Der Apriorist - Abstracts 06. Aug. 2012

A Comment on 'The Extraordinary Claim of Praxeology' by Professor Gutierrez

by Walter Block

Tags: praxeology, methodology
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Walter Block. A Comment on 'The Extraordinary Claim of Praxeology' by Professor Gutierrez. Theory and Decision 3 (1973): 381–82.

Abstract: Ludvig von Mises and the Austrian School of Praxeological Economics do make a claim that can only be considered extraordinary, con'sidering the type of methodology that now pervades our social science Establishment. lAnd the claim is that there is economic knowledge that can be both known with apodictic certainty, and be of great usefulness in understanding the world in which we live. Pror! Gutierrez, defending the accepted view that knowledge can either be known with apodittic certainty, or have usefulness for understanding the real world, but not both, attacks praxeological allegations to the contrary, and is in turn, criticized by the author.

Under contention are the status of the a priori nature of the category of human action, the basic premise of praxeology, as well as several other claims:

(1) Human action can only be undertaken by individual actors
(2) Action necessarily requires a desired end and a technoJogital plan
(3) Human action necessarily aims at improving the future I
(4) Human action necessarily involves a choice among competing ends
(5) All means are necessarily scarce
(6) The actor must rank his alternative ends
(7) Choices continually change, both because of changed ends as well as means
(8) Labor power and nature logically predate, and were Jed to form, capital
(9) Technological knowledge is a factor of production

This exchange involves not so much specific disagreements between Gutierrez and the author as it does the different world views of two competing philosophies of social science. To put it in its historical perspective, what we have here can be characterized as evolving from the debates concerning the possibility of synthetic a priori statements, first raised by Immanuel Kant and David Hume, but applied to the conceptual f6undations of modern economics.

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