Your Wish Is My Command

Bob M. has asked me just where in Mises' idea of methodological individualism is a denial of the possibility of things like the church composing a single body and mind. Ask, and ye shall receive:

"But society is nothing but the combination of individuals for cooperative effort. It exists nowhere else than in the actions of individual men. It is a delusion to search for it outside the actions of individuals. To speak of a society's autonomous and independent existence, of its life, its soul, and its actions is a metaphor which can easily lead to crass errors." -- Human Action, 998: 143

(Lord Keynes had already noted this passage here.)

4 comments:

  1. Gene wrote:

    Bob M. has asked me just where in Mises idea of methodological individualism is a denial of the possibility of things like the church composing a single body and mind.

    *sigh* No Gene, I asked you to explain how MIses violated Winthrop's exhortation to his fellows. We're back at square one. I might as well post on my blog,

    "Gene has asked me to explain how a methodological individualist could possibly explain a team sport like basketball."

    I am quite sure that Mises would have no problem with the Winthrop exhortation, that he would think WInthrop was merely saying, "Let's act such that your brother's needs are the same as your own," etc. I'm sorry but I think you're pulling a MF here. You are redefining what someone in the history of economic thought meant by a term, so that your position goes through.

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    1. "No Gene, I asked you to explain how MIses violated Winthrop's exhortation to his fellows."

      Bob, that exhortation WAS that the church should be of one body and one mind!!!

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    2. Oh, and Mises might have taken it as a metaphor, but that would not be Winthrop's understanding of what he said.

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  2. What does it mean for the members of a church to be of one mind?

    Does it mean merely that they share a common purpose and similar beliefs? If so, then I don't see Mises objecting to that.

    On the other hand, if it means something more than this, then I'm not entirely clear what that might be. In his autobiography, Cardinal Newman mentions having believed as a child that there was a race of spirits that gave intelligence and inspiration to groups of people (nations, races, political associations, etc.) I think I can understand that idea, though I suspect that wasn't quite what Winthrop was saying.

    Likewise, when confronted with the Chinese Room argument, some people will say that there is a kind of mind or intelligence created by the system as a whole that is separate from the guy in the room. I don't really understand this, but I understand that the view is out there and it's possible that's what someone might mean when he speaks of a group having a single mind or body.

    Are any of these on the right track?

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