Robbins and Greaves on the Fundamental Postulates of Economics

Stated by Lionel Robbins in An Essay on the Nature and Significance of Economic Theory (1935):

“The propositions of economic theory, like all scientific theory, are obviously deductions from a series of postulates…The main postulate of the theory of value is the fact that individuals can arrange their preferences in an order, and in fact do so. The main postulate of the theory of production is the fact that there are [sic] more than one factor of production. The main postulate of the theory of dynamics is the fact that we are not certain regarding future scarcities. These are not postulates the existence of whose counterpart in reality admits of extensive dispute once their nature is fully realised. We do not need controlled experiments to establish their validity: they are so much the stuff of our everyday experience that they have only to be stated to be recognised as obvious (pp. 78-9).”

Enumerated below he have:

1. Individuals can arrange their preferences in an order, and in fact do so.

2. The fact that there is more than one factor of production.

3. The fact that we are not certain regarding future scarcities.

Note: In (2) I changed “are” to “is” because I think it was a grammatical error.


Greaves in Understanding the Dollar Crises (1973) gives these postulates in different forms explained in pages 27 through 29:

1. All men seek to improve their situation from their viewpoint.

2. The factors available for improving men’s situations are scarce.

3. Men make mistakes.


I think Robbins’ formulation of the first two postulates are worse than Greaves. Regarding (1), individuals don’t actually have an arrangement of preferences in their mind at all times. When they act deliberately, they always only choose between two options in each instance. During an instance of action, they don’t consult and refer to their psychological preference scale. They decide on the merits of each individual instance (I am speaking from introspection).

Therefore, a person is only presented with an individual option in each case. After the presentation, the choice is made between the old option and the new option. After the choice, one option remains as the person’s necessary reality. There is a sequence of events across time:

1. Presentation of new option

2. Choice between two options

Now across time, nothing is 100% ceteris paribus. However, we may pretend that it is ceteris paribus as a thought experiment. Lets say someone is doing A and they are presented with option B. Option B may be present in the subject’s memory, or it may be presented by their sense, either through observation or by another person informing them. At this time point, they choose option A or B, so either A is above B or vice versa.

Let’s say A is above B. Now they are presented with C and they choose A again. Now given these conditions, we now know that A is above both B and C. However, we don’t know whether B is above C or if C is above B. We can never know this given these conditions. Furthermore, if we rid ourselves of the ceteris paribus condition, then at this point in time, B could now be above A. Things could have changed during the time elapsed when the person is presented with option B and when they are presented with C.

All in all, constructing scales is contingent on the ceteris paribus (CP) condition. If valid, then we can know that A is above both B and C. Now, let’s say when presented with C, the person chooses C. We can now construct their full scale of A, B, and C. It would be, C is above A, and A is above B. The ordinal preference scale would be:

1. C

2. A

3. B

The point is that preference scales can only be constructed given the CP condition and the conditions regarding the actual choices taken by the subject. At least three specific conditions went into constructing this preference scale: ceteris paribus, A was chosen above B (choice 1), and C was chosen above A (choice 2). So far we have one CP condition and two choice conditions.

These conditions are not even sufficient for universalizing the construction of scales. Remember we could not construct this scale when A was chosen above C, since we then cannot know the relation between B and C. After the initial option gives the relation between two preferences, if presented with a third option, the person must choose this new option for the construction of the scale to continue. This is the final condition required for the construction of value scales. Stated differently, under every choice after the first choice, the person must choose the new option. We can now universalize these conditions for any construction of preferences scales.

To construct a preference scale of n preferences, it requires the CP condition, n-1 option conditions, and the condition that after the first choice, the new option is always chosen.

Greaves’ first postulate is far more modest. We said earlier that a person is presented with the new option, then they make a choice. His postulate gives us the ability to say:

When a person chooses, this person prefers the option chosen over the option not chosen.

Robbins’ postulate doesn’t justify us doing this. Greaves’ postulate gives this justification and is therefore a more fundamental postulate. One thing that should be noted is that Greaves’ postulate does not take time into consideration. In reality, a person can make a choice and regret their choice upon reflection, because in reality, things are not ceteris paribus. Therefore, this postulate is only strictly universally valid for the brief instance of time when choice is made. Sometimes, a person could potentially regret their decision even after a millisecond.

Let’s say a person is drunk in Vegas. They are gambling and decide its a good idea to spend a lot of money for very low odds. They spend their money and immediately regret their decision. However, it still takes time, however brief, for them to regret their decision. During the instance of the choice, they preferred the low odds over their money.


Robbins’ second postulate is much different than Greaves’ second postulate. They are opposites in a certain sense. Robbins says there is always more than one factor, while Greaves says there is never an infinite number of factors. Robbin’s postulate is false in many instances, only Greaves’ postulate is universal for all instances.

Let’s illustrate Robbins’ example with haircuts. We have a small isolated town with one barber. Let’s condition this scenario making it impossible that anyone can move out of the town. He then enjoys a monopoly in this small town. Strictly speaking, however, this is not true. Hazlitt explains in Free Market Economics: A Basic Reader (1974),

“There has been a tremendous literature within recent years deploring the absence of perfect competition; there could have been equal emphasis on the absence of perfect monopoly. In real life competition is never perfect, but neither is monopoly.”

You see, even if this barber is the only place trading haircuts for money, they still may choose the option of cutting their own hair. They also may choose the option of just not cutting their hair. Therefore, the barber is still competing with the feasibility of self grooming and the feasibility of not grooming.

The only way in which Robbins’ postulate is invalid is if there is absolutely no other options. For example, Robinson Crusoe lives on an island and has no tools for cutting his hair and its not possible for him to make these tools. In this instance, there is absolutely no other options. Since there is only a single option, there can only be a single reality. However, this either rests on Crusoe being aware and convinced that no other options exist or completely oblivious to other options, i.e. his subjective determinations or subjective experience. Therefore, Robbins’ formulation is contingent on one of these conditions.

On the other hand, Greaves’ second postulate is a statement about the objective, and is not contingent on any subjective determinations or experience. Its statement is equivalent to the physical conservation laws accepted in academia, e.g. energy may not be created or destroyed. If true, our universe has a total supply of energy. The amount of useful energy may seem almost infinite to us now, but is subject to ultimate limits. In most instances, we usually consider scarcities that are prevalent. Most people are unaware of the ultimate scarcity of energy, but many people are aware about the amount of useful electrical energy personally available to them.


Robbins’ and Greaves’ third postulate is about subjectivism. I think Robbins formulates this postulate better than Greaves. In my opinion, the uncertainty about future scarcity is based on a more fundamental statement about certainty. Certainty is a modal determination about the future. Either something in the future is necessary, possible, or impossible.

The law of causality tells us that certain causes produce the same effects under the same conditions. These give us necessary causal relationships, e.g. under the correct conditions, gravity always causes things to fall, or water is formed through the chemical combination of hydrogen and oxygen under the correct conditions.

Scientific principles give us impossibilities. For example, the Pauli exclusion principle says its impossible for two identical fermions to occupy the same quantum state simultaneously, or the conservation of energy tells us that its impossible for the total energy of an isolated system to change.

All other predictive statements are mere possibilities. These can be quantified as probabilities. However, probabilities are of two kinds, viz. probabilities based on historical measurement and probabilities based what Nancy Cartwright terms “singular causes.” These are probabilities like the wave functions describing the quantum state of a system of particles. These wave functions are calculated from the fundamental properties of the particles themselves.

