David Gordon writes in today’s Mises Daily:
In a recent post, “Machlup and Mises,” on the blog Coordination Problem, Peter Boettke has called attention to and summarized an important paper, “The Epistemological Implications of Machlup’s Interpretation of Mises’s Methodology” written by Gabriel Zanotti and Nicolás Cachanosky. According to these authors, Murray Rothbard advanced an influential interpretation of Mises’s methodology that led mainstream economists to view Mises as an extremist.
Rothbard, Zanotti and Cachanosky claim, maintained “that Mises would have said that economic science is completely a priori, without any room for auxiliary hypotheses that are not directly deducible from praxeology” (p. 2). To understand this, we first need to consider what is meant by calling a propositiona priori . This is a proposition that can be known to be true just by thinking about it: you don’t need to examine the world to see whether it’s true. “2 + 2 = 4” is a priori true: once you understand what the proposition says, you can grasp that it’s true. You don’t need to keep counting objects to see whether the claimed equality holds true. By contrast, “Mises wroteHuman Action” is not a priori true: just thinking about the proposition will not tell you whether it is true.