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The Ludwig von Mises Institute

Tu Ne Cede Malis

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The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science
Ludwig von Mises

2
The Activistic Basis of Knowledge

3. Valuation

Valuing is man's emotional reaction to the various states of his environment, both that of the external world and that of the physiological conditions of his own body. Man distinguishes between more and less desirable states, as the optimists may express it, or between greater and lesser evils, as the pessimists are prepared to say. He acts when he believes that action can result in substituting a more desirable state for a less desirable.

The failure of the attempts to apply the methods and the epistemological principles of the natural sciences to the problems of human action is caused by the fact that these sciences have no tool to deal with valuing. In the sphere of the phenomena they study there is no room for any purposive behavior. The physicist himself and his physical research are entities outside the orbit he investigates. Judgments of value cannot be perceived by the observational attitudes of the experimenter and cannot be described in the protocol sentences of the language of physics. Yet they are, also from the viewpoint of the natural sciences, real phenomena, as they are a necessary link in chains of events that produce definite physical phenomena.

The physicist may laugh today at the doctrine that interpreted certain phenomena as the effect of a horror vacui. But he fails to realize that the postulates of panphysicalism are no less ridiculous. If one eliminates any reference to judgments of value, it is impossible to say anything about the actions of man, i.e., about all the behavior that is not merely the consummation of physiological processes taking place in the human body.

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