Theorizing human action

People who want to attack Mises's use of "praxeology" as some bizarre, idiosyncratic move on his part often fail to realize how common this sort of analysis was among philosophers in the early 20th century. Bradley, Bosanquet, Green, Croce, Collingwood, and Oakeshott all perform analyses similar to Mises, sometimes described as examining the presuppositions of human action. For instance, here is Green:

"without intention there is no action... In saying then that the proper, because the only possible, function of law is to enforce performance of or abstinence from external actions, it is implied that its function is to produce or prevent certain intentions, for without intention on the part of someone there is no act." -- Principles of Political Obligation, pp. 18-19

I do think that Mises made two mistakes in this area:

1) There was no need for him to use the term "praxeology": this made what he was doing seem stranger than it needed to. (In fact, Oakeshott tweaked him for this, I believe.)

2) I don't see any good reason for Mises's insistence that economics must be restricted to a subset of this sort of theorizing.


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