In the introduction to Mises’s autobiography Memoirs, FA Hayek denotes Mises’s “a priori character of economic theory” an “exaggeration” that the latter was “driven to” because other economics scholars did not accept the Misesian argument at face value. Whether this is itself an exaggerated description to make a point about Mises’s psychological state (or theoretical argument?), or – as some may have it – an attack on the master after his passing, the statement is quite interesting as it may reveal Hayek’s actual view of science.
Assuming Hayek actually believed Mises’s Praxeology was an exaggerated response to being misunderstood by the profession, then Hayek would appear to have accepted “part of” the argument. The question, of course, is what “part of” the “a priori character of economic theory” means, if anything. While the research designer needs to balance forces and interpretations in the art of econometrics and statistical manipulation, surely such a balancing act is neither desirable nor scientific in purely deductive theorizing.
Such balancing amounts to balancing the argument that our point of departure is true or balancing the logically stringent deduction from this argument. Both necessarily mean a “balancing” act between truth and untruth. So what is Hayek getting at in this statement? I elaborate on this on my blog Economic Reasoning in a post called Theory, Exaggerated or in Moderation?