From Carl Menger and His Legacy in Economics. Edited by Bruce J.
Caldwell. History of Political Economy, Durham and London: Duke
University Press, 1990, Annual Supplement to vol. 22, 263-288. I have
conformed the text found
here to this site’s format.
Aristotle, Menger, Mises:
Essay in the Metaphysics of Economics
Aristotelianism vs. Accidentalist Atomism
Special Doctrine (Forms of Aristotelianism in the Social Sciences)
the Kantian Confusion
Kant and Positivism
Austrian economics did not exist, would it be necessary to invent it?
are, familiarly, a range of distinct and competing accounts of the
methodological underpinnings of Menger’s work. These include Leibnizian,
Kantian, Millian, and even Popperian readings; but they include also
readings of an Aristotelian sort, and I have myself made a number of
contributions in clarification and defence of the latter.(1)
Not only, I have argued, does the historical situation in which Menger
found himself point to the inevitability of the Aristotelian reading;(2)
reading fits also very naturally to the text of Menger’s works.(3)
diversity of interpretations is not, however, entirely surprising. It is
on the one hand a consequence of the fact that Menger breaks new ground in
economic theory in part by fashioning new linguistic instruments not yet
readily capable of unambiguous interpretation. It reflects further a lack
of knowledge on the part of historians of economic thought of the most
recent scholarship on 19th and 20th century Austrian philosophy and on the
role of Aristotelianism therein.(4)
Still more importantly, perhaps, it reflects the fact that Aristotelian
ways of thinking were for so long alien to the modern philosophical and
scientific mind. For non-Aristotelian readings were advanced above all by
those who would be charitable to Menger by stripping his ideas of what was
held to be an unfashionable residue of metaphysics.(5)
is one further reason for the diversity of interpretation, however, which
reflects a recurring problem faced by those of us who work in the history
of ideas in general and in the history of Austrian ideas in particular.
This is the problem of how much credence one ought to award to
self-interpretations when seeking an assessment of the nature and
significance of a given thinker’s achievements. For self-interpretations
are very often flawed as a result of the fact that their authors naturally
give prominence to the detailed differences between their own ideas
and the ideas of those around them; they pay attention, in other words, to
what is original, quirky or odd. That which they take for granted, and
which they have imbibed from their surrounding culture, is hereby no less
naturally, and inevitably ignored.
anyone who has worked through the writings of Menger’s Austrian
philosophical contem-poraries very soon becomes aware, the tacit
intellectual background of educated Austrians in Menger’s day and beyond
was Aristotelian through and through to such an extent that Menger himself
might have felt the need to draw attention to this background only when
attempting to explain his ideas to those, such as Walras, or his own son
Karl Jr., who did not share it. Menger is otherwise relatively silent as
far as methodological self-interpretation is concerned, at least in the
sense that he does not ally himself explicitly for example with the
Problems arise, however, when we consider the writings of those of
Menger’s Austrian contem-poraries and successors including Mises, Hayek,
as well as Karl Jr. who have sought self-interpretations of Menger at one
remove. Such Austrian Austrians are, I want to suggest, least likely to
enjoy a conscious awareness of the essence of Austrian economic thinking.
Their interpretations of Menger will tend to pick out what is quirky, or
especially modern, in Menger at the expense of the shared and therefore
for practical purposes invisible background that holds his work together.
And this background is, as cannot be too often stressed, Aristotelian
even if only in the watered-down sense that is still to be more precisely
specified. Indeed the Aristotelian background permeated Austrian thought
to such an extent that even the newly burgeoning empiricism of the
Austrian positivist movement was crucially coloured by it.(7)
2. The Basic Doctrine
who have seen fit to advance an Aristotelian reading have of course
themselves often left much to be desired in the way of precision and
detail. Here, therefore, I shall do my best to set out the precise form
of the Aristotelian doctrine that is relevant to the thinking of Menger
and his Austrian contemporaries. I shall then go on to demonstrate how
the Menger-Mises relation and the general issue of apriorism in economics
might profitably be re-examined in its light.
shall confine myself hereby to general philosophy: the ways in which
Aristotle’s ethics and politics filtered through into the thinking of the
Austrians will not be of concern.(8)
will become clear, it is a highly refined and purified and indeed
simplified version of Aristotle’s general philosophy that is at issue when
we are dealing with 19th and early 20th century Austrian thought. It is
an Aristotelianism shorn of all reference to, say, a passive or active
intellect or to queer mechanisms for coming to know the world via a
“making actual” within the soul of essences existing only “potentially”
within things. Only as a result of more recent work on Austrian and
German philosophy in general, and on the Brentano school and on the early
phenomenologists in particular, has clarity as concerns the nature of
Austrian Aristotelianism become possible. And this allows also a move
beyond such earlier defences of an Aristotelian interpretation of Menger’s
work as were advanced for example by Kauder and Hutchinson, which based
themselves on little more than superficial analogies.
then is the basic doctrine of Austrian Aristotelianism that is shared,
above all, by Menger, Brentano and their immediate followers? If, at the
risk of a certain degree of painful obviousness, we attempt an assay of
the common axis running through a number of otherwise disparate modes of
thinking, then the basic doctrine might be said to embrace the following
The world exists, independently of our thinking and reasoning activities.
world embraces both material and mental aspects (and perhaps other sui
generis dimensions, for example of law and culture). And while we
might shape the world and contribute to it through our thoughts and
actions, detached and objective theorizing about the world in all its
aspects is nonetheless possible.
There are in the world certain simple “essences” or “natures” or
“elements,” as well as laws, structures or connections governing these,
all of which are strictly universal, both in that they do not
change historically and in the sense that they are capable of being
instantiated, in principle (which is to say: if the appropriate conditions
are satisfied), at all times and in all cultures.
fact that the simple essences and essential structures do not themselves
change or develop implies in addition that historical change is a matter,
not of changes in the basic building blocks of reality, but of changes in
the patterns of their exemplification and in the ways in which they come
together to form more complex wholes.
Propositions expressing universal connections amongst essences are called
by Menger “exact laws.” Such laws may be either static or dynamic they may
concern either the co-existence or the succession of instances of the
corresponding simple essences or natures. It is exact laws, as Menger sees
it, which constitute a scientific theory in the strict sense. The general
laws of essence of which such a theory would consist are subject to no
exceptions. In this respect they are comparable, say, to the laws of
geometry or mechanics, and contrasted with mere statements of fact and
with inductive hypotheses. The aim of the “exact orientation of research”
is, as Menger puts it,
determination of strict laws of the phenomena, of regularities in the
succession of phenomena which not only present themselves as exceptionless,
but which, when we take account of the ways in which we have come to know
them, in fact bear within themselves the guarantee of their own
exceptionlessness (1883, p. 38, Eng. p. 59, translation corrected)
Our experience of this world involves in every case both an individual and
a general aspect.
