Author Barry Linetsky

Part 13: Science, Human Action, The Search for “Truth”, and Consequences

Thinking on the Potential Dangers of Science Myopia (Photo: Joao Silas, Unsplash.com)

Volitional and Mechanistic Causation: Science or Sciences? (13/20)

© 2018, Barry L. Linetsky. All Rights Reserved.

The question of whether social science or any study of reality having to do with human action can be accepted as valid and legitimate science remains contentious amongst intellectuals. Human action and the study of those disciplines serving human values and interests don’t fit neatly into the modern scientistic and positivist worldview held by the majority of the scientific community.

There exists a clash of paradigms. Read more

Author Barry Linetsky

Part 12: Science, Human Action, The Search for “Truth”, and Consequences

Thinking on the Potential Dangers of Science Myopia (Photo: Joao Silas, Unsplash.com)

A Science of Two Parts Forms a Whole (12/20)

© 2018, Barry L. Linetsky. All Rights Reserved.

Ludwig von Mises drew a sharp distinction between two types of study, one being non-teleological events in the world of inanimate matter, and the other being teleological human events that rest on the “human faculty of thinking, cognizing, and acting” (The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science, 11). He noted: “There is within the infinite expanse of what is called the universe a small field in which man’s conscious conduct can influence the course of events” (ibid.).

Mises referred to the study of non-teleological events as “natural sciences” and the study where conscious human cognition was an aspect of the subject matter as the social sciences, or “the sciences of human action.” He included his own field of study, economics, in this latter category.

The nature of the two domains of natural science and human science is such that each requires a separate, distinct, and appropriate methodology of study. Read more

Author Barry Linetsky

Part 11: Science, Human Action, The Search for “Truth”, and Consequences

Thinking on the Potential Dangers of Science Myopia (Photo: Joao Silas, Unsplash.com)

The Important Implications of Praxeology (11/20)

© 2018, Barry L. Linetsky. All Rights Reserved.

It was not so long ago that scientific dualism – the idea that the social sciences and the natural sciences require distinct methodologies – was uncontroversial. It was accepted that science was the systematic search for knowledge wherever appropriate to advance human understanding of the world and man’s place in it. This quest for discovery took place both in the realm of human action and the realm of the non-teleological world of nature.

What Mises, Hayek, and others point out is that the abandonment of epistemological rigor has resulted in debasement and abuse of science, and that abuse comes with consequences. Read more

Author Barry Linetsky

Part 10: Science, Human Action, The Search for “Truth”, and Consequences

Thinking on the Potential Dangers of Science Myopia (Photo: Joao Silas, Unsplash.com)

The Unique Qualities of the Human Mind (10/20)

© 2018, Barry L. Linetsky. All Rights Reserved.

In his life-long search for truth in, and exposition of, economic science, Mises recognized that “it is not possible to question the real existence of matter, of physical objects and of the external world.” In building an inductive scientific basis for a science of human action (and for all human knowledge) – which Mises called praxeology (the logic of human action) – he recognized that humans are born with a unique evolved faculty, a capability of the human brain, which we colloquially call the mind, that allows for man’s conscious conduct and ability to influence to some extent the course of events.

“Mind or reason,” wrote Mises, “is contrasted with matter, the will with self-acting impulses, instincts, and physiological processes” (The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science, 11), and is “equipped with a set of tools for grasping reality” (Human Action, Chpt. 2, Sec. 2, 35). These tools are part of the logical structure of the human mind, were acquired naturally over the long course of evolution, and are “logically prior to any experience” (ibid, 35). Read more

Author Barry Linetsky

Part 9: Science, Human Action, The Search for “Truth”, and Consequences

Thinking on the Potential Dangers of Science Myopia (Photo: Joao Silas, Unsplash.com)

The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science (9/20)

© 2018, Barry L. Linetsky. All Rights Reserved.

In 1962, after a career as one of the most important and distinguished economist of the 20thcentury, Ludwig von Mises, author of the 1949 classic Human Action: A Treatise on Economics, published his final book, The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science: An Essay on Method.

Mises had written extensively on epistemological methodology in the social sciences before, and like Hayek, remained deeply concerned about an epistemological crisis in science and the foreseen consequences, necessitating a further warning in no uncertain terms that a rigorous and valid defense of epistemology was required, and its continued abuse can only be ignored at mankind’s peril.

As someone who escaped pursuit by the Nazi’s in pre World War II Eastern Europe, and was forced to flee to the United States, Mises had first hand experience of the consequences about which he wrote. Read more

Author Barry Linetsky

Part 8: Science, Human Action, The Search for “Truth”, and Consequences

Thinking on the Potential Dangers of Science Myopia (Photo: Joao Silas, Unsplash.com)

The Siren Call of the Determinist Paradox (8/20)

© 2018, Barry L. Linetsky. All Rights Reserved.

