Thursday, December 15, 2011

Another Interesting Economic Methodology Article

At the Mises Institute web page, a mostly excellent article by Hans- Hermann Hoppe about the contradictions in the positivist philosophy underlying the dominant paradigm in academic economics, has been published. Read it here.

His refutation of the logically inconsistent positivist/empiricist assertion that all knowledge is either "relations of ideas" that are necessarily unrelated to reality or "matters of facts" that are necessarily uncertain (to use David Hume's expressions) was particularly good. An excerpt:

"This is empiricism's central claim: Empirical knowledge must be verifiable or falsifiable by experience; and analytical knowledge, which is not so verifiable or falsifiable, thus cannot contain any empirical knowledge. If this is true, then it is fair to ask: What then is the status of this fundamental statement of empiricism? Evidently it must be either analytical or empirical.

Let us first assume it is analytical. According to the empiricist doctrine, however, an analytical proposition is nothing but scribbles on paper, hot air, entirely void of any meaningful content. It says nothing about anything real. And hence one would have to conclude that empiricism could not even say and mean what it seems to say and mean. Yet if, on the other hand, it says and means what we thought it did all along, then it does inform us about something real. As a matter of fact, it informs us about the fundamental structure of reality. It says that there is nothing in reality that can be known to be one way or another prior to future experiences which may confirm or disconfirm our hypothesis.

And if this meaningful proposition is taken to be analytical, that is, as a statement that does not allow any falsification and whose truth can be established by an analysis of its terms alone, one has no less than a glaring contradiction at hand. Empiricism itself would prove to be nothing but self-defeating nonsense.[5]

So perhaps we should choose the other available option and declare the fundamental empiricist distinction between empirical and analytical knowledge an empirical statement. But then the empiricist position would no longer carry any weight whatsoever. For if this were done, it would have to be admitted that the proposition — as an empirical one — might well be wrong and that one would be entitled to hear on the basis of what criterion one would have to decide whether or not it was. More decisively, as an empirical proposition, right or wrong, it could only state a historical fact, something like "all heretofore scrutinized propositions fall indeed into the two categories analytical and empirical." The statement would be entirely irrelevant for determining whether it would be possible to produce propositions that are true a priori and are still empirical ones. Indeed, if empiricism's central claim were declared an empirical proposition, empiricism would cease altogether to be an epistemology, a logic of science, and would be no more than a completely arbitrary verbal convention of calling certain arbitrary ways of dealing with certain statements certain arbitrary names. Empiricism would be a position void of any justification."

My main objection to the contents of the article is that I don't believe in Hoppe's (and Mises') Kantian philosophical defense of praxeological economics, because the correct justification comes from the Aristotelian/Objectivist philosophical paradigm. This article, that I have linked to before, provides arguments for the correct paradigm.


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