Aristotle himself, so also in Menger and in the work of other
Aristotelians such as Brentano and Reinach, a radical empiricism hereby
goes hand in hand with essentialism. The general aspect of experience is
conceived by the Aristotelian as something entirely ordinary and
matter-of-fact. Thus it is not the work of any separate or special
faculty of “intuition” but is rather involved of necessity in every act of
perceiving and thinking a fact which makes itself felt in the ubiquitous
employment of general terms in all natural languages. Thus the general
aspect of experience is as direct and straightforward as is our capacity
to distinguish reds from greens, circles from squares, or warnings from
Menger, as for Aristotle, what is general does not exist in isolation from
what is individual. Menger is, like other Aristotelians, an immanent
interested in the essences and laws manifested in this world, not
in any separate realm of incorporeal Ideal Forms such as is embraced by
philosophers of a Platonistic sort. As Brentano formulates the matter in
his study of Aristotle’s psychology:
scientist wants to get to know the crystals and plants and other bodies
that he finds here on earth; if therefore he were to grasp the concepts of
tetrahedra and octahedra, of trees and grasses, which belong to another
world, then he would clearly in no way achieve his goal. (1867, p. 135,
Eng. p. 88)
are no different even in the case of mathematical knowledge:
individual straight line which is in the senses, and the being of this
line which the intellect grasps, are essentially identical. One is
therefore not allowed to suppose that the intellect should grasp something
more immaterial than sense, that it should take into itself something
incorporeal or at least something non-sensory. No: the very same thing
which is in the intellect is also in the senses, but related to other
things in different ways. (op. cit.)
Menger puts it:
goal of research in the field of theoretical economics can only be the
determination of the general essence and the general connection of
economic phenomena. (Menger 1883, p. 7, n. 4, Eng. p. 37)
theoretical scientist, then, has to learn to recognize the general
recurring structures in the flux of reality. And theoretical
understanding of a concrete phenomenon cannot be achieved via any mere
inductive enumeration of cases. It is attained, rather, only by
apprehending the phenomenon in question as
special case of a certain regularity (conformity to law) in the
succession, or in the coexistence of phenomena. In other words, we become
aware of the basis of the existence and the peculiarity of the essence of
a concrete phenomenon by learning to recognize in it merely the
exemplification of a conformity-to-law of phenomena in general. (Menger
1883, p. 17, Eng. pp. 44f.)
The general aspect of experience need be in no sense infallible (it
reflects no special source of special knowledge), and may indeed be
subject to just the same sorts of errors as is our knowledge of what is
Indeed, great difficulties may be set in the way of our attaining
knowledge of essential structures of certain sorts, and of our
transforming such knowledge into the organized form of a strict theory.
Above all we may (as Hume showed) mistakenly suppose that we have grasped
a law or structure for psychological reasons of habit. Our knowledge of
structures or laws can nevertheless be exact. For the quality of
exactness or strict universality is skew to that of infallibility. Episteme
may be ruled out in certain circumstances, but true doxa (which is
to say, “orthodoxy”) may be nonetheless available.
We can know, albeit under the conditions set out in 4., what the world is
like, at least in its broad outlines, both via common sense and via
Aristotelianism embraces not only commonsense realism but also scientific
realism, though Aristotle himself ran these two positions together in ways
no longer possible today.(10)
commonsense realism of Menger (as of all Austrian economists) is seen in
his treatment of agents, actions, beliefs, desires,
etc. In regard to these sorts of entity there is no opposition between
reality as it appears to common sense and reality as revealed to
scientific theory. Menger’s (or the Austrian economists’) scientific
realism, on the other hand, is revealed in the treatment of phenomena such
as spontaneous orders and invisible hand processes, where common sense
diverges from the fine structures disclosed by theory.(11)
together with 3., this aspect of the Aristotelian doctrine implies that we
can know what the world is like both in its individual and in its general
aspect, and our knowledge will likely manifest a progressive improvement,
both in depth of penetration and in adequacy to the structures penetrated.
Indeed Menger points at the very beginning of the Principles to a
correlation between “the higher culture of a people” and the extent to
which “human beings penetrate more deeply into the true essence of things
and of their own nature” (1871, p. 4, Eng. p. 53).
We can know what this world is like, at least in principle, from the
detached perspective of an ideal scientific observer.
in the social sciences in particular there is no suggestion that only
those who are in some sense part of a given culture or form of life can
grasp this culture or form of life theoretically. The general structures
of reality are not merely capable of being exemplified, in principle, in
different times and cultures; like the basic laws of geometry or logic
they also enjoy an intrinsic intelligibility which makes them capable of
being grasped, again in principle and with differing degrees of
difficulty, by knowing subjects of widely differing sorts and from widely
differing backgrounds. Indeed, because the essences and essential
structures are intelligible, the corresponding laws are capable of being
grasped by the scientific theorist in principle on the basis of a single
The simple essences or natures pertaining to the various different
segments or levels of reality constitute an alphabet of structural parts.
can be combined together in different ways, both statically and
dynamically (according to co-existence and according to order of
succession). Theoretical research, for Menger,
to ascertain the simplest elements of everything real, elements
which must be thought of as strictly typical just because they are the
simplest. (1883, p. 41, Eng. p. 60)
theorist must therefore learn to penetrate through the dross of ephemeral
detail. He must seek to determine the elements
without considering whether they are present in reality as independent
phenomena; indeed, even without considering whether they can at all be
presented in their full purity. In this manner theoretical research
arrives at qualitatively strictly typical forms of the phenomena (loc.
Scientific theory results, then, at least in part, when means are found
for mapping or picturing the composition of such simple and prototypical
constituents into larger wholes. Thus the theoretical science of
psychology, for Brentano,
to display all the ultimate psychic components from whose combination one
with another the totality of psychic phenomena would result, just as the
totality of words is yielded by the letters of the alphabet (quoted in
Brentano 1982, pp. x-xi).
“combination” or “composition” is not simply a matter of heaping or gluing
together. It is a matter of certain entities or features or properties of
entities arising in reflection of the existence of special sorts of
combinations of other sorts of entities. Thus for example a good
exists as such only if the following prerequisites are simultaneously
need on the part of some human being.
Properties of the object in question which render it capable of being
brought into a causal connection with the satisfaction of this need.
Knowledge of this causal connection on the part of the person involved.
Command of the thing sufficient to direct it to the satisfaction of the
good exists, then as a matter of de re necessity, entities of these
other sorts exist also. I shall return in the sequel to the treatment of
such simple structures of de re necessitation. It is these
structures, I want to claim, which lie at the core not only of Menger’s
work but of the entire tradition of Austrian economics.
3. Aristotelianism vs.
of the above theses are of course thin beer, and might seem trivially
acceptable. Taken together, however, they do have a certain metaphysical
cutting power. It is thesis 5., above all, which establishes the line
between the Aristotelian doctrine and that of Kant (for whom there looms
behind the world we know an inaccessible world of “things in themselves”).
