond to anything natural in the world.
    The axiom of choice has other strange consequences too. On the other hand denying the axiom of choice has strange consequences. They are harder to explain to a non-mathematician so I won’t try.

    It is known that the axiom of choice is independent of the other axioms of mathematics. In other words the other parts of mathematics the other axioms of zF set theory are consistent with either Choice or it’s denial.

    Note to Kesha have yes I realize I fudged on consistent there at the end. I don’t want to get into those complexities here.

    • Major_Freedom says:

      The axiom of choice vis a vis deductions in mathematics is the same phenomena as axiom of action vis a vis deductions in economics.

      It’s derived from pure “groundless” activity present in all human thought and behavior. The question of why is there something in the universe rather than nothing, is in the same family as the question of why there is consciousness instead of no consciousness.

      • Keshav Srinivasan says:

        Major_Freedom, based on that “groundless activity” stuff, can you tell me whether you think the axiom of choice is true or false, and why? If you can decide the truth of it via praxeology, that would really be something.

        • Major_Freedom says:

          This is heady stuff, and I don’t believe I am in a position of being able to fully explicate it here, or anywhere as of this moment, in a way that would be satisfactory to you, or myself. I am always trying to improve my understanding of this. It’s tough and slow however.

          But…I think there is “a” route that shows promise. This is a summary:

          The story of Buridan’s ass is a good intro. Given it is exactly in the middle of two distinct piles of identical food, then if we focus our attention on the “external” sets available, there is no explicit choice criteria that can be “formalized.” It remains a “paradox” if we exclude the ass itself. Supposedly, the ass will die of starvation because there is no reason to choose one or other pile, given we only consider the objective characteristics of each pile, their distance, etc.

          The solution to the “paradox” is of course to not exclude the ass itself. We can include it. The ass is hungry, so the choice is expanded from two identical piles identically far away, AND the choice of the ass to die from starvation or live by eating from ONE pile. There is no objective criteria contained within the external food piles that can be established as decision criteria. But the ass chooses to live by picking one pile “randomly”.

          Now consider the axiom of choice. Apparently, when you have a set of non-empty sets, and there is no “objective” characteristics of each set that can be made “explicit” in order to form a decision criteria, for example “choose the smallest element of each set” in a series of sets that have no smallest element, such as the open interval (0,1), then mathematicians invoke their own pure activity when they conclude that a “random” element from each set can be chosen out of all possible choices such that they end up with a non-empty set (or product).

          The axiom of choice in economics is the same phenomena as the axiom of action in a world of scarcity. Even if the external world is infinite, the fact that we are actors, necessarily constrains our behavior to utilize only a finite set of elements in the natural world. This is true even if we cannot identify objective decision criteria in the “external” natural world itself.

          If there are various “external” objects available as economic means, and we cannot formalize a decision criteria based on the objective nature of the objects, then as actors, constrained to time and constrained to space, we will necessarily find ourselves choosing among those objects. You can call this choice “random” if you want, but let this not imply that I am saying it is without reason. The randomness is selecting one seemingly identical object over another. But the phenomena is not without reason, if we include the subjective valuation component. The “I want to do this for myself, as opposed to doing nothing for myself. So the choice is directed and explainable (even if to oneself), but from an observational point of view, it looks completely random and without any formal decision criteria.

          Even mathematicians have to choose which infinities to research, and which infinites to ignore.

          • Ken B says:

            I could ask you about those models set theory in which the axiom of choice is false, but instead I’ll ask you about whether praxeology teaches that you can make an uncountably infinite number of distinct choices?

            • Major_Freedom says:

              “I could ask you about those models set theory in which the axiom of choice is false”

              Actually I would be more interested in this.

              Like what?

              “whether praxeology teaches that you can make an uncountably infinite number of distinct choices?”

              Praxeology teaches us that action is constrained to counting, and finiteness. We can think of thinking about infinity, but we can only ever count in practise.