The other kind of probability is taken from the measurement of historical occurrences. Since these probabilities are statements about history, they are not predictions and hence not statements about future possibility. These kinds of probabilities only serve to support predictions made by the former kind of probability derived from singular causes. I quote Cartwright from Nature’s Capacities and Their Measurement,

“My position is opposed to the tradition of Hume. I begin with the assumption that the causal language of science makes sense, and that causality is an objective feature of our scientific image of nature. That does not yet separate me from the Humean tradition. Hume too took causal claims to have an analogue in reality. He began with singular causal claims, looking for some special connection between the individual cause and its effect, a connection that would be strong enough to constitute causation. He failed to find anything more than spatio-temporal contiguity, so he moved to the generic level. This marks the first stage in the Hume programme: (1) for Hume, singular causal facts are true in virtue of generic causal facts. But the programme was far bolder: at the generic level causation was to disappear altogether. It was to be replaced by mere regularity. This is the second thesis of the Hume programme: (2) generic causal facts are reducible to regularities. This book challenges both theses. It begins with the claim that, even if the association is law-like, neither regular association nor functional dependence can do the jobs that causality does. Working science needs some independent notion of causal law. What kind of a concept could this be? I maintain that the Hume programme has things upside down. One should not start with the notion of generic causation at all. Singular causal claims are primary. This is true in two senses. First, they are a necessary ingredient in the methods we use to establish generic causal claims. Even the methods that test causal laws by looking for regularities will not work unless some singular causal information is filled in first. Second, the regularities themselves play a secondary role in establishing a causal law. They are just evidence—and only one kind of evidence at that—that certain kinds of singular causal fact have happened.” (page 1)

Therefore, the third postulate says that predictions about scarcity are always uncertain, i.e. they are always to do with future possibility, and never to do with future necessity or impossibility. Since measurements of historical occurrence tell us nothing about any primary, singular, causal facts, they give no statement about the future at all. They are “just evidence.”

Tying in Greaves’ formulation, since predictions about scarcity are always uncertain, mistakes are possible. However, it doesn’t follow that men will always make mistakes. It follows that sometimes, men make mistakes. In certain situations, men rarely make mistakes, e.g. people don’t usually make mistakes about the supply of money in their bank account. In other instances men often make mistakes, e.g. their supply of money as valued by their stocks.

Greaves nor Robbins tell us why the predictions about scarcity are always uncertain. The reason is that the singular causal mechanisms behind choice have yet to be fully elaborated by cognitive science or psychology. Scarcity is ultimately a judgment made by a person using a supply as a factor for their purposes, e.g. a supply of food is low because it will not last for a desired time. Many philosophers are adherents of libertarianism, which posits the existence of free-will. This means choice is not subject to any singular causal mechanisms, rendering prediction about future scarcity impossible, since scarcity depends upon the supply used for a chosen purpose.

Entrepreneurs can use certain general notions, e.g. Henry Ford knew his customer’s would buy cars because people generally like things that make life more convenient. That’s a pretty safe bet. He knew cars were scarce, because mass produced cars did not even exist until that point. Now, coming out with a new car is not guaranteed to sell unless you are satisfying a new niche market previously suffering from scarcity. This is why hybrid cars and Tesla Moters became successful. However, these general notions are far from universal and businesses often fail even if they follow them.

Suppose it were even possible to determine the causal mechanisms behind the choices of individuals. It may still be impossible to keep these measuring devices inside people’s brains across any given time where a prediction is relevant. In order to have any large scale economic benefit, multiple people would need to be probed for extended periods and monitored. This raises ethical dilemmas. Also, the probes may alter the subjects behavior in undetermined ways. Therefore, the third postulate rests one out of three contingencies.

1. The existence of free-will

2. The impossibility of determining the causal mechanism behind choice

3. The impossibility of ever measuring these causal mechanisms for any group of individuals for any extended period of time where prediction is useful.

The Liar Paradox Deconstructed

Edit: The way presents the paradox is also addressed as an addendum to this blog post. It rests on the same errors as the Wiki.


Personally, I am convinced that the Liar Paradox is a myth. This blog post demonstrates why the Liar Paradox poses no actual problem for the realm of logic. I will show step by step why the argument ultimately rests on a hypothetical syllogism where the conclusion does not follow from its premises. To be thorough, I will deconstruct all the relevant passages in the Wiki.

This so called paradox is shown:

“If “This sentence is false.” is true, then the sentence is false, but then if “This sentence is false.” is false, then the sentence is true, and so on.”


“The simplest version of the paradox is the sentence:

This statement is false. (A)

If (A) is true, then “This statement is false” is true. Therefore (A) must be false. The hypothesis that (A) is true leads to the conclusion that (A) is false, a contradiction.

If (A) is false, then “This statement is false” is false. Therefore (A) must be true. The hypothesis that (A) is false leads to the conclusion that (A) is true, another contradiction. Either way, (A) is both true and false, which is a paradox.”

Each sentence is numbered according to the original order at which they appeared in the article:

1. This statement is false. (A)

2. If (A) is true then “This statement is false” is true

3. Therefore (A) must be false

4. The hypothesis that (A) is true leads

5. to the conclusion that (A) is false, a contradiction.

I will now reduce the sentences into their simple logical form as subject and predicate.

1. This statement is false. (A)

Clearly, this signifies the intention of (A).

*1. (A) is “This statement is false”

2. If (A) is true then “This statement is false” is true

Erasing the unneeded “then”

*2. If (A) is true, “This statement is false” is true.

3. Therefore (A) must be false

Rearranging into simple logical form

*3. (A) is false

Switching (1) and (2) so the order of the premisses in the more popular form [Note 1] of the hypothetical syllogism.

*2. If (A) is true, “This statement is false” is true.

*1. (A) is “This statement is false”

*3. (A) is false

Well here we have it folks. The conclusion simply does not follow from the premisses. We may bypass the rest (4) and (5).

4. The hypothesis that (A) is true leads

5. to the conclusion that (A) is false, a contradiction.

The antecedent in the hypothetical proposition of the major premiss (*2) is “If (A) is true.” In this form of proposition, the truth of the consequent is dependent on the truth of the of this antecedent. The minor premiss (*1) did not express the antecedent of the major premiss. Therefore, the conclusion (*3) does not follow. That was easy. Why do people take this so seriously?

Even though I copied and pasted the exact words from the Wikipeida article, some may think that the Liar’s Paradox is ill representative. Therefore, I will form the argument in another way, which I think is more representative of the standard.

1. A is false.

2. ‘A is false’ is true.

3. A is true.

Now we have asserted the contradictory and alas, a coup de grace! But look again, (3) can not possibly follow from either (1), (2), or a syllogistic combination of them. From the law of excluded middle, if a proposition (A) is false, then its contradictory is true vice versa. Also, there is no syllogistic combination of (1) and (2) since they have no term in common. Therefore, the proper argument can only look like what’s below because we can only apply the law of excluded middle on (1) or (2):

1. A is false.

2. ‘A is false’ is true.

*3a. The contradictory of A is true.  (excluded middle from 1)

*3b. ‘A is true’ is false. (excluded middle from 2)

(3) is contradictory to both (3a) and (3b). Therefore to posit (3) along with (3a) or (3b) violates the law of contradiction. Furthermore, (1) and (2) are completely redundant to each other, along with (3a) and (3b). They say the exact same thing. This redundancy provides no additional information. The proposition was asserted because its true. There’s no need to qualify this again by saying the proposition is true. Lets fully illustrate with an example starting with the incorrect argument:

1. “All lions can fly” is false.

2. “‘All lions can fly’ is false” is true.

3. “All lions can fly” is true.

And the corrected argument:

1. “All lions can fly” is false.