Theses 1. and 5. mark off Austrian Aristotelianism from all idealist
doctrines of the sort which embrace the view that the world of experience
or of scientific inquiry is somehow created or constituted by the
individual subject or by the linguistic community or scientific theory, or
what one will. Theses 2. and 6. distinguish the doctrine from all sorts
of historicism, as also from hermeneuticist relativism and other modern
fancies. And theses 2. and 5. tell us that, for the Aristotelian,
scientific or theoretical knowledge is possible even of the structures or
essences of the social world, a view shared in common by both Menger and
Brentano, and denied (in different ways) by historicists and relativists
of differing hues.
importantly, however, the doctrine is distinguished via theses 3. and 5.
from the positi-vistic, empiricistic methodology which has been dominant
in philosophical circles for the bulk of the present century and which
enjoys a position as the unquestioned background of almost all theorizing
amongst scientists themselves. Positivism has its roots in atomism, the
view that all that exists is atoms associated together in accidental and
unintelligible ways and that all intelligible structures and all
necessities are merely the result of thought-constructions introduced by
man. The origins of the struggle between atomists and Aristotelians in
ancient Greek thought are well-summarized by Meikle:
one hand there were Democritus and Epicurus, who thought of reality as
atomistic small-bits that combine and repel in the void, and who had a
hard job accounting for the persisting natures of things, species and
genera on that basis. On the other hand there was Aristotle, who realised
that no account of such things could be possible without admitting a
category of form (or essence), because what a thing is, and what things of
its kind are, cannot possibly be explained in terms of their constituent
matter (atoms), since that changes while the entity retains its nature and
identity over time. (1985, p. 9)
the atomist sees only one sort of structure in re, the structure of
accidental association, the Aristotelian sees in addition intelligible or
law-governed structures that he can understand. Where the atomist sees
only one sort of change, accidental change (for example of the sort which
occurs when a horse is run over by a truck), the Aristotelian sees in
addition intelligible or law-governed changes, as, for example, when a
foal grows up into a horse. Just as for the Aristotelian the
intelligibility of structure can imply that there are certain sorts of
structure which are intelligibly impossible, for example a society made up
of inanimate objects, so for the Aristotelian there are intelligibly
impossible changes, for example of a horse into a truck, or of a
stone into a colour. The presence of intelligible changes implies,
moreover, that there is no “problem of induction” for a thinker of the
Aristotelian sort. When we understand a phenomenon as the instance of a
given species, then this understanding relates also to the characteristic
patterns of growth and evolution of the phenomen and to its characteristic
modes of interaction with other phenomena.
4. The Special Doctrine
(Forms of Aristotelianism in the Social Sciences)
have not yet gone far enough, however, in picking out the essence of the
doctrine of Austrian Aristotelianism. For Aristotelianism played a
crucial role also in the philosophy of German social thinkers such as
and many other German political economists and legal theorists of the 19th
and even of the 20th centuries could have accepted at least the bulk of
what has been presented above.(15)
The opposition between German and Austrian modes of
thinking should not, in this respect, be exaggerated. Thus Brentano,
normally and correctly regarded as the Austrian philosopher (and as the
philosophical representative of Austrian Aristotelianism) par
excellence, was in fact born in Germany. Moreover, his
Aristotelianism was decisively influenced by the thinking of the great
German metaphysician F. A. Trendelenburg. Equally, however, it would be
wrong to ignore the crucial differences, above all as between Marx’s
methodology on the one hand and the basic doctrine of Austrian
Aristotelianism on the other. Thus Menger’s doctrine of the strict
universality of laws is denied by Marx, for whom laws are in every case
specific to “a given social organism.”(16)
Moreover, while Marx and Menger share an Aristotelian antipathy to
atomism, the holism or collectivism propounded by Marx is in this respect
radically more extreme than anything that could have been countenanced by
too, is correctly described as an Aristotelian in many aspects of his
thinking. His case is somewhat different from that of Marx, however,
since it seems that he denied thesis 1. More precisely, Hegel failed to
draw the clear line between act and object of cognition which 1. requires,
and he refused to acknowledge any sort of independence of the latter from
the former. As he himself writes (in dealing with Aristotle): “thought
thinks itself by participation in that which is thought, but thought
becomes thought by contact and apprehension, so that thought and the
object of thought are the same.”(17)
Or as Allen Wood expresses it: “Marx parts company with Hegel precisely
because Hegel makes the dialectical nature of thought the basis for the
dialectical structure of reality, where Marx holds that just the reverse
is the case.” (1981, p. 215)
specify, therefore, the exact nature of the Austrian Aristotelian view, it
will be useful to add to our basic doctrine a number of additional theses
specific to the domain of social science which are formulated in such a
way as to bring out as clearly as possible the opposition between the
Austrian view and views shared by the principal German social theorists
who had been influenced by Aristotelian ideas:
The theory of value is to be built up exclusively on “subjective”
foundations, which is to say exclusively on the basis of the corresponding
mental acts and states of human subjects.
value for Menger in stark contrast to Marx is to be accounted for
exclusively in terms of the satisfaction of human needs and wants.
Economic value, in particular, is seen as being derivative of the valuing
acts of ultimate consumers, and Menger’s thinking might most adequately be
encapsulated as the attempt to defend the possibility of an economics
which would be at one and the same time both theoretical and subjectivist
in the given sense. Among the different representatives of the
philosophical school of value theory in Austria (Brentano, Meinong,
Ehrenfels, etc.) subjectivism as here defined takes different forms.(18)
All of them share with Menger however the view that value
exists only in the nexus of human valuing acts.
There are no “social wholes” or “social organisms.”
Austrian Aristotelians hereby and leaving aside the rather special case of
Wieser embrace a doctrine of ontological individualism, which
implies also a concomitant methodological individualism, according
to which all talk of nations, classes, firms, etc., is to be treated by
the social theorist as an in principle eliminable shorthand for talk of
individuals. That it is not entirely inappropriate to conceive
individualism in either sense as “Aristotelian” is seen for example in
Aristotle’s own treatment of knowledge and science in terms of the mental
acts, states and powers or capacities of individual human subjects.(19)
Economics is methodologically individualist when its laws are seen as
being made true in their entirety by patterns of mental acts and actions
of individual subjects, so that all economic phenomena are capable of
being understood by the theorist as the results or outcomes of
combinations and interactions of the thoughts and actions of individuals.
Such combinations and interactions are not mere “sums.” Thus neither
ontological nor methodological individualism need imply any sort of
atomistic reductionism: the individual of which the social theorist treats
is, as a result of different sorts of interaction with other individuals,
a highly complex entity. He might more properly be conceived as something
like a node in the various spontaneous orders in which he is involved.