              It’s why we always see such things like

              lim(x–>0) = 4

              or

              1,2,3,,n

              or

              .9

              .99

              .999

              .9999

              1

              —————-

              Those things in bold are a consequence of actors limiting the effects they can bring about to finitude.

              • Ken B says:

                There are models of zf in which the act team of choice fails. Some of these are constructed through a very intricate technique known as forcing. There is no way to explain forcing briefly. It uses infinite Boolean algebra and ultra filters whose existence ironically is proven using the axiom of choice. Some of these models are interesting because in them all sets of real numbers have measure.
                I don’t know of any semi popular book that discusses this unfortunately.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                “There are models of zf in which the act team of choice fails.”

                Like what?

              • Ken B says:

                ?
                I just answered that.
                the axiom of choice is independent of the others axioms of ZF set theory. this was proven by constructing models of ZF in which C holds and models in which C is false.
                Showing this is upper year or grad school pure math. most working mathhematicians have never see this.
                Jech, set theory is a standard book but is old and there may be better ones now.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                “the axiom of choice is independent of the others axioms of ZF set theory. this was proven by constructing models of ZF in which C holds and models in which C is false.”

                I was actually asking for a model in which C is indeed “false”.

              • Ken B says:

                look in jech.
                Soloways proof was 60 plus pagees of dense grad level math. yoou ain’t gonna get a model on a blog.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Try summarizing the model in words. Should be easy.

                I mean, I can summarize Russell and White’s 200 page proof that 1+1=2 by simply stating “One plus one is equal to two.”

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                Major_Freedom, if by your standards a good summary of Russel’s proof that 1+1 = 2 is simply “1 + 1 = 2″, then I think I can summarize Cohen’s proof to you. (Note that this summary contains some simiplifications.)

                I assume you’re familiar with the Zermelo-Fraenkel axioms, AKA ZF. Well, within ZF, Paul Cohen was able to find a special family of sets F. And he showed that if you took each of the axioms of ZF, and wherever they said “for all sets” you replaced it with “for all sets in F”, and wherever they said “there exists a set” you replaced it with “there exists a set in F”, then F satisfied all the axioms of ZF. However, it violated the axiom of choice. So F constitutes a model of ZF for which the axiom of choice does not hold.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                “Well, within ZF, Paul Cohen was able to find a special family of sets F. And he showed that if you took each of the axioms of ZF, and wherever they said “for all sets” you replaced it with “for all sets in F”, and wherever they said “there exists a set” you replaced it with “there exists a set in F”, then F satisfied all the axioms of ZF. However, it violated the axiom of choice. So F constitutes a model of ZF for which the axiom of choice does not hold.”

                What sets in F are these? In other words, what is the meaning of the postulated sets in F?

                Why can’t one select an element from each of these sets, to make a new set?

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                Major_Freedom, Paul Cohen didn’t simply postulate the existence of F. He was able, through highly technical means, to choose exactly what sets would be put in his special family F.

                And within F, there exists some collection X of sets such that there exists no set in F which contains exactly one elements from each of the sets in X. Now there might exist a set NOT in F which contains one element from each set in X, but the point is that F contains no such set. So F is a model of set theory which does not satisfy the axiom of choice.

              • Ken B says:

                MF, maybe if you select those elements you can make another set, but you cannot make another set *in F*

              • Ken B says:

                I hope Lord Keynes won’t be jealous if I say you are an impressive dude Keshav.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                “And within F, there exists some collection X of sets such that there exists no set in F which contains exactly one elements from each of the sets in X.”

                How can there be a collection of sets “within F”, the elements of which are not in F?

              • Ken B says:

                the set of those elements is not in F. no-one said they are not in F.

                Now they might not be. i think you can build such models. but its not the point in this case. AC says the set of those elements must exist in F, and it doesn’t

                Choice is a weird axiom. In some ways it guarantees the existence of sets and is a set creation axiom. In others it forbids certain sets. It’s more of a ‘shape’ axiom, restricting the ‘shape’ of sets.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                Major_Freedom, within F there exists a collection X of sets, such that each of those sets is in F, and all of the elements of those sets are in F. But there exists no set in F which contains precisely one element of each of the sets in X.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                Ken B, this statement is wrong: “Now they might not be. i think you can build such models” No, there is no model of ZF in which a given set exists but some of its elements are not sets..