2. “‘All lions can fly’ is false” is true.

3a. “Some lions can not fly” is true.

3b. “‘All lions can fly’ is true” is false.

Removing the useless redundancies:

1. “All lions can fly” is false.

3a. “Some lions can not fly” is true.

This corrected “inference” stands on its own. Strictly speaking its not really even an inference. It tells us nothing we did not already know, we merely reformed the original proposition (1) to attain (3a).

Ultimately, however, we know that in fact no lions can fly. The truth of the universal contains the truth of the particular so that we may also say some lions can not fly. However, how did I know this? Because I am cognizant of the concept of the term “lion” from my past experience. So I may merely analyze this intention and discover that no lions can fly. The point is that I don’t even need to analyze the formal argument at all. The truth of all the terms depend on their corresponding real objects. Truth does not depend on the formal structure of syllogism, although its possible to discover new truths through such syllogisms.

Notice how the original argument gave us “This statement is false.” Practically speaking, the only way a person may assert the truth of this determination is if they know what the statement contains. They can only know the statement is false if they know what the terms signify in reality thereby enabling them to determine its falsity. Therefore, the whole proposition “This statement is false” MUST rest on us having knowledge of “The statement.” There is no instance where we would refer to some generality, “the statement” and say “its false” randomly. Therefore, we may in fact bypass everything said thus far in this blog post and say that if a person knows that “the statement” is false, then they obviously must know what the statement is. Therefore, we may merely analyze the statement to see how we may categorically determine the subject and eliminate any need for such useless analyzing of propositions.

Ironically, this greatly simplifies our problems much more than any attempt to simplify a logical system has done. Notice how this sort of method (the direct account of the real objects) is not derived from any system at all. Its derived from the universal notions (e.g. All lions cannot fly) formed throughout life. Clearly, no simplified logical system endows us with these abilities. “The statement” can only be known in reference to reality. This reality can only exists separately by the action of our conceptual faculties.

[Note 1]

Form of the hypothetical syllogism:

1. If A is B, C is D.

2. A is B.

3. C is D.

Very simple stuff. Same as these sources:


Presentation of the Paradox by

Again, here’s the link:

For the sake of accuracy, I won’t initially omit any words by the authors. I will show every step. Let me know if I skipped a step.

“Consider a sentence named ‘FLiar’, which says of itself (i.e., says of FLiar) that it is false.

FLair: FLiar is false.

This seems to lead to contradiction as follows. If the sentence ‘FLiar is false’ is true, then FLiar is false. But if FLiar is false, then the sentence ‘FLiar is false’ is true. Since FLiar just is the sentence ‘FLiar is false’, we have it that FLiar is false if and only if FLiar is true. But, now, if every sentence is true or false, FLiar itself is either true or false, in which case—given our reasoning above—it is both true and false. This is a contradiction. Contradictions, according to many logical theories (e.g., classical logic, intuitionistic logic, and much more) imply absurdity—triviality, that is, that every sentence is true.”

I will consider every individual sentence to extract all of the propositions (at least the relevant ones) contained in them.

“Consider a sentence named ‘FLiar’, which says of itself (i.e., says of FLiar) that it is false.”

No proposition is contained here.

“FLair: FLiar is false.”

Here we have our first proposition:

1. FLair is “FLair is false.”

You can see no omissions here are made. However the copula is added because that is indubitably implied in the clause.

“This seems to lead to contradiction as follows.”

No proposition here pertaining to the argument.

“If the sentence ‘FLiar is false’ is true, then FLiar is false.”

Do I see a hypothetical proposition? This constitutes our second proposition:

2. If the sentence ‘FLiar is false’ is true, then FLiar is false.”

Next sentence: “But if FLiar is false, then the sentence ‘FLiar is false’ is true.”

We have now have our next proposition:

3. But if FLiar is false, then the sentence ‘FLiar is false’ is true.

Next clause in the next sentence constitutes a fourth proposition, “Since FLiar just is the sentence ‘FLiar is false’,” as:

4. Since FLiar just is the sentence ‘FLiar is false’.

Next clause: “we have it that FLiar is false if and only if FLiar is true.”

5. we have it that FLiar is false if and only if FLiar is true.

Next clause: “if every sentence is true or false, FLiar itself is either true or false.”

6. if every sentence is true or false, FLiar itself is either true or false.

Next: “in which case—given our reasoning above—it is both true and false”

7. in which case—given our reasoning above—it is both true and false.

Next: “This is a contradiction.”

8. This is a contradiction.

This is sufficient for the argument. I now present the unaltered clauses in the order as presented:

1. FLair is “FLair is false.”

2. If the sentence ‘FLiar is false’ is true, then FLiar is false.

3. But if FLiar is false, then the sentence ‘FLiar is false’ is true.

4. Since FLiar just is the sentence ‘FLiar is false’.

5. we have it that FLiar is false if and only if FLiar is true.

6. if every sentence is true or false, FLiar itself is either true or false.

7. in which case—given our reasoning above—it is both true and false.

8. This is a contradiction.

Now I will simplify the sentences to get rid of superfluous words reducing them to their logical form. I will specifically enumerate all the alterations made.

(1) This was already put in subject predicate form.

(2) I will erase “then” since its unneeded. I will do this for all the propositions alike in this manner. I will also remove the qualifier “the sentence” because it contributes nothing to the intention of “FLiar is false.” Its already known to be a sentence due to it having quotes.

(3) “But” adds no additional intention. It will be removed from all.

(4) “Since” and “just” similarly add nothing and are removed from all.

(5) “we have it that” is extraneous.

(6) “Itself” is unneeded.

(7) “in which case—given our reasoning above” is superfluous. “It” is FLair.

(8) “This” is in reference to the proposition (7). It is replaced by (7).

Simplified propositions:

1. FLair is “FLair is false.”

2. If “FLiar is false” is true, FLiar is false.

3. If FLiar is false, “FLiar is false” is true.

4. FLiar is “FLiar is false.”

5. FLiar is false if and only if FLiar is true.

6. If every sentence is true or false, FLiar is either true or false.

7. FLiar is both true and false.

8. “FLiar is both true and false” is a contradiction.

We now have our the simplified propositions in the order of presentation. All these contain the full intention of the words used in the original paragraph. If there are disputable alterations, you can let me know. All changes were transparently demonstrated without exception. We may make the following observations:

(1) is the exact same as (4), this redundancy serves no purpose and one may be neglected.

(1), (2), and (3) may all be potential premisses. However, (1) has no terms in common with (2) and (3), and therefore cannot be syllogistically combined.

(5) must be derived from at least two of these premises and the only premisses left to combine are (2) and (3).

The only syllogistic form that admits a conclusion from two hypothetical propositions is the pure hypothetical proposition. (See The sole and only form for this syllogism is:

1. If C is D, E is F.

2. If A is B, C is D.

3. If A is B, E is F.

Now to employ this form, we use propositions (2) and (3):

2. If “FLiar is false” is true, FLiar is false.

3. If FLiar is false, “FLiar is false” is true.

Giving us:

If “FLiar is false” is true, “FLiar is false” is true.

We may also switch the order of the premisses and get:

If FLiar is false, FLiar is false.

These are clearly not the same as either (5):

5. FLiar is false if and only if FLiar is true.

Therefore, is guilty of processing conclusions which do not follow from their premisses. It may be possible that the rest of their examples may commit these logical errors. This oversight is astonishing to me.

