Human Action by Ludwig von Mises, Chapter I

Human Action by Ludwig von Mises, Chapter I

By admin | May 18, 2009

In Chapter I, Mises lays out the basics for his underlying understanding of man’s process of decision-making, and thus his approach to economics.  He spends much time defining exactly what human action is, and is not.  Human action is any conscience decision, whether it results in physical action or words or neither, made by a human being.  It is not simply a bodily reflex.  Additionally, Mises is explicit in explaining that human action must be preceded by an “uneasiness”, or belief that things could be better, and by a belief, or hope, that the situation can be rectified in some way by that person.

Mises explains that “human action” is an ultimate given, or an ultimate truth, the kind that cannot be further examined or broken down by scientific approaches.  While we can imagine, and Mises would probably concede this, that in the future we will understand much more about our physical world, which could diminish the domain of this ultimate given, for the moment the author maintains that we much adopt a dualist methodology, one broken down into the physcial world, which can be subjected to scientific analysis, and the world of human thought, which, at present, cannot be broken down by an explanation of physical components.

Additionally, Mises goes into some depth to explain happiness and utility, inasmuch as they are seen as goals of man.  The primary point, I believe, is that it does not matter much whether the goals are happiness or utility as other people would see it, because the only important factor is that the acting man is looking to sort out some sort of uneasiness in a fashion which would please him.  Each man’s utility and happiness are different, and cannot be deciphered.  We must assume that, and it is logical, that the acting man is acting on his own psychological behalf.  Also, the action is rational, whether others think it is useful or not, because the person used his own analytical processes to reach the decision.

quilandink1In conclusion, Mises is interested in praxeology, the study of human action.  The psychological aspects preceding the action are outside of the sphere of this approach, with the exception of the given that man is acting on his own behalf, to relieve some sort of uneasiness, or to achieve some level of happiness or utility.

I will address Chapter II of Human Action by Ludwig von Mises on Monday, the 25th of April.


Published in: on May 18, 2009 at 7:29 am  Comments Off on Human Action by Ludwig von Mises, Chapter I  
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