Is Austrian Economics Really Based on Aristotle's Philosophy?

Posted by dbhalling 4 years, 10 months ago to Philosophy
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Austrian Economics is always claiming a strong connection to the Philosophy of Aristotle. The Austrians main connection to Aristotle is the idea of apriorism. In philosophy apriorism is defined as the philosophical doctrine that there may be genuine knowledge independent of experience. (Click link to see more)

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  • Posted by Zenphamy 4 years, 10 months ago
    This concept or idea that something is true because I say it is or I think it is or I think it should be, without testing against empirical testing or experience with reality has been the justification and rationale for the absolute worst anti-human thought and actions throughout man's existence. It's emotionalism applied to life vs logical rational use of one's mind and relies on the workings of the most ancient parts of our brains responses to experience.

    Such thought just serves to further emphasize the anti-science of the so called 'soft sciences' of social 'sciences' and economics. It's even denial of knowledge and reality.
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    • Posted by $ MikeMarotta 4 years, 9 months ago
      It's a little more complicated than that. Words have meanings. Objectivist epistemology asserts that concepts depend on the entities they describe. The ancient Greeks accepted that implicitly. So, to them, if your logic was correct, then your conclusions were empirically true.

      We are taught that because the ancient philosophers were men of leisure (exploiters of slave labor), they did not believe in experiment because they did not want to get their hands dirty. That is untrue, in fact, far from the truth. Read Plato's "Protagoras." When discussing whether and how men know justice, Protagoras says that when the subject at the assembly is shipbuilding, we ask a shipbuilder. But if anyone offers an opinion without experience, no matter how high-born he is, he is shouted down, and if need be, dragged out.

      What the ancient Greeks did not have was the scientific method. They also did not have lowercase letters and cursive writing. What I mean is that it took centuries for individuals to discover and formulate the best methods for intellectual discovery. It is not fair to excoriate the ancient Greeks for not knowing what they did not know.

      The dichotomy between reason and experience has deep roots, but, really, it came from the so-called "Age of Reason" (1648-1750) when English Empiricism was opposed to Continental Rationalism.

      Small-o objectivism was a brief and largely implicit acceptance of what we call "the scientific method" or "rational-empiricism." While it fueled the scientific and economic explosion of the 19th century, small-o objectivism was not widespread in academic philosophy. Instead, positivism was accepted by "everyone", for instance both the individualist Herbert Spencer and the collectivist August Comte.

      What we have today, at best, is "strong induction", the positivist claim that nothing is absolutely true. Even Richard Feynman held that science advances by continuously getting ever closer to "truth" but never reaching it. We merely pile on ever more incremental discoveries to validate (or suddenly disprove) what we accepted previously.

      The scientific method can be stated as three steps or fourteen (on my blog here: )but, as you note, it does require evidentiary testing of a hypothesis. That hypothesis is not an airy wish, but is, of necessity, an informed observation. That is the first step: to observe a phenomenon.

      Finally, again, concepts being derived from perceptions, mathematics is absolutely true, even when we have not discovered the empirical referents. My case in point is "imaginary" numbers. The square root of minus 1 seemed "unreal" to most people, but became very real to electrical engineers.
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      • Posted by $ Olduglycarl 4 years, 9 months ago
        "It is not fair to excoriate the ancient Greeks for not knowing what they did not know."
        The same goes for any past time in history...something lefties and progressives do not understand. An example I often use in reference to early industry just not knowing what they were doing to the environment...they had no way of knowing is my point.

        Thank you for that 3rd paragraph.
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  • Posted by chad 4 years, 9 months ago
    The cause of the failure of socialism (or any tyranny) is the demand that trials not be allowed. To postulate something then act upon it or trying to prove or disprove an action allows discovery and advancement. Tyranny claims the right often by assumption that only it knows best and all others must remain subject to those thoughts and plans. The use of force (violence) to ensure no one strays from the rules of the tyranny allows it to move on unobstructed destroying any who would rise above it by reason and application and adjusting to the reality for the best results.
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  • Posted by $ MikeMarotta 4 years, 10 months ago
    Thanks, Dale; nicely done.

    I caution against reading into Aristotle or anything else from arbitrarily "long ago." If Shakespeare is not warning enough, read from The Canterbury Tales. I spent some time with ancient Greek when I was writing about ancient numismatics. We have a finely-grained, million-word vocabulary, fully 2500 years more developed than ancient Greek.

    The word "axios" (A≡IOΣ) meant only "worth; worthy; right and proper." It could also have meant "cheap" (the best price). To them, an "axiom" was a worthy statement that could not be questioned. We have 2500 years of thinking built from that. What we Objectivists call the Law of Identity (A is A) was formulated by Leibniz.

    Here is enough of an argument about what Aristotle "really" meant in what was perhaps his finest work of empirical investigation, the embryology of the chick:
    As you can see, these classicists split hairs. But it does underscore the fact that we should not read into Aristotle what we want to find there.

    I agree with your thesis: The Austrians are not Aristotleans; they are Platonists.
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  • Posted by Herb7734 4 years, 9 months ago
    That gets the old brain cells grinding away on a Sunday afternoon.
    I often think that the one thing that almost justifies Plato's theory is quantum physics. Our senses cannot comprehend the world of the molecule, the atom, and the sub-atomic particles. We have been able to postulate these "things" and use them to create useful tools for both the benefit and destruction of mankind, but to date we are like a man who rubbed a magic lantern and was asking the genie what wishes he can grant and which he cannot.
    What Rand has come up with is a useful tool that if used properly benefits humans as they plod, walk, or jog down the path of life. It deals with what the senses tell the mind and how to apply that knowledge in order to deal with the interaction between nature and mankind. So far, as Newton indicated, we've only taken a few ounces of water from the vast ocean.
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    • Posted by 4 years, 9 months ago
      Yes, the copenhagen interpretation of QE (CQE) does correspond with Plato in the sense that it argues that we cannot know certain things. It also corresponds with Hume's stealth attack on the law of identity. The continuing failure of the copenhagen point of view is causing many physicists to question its validity. QCE at best is like the epicycles of The Ptolemaic Model, it is heuristically predictive, but it is not physics.
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      • Posted by lrshultis 4 years, 9 months ago
        If that is copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics, CQM, then it says that nothing exists until one measures or observes it. QM is not platonic in that it does not recognize platonic types of existing ideals of which one gets glimpses. In QM there are only probabilities of the properties of concretes which come into existence when measured by the collapse of the wave function. It is irrational in that the wave function is an abstraction which is reified as a real thing that is collapsible when an observation is made to create something real where the wave equation predicted probabilities of certain of the properties of the new existent. It does not deal with an objective reality as Einstein believed and argued for with the EPR thought experiment. It is not that CQM argues that we cannot know certain things, but that there are none of those certain things in existence until created by a observation / measurement. It is anti-objective reality but works very well at predicting probabilities for what measurements give, ranges of values.
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        • Posted by 4 years, 9 months ago
          Good points, however it's idea of particles are points that exist only when measured. It is either an attack on the law of identity or a secret world that cannot be seen with our senses. The later is very much in line with Plato.
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