Induction from Particulars vs. Induction from a Collection of Particulars

Aristotle explains induction from particulars in Posterior Analytics, Book 1, Chapter 31,

“It is owing to our inability to apply our senses, that certain questions remain unsolved. For could we but see what takes place, we should not still be seeking a solution. Not indeed that the mere act of sight would give us scientific knowledge ; but sight would be the means through which we should attain the universal. Thus if we saw the perforations in the glass, and the light-particles coming through, the cause of its illuminative power would be manifest. Sense would perceive the individual instance, and the intellect would recognize that this was a universal law.”

Aquinas explains induction from memory in his commentary on Posterior Analytics, Book 2, Lecture 20,

“But from remembrance many times repeated in regard to the same item but in diverse singulars arises induction, because induction seems to be nothing else than to take something from many things retained in the memory. However, induction requires some reasoning about the particulars, in that one is compared to another: and this is peculiar to reason. Thus, when one recalls that such a herb cured several men of fever, there is said to be induction that such a herb cures fevers. But reason does not stop at the induction gathered from particulars, but from many particulars in which it has been experienced, it takes one common item which is consolidated in the mind and considers it without considering any of the singulars. This common item reason takes as a principle of art and science. For example, as long as a doctor considered that this herb cured Socrates of fever, and Plato and many other individual men, it is induction; but when his considerations arise to the fact that such a species of herb heals a fever absolutely, this is taken as a rule of the art of medicine.

But someone could believe that sense alone or the mere remembrance of singulars is sufficient to cause intellectual knowledge of principles, as some of the ancients supposed, who did not discriminate between sense and intellect. Therefore, to exclude this the Philosopher adds that along with sense it is necessary to presuppose such a nature of mind as cannot only suffer this i.e., be susceptible of universal knowledge.”

Note: I replaced “experimentum” in the passage with the word induction.

Phillipa Foot’s argument denying the Is-Ought Problem

From Philippa R. Foot, Virtues and Vices (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978), pp. 99–105.

“Both these accounts of moral argument are governed by the thought that there is no logical connexion between statements of fact and statements of value, so that each man makes his own decision as to the facts about an action which are relevant to its evaluation. To oppose this view we should need to show that, on the contrary, it is laid down that some things do, and some things do not, count in favour of a moral conclusion, and that a man can no more decide for himself what is evidence for rightness and wrongness than he can decide what is evidence for monetary inflation or a tumour on the brain. If such objective relations between facts and values existed, they could be of two kinds: descriptive, or factual, premises might entail evaluative conclusions, or they might count as evidence for them. It is the second possibility which chiefly concerns me, but I shall nevertheless consider the arguments which are supposed to show that the stronger relationship cannot exist. For I want to show that the arguments usually brought forward do not even prove this. I want to say that it has not even been proved that moral conclusions cannot be entailed by factual or descriptive premises.

It is often thought that Hume showed the impossibility of deducing ‘ought’ from ‘is’, but the form in which this view is now defended is, of course, that in which it was rediscovered by G. E. Moore at the beginning of the present century, and developed by such other critics of ‘naturalistic’ ethics as Stevenson, Ayer, and Hare. We need therefore to look into the case against naturalism to see exactly what was proved.

Moore tried to show that goodness was a non-natural property, and thus not to be defined in terms of natural properties; the problem was to explain the concept of a ‘natural property’, and to prove that no ethical definition in terms of natural properties could be correct. As Frankena3 and Prior4 pointed out, the argument against naturalism was always in danger of degenerating into a truism. A natural property tended to become one not identical with goodness, and the naturalistic fallacy that of identifying goodness with ‘some other thing’.

What was needed to give the attack on naturalism new life was the identification of some deficiency common to the whole range of definitions rejected by Moore, a reason why they all failed. This was provided by the theory that value terms in general, and moral terms in particular, were used for a special function—variously identified as expressing feelings, expressing and inducing attitudes, or commending. Now it was said that words with emotive or commendatory force, such as ‘good’, were not to be defined by the use of words whose meaning was merely ‘descriptive’. This discovery tended to appear greater than it was, because it looked as if the two categories of fact and value had been identified separately and found never to coincide, whereas actually the factual or descriptive was defined by exclusion from the realm of value. In the ordinary sense of ‘descriptive’ the word ‘good’ is a descriptive word and in the ordinary sense of ‘fact’ we say that it is a fact about so and so that he is a good man, so that the words must be used in a special sense in moral philosophy. But a special philosopher’s sense of these words has never, so far as I know, been explained except by contrasting value and fact. A word or sentence seems to be called ‘descriptive’ on account of the fact that it is not emotive, does not commend, does not entail an imperative, and so on according to the theory involved. This might seem to reduce the case against naturalism once more to an uninteresting tautology, but it does not do so. For if the non-naturalist has discovered a special feature found in all value judgements, he can no longer be accused of saying merely that nothing is a definition of ‘good’ unless it is a definition of ‘good’ and not ‘some other thing’. His part is now to insist that any definition which fails to allow for the special feature of value judgements must be rejected, and to label as ‘naturalistic’ all the definitions which fail to pass this test.

I shall suppose, for the sake of argument, that the non-naturalist really has identified some characteristic (let us call it f) essential to evaluative words; that he is right in saying that evaluations involve emotions, attitudes, the acceptance of imperatives, or something of the kind. He is therefore justified in insisting that no word or statement which does not have the property f can be taken as equivalent to any evaluation, and that no account of the use of an evaluative term can leave out f and yet be complete. What, if anything, follows about the relation between premises and conclusion in an argument designed to support an evaluation?

It is often said that what follows is that evaluative conclusion cannot be deduced from descriptive premises, but how is this to be shown? Of course, if a descriptive premise is redefined, as one which does not entail an evaluative conclusion, the non-naturalist will once more have bought security at the price of becoming a bore. He can once more improve his position by pointing to the characteristic f belonging to all evaluations, and asserting that no set of premises which do not entail an f proposition can entail an evaluation. If he takes this course he will be more like the man who says that a proposition which entails a proposition about a dog must be one which entails a proposition about an animal; he is telling us what to look out for in checking the entailment. What he is not so far telling us is that we can test for the entailment by looking to see whether the premise itself has the characteristic f. For all that has yet been shown it might be possible for a premise which is not f to entail a conclusion which is f, and it is obviously this proposition which the non-naturalist wants to deny.

Now it may seem obvious that a non-evaluative premise could not entail an evaluative conclusion, but it remains unclear how it is supposed to be proved.

In one form, the theory that an evaluative conclusion of a deductive argument needs evaluative premises is clearly unwarrantable; I mention it only to get it out of the way. We cannot possibly say that at least one of the premises must be evaluative if the conclusion is to be so; for there is nothing to tell us that whatever can truly be said of the conclusion of a deductive argument can truly be said of any of the premises. It is not necessary that the evaluative element should ‘come in whole’, so to speak. If f has to belong to the premises it can only be necessary that it should belong to the premises together, and it may be no easy matter to see whether a set of propositions has the property f.

How in any case is it to be proved that if the conclusion is to have the characteristic f the premises taken together must also have it? Can it be said that unless this is so it will always be possible to assert the premises and yet deny the conclusion? I shall try to show that this at least is false, and in order to do so I shall consider the case of arguments designed to show that a certain piece of behaviour is or is not rude.

I think it will be agreed that in the wide sense in which philosophers speak of evaluation, ‘rude’ is an evaluative word. At any rate it has the kind of characteristics upon which non-naturalists fasten: it expresses disapproval, is meant to be used when action is to be discouraged, implies that other things being equal the behaviour to which it is applied will be avoided by the speaker, and so on. For the purpose of this argument I shall ignore the cases in which it is admitted that there are reasons why something should be done in spite of, or even because of, the fact that it is rude. Clearly there are occasions when a little rudeness is in place, but this does not alter the fact that ‘rude’ is a condemnatory word.