              • Ken B says:

                keshav, i might be misremebering but i think there are non standard versions of zfc which toss in non set dust particles, the non standard part of the set. every infinite set contains a non standard dust particle. I am not talking about foundation. of course its ben a long time …

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                Ken B, I’m not familiar with dust particles, but I’ll look into it.

              • Ken B says:

                I remember discussing this issue with my advisor I just can’t remember what anybody said!

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Ken B:

                “the set of those elements is not in F. no-one said they are not in F.”

                If the set from which the elements are selected is in F, why aren’t the elements in F?

                “Now they might not be. i think you can build such models. but its not the point in this case. AC says the set of those elements must exist in F, and it doesn’t.”

                Why not?

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Keshav:

                “Major_Freedom, within F there exists a collection X of sets, such that each of those sets is in F, and all of the elements of those sets are in F. But there exists no set in F which contains precisely one element of each of the sets in X.”

                If each set is in F, then each element in each set is in F.

                If A is a part of B, and B is a part of C, then A is a part of C.

                What am I missing?

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                Major_Freedom, you’re misunderstanding what I’m saying. I never said that the elements of the sets in X are not in F. Let me reiterate what I’m saying:

                1. X is a collection of sets.
                2. X is in F.
                3. Each of the sets in X are in F.
                4. Each element of each of the sets in X are in F.
                5. There exists no set in F which contains exactly one element from each of the sets in X.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                “If the set from which the elements are selected is in F, why aren’t the elements in F?” Again, no one said the elements are not in F.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Keshav:

                “I never said that the elements of the sets in X are not in F. Let me reiterate what I’m saying:”

                “1. X is a collection of sets.
                2. X is in F.
                3. Each of the sets in X are in F.
                4. Each element of each of the sets in X are in F.
                5. There exists no set in F which contains exactly one element from each of the sets in X.”

                Why can’t I choose one element from each set in F, and think that the resulting set is in F?

                “If the set from which the elements are selected is in F, why aren’t the elements in F?” Again, no one said the elements are not in F.”

                If the elements are in F, why doesn’t that constitute a set in F?

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                “Why can’t I choose one element from each set in F, and think that the resulting set is in F?” You can think it, you’d just be wrong, because there is no axiom of set theory that says that if you have some objects, then there exists a set that contains precisely those elements. And such an axiom wouldn’t even be expressible in the language of set theory, because it’s too vague.

                “If the elements are in F, why doesn’t that constitute a set in F?” Major_Freedom, it needs a reason TO be a set, not a reason NOT to be a set. Something is only a set in virtue of one of the axioms, and there is no axiom that implies that there is a set in F that contains precisely those elements. So there’s no reason for there to be such a set.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                “You can think it, you’d just be wrong, because there is no axiom of set theory that says that if you have some objects, then there exists a set that contains precisely those elements.”

                Why is that wrong? If you agree that there is some objects, aren’t you already choosing those objects as a set? If not, why not?

              • Major_Freedom says:

                “Major_Freedom, it needs a reason TO be a set, not a reason NOT to be a set. Something is only a set in virtue of one of the axioms, and there is no axiom that implies that there is a set in F that contains precisely those elements. So there’s no reason for there to be such a set.”

                Why isn’t my choosing it to be in a set, sufficient for it to be a set?

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                “Why is that wrong? If you agree that there is some objects, aren’t you already choosing those objects as a set? If not, why not?” No, just because you’re choosing some objects doesn’t mean that those objects form a set.

