His argument is that the human mind must determine action or the human creature cannot survive as an acting animal, And the human mind therefore is incapable of seeing the universe as anything other than a sequence of causes. It is a criticism of the tendency of the human mind to err.

Quote: “It is impossible, … for the human mind to think of any event as uncaused. The concepts of chance and contingency, if properly analyzed, do not refer ultimately to the course of events in the universe. They refer to human knowledge, prevision, and action. They have a praxeological, not an ontological connotation.”

Propertarianism
The universe cannot observe itself, predict it’s own movements, and construct a plan by which it may alter events. It consists of constant categories. The categories used by human beings are limited only by their desired actions, and their desired actions, in collective permutation, are less limited than those of the physical universe.

In other words, any notion of determinism is an artifact of the human mind. He goes on to give examples of how different fields err. He summarizes by saying we just don’t know whether it is or not, and that we may be prevented from understanding whether it is or not, simply because we cannot conceive of it otherwise.

He’s agnostic. He’s not a determinist. He says we just don’t know, and in all the examples that we have tried so far, none of them survive critical analysis. He argues that the use of numerical aggregates and statistics only reinforce that issue.

I can see how someone would not understand his argument if they didn’t read it carefully. But his first paragraph makes the entire argument:

Quote “Whatever the true nature of the universe and of reality may be, man can learn about it only what the logical structure of his mind makes comprehensible to him. Reason, the sole instrument of human science and philosophy, does not convey absolute knowledge and final wisdom. It is vain to speculate about ultimate things. What appears to man’s inquiry as an ultimate given, defying further analysis and reduction to something more fundamental, may or may not appear such to a more perfect intellect. We do not know.”

He’s an agnostic, not a determinist: “WE DO NOT KNOW.” And any illusion that we can know is a byproduct of the structure of the human mind. Therefore by occam’s razor, it’s more likely that we’re simply WRONG whenever we have deterministic ideas.

So Mises was not a determinist.

Since his time, we have learned enough, that it is possible to defeat the argument to physical determinism in human action, if not the physical world. What arguments to Determinism that remain, are artifacts of religious mysticism and the structure of our minds.

1) Causality Exists
2) Determinism doesn’t. (Unless there is a god who determines everything.)

“RE: “Like “Existence”, “Causation” is, as Gian-Carlo Rota might have said, a folie. There is only direction of entropy as measured by gradients of correlation. It is one of those dirty secrets of philosophy of science.” – A Critic

This view of causality is only true in the abstract, special case of relations in the physical universe which exist independently of human action. When instead, we consider that category of relations which are the result of human action, and where such action requires information necessary to plan, and where such information is of necessity a generalization of the complexity of the physical universe, and as such where a loss of information is necessitated by such acts of generalization, and where such a loss of information is necessary in order to compose an action which will alter the existing course of events using a process of heuristic calculation, where that calculation is made with fragmentary information, and where actions are limited to the possible scope of human actions. Then by necessity causation consists of a set of actions that are observable, and categorically definable both individually, and in the aggregate, by observation of those actions. Actions which produce patterns of outcome which are distinguishable from the entropic limitations of the physical universe. A physical universe to which calculation and aggregation are impossible concepts. The universe cannot observe itself, predict it’s own movements, and construct a plan by which it may alter events. It consists of constant categories. The categories used by human beings are limited only by their desired actions, and their desired actions, in collective permutation, are less limited than those of the physical universe.

Anyway, I think I might understand the suggestion that mises was a causal determinist at this point as saying:
a) State t1 is the product of prior states tn{..}.
b) each state in tn{} is the product of human naming and identity.
BUT
c) this is not to say that tn{} is complete.
d) this is not to say that tn+1 must occur, only that tn+1 can be described by tn+1{…}
In this sense, human action is not deterministic, it is however causally determinable.

If the question of determinism is metaphysical, then:
a) Mises has made no statements to metaphysical determinism, only that humans think in deterministic terms and are incapable of doing otherwise. This is a statement about human beings, not the physical universe.
b) If instead of a metaphysical question, it is a question of praxeological action, then all human actions have causes, moreover, all actions are rational (in the broader sense of the term).
c) causality is separate from determinacy. That all events have enumerable causes is separate and distinct from the assertion that all causes produce fixed ends.

In this sense, the term causal (praxeological) determinism can have meaning separate from Fatalism, Predeterminism, or Predictability, as well as causal (metaphysical) determinism. Mises may have ben a praxeological determinist but not a metaphysical determinist.

Clear as mud I’m sure. :)

 

One Response to Mises On Determinism: An Agnostic.

  1. nazgulnarsil says:

    Free will is just what optimization feels like from the inside. We construct counterfactuals as part of our decision making process.

    http://lesswrong.com/lw/af3/my_summary_of_eliezers_position_on_free_will/

    of course that doesn’t mean it isn’t useful to act as if people have free will. We lock up criminals to keep others safe and to alter the incentive structure for future potential criminals.

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