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Wittgenstein, Praxeology, and Frege’s Three Realms - page 25 / 30





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[I]ntentional, thought-applying, concept-exercising action is on any view the principal theme of ethical theory.  But action in this sense is a specific form of life process ... and a proper comprehension of it will surely rest on seeing it as coming under the wider category, and thus on an elucidation of the wider category itself .... Will we may call the capacity to be the subject of life-processes of that more determinate type; practical reason is the inevitably concomitant capacity for one’s thought to bear suitably on such life processes. ... Thus it seems that an elaboration of the nature of action and agency will at the same time be the elaboration of a certain turn that determinate life-forms can take – namely, where they are determinate forms of rational life ....35

Hence those who urge that economics be treated as applied biology turn out to be right, but not in the way they intended, since it is the conceptual rather than the empirical aspects of biology that turns out to be relevant.  It is not that the logic of means and end is being reduced to biology, but rather that biology is being taken up, at least in part, into the realm of logic – not the abasement of the third realm into the outer, but the exaltation of the outer into the third.  (That Thompson’s work is relevant to the Rothbardian project36 of grounding ethics in a union of Austrian praxeological form and Aristotelean natural-teleological content should be evident.)

7.McDowell and Third-Realm Imperialism

Just as Thompson extends the logical constraints of teleology from the sphere of action to the biological sphere, so our final representative of the Wittgensteinian tradition, John McDowell, extends the involvement of the third realm from part to the whole of the inner realm, and further to the whole of the outer realm as well.  

One might initially suppose that it is only certain parts of the inner realm – beliefs for Frege, actions (or their inner-realm aspects) for Mises – that are subject to logical constraints, but that sensory perceptions, for example, are not.  

35 Ibid., pp. 27-28.

36 Murray N. Rothbard, The Ethics of Liberty (New York University Press, 1998).

R. T. Long – Wittgenstein, Praxeology, and Frege’s Three Realms – p. 25

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