                To take a simple example, consider all the sets that are not elements of themselves. Back in the late 1800′s, mathematicians like Gottlob Frege and George Cantor had the same vague notion that you do that if you have some objects then they form a set, so they assumed that for any definable property P, there exists a set which contains precisely the objects that satisfy P. In particular, that would mean that there exists a set R of all sets that are not elements of themselves. But then Bertrand Russell posed the question, is R an element of itself? Well, if it is, then it would not meet the criterion for being an element of R, so it’s not. But if it’s not, then it would meet the criterion for being an element of R, so it is. So we have a contradiction either way, so R does not exist and thus there are some objects which simply do not form a set.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                “No, just because you’re choosing some objects doesn’t mean that those objects form a set.”

                A set is by definition “setting” a selection of objects in one’s mind.

                “To take a simple example, consider all the sets that are not elements of themselves. Back in the late 1800′s, mathematicians like Gottlob Frege and George Cantor had the same vague notion that you do that if you have some objects then they form a set, so they assumed that for any definable property P, there exists a set which contains precisely the objects that satisfy P. In particular, that would mean that there exists a set R of all sets that are not elements of themselves. But then Bertrand Russell posed the question, is R an element of itself? Well, if it is, then it would not meet the criterion for being an element of R, so it’s not. But if it’s not, then it would meet the criterion for being an element of R, so it is. So we have a contradiction either way, so R does not exist and thus there are some objects which simply do not form a set.”

                That’s just Russell’s critique of Cantor’s naive set theory, a “paradox”, which Wittgenstein demolished by arguing what I have been arguing all along, that a function, or logical syllogism, cannot be its own argument. There is required a conscious component not contained in the function or syllogism itself.

  58. Lord Keynes says:

    Ken B,

    Out of interest, which one of these theories do you subscribe to on philosophy of mathematics:

    http://socialdemocracy21stcentury.blogspot.com/2013/12/philosophy-of-mathematics-preliminary.html

    • Bob Murphy says:

      This is turning into a love story.

      KEN B. I can’t believe all these idiots on the Internet. So many Austrians, libertarians, and theists to crush. They don’t even understand logic.

      LORD KEYNES: *swoon* I thought I was the only one!

      KEN B. I thought *I* was the only one!

      LORD KEYNES: Where do you wanna be in 10 years?

      (curtain)

      • Major_Freedom says:

        Oh let them have their affinity and connection.

        Since they’re being refuted left right and center on their own, I am not surprised that their tribalist mindsets lead them to believing that agreeing with each other’s errors, will hopefully turn those errors into truths.

        After all, they reject the ground for truth, which is the individual’s own self-reflection. They don’t trust their own independence.

      • Ken B says:

        Not so many Bob. Just a select few.

      • Ken B says:

        btw Bob, most mathematicians don’t know very much about logic in the sense Kashevaroff have been discussing it. It’s a backwater.

      • Tel says:

        Hopefully Ken B can come up with some mathematical proof that socialism is doomed to fail… because vast amounts of empirical evidence doesn’t appear sufficiently convincing.

        • Ken B says:

          Now if you understood the fundamental idea of economic calculation …

          • Tel says:

            Proof by economic calculus. You could be onto something.

    • Ken B says:

      LK
      I really don’t know exactly where we come down in this hierarchy of possibilities. Basically I don’t believe that mathematical existence implies any other kind of existence. I’m entirely happy with mathematicians talking about something existing and using the term there exists or leather exists or making inexistence proof. I rejected drawing metaphysical conclusions from that existence because it may just be a way of speaking. I strongly disagree with landsburg on this for instance.
      Ironically this is one of the areas where I agree with Bob Murphy. Bob says Landsburg believes in God he just calls god ‘natural numbers’ , there’s some truth to that.

      • Major_Freedom says:

        Interestingly, it is the natural numbers that are most closely associated with individual action. It’s little wonder why something so strongly associated in everything we think and do, would given a “God-like” status even among those who have otherwise vastly different metaphysical views.

        Action implies sequential performances of tasks. One act, and then another act, and so on. This is how our knowledge of natural numbers is grounded. An object that does not act would have no knowledge of counting (natural) numbers.

