ⓘ Blog | Praxeology - academic disciplines. Praxeology or praxiology, meaning deed, action, and -λογία, meaning study of is the study of human action, based on the no ..



Praxeology or praxiology, meaning deed, action, and -λογία, meaning study of) is the study of human action, based on the notion that humans engage in purposeful behavior, as opposed to reflexive behavior like sneezing and unintentional behavior.

French social philosopher Alfred Espinas gave the term its modern meaning, and its study was developed independently by two principal groups: the Austrian school, in which a praxeological approach was developed by Ludwig von Mises, and the Polish school created by Tadeusz Kotarbinski.


1. Origin and etymology

Coinage of the word praxeology praxeologie is often credited to Louis Bourdeau, the French author of a classification of the sciences, which he published in his Theorie des sciences: Plan de Science integrale in 1882:

On account of their dual natures of specialty and generality, these functions should be the subject of a separate science. Some of its parts have been studied for a long time, because this kind of research, in which man could be the main subject, has always presented the greatest interest. Physiology, hygiene, medicine, psychology, animal history, human history, political economy, morality, etc. represent fragments of a science that we would like to establish, but as fragments scattered and uncoordinated have remained until now only parts of particular sciences. They should be joined together and made whole in order to highlight the order of the whole and its unity. Now you have a science, so far unnamed, which we propose to call Praxeology from πραξις, action, or by referring to the influence of the environment, Mesology from μεσος, environment.

However, the term was used at least once previously with a slight spelling difference, in 1608, by Clemens Timpler in his Philosophiae practicae systema methodicum:

There was Aretology: Following that Praxiology: which is the second part of the Ethics, in general, commenting on the actions of the moral virtues.

It was later mentioned by Robert Flint in 1904 in a review of Bourdeaus Theorie des sciences.

The modern definition of the word was first given by Alfred V. Espinas 1844–1922, the French philosopher and sociologist; he was the forerunner of the Polish school of the science of efficient action. The Austrian school of economics was based on a philosophical science of the same kind.

With a different spelling, the word was used by the English psychologist Charles Arthur Mercier in 1911, and proposed by Knight Dunlap to John B. Watson as a better name for his behaviorism. Watson rejected it. But the Chinese physiologist of behavior, Zing-Yang Kuo b. 1898 adopted the term in 1935. It was also used by William McDougall in 1928 and later.

Previously the word praxiology, with the meaning Espinas gave to it, was used by Tadeusz Kotarbinski in 1923. Several economists, such as the Ukrainian, Eugene Slutsky 1926 used it in his attempt to base economics on a theory of action. It was also used by Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises 1933, Russian Marxist Nikolai Bukharin 1888–1938 during the Second International Congress of History of Science and Technology in London in 1931, and Polish scholar Oscar Lange 1904–1965 in 1959, and later.

The Italian philosopher, Carmelo Ottaviano, was using the Italianised version, prassiologia, in his treatises starting from 1935, but in his own way, as a theory of politics. After the Second World War the use of the term praxeology spread widely. After the emigration of Mises to America his pupil Murray Rothbard defended the praxeological approach. A revival of Espinass approach in France was revealed in the works of Pierre Masse 1946, the eminent cybernetician, Georges Theodule Guilbaud 1953, the Belgian logician, Leo Apostel 1957, the cybernetician, Anatol Rapoport 1962, Henry Pierron, psychologist and lexicographer 1957, François Perroux, economist 1957, the social psychologist, Robert Daval 1963, the well-known sociologist, Raymond Aron 1963 and the methodologists, Abraham Antoine Moles and Roland Caude 1965.

Under the influence of Tadeusz Kotarbinski, praxeology flourished in Poland. A special "Centre of Praxeology" Zaklad Prakseologiczny was created under the organizational guidance of the Polish Academy of Sciences, with its own periodical from 1962, called at first Materialy Prakseologiczne Praxeological Papers, and then abbreviated to Prakseologia. It published hundreds of papers by different authors, and the materials for a special vocabulary edited by Professor Tadeusz Pszczolowski, the leading praxeologist of the younger generation. A sweeping survey of the praxeological approach is to be found in the paper by the French statistician Micheline Petruszewycz, "A propos de la praxeologie".

Ludwig von Mises was influenced by several theories in forming his work on praxeology, including Immanuel Kants works, Max Webers work on methodological individualism, and Carl Mengers development of the subjective theory of value.

Philosopher of science Mario Bunge published works of systematic philosophy that included contributions to praxeology, and Bunge dismissed von Misess version of praxeology as "nothing but the principle of maximization of subjective utility - a fancy version of egoism". Bunge, who was also a fierce critic of pseudoscience, warned that when "conceived in extremely general terms and detached from both ethics and science, praxiology has hardly any practical value".


2. Austrian economics

Austrian economics relies heavily on praxeology in the development of its economic theories. Ludwig von Mises considered economics to be a sub-discipline of praxeology. Austrian School economists continue to use praxeology and deduction, rather than empirical studies, to determine economic principles. According to its theorists, with the action axiom as the starting point, it is possible to draw conclusions about human behavior that are both objective and universal. For example, the notion that humans engage in acts of choice implies that they have preferences, and this must be true for anyone who exhibits intentional behavior.

Advocates of praxeology also say that it provides insights for the field of ethics.


2.1. Austrian economics Subdivisions

In 1951, Murray Rothbard divided the subfields of praxeology as follows:

A. The Theory of the Isolated Individual Crusoe Economics B. The Theory of Voluntary Interpersonal Exchange Catallactics, or the Economics of the Market 1. Barter 2. With Medium of Exchange a. On the Unhampered Market b. Effects of Violent Intervention with the Market c. Effects of Violent Abolition of the Market Socialism C. The Theory of War – Hostile Action D. The Theory of Games e.g., von Neumann and Morgenstern E. Unknown

At the time, topics C, D, and E remained open research problems.


2.2. Austrian economics Criticisms

Thomas Mayer has argued that, because praxeology rejects positivism and empiricism in the development of theories, it constitutes nothing less than a rejection of the scientific method. For Mayer, this invalidates the methodologies of the Austrian school of economics. Austrians argue that empirical data itself is insufficient to describe economics; that consequently empirical data cannot falsify economic theory; that logical positivism cannot predict or explain human action; and that the methodological requirements of logical positivism are impossible to obtain for economic questions. Ludwig von Mises in particular argued against empiricist approaches to the social sciences in general, because human events are unique and "unrepeatable," whereas scientific experiments are necessarily reproducible.

However, economist Antony Davies argues that because statistical tests are predicated on the independent development of theory, some form of praxeology is essential for model selection; conversely, the praxeology can illustrate surprising philosophical consequences of economic models.

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