Kirzner: "It's difficult to prove people are purposeful"

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Kirzner: "It's difficult to prove people are purposeful"

  • Martin Nicholls

    Came across this video last night of Israel Kirzner giving a new lecture on the history of the Austrian School, but he gave an interesting response in the Q&A session on logical deduction.

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  • Zeroth Position

    It is difficult to prove that people have a particular purpose. But to argue that people are not purposeful is a performative contradiction because the arguer has a purpose in making the argument.

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      Martin Nicholls

      What do you suppose Kirzer’s purpose in making that argument was? Using his example of running to catch a bus, it doesn’t seem plausible that the purpose of the actor is just simply running for exercise… next to or just behind a bus. We of course cannot completely know what the purposes of an individual are because like our values they are deeply personal.

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      Martin Brock

      You assume that the arguer has a purpose in making the argument because he makes the argument. A spider or a robot similarly has a purpose. Purposefulness is true tautologically rather than the consequence of some proof by contradiction.

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        Zeroth Position

        I am not sure that the two can be separated because attempting to argue against a tautology should result in a contradiction.

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        • Martin Brock

          Contradicting a tautology leads immediately to a contradiction in a system incorporating the tautology, because a tautology is “true” by definition. For example “P or not P” is a tautology in propositional logic. Its contradiction is “P and not P”, but this statement cannot be true if “P” is a valid proposition, because “propositions” in propositional logic have a definite truth value and cannot be both “true” and “false” or “partly true” and “partly false”. The “truth” of “P or not P” follows from how we define “proposition” in propositional logic. It says nothing at all about the real world. In the real world, ambiguity is extremely common.

          In common vernacular, people well understand statements that are uncertain or ambiguous, statements with “a ring of truth” but also a ring of falsehood. Propositional logic is not applicable to a statement of this kind at all.

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        • Zeroth Position

          They are using such statements conditionally rather than universally, which is why they can get away with this. Propositional logic can be applied to such statements, but the statements usually must be broken into simple component parts first.

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        • Martin Brock

          Propositional logic is not a complete system. That’s why we build predicate logic upon it and why we build other systems, like Peano’s theory of Numbers, upon predicate logic and why we build Real number theory on Number theory and incorporate real numbers in empirical systems like the standard model in Physics.

          Godel showed that even a system as simple as Peano’s is necessarily incomplete and that no system more complex than Peano’s can be complete.

          You can build a logical system incorporating countless axiomatic assumptions, even assumptions about when you may “rightfully” impose your will upon others, but then you’re only playing the same game that all statesmen play. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t play it, but I will say that you shouldn’t deny playing it.

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    Bruce Koerber

    Purposefulness is a means and it is an ends and so it falls within the science of economics and the science of ethics for further analysis and since both of these sciences are part of the realm of the human science the proper methodology for analysis is subjectivism. It is very possible, then, to prove that people are purposeful.

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    Martin Nicholls

    Interesting quote I think fits nicely:

    “[Sweeps plate of cookies off table] maybe you knew I was going to do that, maybe you didn’t. If you did, that means you baked those cookies and set that plate right there deliberately, purposefully. Which means you’re sitting there also deliberately, purposefully.”
    Agent Smith: The Maxtrix Revolutions.

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