        • Keshav Srinivasan says:

          The fact that it’s so difficult to make precise the “and so on” part is one of the chief reasons why people like Steve Landsburg adopt a Platonistic attitude toward the natural numbers. For instance, within first-order logic there’s no way to define the natural numbers in the set of real numbers, because saying “The natural numbers are 1, 1+1, 1+1+1, and so on” is imprecise because it’s unclear what “and so on” means..

          One way to formalize that notion is by using second-order logic, as follows: a hereditary set of real numbers is a set which contains x+1 whenever it contains x, and a natural number is a real number which belongs to all hereditary sets containing 1. The problem with that is that it’s unclear what “all hereditary sets” is imprecise, because at a more fundamental level it’s unclear what “all sets” means. (That’s why there’s no recursive axiomatization of second-order logic.)

          So Landsburg concludes from all this that our intuitive understanding of “and so on”, and thus our intuitive understanding of the natural numbers, is grounded in some external reality (i.e. Platonic heaven) that transcends the grasp of reason.

          • Major_Freedom says:

            “For instance, within first-order logic there’s no way to define the natural numbers in the set of real numbers, because saying “The natural numbers are 1, 1+1, 1+1+1, and so on” is imprecise because it’s unclear what “and so on” means..”

            It simply means you keep adding a “1″.

            • Keshav Srinivasan says:

              That just pushes the question one level back. What does “keep adding 1″ mean? Does adding 1 to itself an infinite number of times satisfy the condition “keep adding 1″? No, presumably only adding 1 a finite number of times to itself satisfies the condition. But how can you define “finite number of times” before you know what the natural numbers are?

              To take another example, what does it mean to say that Bill is a descendant of John? It means that Bill is either a child of John, or a child of a child of John, etc. But what does the “etc.” mean? The notion seems so obvious intuitively, but it’s actually really subtle. As I said, it’s literally impossible to define the natural numbers in the first-order theory of real numbers.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                “That just pushes the question one level back. What does “keep adding 1″ mean?”

                It means you repeat what you did in the prior step.

                “Does adding 1 to itself an infinite number of times satisfy the condition “keep adding 1″?

                Who said you actually have to succeed in practically adding 1 to every line an infinite number of times? Infinity is not possible in action. It only says repeat a certain action however many times one is capable.

                “No, presumably only adding 1 a finite number of times to itself satisfies the condition.”

                Why?

                “But how can you define “finite number of times” before you know what the natural numbers are?”

                How can you know what defining a proposition means, if you aren’t already attributing natural numbers to the elements that constitute a definition? And how can YOU ask ME to define natural numbers, when even asking that question presupposes you are counting not one and not 10 but two consciousnesses?

                “To take another example, what does it mean to say that Bill is a descendant of John? It means that Bill is either a child of John, or a child of a child of John, etc. But what does the “etc.” mean?”

                It means you continually repeat the previous action of adding “child of a”.

                “The notion seems so obvious intuitively, but it’s actually really subtle. As I said, it’s literally impossible to define the natural numbers in the first-order theory of real numbers.”

                It’s not impossible if you include action.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                “It means you repeat what you did in the prior step.” But what does that mean? Does it mean repeat it once, or does it mean keep repeating it? If so, what does “keep repeating it” mean?

                “It only says repeat a certain action however many times one is capable.” What does “however many times” mean? Does it mean “whatever number of times”? What does that mean?

                “And how can YOU ask ME to define natural numbers, when even asking that question presupposes you are counting not one and not 10 but two consciousnesses?” Major_Freedom, I never said that 1, 2, and 10 are vague. Any given natural number you specify can be precisely defined. What’s vague is the notion of arbitrary natural number. The vague part is saying “The natural numbers are 1, 1+1, 1+1+1, …”, without making clear what the “…” means.

                “It means you continually repeat the previous action of adding “child of a”.” What does “continually repeat” mean?

              • Ken B says:

                Keshav, is recursive function vague?

