Mises on the limits of science

Two selections from Human Action:

Both principles of cognition—causality and teleology—are, owing to the limitations of human reason, imperfect and do not convey ultimate knowledge. Causality leads to a regressus in infinitum which reason can never exhaust. Teleology is found wanting as soon as the question is raised of what moves the prime mover. Either method stops short at an ultimate given which cannot be analyzed and interpreted. Reasoning and scientific inquiry can never bring full ease of mind, apodictic certainty, and perfect cognition of all things. He who seeks this must apply to faith and try to quiet his conscience by embracing a creed or metaphysical doctrine.

Science does not give us absolute and final certainty. It only gives us assurance within the limits of our mental abilities and the prevailing state of scientific thought. A scientific system is but one station in an endlessly progressing search for knowledge. It is necessarily affected by the insufficiency inherent in every human effort.

 

Within limits

From Ludwig von Mises:

Science does not give us absolute and final certainty. It only gives us assurance within the limits of our mental abilities and the prevailing state of scientific thought. A scientific system is but one station in an endlessly progressing search for knowledge. It is necessarily affected by the insufficiency inherent in every human effort. But to acknowledge these facts does not mean the present-day economics is backward. It merely means that economics is a living thing–and to live implies both imperfection and change.

Why Mises admired Freud

An interesting little note from Jeffrey Tucker in The Freeman:

It makes sense if you think about it. Mises was the great champion of subjectivist economic theory, with its radical observation that the whole shape of the world of economics is ultimately traceable to values residing in human minds. Freud did the same for the discipline of medicine and therapy. They both went beyond materialism to find explanatory power in how and what we think. Both highlighted the awesome power of the inner life of the individual mind.

Motivational Mises

From Human Action:

He who only wishes and hopes does not interfere actively with the course of events and with the shaping of his own destiny. But acting man chooses, determines, and tries to reach an end.

Are you an acting man?

(Yes, yes, I know Mises’ point is that we are all “acting men.” By our very nature, and the fact of our consciousness, we act. But I mean it in a less literal way: Are you a wisher or a doer?)

All ends and all means

From Ludwig von Mises’ Human Action:

The general theory of choice and preference … is much more than merely a theory of the “economic side” of human endeavors and of man’s striving for commodities and an improvement in his material well-being. It is the science of every kind of human action. Choosing determines all human decisions. In making his choice man chooses not only between various material things and services. All human values are offered for option. All ends and all means, both material and ideal issues, the sublime and the base, the noble and the ignoble, are ranged in a single row and subjected to a decision which picks out one thing and set aside another. Nothing that men aim at or want to avoid remains outside of this arrangement into a unique scale of gradation and preference.