It is obvious that there is something else to be said about the word ‘rude’ besides the fact that it expresses, fairly mild, condemnation: it can only be used where certain descriptions apply. The right account of the situation in which it is correct to say that a piece of behaviour is rude, is, I think, that this kind of behaviour causes offence by indicating lack of respect. Sometimes it is merely conventional that such behaviour does indicate lack of respect (e.g. when a man keeps his hat on in someone else’s house); sometimes the behaviour is naturally disrespectful, as when one man pushes another out of the way. (It should be mentioned that rudeness and the absence of rudeness do not exhaust the subject of etiquette; some things are not rude, and yet are ‘not done’. It is rude to wear flannels at a formal dinner party, but merely not done to wear a dinner jacket for tennis.)

Given that this reference to offence is to be included in any account of the concept of rudeness, we may ask what the relation is between the assertion that these conditions of offence are fulfilled—let us call it O—and the statement that a piece of behaviour is rude—let us call it R. Can someone who accepts the proposition O (that this kind of offence is caused) deny the proposition R (that the behaviour is rude)? I should have thought that this was just what he could not do, for if he says that it is not rude, we shall stare, and ask him what sort of behaviour would be rude; and what is he to say? Suppose that he were to answer ‘a man is rude when he behaves conventionally’, or ‘a man is rude when he walks slowly up to a front door’, and this not because he believes that such behaviour causes offence, but with the intention of leaving behind entirely the usual criteria of rudeness. It is evident that with the usual criteria of rudeness he leaves behind the concept itself; he may say the words ‘I think this rude’, but it will not on that account be right to describe him as ‘thinking it rude’. If I say ‘I am sitting on a pile of hay’ and bring as evidence the fact that the object I am sitting on has four wooden legs and a hard wooden back, I shall hardly be described as thinking, even mistakenly, that I am sitting on a pile of hay; all I am doing is to use the words ‘pile of hay’.

It might be thought that the two cases were not parallel, for while the meaning of ‘pile of hay’ is given by the characteristics which piles of hay must possess, the meaning of ‘rude’ is given by the attitude it expresses. The answer is that if ‘thinking a thing rude’ is to be described as having a particular attitude to it, then having an attitude presupposes, in this case, believing that certain conditions are fulfilled. If ‘attitudes’ were solely a matter of reactions such as wrinkling the nose, and tendencies to such things as making resolutions and scolding, then thinking something rude would not be describable solely in terms of attitudes. Either thinking something rude is not to be described in terms of attitudes, or attitudes are not to be described in terms of such things. Even if we could suppose that a particular individual could react towards conventional behaviour, or to walking slowly up to an English front door, exactly as most people react to behaviour which gives offence, this would not mean that he was to be described as thinking these things rude. And in any case the supposition is nonsense. Although he could behave in some ways as if he thought them rude, e.g. by scolding conventional or slow-walking children, but not turning daughters with these proclivities out of doors, his behaviour could not be just as if he thought them rude. For as the social reaction to conventional behaviour is not the same as the social reaction to offensive behaviour, he could not act in just the same way. He could not for instance apologise for what he could call his ‘rudeness’, for he would have to admit that it had caused no offence.

I conclude that whether a man is speaking of behaviour as rude or not rude, he must use the same criteria as anyone else, and that since the criteria are satisfied if O is true, it is impossible for him to assert O while denying R. It follows that if it is a sufficient condition of P’s entailing Q that the assertion of P is inconsistent with the denial of Q, we have here an example of a non-evaluative premise from which an evaluative conclusion can be deduced. It is of course possible to admit O while refusing to assert R, and this will not be like the refusal to say about prunes what one has already admitted about dried plums. Calling an action ‘rude’ is using a concept which a man might want to reject, rejecting the whole practice of praising and blaming embodied in terms such as ‘polite’ and ‘rude’. Such a man would refuse to discuss points of etiquette, and arguments with him about what is rude would not so much break down as never begin. But once he did accept the question ‘Is this rude?’ he would have to abide by the rules of this kind of argument; he could not bring forward any evidence he liked, and he could not deny the relevance of any piece of evidence brought forward by his opponent. Nor could he say that he was unable to move from O to R on this occasion because the belief in O had not induced in him feelings or attitudes warranting the assertion of R. If he had agreed to discuss rudeness he had committed himself to accepting O as evidence for R, and evidence is not a sort of medicine which is taken in the hope that it will work. To suggest that he could refuse to admit that certain behaviour was rude because the right psychological state had not been induced, is as odd as to suppose that one might refuse to speak of the world as round because in spite of the good evidence of roundness a feeling of confidence in the proposition had not been produced. When given good evidence it is one’s business to act on it, not to hang around waiting for the right state of mind. It follows that if a man is prepared to discuss questions of rudeness, and hence to accept as evidence the fact that behaviour causes a certain kind of offence, he cannot refuse to admit R when O has been proved.

The point of considering this example was to show that there may be the strictest rules of evidence even where an evaluative conclusion is concerned. Applying this principle to the case of moral judgements, we see that—for all that the nonnaturalist has proved to the contrary—Bentham, for instance, may be right in saying that when used in conjunction with the principle of utility ‘the words ought and right and wrong, and others of that stamp, have a meaning: when otherwise they have none’.5 Anyone who uses moral terms at all, whether to assert or deny a moral proposition, must abide by the rules for their use, including the rules about what shall count as evidence for or against the moral judgement concerned. For anything that has yet been shown to the contrary these rules could be entailment rules, forbidding the assertion of factual propositions in conjunction with the denial of moral propositions. The only recourse of the man who refused to accept the things which counted in favour of a moral proposition as giving him a reason to do certain things or to take up a particular attitude, would be to leave the moral discussion and abjure altogether the use of moral terms.”

As a bonus, here is Henry Hazlitt addressing the same issue in The Foundations of Morality, pg. 33-36:

“True, it would have no claim to scientific validity, or even any claim to be a useful field of inquiry, unless it were based in some convincing way on what was or what is. But here we have stepped into the very center of an age-old controversy. Many ethical writers have contended during the last two centuries that “no accumulation of observed sequences, no experience of what is, no predictions of what will be, can possibly prove what ought to be.”1 And others have even gone on to assert that there is no way of getting from an is to an ought.

If the latter statement were true, there would be no possibility of framing a rational theory of ethics. Unless our oughts are to be purely arbitrary, purely dogmatic, they must somehow grow out of what is.

Now the connection between what is and what ought to be is always a desire of some kind. We recognize this in our daily decisions. When we are trying to decide on a course of action, and are asking advice, we are told, for example: “If you desire to become a doctor, you must go to medical school. If you desire to get ahead, you must be diligent in your business. If you don’t want to get fat, you must watch your diet. If you want to avoid lung cancer, you must cut down on cigarettes,” etc. The generalized form of such advice may be reduced to this: If you desire to attain a certain end, you ought to use a certain means, because this is the means most likely to achieve it. The is is the desire; the ought is the means of gratifying it.

So far, so good. But how far does this get us toward a theory of ethics? For if a man does not desire an end, there seems no way of convincing him that he ought to pursue the means to that end. If a man prefers the certainty of getting fat, or the risk of a heart attack, to curbing his appetite or giving up his favorite delicacies; if he prefers the risks of lung cancer to giving up smoking, any ought based on the assumption of a contrary preference loses its force.

