social practices – and just as, for Mises and Hayek, nothing counts as monetary exchange absent the social network of beliefs, desires, and actions that establish some item as a medium of exchange – so for Thompson no biological category has any application outside the wider context of the species.
Here I am with my two legs; do I therein count as healthy or unhealthy? The answer depends on whether I am a normal instance of a human or a deformed instance of, say, a centaur – and so depends on what is true of my species, not just of me:
What should we say about a creature who comes to be from sand or swamp muck by the agency of lightning or quantum-mechanical accident – a creature part for part the same as I am ...? ... In supposing my imagined double to be a product of sheer accident, we have severed all links with any specific ... wider context; we can associate it with no determinate life-form at all; and so the ground of all vital description is removed. We can say, in the light of my form, which is the specifically human form, that these are arms – a bit weak maybe, but fairly together. Are those, which ‘he’ has, maybe legs, after all – only horribly deformed and not much good for crawling with? Or are they mutilated wings? ... We cannot link my supposed double with anything that would decide these questions .... It may be thought that these specific matters might be settled by a look to ‘his genes’. But suppose we grant that he has genes; are they defective?34
Just as no noncircular enumeration of physical features distinguishes life from nonlife, so no noncircular enumeration of physical features distinguishes flourishing life from nonflourishing life. Yet the applicability of natural-historical judgments provides the standard for determining not only what is living but what is living well.
Since actions are a form of vital operation, the teleology of actions is going to be a specific case of the teleology of life; thus what an action is for and what counts as a good action are both determined within a biological context. Thus both the economic explanation of actions and their ethical evaluation will depend on such a context:
34 Ibid., pp. 60-61.
R. T. Long – Wittgenstein, Praxeology, and Frege’s Three Realms – p. 24