This is a familiar idea, which extends back at least as far as Aristotle.(20)
Hungarian philosopher Aurel Kolnai puts it in his defence of “conservative
libertarianism” published in 1981:
society is not only composed of various parts it is composed of various
parts in a multiplicity of ways; and consequently its component parts
cannot but overlap. In other words, it consists ultimately of
individuals, but only in the sense that it divides into a multiplicity of
individuals across several social subdivisions, such that it comprehends
the same individual over and over again in line with his various social
affiliations (p. 319).
individual therefore “embodies a multiplicity of social aspects or
categories,” and these play a crucial role in determining which sorts of
essential structures the individual might exemplify.
There are no (graspable) laws of historical development.
Marx, in true Aristotelian spirit, sought to establish the “laws of the
phenomena,” he awarded principal importance to the task of establishing
laws of development, which is to say, laws governing the transition
from one “form” or “stage” of society to another. He “treats the social
movement as a process of natural history governed by laws,”(21)
he sees the social theorist as having the capacity to grasp such laws and
therefore also in principle to sanction large-scale interferences in the
social “organism.” Marx himself thereby accepted both methodological and
ontological collectivism; he saw social science as issuing in highly
macroscopic laws, for example to the effect that history must pass through
certain well-defined “stages.” The Aristotelianism of the Austrians is in
this respect more modest: it sees the exact method as being restricted to
certain simple essences and essential connections only, in ways which set
severe limits on the capacity of theoretical social science to make
predictions. The methodological individualism of the Austrians has indeed
been criticized by Marxists as a branch of atomism, though such criticisms
assume too readily that methodological individualism trades in “sums.”
now, of the German historical economists? As already noted, Aristotelian
doctrines played a role also in German economic science, not least as a
result of the influence of Hegel. Thus for example Roscher not only
accepted many of the tenets of the basic Aristotelian doctrine listed
above, he also developed, as Streissler has shown, a subjective theory of
value along lines very similar to those later taken up by Menger.(22)
subjectivism was accepted also by Knies. Moreover, Knies and Schmoller
agreed with the Austrians in denying the existence of laws of historical
development. In all of these respects, therefore, the gulf between Menger
and the German historicists is much less than has normally been suggested.
The German historicists are still crucially distinguished from the
Austrians, however, in remaining wedded to a purely inductivistic
methodology, regarding history as providing a basis of fact from out of
which laws of economic science could be extracted. For an Aristotelian
such as Menger, in contrast (cf. thesis 3. above), enumerative induction
can never yield that sort of knowledge of exact law which constitutes a
Austrian Aristotelianism as formulated above is first and foremost a
doctrine of ontology: it tells us what the world is like and what its
objects, states and processes are like, including those capacities, states
and processes we call knowledge and science. More generally, it tells us
what sorts of relations obtain between the various different segments of
reality. The question of apriorism, on the other hand, which is skew to
all such ontological concerns even to concerns pertaining to the ontology
of knowledge relates exclusively to the sort of account one gives of the
conditions under which knowledge is acquired.
Defenders of apriorism share the assumption that we are capable of
acquiring knowledge of a special sort, called “a priori knowledge,”
via non-inductive means. They differ, however, in their accounts of where
such knowledge comes from. Two broad families of apriorist views have to
be distinguished in this regard.
one hand are what we might call impositionist views, which hold
that a priori knowledge is possible as a result of the fact that
the content of such knowledge reflects merely certain forms or structures
that have been imposed or inscribed upon the world by the knowing subject.
Knowledge, on such views, is never directly of reality itself; rather, it
reflects the “logical structures of the mind,” and penetrates to reality
only as formed, shaped or modelled by a mind or theory.
other hand are reflectionist views, which hold that we can have
a priori knowledge of what exists, independently of all impositions or
inscriptions of the mind, as a result of the fact that certain structures
in the world enjoy some degree of intelligibility in their own right. The
knowing subject and the objects of knowledge are for the reflectionist in
some sense and to some degree pre-tuned to each other. Direct a
priori knowledge of reality itself is therefore possible, at least at
some level of generality knowledge of the sort that is involved for
example when we recognize the validity of a proof in logic or geometry
(where it is difficult to defend the view that the character of validity
would be somehow imposed upon the objects in question by the epistemic
brings us to the principal argument of the reflectionist against all
versions of impositionism, which we might call the argument from
arbitrariness. Let us suppose, for the moment, that the impositionist is
correct in his view that the a priori quality of laws or
propositions is entirely a matter of impositions. Imagine, now, that the
totality of all laws or propositions is laid out before us. Is it to be
completely arbitrary which of these laws or propositions are to enjoy the
“imposed” quality of aprioricity? A positive answer to this question is
belied by the extent to which there is wide agreement across times and
cultures as to which the candidate a priori laws or propositions
are. A negative answer, on the other hand, implies that there is some
special quality on the side of certain laws or propositions themselves, in
virtue of which precisely those laws or propositions do indeed serve as
the targets of imposition. Clearly, however, this special quality must
itself be prior to any sort of mental imposition which might come to be
effected, which means that the original impositionist assumption, to the
effect that the a priori quality of laws or propositions is
entirely a matter of imposition, turns out to be self-refuting.
impositionist view finds its classical expression in the work of Kant
(whose ideas may be safe against the argument just presented), and special
versions of impositionism are to be found also in Hume (in his treatment
of causality), in Mach (in his theory of thought economy), and in the work
of the logical positivists. The reflectionist view, on the other hand,
finds its classical expression in Aristotle; it was developed further by
successive waves of scholastics extending far into the modern era, and
brought to perfection by Brentano and his successors, above all by Adolf
Reinach and other realist phenomenologists in the early years of this
century, the latter building on ideas set out by Husserl in his Logical
6. Against the Kantian
are obvious affinities between the reflectionist view and the doctrine of
Austrian Aristotelianism outlined above. Reflectionism can be made
compatible also however with other, variant doctrines. Thus the theories
of Verstehen propounded by Dilthey (traces of which are perhaps to
be found also in Mises) can be said to result when the reflectionist
doctrine is combined with a cancellation (for the social sciences) of
thesis 6., which asserts the possibility of detached scientific theory.