A story so old that it is told as an old one even by Bentham2 is that of the oculist and the sot: A countryman who had hurt his eyes by drinking went to a celebrated oculist for advice. He found him at table, with a glass of wine before him. “You must leave off drinking,” said the oculist. “How so?” says the countryman. “You don’t, and yet methinks your own eyes are none of the best.”—“That’s very true, friend,” replied the oculist: “but you are to know, I love my bottle better than my eyes.”

How, then, do we move from any basis of desire to any theory of ethics?

We find the solution when we take a longer and broader view. All our desires may be generalized as desires to substitute a more satisfactory state of affairs for a less satisfactory state. It is true that an individual, under the immediate influence of impulse or passion, of a moment of anger or rage, malice, vindictiveness, or the desire for revenge, or gluttony, or an overwhelming craving for a release of sexual tension, or for a smoke or a drink or a drug, may in the long run only reduce a more satisfactory state to a less satisfactory state, may make himself less happy rather than more happy. But this less satisfactory state was not his real conscious intention even at the moment of acting. He realizes, in retrospect, that his action was folly; he did not improve his condition, but made it worse; he did not act in accordance with his long-run interests, but against them. He is always willing to recognize, in his calmer moments, that he should choose the action that best promotes his own interests and maximizes his own happiness (or minimizes his own unhappiness) in the long run. Wise and disciplined men refuse to indulge in immediate pleasures when the indulgence seems only too likely to lead in the long run to an overbalance of misery or pain.

To repeat and to sum up: It is not true that “no amount of is can make an ought.” The ought rests, in fact, and must rest, either upon an is or upon a will be. The sequence is simple: Every man, in his cool and rational moments, seeks his own long-run happiness. This is a fact; this is an is. Mankind has found, over the centuries, that certain rules of action best tend to promote the long-run happiness of both the individual and society. These rules of action have come to be called moral rules. Therefore, assuming that one seeks one’s long-run happiness, these are the rules one ought to follow.”

A debate with LK

Here is a debate I had with LK. On this post:



Please help me understand where you are coming from.

To say the market clearing price (MCP) exists does not exclude the likely possibility that the current prices are not at MCP. The difference between the MCP and the current prices causes a market force to act upon the current prices pushing them toward MCP. Only at the instantaneous moments where the current prices and MPC cross do are the forces of supply and demand balanced. Since both current prices and MCP are constantly dynamic, the times at which these cross is instantaneous, occurring for at a non extended time point.

Therefore, there is always a difference between MCP and current prices, and there is always a force acting upon current prices toward MCP. So when you say:

“If… “market-clearing prices” in this sense existed… then there could not have been any excess demand or excess supply of goods in markets”

I don’t understand how MCP ever did not exist. Of course MCP always existed, and the difference between current prices and MCP is caused by excess demand or supply. Surpluses and shortages can only exist if MCP exists.


“Since both current prices and MCP are constantly dynamic, the times at which these cross is instantaneous, occurring for at a non extended time point.”

One wonders what this gibberish even means — just as the rest of this comment.

Do you, as roddis, think that during a boom market clearing prices exist everywhere?


Do you not speak English? Was every word I wrote incomprehensible? Perhaps you can be more specific.

Imagine a graph where the y-axis is the difference in the MCP and the current price and the x-axis is time. There is never a point where this settles at y=0, because the current price and MCP are always changing (dynamic). Of course, it crosses at instantaneous points on the x-axis.

“a boom market clearing prices exist everywhere”

This implies a location in space. I assume this is not what you mean, but I have no idea since you seem to enjoy being cryptic. A boom is caused by an excess of demand or a shortage of supply, also causing prices to be pushed further from MCP. This increases the difference between MCP and current prices ceteris paribus.

I am not going to give in to your antagonism, because I am genuinely wondering why I am incorrect according to you.


(1) “There is never a point where this settles at y=0, because the current price and MCP are always changing (dynamic).”

No, this is just stupid. You are saying a market clearing price can ever be attained at any time ever. And yet some flexprice markets do clear for brief periods. This is enough to damn for rubbish here.

There is no theoretical or empirical reason to think that, if a demand curve for some product is well behaved, that the hypothetical market clearing price is literally constantly changing.

Sometimes there will be such a price and it will be stable for some period of time, however brief.

Think of markets for fresh seafood or vegetables where merchants/sellers may well need to clear their stock to prevent spoilage.

(2) I asked you a plain question: do you, as roddis, think that during a boom all or most prices are market clearing prices? (this was what I meant)

Anyone who understands economics can clearly answer this question with a decisive “no”.

That you refuse to answer simply shows us that you here to be an idiot, halfwit troll.


If this is in fact what Roddis means, then I agree with you. You should calm down.

(1) “You are saying a market clearing price can ever be attained at any time ever.”

This is not what I am saying, LK. I indeed think that the graph I illustrated does cross y=0. I just assumed it never SETTLED at y=0 for any extended period of time.

Perhaps this assumption is incorrect. I admit and agree that I have no argument to say its IMPOSSIBLE for “such a price… [to be] stable for some period of time.” Therefore, I have no reason to deny this possibility.

(2) How did I not answer this question?

“A boom is caused by an excess of demand or a shortage of supply, also causing prices to be pushed further from MCP. This increases the difference between MCP and current prices ceteris paribus.”

Notice how I said the difference is increased. Therefore, are you going to revoke your name calling?



“You are saying a market clearing price can never be attained at any time ever. ”

That is the plain import of your words above. If you are saying now you do not think this, it just reinforces how incoherent your comments are.


I may admit I could have been more clear, but I didn’t say that. I said:

“There is never a point where this settles at y=0.”

I also said:

“Of course, it crosses at instantaneous points on the x-axis.”

Whenever this graph crosses the x-axis, AKA y=0, the market clearing price is attained. So therefore, “the plain import of [my] words” is clear to me. I am sorry if its not clear to you.

I was assuming that it didn’t SETTLE at y=0, or anywhere. Settlement implies more than just attainment I hope you can see. However, I admitted to you that I have no reason (on hand at least) to say its impossible, so I merely conceded your point. I have no problem doing this because I am not “vulgar.”

You attack vulgar Austrians, but when I concede a point, you attack me. My purpose was only to learn your point of view. I don’t really see any disagreement I have with anything you have said. I can only guess that you have been nitpicking at me because you are venting.


If y = 0 at some point, then it must do so for some length of actual real time.

But you say:

“Since both current prices and MCP are constantly dynamic, the times at which these cross is instantaneous, occurring for at a non extended time point.”

The notion of a “non extended time point” is bizarre, incoherent and stupid — all real time events perceptible to humans must be extended in time.

And as I said, there is reason to think that some markets — even if local ones — might very well attain equilibrium for some short but extended period of time.


LK, points are by definition non extended. If a the line of the graph crosses the line making y=0, this occurs at a single point according to Euclid. I was not attempting to transpose this in the context of the physical world. I guess the lowest amount of extension possible is a Plank length? I am not entirely sure. I don’t even understand what you are trying to argue.

A point is when two lines on the graph cross. All lines are made up of an infinite amount of points. These are common notions I think would waste much time “proving” them.

So when you say “If y = 0 at some point” and “it must do so for some length.” These, I hope you can see, are contradictions because a point by definition lacks any length.

Do points exist? I don’t know. My purpose was to express a common notion, not to debate philosophy. I guess this makes me “bizarre, incoherent and stupid?”

“all real time events perceptible to humans must be extended in time.”

I was not talking about an event. Indeed all events occur in time, why would I ever deny this? I was talking about change. Change is mathematically expressed as a derivative involving the concept of an infinitesimally small point.

