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Wittgenstein, Praxeology, and Frege’s Three Realms - page 19 / 30





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to succeed is another case of logical preponderance.

But if that is so, then even if, as Hülsmann insists, any particular case of noticing profit opportunities is entirely contingent, the tendency to notice such opportunities reasonably often might be, as Kirzner maintains, a priori essential to human action.  We can grant Hülsmann’s claim that a free agent can err at any time, without thereby granting that a free agent can err all or most of the time; and what blocks the possibility of a free agent’s erring all or most of the time is not any form of magically truth-tracking, free-will-overriding force of the sort Hülsmann rightly rejects, but simply the fact that a certain level of reliability is necessary for someone to count as an agent at all.

Although successful entrepreneurship often involves thymological insight into ways that prices are likely to change, it also frequently involves assuming an absence of change, as past prices are regularly taken as a (defeasible) guide to future prices.  Thus if preferences were radically and thoroughly inconsistent over time, there could hardly be a Kirznerian tendency toward entrepreneurial success.  Yet praxeology guarantees only synchronic preference consistency, not diachronic preference consistency – so how can the Kirznerian tendency be guaranteed a priori?  A possible answer is that if an agent’s preferences were too radically volatile too much of the time, rarely completing a project before dropping it in favour of another, our concept of agency would lose its grip; hence while synchronic consistency is a universal requirement of action, diachronic consistency is a logical preponderance – which is what guarantees that entrepreneurs will regularly (though of course not invariably) be able to predict future prices from past ones.  Thus Anscombe’s third-realm linkage of inner-realm aims with outer-realm success yields a vindication of Kirzner.

Also relevant to Austrian concerns over free choice is Anscombe’s famous debate with C. S. Lewis.30  Lewis had argued that explaining an action in terms of reasons and explaining it in terms of physical causes are competitors, so that to describe an action as physically caused is to deny its rationality.  Lewis’s

30 For the Anscombe-Lewis debate see Victor Reppert, C. S. Lewis’s Dangerous Idea:  In Defense of the Argument from Reason (Downers Grove IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003).

R. T. Long – Wittgenstein, Praxeology, and Frege’s Three Realms – p. 19

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