Menger, we have argued, at least some of the propositions of economics are
a priori in the sense that the corresponding structures enjoy an
intrinsic simplicity and intelligibility which makes them capable of being
grasped by the economic theorist in principle in a single instance. Note
again, however, that the fact that such structures are intelligible need
not by any means imply that our knowledge of them is in any sense
infallible or incorrigible, nor that it need in every case be easy to
obtain or to order into the form of a rigorous theory. Indeed much
confusion in the literature on Austrian methodology has arisen because the
alien moment of incorrigibility, together with connotations of special
mental processes of “insight” or “intuition,” have come to be attached to
the aprioristic thesis in a way which has made the latter seem eccentric
greater confusion has arisen, however, as a result of the no less
pervasive assumption that all talk of the a priori must of
necessity imply an impositionist or Kantian framework. For the apriorism
lying in the background of Menger’s thinking is quite clearly
reflectionist. Menger believes that there are a priori categories
(“essences” or “natures”) in reality and that a priori propositions
reflect structures or connections among such essences existing
autonomously in the sense that they are not the result of any shaping or
forming of reality on the part of the experiencing subject. The
impositionist apriorist, in contrast, insists that a priori
categories must be creatures of the mind. He, therefore, may hold that
the issue as to which sorts of economic structures exist is a matter for
more or less arbitrary legislation by the economic theorist, or a matter
of the “conceptual spectacles” of the economic agent. No grain of such
ideas is to be found in Menger.
is working, rather, against the background of an assumption to the effect
that the universals of economic reality are not created or imposed in any
sense, but are discovered through our theoretical efforts. Economists do
not study concepts or other creatures of the mind. Rather, they study the
qualitative essences or natures of and the relations between such
categories as value, rent, profit, the division of labour, money, etc.
Theoretical economics has the task of investigating the general essence
and the general connection of economic phenomena, not of analysing
economic concepts and of drawing the conclusions resulting from
this analysis. The phenomena, or certain aspects of them, and not their
linguistic image, the concepts, are the object of theoretical research in
the field of economy. (Menger 1883, p. 6, n. 4, Eng. p. 37)
we might say in this light, seeks to develop a categorial ontology of
economic reality in just the Aristotelian sense, and in just the sense,
too, in which Brentano sought a categorial ontology of psychological
reality. He seeks to establish how the various different sorts of
building blocks of economic reality can be combined together in different
sorts of simple structured wholes, and to establish through the
application of what he himself called a genetico-compositive method how
such wholes may originate and how they may develop and become transformed
over time into other kinds of wholes.
is, however, one reason why an impositionist or Kantian reading of
Menger’s views has seemed so tempting to so many. This turns on the fact
that Menger lays stress both on the subjectivism and on the methodological
individualism of economics. Indeed, the status and possibility of
economics as a theoretical science can be said to rest, in his eyes,
precisely on the acceptance of the two theses of subjectivism and
methodological individualism. For subjectivism implies that an economy is
not an autonomous formation with unintelligible properties of its own.
Rather one can understand the workings of an economy by coming to
an understanding of how the value of goods at earlier stages in the
process of production is derived from the value to actual consumers of the
products of the later stages. Moreover, one can see why this same
understanding must apply ceteris paribus to every economy in
whatever time or place. Methodological individualism implies that the
whole of economics can in principle admit of an understanding of this
sort, that there are no economic structures that cannot be grasped at
least in principle in the thought-experiments of the economist. The
latter must, as it were, put himself into the shoes of the individual
subjects whose processes of thought and action come together to exemplify
the structures of which he treats.
of the above, however, implies that the economist’s understanding might
flow from the fact that the propositions of economics reflect structures
that have been imposed upon the world in Kantian fashion by either the
economic theorist or the economic agent. That is, the intelligibility of
basic economic structures does not imply ontological dependence of such
structures on the mind along the lines suggested by the impositionist.
Rather, Menger’s view implies precisely that economic reality is such as
to manifest certain simple intelligible structures in and of itself.
Economic reality is built up in intelligible ways out of structures
involving human thought and action. It is for this reason that we are
able, by appropriate efforts, to read off these structures in and of
structures, because they are so simple, are (to different degrees)
intelligible. But for the same reason they are also universal, in the
sense that because they are indispensable to every economic action as
such, or to every instance of exchange, barter, rent, profit, etc. they
are manifested (in principle) in every economy. They are at least in
principle intelligible to everyone who has dealings with the objects
concerned (i.e. to every economic agent, to every observer of the
behaviour of markets). Yet this does not imply that it is in every case a
simple matter to discover what such structures are and nor, a fortiori,
does it imply that it is a simple matter to formulate workable theories
Austrian economics is entirely comparable in this respect to the more
recent “universals of language” research programme in linguistics. Here,
too, the assumption is made that there are structures in (linguistic)
reality which are universal to all languages. Such structures are at
least tacitly familiar to everyone who has dealings with the objects
concerned (i.e. to every speaker of a language). Yet this does not by any
means imply that it is a simple matter to discover what such structures
are and to formulate workable theories about them. Nor, either, does it
imply that the issue as to which sorts of linguistic structures are
universal is a matter of the “logical structure of the human mind” or of
the “conceptual spectacles” of the language-using subject. And nor does
it imply that this issue is merely a matter for arbitrary legislation by
the linguistic theorist. Universals of language are not created by the
linguist. They are discovered, through painstaking theoretical efforts.
Apriorism in economics, now, does not mean any more than in the case of
linguistic universals that economic theory must be free of empirical
components. Indeed, it is a difficult matter to sort out precisely what
the appropriate role for empirical investigations in economics (and in
related disciplines) ought to be. This itself is not something that can
be decided a priori. What is certain for apriorists of whatever
hue, however, is that quantitative investigations in economics can be
carried out coherently only on the basis of at least some prior
understanding of the natures of the entities to be measured and compared.
For otherwise the economist is not merely measuring in the dark; he is
also without any means of tying down the results of his quantitative
theorizing to economic reality itself. Pre-empirical (qualitative)
categorizations of this reality must necessarily exist before empirical
(quantitative) economics can begin. The only issue is the extent to which
such categorizations are conscious and explicit.
ontological grammar of economic reality that is sketched by Menger can be
seen in this light as providing a pre-empirical qualitative framework in
whose terms specific empirical hypotheses can be formulated and specific
mathematical models be given concrete interpretation. Such a foundation
cannot itself be derived, on pain of circularity, either from empirical
investigations of the more usual sort or from mathematical analyses. It
must rather be derived at least in part or so the apriorist argues from
that familiarity with particular economic phenomena which we are all of us
able to acquire as economic agents.