All in all I was talking about a mathematical concept, which you hold does not necessarily apply to the real world. Is this what you want to talk about?

Also, I conceded the point, yet you still feel impelled to argue with a person has conceded your point. I don’t see the point in talking about points.


“I was not attempting to transpose this in the context of the physical world. …All in all I was talking about a mathematical concept, which you hold does not necessarily apply to the real world.”

This says it all.

My original points about market clearing are concerned **with the real world** — even roddis’ idiot comments also refer to the real world.

If we are not talking of the real world, then we are not having a serious argument about real world economics.

This debate is over.


He then proceeded to block my comments I think. I think this is the most revealing argument I have ever had. Why would someone want to bring up an argument about points and lines? Because they have no argument. Here is the reply that won’t get posted:

Does that mean you are blocking me? I would like to get a few things straight since you apparently never give me any benefit of doubt. You are making this up I never said.

When a person uses math, do you automatically come to the conclusion they cannot be talking about the real world?

Mathematics can express concepts which are abstractions of real things having physical existence.

I was saying the mathematics BY ITSELF does not apply to the real world, because mathematics by itself does not express anything unless we attribute the qualities to physical objects.

By “instantaneous” I can mean “approximately instantaneous” if this suits you, or perhaps “a very very short amount of time” if this suit you.

When I said “non extended time point” I was strictly referring to the graph. Anything in reality is probabilistic according to the philosophy you subscribe too, so literally everything must contain the implied caveat of approximate probability.


The last point actually cuts the core of his philosophical system. There is something fundamentally wrong when someone subscribes to the idea that the law of non-contradiction is probabilistic. Notice he skimmed over his blatant contradiction. There ya have it folks.

My Unorthodox Redefinition of Praxeology

This is part of my attempt to create my own praxeological theory. It is unfinished and probably very flawed, but I had fun doing it. My own praxeological theory is based in the mental act of judgement. To commence with the explanation of my theory, I will first point out that action is one of Aristotle’s ten traditional categories. As Aristotle asserted, the ten categories are scientifically undefinable [1]. However, we may express the elements consisting in action. This may be a definition in another sense, but not a strict scientific definition.

“Action: the production of change in some other object.” [2]

To logically divide action into separate species of action requires a difference in which to base this separation. The difference used is termed intelligence. Any action attributed with intelligence is termed a judgement. Therefore, a judgement is defined as an intelligent action. Judgements possibly fall under the genus termed mental actions. Other species of mental action possibly include the will, imagination, memory, sense, among others. The creation of these divisions belongs to the science of psychology. None of these other mental actions are strictly attributed with intelligence under criteria outlined here. The term intelligence is somewhat arbitrary, it may be replaced with rationality, consciousness, etc., but any discipline must have a defining factor separating judgements from other mental actions, or else the term judgement is scientifically useless and may be discarded. Therefore, judgements belong to their own species of action, however psychologists decide to organize the genus of mental actions in the future.

To illustrate this conundrum, some psychologists could possibly make intelligent action its own genus that includes imaginative action and judgements. However, then they would need to specify another differentiating factor that separates judgements from imaginative actions. Some psychologists may decide that imagination is an individual instance of judgement. This is the reason why I don’t attempt to approach the subject about what constitutes other species of mental actions. I only assert judgement as one of the species of mental action and whatever separating difference belonging to this species of judgement I term intelligence. Under this criteria, intelligence strictly refers to the essential characteristic differentiating the specific species of action termed judgements.

Praxeology in Relation to Other Sciences

I have direct, fundamental knowledge of this essential characteristic termed intelligence. The reason I know judgements exist is because I have experience coming from the memories formed during the multiple instances I sensed myself performing a judgement. The mechanisms comprising these abilities belong to psychology as I have already said.

The point is that this logical division separating judgements from other species of action is based on empiricism. Since its fashionable for some to consider empiricism as the source for scientific knowledge, this would establish praxeology as a proper scientific discipline under this criteria. The same mental processes are used to separate the various species of animals in biology, viz. sense, memory, and experience. Lions are their own biological species because biologists have documented multiple instances of encountering them and they have experienced the properties unique to their species. Likewise, I have encountered myself judging multiple times and have experienced the judgement’s unique properties. It is a fact that I am currently communicating the determinations of my judgement as propositions on this blog post and is evidence of judgements occurring as a result of my intelligence.

Intelligence is just a term for the physical, mechanistic cause of these judgements of which is examined as a subject of neuroscience. The discussion about which substances contain the ability for intelligent action and how to determine or estimate intelligence within an action of any animal or any other substance other than ourselves is also the subject of other scientific disciplines. In addition, the normative discipline of logic prescribes rules for conceptual judgements. The normative discipline of ethics prescribes rules for real judgements. Praxeology does not prescribe rules and is therefore not a normative discipline, but a scientific discipline as already explained.

Properties of the Intelligent Action or Judgement

The judgement is comprised of a production of change in some categorical determination in the brain, of which there are seven possibilities:

Universal Affirmative: All horses are white.

Particular Affirmative: Some horse are white.

Universal Negative: No horses are white.

Particular Negative: Some horses are not white.

Indesignate: No knowledge about the relationship between horse and white

Singular Affirmative: This single, specific horse is white.

Singular Negative: This single, specific horse is not white.

These determinations represent all the possible relationships between an object and an attribute that can exist in the brain. The physical manifestation of these states inside the brain again belongs to another discipline other than praxeology. Any change between these various determinations constitutes a judgement. A person may hold contradictory determinations. They then apply the rules of logic and change some of their determinations, thus performing judgement.

Subject Matter of Praxeology

The subject matter of praxeology is the various methods of changing a determination, or methods of judging. The logical division outlined here is not a continuation of the previous logical division of the category of action. The former is a natural division, while this is an artificial division. Therefore, these are not further divisions of various actions, but a division of various methods or strategies of judging. Therefore, all of these divisions still belong to a single species of action, viz. judgements. These can be divided into at least two parts:

Real Judgements: Judgement corresponding with bodily motion

Conceptual Judgements: Judgments involving concepts or representations in the mind

Some bodily motion is judgement. An example of a real judgement would be changing the determination of your arm from ‘the arm is not moving’ to ‘the arm is moving’. You have produced a change in determination from singular negative to singular affirmative. This change in determination is judgement. Sometimes, reality doesn’t correspond to real judgements, e.g. a newly amputated patient is unaware about their condition and makes the real judgement to move their arm. At this point, their determination has changed from ‘arm is at location A’ to ‘arm is at location B’. They then make the real judgement to look at location B. Sense informs them that ‘No arm is at location B’. They apply the rules of logic to change their determination from ‘arm is at location B’ to ‘arm is not at location B’.

Most applications of the rules of logic is habitual and occurs very quickly. If its habitual, it does not constitute as judgement. To be judgements, you must be going through each step in the mind meticulously. Sometimes, the mind forms learned habits and this is route processing not part of the species judgement. Route processing belongs to another species of mental action. Arm motion may also be a part of route processing formed by habit, e.g. shooting a basketball often does not require actively judging all the motion involved.

Motion in this sense is a judgement in the same class as all other judgements. Bodily motion may also be produced, but not as judgement. In this sense, a pumping heart would not be judgement under normal circumstances (some Buddhist monks say they can control their heartbeat), or any a habitual motion by route processing. This sense of motion is attributable to inanimate objects, like rocks. The two senses of motion are analogous and constitute two different logical terms. The first is movement as a logical part of intelligent action or judgement, belonging to the same species as all other judgements. The second is movement as its own species or genus of action. The second sense only exists in substances. The existence of motion in the second sense is independent from any determination. The first sense of motion is a change in determination, or judgement, and normally corresponds with motion in reality. However, it doesn’t have to correspond with reality as explained.