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                Ken B, yes, “recursive function” is vague because “natural number” is vague. Now this vagueness doesn’t trouble most mathematicians when they employ recursion, because they have a Platonistic view of the standard model of PA. But it does trouble at least one person in the world, the strict finitist (or “ultrafinitist”) Edward Nelson. See his discussion of recursion in his free online book “Predicative Arithmetic.”

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Keshav:

                “But what does that mean? Does it mean repeat it once, or does it mean keep repeating it?”

                It depends on how many iterations you want, or are able, to perform. If you do in by hand, then you’ll probably get to about a few hundred thousand or so before you die from thirst. If you use a supercomputer, then you’ll be able to repeat it many many trillions of times, until the limits of the computer are reached.

                “What does “however many times” mean? Does it mean “whatever number of times”? What does that mean?”

                It means the same thing you yourself are presuming when you keep repeating the question “What does that mean?”

                You are repeating a particular action over and over.

                “Major_Freedom, I never said that 1, 2, and 10 are vague. Any given natural number you specify can be precisely defined. What’s vague is the notion of arbitrary natural number. The vague part is saying “The natural numbers are 1, 1+1, 1+1+1, …”, without making clear what the “…” means.”

                It means the same thing as what you yourself are presuming when you keep asking the question “What does that mean?” in response to every statements I make.

                We can keep repeating ourselves, but at some point you’re going to have to realize that the questions you’re asking are only answerable by reflecting on your own actions.

                “What does “continually repeat” mean?”

                It means what you yourself are doing every time you ask me “What does [X] mean?” every time I use a different phrase to refer to the same activity that both you and I are engaging in.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Keshav:

                Natural numbers are 1, 2, 3, 4, and so on, where “and so on” means to repeat the same action that was used to get from 1 to 2, and from 2 to 3, and from 3 to 4.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                Major_Freedom, what does repeat mean, though? Does it mean just repeat it just one more time, or does it mean keep repeating?

              • Major_Freedom says:

                “what does repeat mean, though? Does it mean just repeat it just one more time, or does it mean keep repeating?”

                It can mean either, depending on what you want to accomplish. If you want to repeat it once, then you can try to repeat it once. If you want to repeat it 10 times, then you can try to repeat it 10 times.

                There is no answer “out there” in reality external to your intentions.

              • Ken B says:

                ‘because “natural number” is vague’

                I hope you never meet Steve Landsburg in a dark alley.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                Even Steve says “I admit to the tiniest sliver of a qualm about this”:

                http://www.thebigquestions.com/2012/04/26/that-does-not-compute/#comment-49468

  59. Richie says:

    Over 700 comments. Where’s Roddis so he and LK can argue about market clearing prices and economic calculation? I want this thing to go over 1000.

    • Tel says:

      The Scientologists have a process by which any market can be audited, and after a number of successful audits, the market is declared Clear.

      • Ken B says:

        We’re not dragging The Master into this thread are we? I didn’t like it.

  60. Ken B says:

    If anyone is interested and has a modicum of mathematical sophistication the book geometry from the open University press and England is excellent. It collects in one place most of the stray bits of geometry one would learn as a math undergrad without getting too specialized in any one area. Suitable for second-year students.

  61. Ken B says:

    pulling out. Cohen’s proof of a model without choice, my bad.

    • Major_Freedom says:

      Explain in plain English why , given any collection of bins, each containing at least one object, it is impossible to make a selection of exactly one object from each bin.

      Even “randomly.”

      • Ken B says:

        you have an infinite number of bins, not a countable infinity, and the set you would create with your hoped for choice function can be proven to not exist.

        • Keshav Srinivasan says:

          Ken B, the phenomenon occurs even if you have a countable infinity of objects. There are, after all, models of ZF which do not satisfy axiom of countable choice.

          • Ken B says:

            I had forgotten that, but you are right. it’s been almost 30 years! I don’t recall ever seeing a proof of that but I might have.

            • Keshav Srinivasan says:

              The original Cohen model violated countable choice.

        • Major_Freedom says:

          Why can’t one choose one element from each uncountable set, generating a new set containing infinite elements?