7. Mises, Kant and
the author of Human Action sees his methodology primarily in terms
recalling Kantian doctrines is seen, for example, in passages such as:
“the a priori sciences logic, mathematics, and praxeology aim at a
knowledge unconditionally valid for all beings endowed with the logical
structure of the human mind” (Mises 1966, p. 57).
know now that there is an Aristotelian alternative to the Kantian form of
apriorism. This alternative seems not to have been explicitly recognized
as such by Mises; but this is hardly surprising, given that, for reasons
pointed out above, the special nature of Austrian Aristotelian apriorism
was appreciated by very few at the time when Mises was working out the
philosophical foundations of his praxeology.(23)
to all aprioristic doctrines is a view to the effect that there are laws
or propositions which are on the one hand universal and necessary and on
the other hand intelligible (capable of being grasped by non-inductive
means). Kantian impositionism is the view that such a priori laws
or propositions reflect categorial impositions of the mind. As a result
of the influence of Frege and Wittgenstein, now, especially as
filtered-down through the logical positivism (logical atomism) of the
Vienna circle, recent Kantian varieties of apriorism have tended to take
an extreme form which sees such categorial impositions as effected always
via logic or language. More specifically, a priori propositions
are seen as being characterized by the fact that they can in every case be
exposed via a process of stripping out defined terms and replacing them
with definiens consisting of more primitive expressions as mere
tautologies or analytic truths, entirely empty of content and consistent
with any and every factual state of the world. “All bachelors are
married” is revealed as analytic in this way by being converted into “All
unmarried men are unmarried,” which is an instance of the logical truth:
“All A’s which are B are B.”
qua methodologist was very clearly tempted by the idea that the
laws of praxeology should be analytic in this sense. The theoretical part
of economics would then be a purely formal or analytic discipline whose
principles would flow from the logical analysis of certain concepts.
Consider, first of all, Mises’ assertion to the effect that the
propositions of praxeology
not derived from experience. They are, like those of logic and
mathematics, a priori. They are not subject to verification or
falsification on the ground of experience and facts. They are both
logically and temporally antecedent to any comprehension of historical
facts. They are a necessary requirement of any intellectual grasp of
historical events. Without them we should not be able to see in the
course of events anything else than kaleidoscopic change and chaotic
muddle. (1966, p. 32)
the (Kant- and Wittgenstein-inspired) positivist conception of analyticity
is only latently at work. Almost all of the above would, if suitably
interpreted, be perfectly consistent with a view of praxeology as an a
priori discipline of economics conceived in reflectionist Aristotelian
fashion. When we read on, however, then we discover that Mises does in
fact run together what is a priori with what is analytic. Praxeology,
we are told, is like logic and mathematics in the sense that its content
is a matter of empty tautologies: “Aprioristic reasoning is purely
conceptual and deductive. It cannot produce anything else but tautologies
and analytic judgments.” Thus for example: “In the concept of money all
the theorems of monetary theory are already implied.” (1966, p. 38)
while impositionism is not explicitly defended by Mises qua
methodologist, he does insist on the analytic character of all a priori
propositions. The methodology which results is thereby rendered
inconsistent with a reflectionist apriorism, since it implies that a
priori propositions are empty of content, and clearly propositions
that are empty of content are unable to picture anything (intelligible) on
the side of the objects of the corresponding theory.
however, we wish to hold on to the view that all the propositions of
praxeology are analytic in this sense, then we shall have to insist that
the whole of praxeology can be erected on the basis of premises involving
at most one single primitive non-logical concept.(24)
For suppose that there were two such concepts, neither definable in terms
of the other. Consider, now, the propositions expressing the non-trivial
relations between these concepts. These cannot, ex hypothesi, be
analytic, for there are now no defined non-logical terms which could be
eliminated in such a way as to reveal the corresponding statements as
truths of logic, and no truth of logic contains a plurality of non-logical
terms in other than trivial ways. But nor, from the Misesian point of
view, can they be merely factual (synthetic a posteriori). On the
positivist reading of the aprioristic doctrine, however, no third
alternative is available, which implies that the original assumption that
there are two (or more) such concepts must be rejected.(25)
helps to make intelligible the repeated insistence of Mises and his
followers (and critics) that there is but one single non-logical concept
(or “category” or “essence”) of the praxeological discipline, the concept
human action, from which all propositions of the discipline would
somehow be derived:
scope of praxeology is the explication of the category of human action.
All that is needed for the deduction of all praxeological theorems is
knowledge of the essence of human action . . . . The only way to a
cognition of these theorems is logical analysis of our inherent knowledge
of the category of action . . . . Like logic and mathematics,
praxeological knowledge is in us; it does not come from without. (1966, p.
8. Mises the
once we examine Mises’ practice, however, then a quite different
picture emerges, and we discover that Mises, too, was not at his best in
his methodological self-interpretations. For we are forced to recognize
that there is a veritable plenitude of non-logical primitive concepts at
the root of praxeology. Indeed, Mises’ descriptions of this plenitude in
his actual practice in economics, and also in occasional passages in his
can be seen to represent what is almost certainly the most sustained
realization of the Aristotelian idea in the literature of economic theory.
Action, we are told by Mises, involves apprehension of causal relations
and of regularities in the phenomena. It presupposes being in a
position to influence causal relations. It presupposes felt
uneasiness. It involves the exercise of reason. It is a
striving to substitute a more satisfactory for a less satisfactory state
man transfers the valuation of ends he aims at to the means he
anticipates utilizing. Action takes time, which like other
scarce factors must be economized. Action presupposes
choosing between various opportunities offered for choice.
involves the expectation that purposeful behaviour has the power to
remove or at least alleviate uneasiness. It presupposes the
uncertainty of the future. It involves meanings which the acting
parties attribute to the situation. A thing becomes a means
only when reason plans to employ it for the attainment of some end and
action really employs it for this purpose.
Certainly some of the concepts involved in the above may reasonably be
counted as logical con-cepts; others may no less reasonably he conceived
as being introduced by definitions formulated in terms of other, more
primitive concepts. Consider, however, the concepts causation,
relative satisfac-toriness, reason, uneasiness,
valuation, anticipation, means, ends,
utilization, time, scarcity, opportunity,
choice, uncertainty, expectation, etc., etc. The idea
that one could simultaneously and without circularity reduce every one of
the concepts in this family to the single concept of action, that they
could all be defined by purely logical means in terms of this one single
concept, is decisively to be rejected.(28)
much better would it be to accept that we are dealing here with a family
of a priori categories and categorial structures which would be, in
the jargon, not analytic but synthetic. The laws governing such
structures can almost all of them be very easily expressed in the form of
what linguists like to call “implicative universals,” which is to say
principles to the effect that, if instances of some given species or
category K1 exist, then as a matter of necessity these and
those other categories K2, . . . ,Kn must be
instantiated also. Instances of the necessitating category K1
are then said to be one-sidedly depen-dent upon instances of the
necessitated categories K2, . . . ,Kn. The formal
ontological theory of such dependence relations has been worked out in
It can be illustrated in Menger’s already mentioned account of the
essence of goods at the beginning of the Principles:
instances of the species good exist, then there exist also
instances of the species need, human being, causal
connection, knowledge, command, etc.
is to be found at work also in the context of Misesian praxeology, for
example in laws such as:
instances of the species action exist, then there exist also
instances of the species choice, apprehension of causal
regularities, felt uneasiness, etc.
instances of the species choice of ends exist, then so also do
instances of the species apprehension of causal regularities, etc.
might represent the a priori relations between such species
(relations of de re necessitation) in diagrammatic form as follows,
employing links connecting broken to solid walls of adjacent frames to
represent relations of one-sided dependence between the entities
diagram of this sort is, we might say, a picture of an a priori
structure in the sphere of human action. Similar diagrams can be produced
also following indications set out by Reinach in his monograph on speech
act theory of 1913 for the a priori necessitation structures
exemplified by speech acts of the various different types,(30)
and I have sought elsewhere to show how they can be extended also to the
structures of entrepreneurial perception analysed by Israel Kirzner, for
example in his 1979.(31)
9. If Austrian
economics did not exist, would it be necessary to invent it?