[1] Aquinas, De Anima, I., lect. 8.

“Definitions too have a beginning and an end, for you cannot go on to infinity in the enumeration of genera; the most general genus has to be taken as the first one. Similarly in enumerating species; you cannot particularise to infinity, but must stop at the most particular species.”

[2] George Hayward Joyce, Principles of Logic, pg. 138

The ‘Property is Coercive’ Argument

I present some of the ‘property is coercive’ arguments:

“libertarian property rights are ultimately backed by the threat of (individual or state) violence as well,” The Non-Aggression Principle Can’t Be Salvaged — and Isn’t Even a Principle, Julian Sanchez

“Bob Sanders wonders (May 8th) why we would fear Uncle Grady the tax assessor. Surely the answer is: because Uncle Grady’s edicts are ultimately backed up by threats of violence from Uncle Sam,” Everybody Run, Uncle Grady Has a Gun, Roderick Long,

“property is obviously coercive violence because it involves someone excluding everyone else in the world from some piece of the world without their consent and threatening violence against them if they do not comply with that exclusion.” How the property is coercive violence move functions in the debate, Matt Bruenig,

“What Rousseau brings into focus is that, at the most fundamental level, property rights are coercive and so trigger a requirement of justification to those who are putatively disadvantaged by the property system.” Rousseau’s Challenge to LibertarianismKevin Vallier,

As everyone knows, the non-aggression principle (NAP) does not exclude all instances of coercion. It permits coercion in response to coercion. Therefore, NAP excludes the initiation of coercion. In addition, NAP excludes threats, meaning the communication of the intention to initiate coercion. These are the two actions excluded by NAP. According to the argument, the initial establishment of any property right (i.e. exclusionary right) constitutes as one of these excluded actions.

Two Senses of Possibility

The argument ultimately rests on the confusion between the two senses of possibility as expressed by Aristotle,

“those things which are actual but also potential, whose actuality is in nature prior to their potentiality, though posterior in time… those things which are not yet actualized, but are pure potentialities.” On Interpretation, Part 13

Precisely Establishing the Excluded Actions

To show this, I present the definition of force from the Merriem-Webster online dictionary,

“violence, compulsion, or constraint exerted upon or against a person or thing”

This is the 3rd sense of the definition, and indubitably is the one referred to in this context. As everyone knows, NAP does not exclude all force, only the initiation of force. The only “things” in this case would be property. Therefore, making these alterations give:

“initial violence, compulsion, or constraint exerted upon or against any persons or property”

For a definition of threat, we may make a simple addition:

“expression of intended initial violence, compulsion, or constraint exerted upon or against any persons or property”

We have now established the specific exclusions by NAP. The error lies in the application of of the term ‘possible.’ Upon a superficial impression, these are the two actions excluded by NAP by the above quotes:

(1) Produce any possibility of initial violence, compulsion, or constraint against any persons or property.

(2) Produce expression of intention to (1)

If these constitute violations, than it would seem they are correct in their argument. However, since there is an ambiguity in the word ‘possibility,’ this actually refers to four different actions, viz:

(1) Produce any pure, non-actualized potential of initial violence, compulsion, or constraint against any persons or property.

(2) Produce expression of intention to (1)

(3) Produce any actuality (present existence) of initial violence, compulsion, or constraint against any persons or property.

(4) Produce expression of intention to (3)

Its now clear that the only actions excluded by NAP are (3) and (4). Furthermore, establishing a property right, or any exclusionary right does not even constitute as (1) and (2) by themselves. The mere potential to do anything is established by a person’s capacity and physical reality. Strictly speaking, if I am in the kitchen chopping a cucumber and a person is standing next to me, I have the capability of murdering them. This is all that is needed to establish possibility. Since all humans are capable of conscious action, the only way to make this impossible would be to render them physically incapable of making this decision. As long as physical, objective reality provides no impediments, the possibility of aggression is necessarily present in everyone.

Taxation and NAP are Repugnant in Some Instances

Sometimes, libertarian rhetoric is to blame for some misunderstandings. The policy of taxation includes possible violations of NAP only under certain conditions, viz. if the person refuses to pay their taxes. Refusing to pay taxes does not violate NAP. However, this action elicits the violation of NAP by the tax collector. Sequence of events:

A: Requests Money from B

B: Refuses to Give Money to A

A: Threatens B (violation of NAP)

Taxation does not necessarily always violate NAP. For example:

A: Requests Money from B

B: Gives Money to A

No violation of NAP has been committed in this latter scenario. Therefore, when libertarians say taxation is theft, the statement is elliptical. The full statement would be: taxation is theft against those who don’t comply. This is obvious to most people. A supporter of taxation would probably say, “Well that’s the point.” This would show they are ignoring the broader point. Its extremely unlikely that not a single person will refuse taxes. This is a statement of my own personal estimation. I don’t know if it has been statistically verified, but I am guessing it could. If I am correct, the implication of the elliptical statement is justified, because taxation almost always involves the theft of at least one person. Thus, NAP is almost always probably violated.

The Point of Importance

All in all, this argument is obviously a distraction. The real fundamental point libertarians should assert is this: the threatening of B is unnecessary in our society. The demand for the various services provided by government exists. I know at least one person desires these services, viz. me. Since the demand exists (empirically established for at least one person), it follows that people are willing to voluntarily exchange their money for these services (that is simply what the word ‘demand’ means).

One example used in response is the case where a fire protection service refused to service a person’s burning house because they forgot to pay their dues. What is probably missed in this example is the fact that the fire protection service missed out on a grand opportunity. They could have increased their price drastically in response to this person’s drastic increase in demand. This would serve as the consequence for not paying for any fire protection. Under taxation, the consequence would be the person facing punitive action under refusal to pay taxes. Under both systems, the person faces consequences upon refusal to pay for services. Consequences are not immoral, they are necessary for a functioning society. The unavoidable fact is that fires happen sometimes, and they produce undesirable effects. Is it impossible that the natural consequences asserted by the market are better for society? How do the opponent’s demonstrate this when its impossibility has not been empirically established?

The fire protection service, like anyone, has the option of being altruistic under the market. Its even possible that economic incentives would influence them to charitably give their services under certain conditions. Often, these activities make you more popular in the eyes of the general public. More popularity may lead to better business. Ironically, the only system that prevents this altruistic action is under a policy of taxation. It could be argued that government fire fighters are egoistic because they only do their jobs under the incentive of payment. Ultimately, the politicians who hire the fire fighters are egoistic because they only hire them to get reelected (or to avoid any punishment incurred from not hiring them). I recognize it would be naive for me to make this argument. The same naivety applies to those who make the same argument about a free-market policy.

Many would retort, it is never charitable if there is economic incentive. However, there are other incentives besides economic. They fail to realize that any logical definition of charity must have ‘incentive’ as a property. There is no such thing as charitable giving with absolutely no incentive. An incentive is not always outside recognition or physical manifestation. It can merely be a personal concept, e.g. changing your own opinion about yourself or being religious. This alone fulfills the property of incentive.

Of course, many have the propensity to dismiss these arguments once I mentioned the word “libertarian.” There is an obvious cognitive bias among people who respond with a gag reflex once they see this word. Admittedly, this is only my own biased conjecturing. They have predetermined that a system of libertarian law would violate their personal criteria for ethics. Most of them are not aware that it is probably more compatible with any system of ethics ever conceived.

Human action is the production of change in some determination held by the subject.