The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science
Ludwig von Mises
Some Preliminary Observations
Concerning Praxeology Instead
of an Introduction
6. Causality and Teleology
Action is a category that the natural sciences do not take into account. The scientist acts in embarking upon his research work, but in the orbit of natural events of the external world which he explores there is no such thing as action. There is agitation, there is stimulus and response, and, whatever some philosophers may object, there is cause and effect. There is what appears to be an inexorable regularity in the concatenation and sequence of phenomena. There are constant relations between entities that enable the scientist to establish the process called measurement. But there is nothing that would suggest aiming at ends sought; there is no ascertainable purpose.
The natural sciences are causality research; the sciences of human action are teleological. In establishing this distinction between the two fields of human knowledge, we do not express any opinion concerning the question whether the course of all cosmic events is or is not ultimately determined by a superhuman being's design. The treatment of this great problem transcends the range of man's reason and is outside the domain of any human science. It is in the realm that metaphysics and theology claim for themselves.
The purpose to which the sciences of human action refer is not the plans and ways of God, but the ends sought by acting men in the pursuit of their own designs. The endeavors of the metaphysical discipline commonly called philosophy of history to reveal in the flux of historical events the hidden plans of God or of some mythical agency (as, for instance, in the scheme of Marx, the material productive forces) are not science.
In dealing with a definite historical fact, for instance with the first World War, the historian has to find out the ends sought by the various individuals and groups of individuals who were instrumental in organizing these campaigns or in fighting the aggressors. He has to examine the outcome resulting from the actions of all people involved and compare it with the preceding state of affairs as well as with the intentions of the actors. But it is not the historian's business to search after a "higher" or "deeper" sense that manifested itself in the events or was realized by them. Perhaps there is such a hidden "higher" or "deeper" purpose or significance in the succession of historical events. But for mortal man there is no way open to learn something about such "higher" or "deeper" meanings.
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