Austrian economics, we have said, is both theoretical and subjectivist.
Neoclassical economics, in contrast, is neither the one nor the other.
For it rests on the positivist thesis that economic reality lacks
intrinsic intelligibility tout court, so that no non-trivial part
of economic theory could be a priori in any of the senses
distinguished above. The propositions of economics are mere inductive
hypotheses, and the method of economics consists in the building of
testable models, selection among which is effected, at least in principle,
on the basis of relative predictive strength. Because realism (in the
reflectionist sense) falls out of account as a criterion of selection,
such models are repeatedly threatened with becoming shorn of their
relation to those basic everyday categories in which the science of
economics has its roots. Austrian economics, in contrast, is marked by a
willingness to sacrifice both the goal of predictive power and the
mathematical tools associated therewith precisely in order to come to an
understanding of these basic categories themselves.
contrast here has seemed to many to justify the striking of pugilistic
attitudes. From the Aristotelian apriorist perspective, however, it might
begin to appear as if the principles underlying both sorts of economic
methodology might possess some grain of truth. For Austrian economics
might then be conceived not as an alternative to the economics of
model-building and prediction but as a preliminary activity of
establishing this missing connection to ground-level economic realities.
Austrian economics might, in other words, be conceived as a safe harbour
for a practice which at present takes place among neo-classicists only
surreptitiously and unsystema-tically a practice sometimes referred to
under the rubric of “taking subjectivism seriously.” This practice might
also be conceived as the attempt to exert control in the direction of
greater common-sensical realism over the model-building tendencies of
mathematical economists. The exercise of such control might lead from
this admittedly somewhat idealized perspective to the construction of
different kinds of models. But then also it may even be that empirical
and mathematical economics will in certain circumstances lead to results
which constrain a revision of Austrian economics itself. A view of this
sort can be found in germ already in the work of Wieser.(32)
too, saw economic theory as beginning with the description based in part
on introspection, as he saw it of the simplest structures of economic
reality, a description which may then be supplemented and to some extent
corrected by empirical research into the various ways in which these
simple structures may come to be affected contingently, e.g. in different
social and historical contexts.
the moment, though, I am suggesting merely that we consider a
thought-experiment, or pipe-dream, to the effect that Austrian economics
might be seen as providing a certain sort of foundation for
empirical-mathematical economics in something like the way in which
geometry provides a foundation for the discipline of physics. We have
said that from the Aristotelian perspective a proposition’s being a
priori signifies that it (or the structure which makes it true) enjoys
some degree of intelligibility. What it does not signify, is that our
knowledge of such a proposition must be in any sense incorrigible or
infallible. Indeed, the idea that empirical discoveries might lead in
principle to a correction of the a priori foundation of the
economic discipline opens up the exciting prospect of something like a
non-Euclidean Austrian economics, perhaps even to a family of such
non-Euclidean disciplines, each of which could claim some degree of a
priori support. I must confess at once, however, that I have no
notion as to how such disciplines might look.
the items listed in the bibliography below, especially my 1986 and 1989,
and compare also Fabian and Simons 1986.
we can distinguish as sources of Menger’s Aristotelianism first of all the
“Popularphiloso-phie” which was imposed on educational institutions
throughout the Habsburg Empire and which incorporated, besides elements
derived from the thinking of Leibniz and Wolff, also watered-down versions
of Aristotelian and scholastic doctrines. Secondly, there is the 19th
century German and Austrian textbook tradition in the social sciences.
Here Aristotelian elements played a crucial role not only in the textbook
literature of economics (and not least in the work of Mischler, under whom
Menger had studied), but also in textbooks of history, legal theory and
for example in the writings on political householding of the cameralists
(discussed by Silverman in his 1989). On Mischler, see Streissler 1989.
source-material in this respect has been assembled in Milford 1988, who
however draws different conclusions from the cited texts, above all
because he is concentrating on the implications of Menger’s work for
economic methodology. Here, in contrast, I am concerned with more
basic matters of general philosophy.
most relevant material is summarized in Grassl and Smith, eds., 1986. See
also the papers collected in Nyíri, ed., 1986.
Such misplaced charity is illustrated for example in the decision
of Menger’s translators to translate the technical (and in Menger’s usage
Aristotelian) term “Wesen,” normally and correctly translated as
“essence,” with the more colloquial “nature.” (The translations given
here have been adjusted accordingly.) For an illuminating discussion of
an interestingly parallel case of misplaced charity in interpreta-tion,
see Meikle 1985 (esp. pp. 8ff.), which rightly lays stress on the
Aristotelianism at the core of Marx’s thinking. Meikle’s work is one
among many indications of the extent to which, among philosophers at
least, Aristotelian ideas are beginning once more to be taken seriously.
The Investigations are, as Alter rightly stresses (1989, pp.
12f.), a critique of the methodological views of the German historicists.
They are not the positive statement of Menger’s own thinking in this
respect announced in 1883, p. 43n (Eng. p. 62).
This thesis is defended at length in my 1987. I believe that the
remarks in the text have important consequences also for the correct
interpretation of Hayek’s thinking. Thus John Gray’s contention that
Hayek’s “central theory” is fundamentally Kantian in nature, a thesis
based on part on Hayek’s own retrospective self-interpretation, is
otherwise supported by very little evidence in either the spirit or the
letter of Hayek’s writings. It is essentially one single passage from
Hayek’s The Sensory Order which is held by Gray to mark the Kantian
strain in Hayek’s thought: “the fact that the world which we know seems
wholly an orderly world may thus be merely a result of the method by which
we perceive it.” (Hayek 1952, 8.39, cf. Gray, p. 12)
taken in its context, this passage is part of the physiological argument
of The Sensory Order—an argument in the spirit of Mach—to the
effect that it is the physical similarity of stimuli and their relative
frequency of occurrence which gives rise to the order of our sensations.
Like other relevant writings of Hayek, such as his “Rules, Perception and
Intelligibility” of 1962, it presents a picture of a philosopher allied
with Mach and the early precursors of what later came to be called
“Gestalt psychology,” a picture which is supported also by a historical
examination of the influences on Hayek’s thought at the time when the
first version of The Sensory Order was being written. For both
Hayek and Mach, now, there is no distinction between the phenomenal and
noumenal world. Indeed there is no transcendentalism of any sort in
either thinker. Yet Kantianism, as one normally conceives it, is
characterized precisely by the presence of such a transcendental
See the relevant section of Alter (forthcoming), and also the
material collected in Grassl and Smith (eds.) for a treatment of this
issue in relation to Menger. For the views of the Brentanists on ethics
and the theory of value see Kraus 1937.