          For example, suppose we consider an infinite number of sets, each containing “all real numbers”.

          Why can’t I choose the number “5″ from every set, to create a new set of an infinite quantity of elements “5″?

          • Keshav Srinivasan says:

            Major_Freedom, I think you’re under the mistaken impression that if you have some objects, then ZF allows you to construct a set containing precisely those objects. That is simply false. There is an axiom that if you have a set Y, and a property P which is definable using the language of set theory, then there exists a set which contains precisely the elements of Y which satisfy P. But ZF does not include an axiom which says that for all properties P that objects can have, regardless of whether P is definable or not, there exists a set which contains precisely the objects in Y that satisfy P. Such an axiom can’t even be expressed in the language of first-order set theory.

            • Major_Freedom says:

              “But ZF does not include an axiom which says that for all properties P that objects can have, regardless of whether P is definable or not, there exists a set which contains precisely the objects in Y that satisfy P. ”

              That’s precisely why the axiom of choice is invoked.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                Major_Freedom, what in the world are you talking about? Even the axiom of choice does not imply that statement, for the simple reason that that statement is not a meaningful statement in the language of set theory.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                It doesn’t have to be restricted to an arbitrary set of rules of set theory. That’s the whole reason the axiom of choice is introduced!

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                I have no idea what you mean by “It doesn’t have to be restricted to an arbitrary set of rules of set theory.” We are talking about axiomatic set theory, aren’t we?

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Are axioms of set theory alone sufficient? I say no. That is the key point that made me go into this debate.

                I say that all sets of axioms, whatever they contain, are necessarily incomplete explanations, because completeness requires an unwritten consciousness.

                No matter how much you create, and write down, you will never alienate your creative capacity.

      • Keshav Srinivasan says:

        The reason is that choosing the objects is not the problem. The problem is that the objects you’ve chosen do not form a set. There is, after all, no axiom of set theory that says that if you have some objects (particularly if you have infinitely many objects), then there exists a set containing precisely those objects. It would be impossible to even state such a proposed axiom in the language of set theory.

        • Major_Freedom says:

          “The reason is that choosing the objects is not the problem. The problem is that the objects you’ve chosen do not form a set.”

          Why not? If I can choose one element from each set, why am I not constructing a set?

          • Keshav Srinivasan says:

            Major_Freedom, again, just because you have some objects doesn’t mean that there’s necessarily a set containing those objects. If you have finitely many objects, then it happens to be true, but not necessarily for infinitely many objects.

            • Major_Freedom says:

              Why not an infinite number?

            • Keshav Srinivasan says:

              Because it’s not even a meaningful statement of set theory, let alone a true one, to say “If you have infinitely many objects, there exists a set containing precisely those objects”.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                But then the problem isn’t axiom of choice, it’s incoherence of what is being chosen from.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                No, the sets you’re choosing the elements from are perfectly coherent, and the elements themselves are perfectly coherent.

              • Ken B says:

                Cohen defined the set F and proved properties about it. So it’s as precise a thing as any other mathematical object.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                “No, the sets you’re choosing the elements from are perfectly coherent, and the elements themselves are perfectly coherent.”

                I wasn’t talking about that. I was talking about this comment you made:

                “Because it’s not even a meaningful statement of set theory, let alone a true one”

                If that is not meaningful or true, then I can’t see how it stands as a counter-argument to what I said. You proposed an infinite set as a means to show something wrong with what I said. Wouldn’t your counter-argument example have to make sense internally before it can be a valid one?

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Ken B:

                “Cohen defined the set F and proved properties about it. So it’s as precise a thing as any other mathematical object.”

                OK, but how can there be properties of F such that sets of elements contained in F, cannot be chosen from to create a set that is also in F?

                Is merely defining it sufficient?

              • Ken B says:

                It wasn’t just defined, it was “constructed”. This means carefully defined not just as a collection of properties but as an assemblage of mathematical objects.
                You can Define the smallest positive real number, but you can’t construct it or prove it exists. F was not simply defined it was constructed and proven to exist.