A logical implication of mechanistic materialism is that everything has been set in motion by that first cause and is inevitable, and if not for our limited human computation power and limited knowledge, we would be able to predict every future outcome – that what comes after is metaphysically determined by the darkness that comes before. Those modern scientists and intellectuals who advocate for mechanistic materialist ideas are, to the extent they are determinists, also fatalists who must advocate that the future is already written and necessarily preordained.

To deny the scientific evidence in favour of materialistic causal necessity, the scientists who advocate mechanistic materialism say, is to be scientifically ignorant. Read more

Author Barry Linetsky

Part 7: Science, Human Action, The Search for “Truth”, and Consequences

Thinking on the Potential Dangers of Science Myopia (Photo: Joao Silas, Unsplash.com)

In The Land of Blind Science, Volitional Consciousness Is King (7/20)

© 2018, Barry L. Linetsky. All Rights Reserved.

When it comes to human actions, notes Hayek in his aptly titled book The Counter-Revolution of Science, “things arewhat the acting people think they are” (44). For example, a hammer is not a thing in itself or an objective fact of Science, but rather a means to an end as perceived by a human being, a tool that can be created, designed, and used for a conceived purpose as defined by the user. A hammer can be a tool to join pieces of wood by means of nails, or to remove nails and break things apart.

Scientism neglects the study of human action and the meaning humans ascribe to the world they encounter. The best science can do in this realm is generate statistics and data maps. Human motives cannot be directly perceived and quantitatively measured, and to this extent are excluded from “real” Scientific study. Read more

Author Barry Linetsky

Part 6: Science, Human Action, The Search for “Truth”, and Consequences

Thinking on the Potential Dangers of Science Myopia (Photo: Joao Silas, Unsplash.com)

Jordan Peterson, Sam Harris: A Clash of Scientific Worldviews? (6/20)

© 2018, Barry L. Linetsky. All Rights Reserved.

F.A. Hayek, winner of the 1974 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science, expressed concern that science has morphed into a “prejudice” or ideology that places the physical and biological sciences at the pinnacle of discovering and validating what is real, what is knowable, and what is true.

Hayek’s observation is that science as an endeavour has taken on the form of an ideology and has embarked on a continuing crusade to reshape our thinking about the world by translating that which we observe directly with our senses into mathematical symbols, and thereby has moved away from what science is and should be. Read more

Author Barry Linetsky

Part 5: Science, Human Action, The Search for “Truth”, and Consequences

Thinking on the Potential Dangers of Science Myopia (Photo: Joao Silas, Unsplash.com)

Hayek’s Fallacy of Scientistic Prejudice (5/20)

© 2018, Barry L. Linetsky. All Rights Reserved.

The consideration of the existence of a single scientific method – a prejudice towards a methodology for studying the world of human action using a scientific method developed for the study of a mechanistic world of natural laws – was referred to by economist F.A. Hayek as the fallacy of scientistic prejudice, or scientismfor short. Hayek wrote a series of essays about this problem that were published in 1952 as The Counter-Revolution of Science: Studies in the Abuse of Reason. (All page citations for Hayek to The Counter-Revolution of Science (2nd Ed.), LibertyPress, Indianapolis, 1979.)

Hayek argues that prior to the 19thcentury, a feature of science was its choiceof appropriate methods to study disciplines of knowledge, including the study of politics, history, and economics. Following in the footsteps of Aristotle, science covered both the natural sciences and the social sciences. “The term science,” Hayek wrote, “had not yet assumed the special narrow meaning it has today, nor was there any distinction made which singled out the physical or natural sciences and attributed to them a special dignity.” (19-20) Read more

Author Barry Linetsky

Part 4: Science, Human Action, The Search for “Truth”, and Consequences

Thinking on the Potential Dangers of Science Myopia (Photo: Joao Silas, Unsplash.com)

 

A Distinct Methodology for Human Action (4/20)

© 2018, Barry L. Linetsky. All Rights Reserved.

Unlike the method of discovery applied to the natural world that is governed by unchanging laws of nature that we seek to discover, the method of discovery is different when it comes to human action and the centrality of human action in the social sciences. The way one economist puts it is that “Actions are the field of phenomena which constitutes what we regard as the subject matter of the social sciences” (Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Economic Science and the Austrian Method, 35).

Nature is an endless succession of necessitated events, of cause and effect of entities that are incapable of seeking a specific goal or end. Wherever humans are involved, things are different because humans possess volitional consciousness, are goal-directed, and act purposefully in pursuit of self-chosen ends.

In this respect, human beings are not like billiard balls or the weather. Humans have the capacity to make choices and strive to achieve goals through self-initiated purposeful, goal-directed, action. At the same time, humans are constrained by, and have no escape from conforming to, the causal laws of nature that govern the universe, the same natural laws that are applicable to all entities. Read more