See the discussion of universals in re in Johansson 1989,
e.g. pp. 11, 147, and also Maki 1989.
On the opposition between commonsense and scientific realism from
the point of view of contemporary philosophy see Devitt 1984. Compare
also the illuminating discussion of “level ontologies” in Johansson 1989,
Cf. Maki 1989.
Cf. Menger 1883, p. 40, Eng. p. 60 on the “rule of cognition” for
the investigation of theoretical truth”: “There is one rule of cognition
for the investigation of theoretical truths which is not only, as far as
this is possible, verified by experience, but is verified in indubitable
fashion by our very laws of thinking. . . . This is the thesis that
whatever was observed in even only one case must always come to appearance
again under exactly the same factual conditions . . . . This rule
holds not only of the essence of phenomena, but also of their
measure” (tran-slation amended).
Cf. Menger 1871, p. 3, Eng. p. 52 (section 1, “On the Essence of
Cf. Gould 1978, Wood 1981, Sowell 1985, and above all Meikle 1985.
In the light of 6. above it is worth pointing out that Marx embraces also
the assumption that science is able to penetrate through the ideological
obfuscations by which the commonsensical mind is (as he conceives things)
of necessity affected.
survival of Aristotelian ideas in contemporary German legal theory is
illustrated for example by Karl Larenz’s standard textbook of legal
methodology (1983), e.g. in his discussion of the “legal structural types”
which the legal theorist “discovers in reality” (p. 338).
Cf. Meikle 1985, p. 6, n. 4
on the History of Philosophy,
trans. by E. Haldane and F. Simson, London, 1894, vol. 2, p. 147, emphasis
on this, my 1986a and also the papers collected in Grassl and Smith, eds.,
methodological individualism in Aristotle see also Kraus 1905.
Menger’s discussion of the view attributed to Aristotle to the effect that
the state is a phenomenon co-original with the existence of man, in his
1883, pp. 267-270, Eng. pp. 220-222.
cited by Marx himself in the Afterword to the Second German Edition of
vol. 1 of Capital and adopted as a motto to Meikle 1985.
See esp. Streissler 1989.
the work of the phenomenologist Adolf Reinach is especially important in
this regard. For Reinach, who achieved for legal science what Menger and
his school have achieved in the field of economics, was especially aware
of the non-Kantian nature of his aprioristic views. See also ch. 2 of Max
Scheler’s Formalism in Ethics, a work in part inspired by the
reflectionist theory of the a priori defended by Reinach.
shall need, too, some criterion as to what is to count as a non-logical
concept. Consider, for example, the concept part of. This is a
formal concept, in the sense that it can be applied, in principle, to all
matters without restriction. But it is not treated as a logical concept
in the standard textbooks, and nor can it be defined in terms of the
logical concepts which are standardly recognized as such. Indeed it seems
that the concept part of is a non-logical primitive concept.
Consider, now, the proposition
If A is
part of B, and B is part of C, then A is part of C.
asserts that the corresponding relation is transitive. This proposition
is not analytic, for there is no law of logic to which it would correspond
as a substitution instance. Hence it must be synthetic. But it is surely
also a priori, and indeed a priori in the (reflectionist)
sense that it pictures the (intelligible) way in which part-whole
relations are nested together in the world, independent of our thoughts
have developed this argument at greater length in my 1986.
See also Rothbard 1957.
for example the paragraph beginning “the most general . . .” on p. 24 of
Hoppe’s 1988, to which I hope to return elsewhere, is an interesting
defence of a purportedly Kantian reading of Mises which seeks to break
through the opposition between impositionism and reflectionism set out
See Smith (ed.) 1982, Simons 1987, Part III, and Johansson 1989,
the papers collected in Mulligan, ed., 1987.
my 1986. Marx, too, utilized necessitation structures of exactly this
sort, for example in his analysis of human work in chapter 5 of Book 1 of
Capital. See, on this, my 1988.
e.g. Wieser 1927, pp. 5ff. The idea may be less at home in Menger’s own
thinking. For Menger the idea of “Testing the exact theory of economy by
the full empirical method is simply a methodological absurdity, a failure
to recognize the basis of presuppositions of exact research” (1883, p. 54,
Eng. p. 69). Examining Menger’s account of the ways in which exact types
are painstakingly extracted from the realm of economic phenomena by the
economic theorist suggests however that he, too, might have assented to
something like the retroactive control that is here described. See, on
this whole issue, Menger’s promissory note on p. 43 (Eng. p. 62) of the
M. 1989. “What Do We Know About Menger?” Working Paper Number 71,
Duke University Program in Political Economy.
M. (forthcoming) Carl Menger and the Origins of Austrian Economics,
Boulder: Westview Press.
Brentano, F. 1867. Die Psychologie des Aristoteles insbesondere seine
Lehre vom nous poietikos, Mainz: Kirchberg, repr. Darmstadt:
Wissen-schaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1967, Eng. trans. by R. George,
The Psychology of Aristotle. Berkeley: University of California Press,
Brentano, F. 1982. Deskriptive Psychologie. Ed. by R. M. Chisholm
and W. Baumgartner. Hamburg: Meiner.
M. 1984. Realism and Truth. Oxford: Blackwell.
Fabian, R. and Simons, P. M. 1986. “The Second Austrian School of Value
Theory.” In Grassl and Smith (eds.), 37-101.
Carol C. 1978. Marx’s Social Ontology. Individuality and Community in
Marx’s Theory of Social Reality. Cambridge, Mass. and London: The MIT
W. and Smith, B. (eds.) 1986. Austrian Economics: Historical and
Philosophical Background. London and Sydney: Croom Helm.
John. 1986. Hayek on
2nd ed. Oxford: Blackwell.
F. A. von. 1952. The Sensory Order. An Inquiry into the Foundations of
Theoretical Psychology. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
F. A. von 1962. “Rules, Perception and Intelligibility.” Proceedings of
the British Academy, 48, repr. in Hayek’s Studies in Philosophy,
Politics and Economics. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1967, 43-65.
H.-H. 1988. Praxeology and Economic Science. Auburn: The Ludwig von
Husserl, E. 1900-01. Logische Untersuchungen, critical edition,
Dordrecht: Nijhoff, 1975, 1984 (A = first edition). Eng. trans. of 2nd ed.
by J. N. Findlay as Logical Investigations. London: Routledge and
Kegan Paul, 1970.
Johansson, I. 1989. Ontological Investigations: An Inquiry into the
Categories of Nature, Man and Society. London: Routledge.
Kirzner, I. 1979. Perception,
Opportunity and Profit. Studies in the Theory of Entrepreneurship.
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Posted September 6, 2007