wheat was grown, its physical and chemical characteristics, the weather prevailing during the growing season; the personal characteristics of the farmers growing the wheat and of the consumers who will ultimately use it; and so on indefinitely.9
But Friedman’s rebuttal seems to involve blurring the distinction between accounts that merely fail to specify the presence of some feature (as when I think about a wheat-trader without thinking about the wheat-trader’s eye colour or ancestry) and accounts that specify the absence of that feature (as when I think about a wheat-trader as actually lacking eye colour or ancestry); the latter is the kind of unrealism that the Austrians object to, but Friedman’s argument offers a defense of only the former.
In his 1894 review of Edmund Husserl’s Philosophy of Arithmetic, Frege makes fun of those who treat abstractive cognition as having indefinite items as its objects, and accuses them of muddling the distinctions among the three realms.
Since everything is now presentation, we can easily change the objects by now paying attention, now not. ... We pay less attention to a property and it disappears. By thus letting one characteristic after another disappear, we obtain concepts that are increasingly more abstract. ... For example, let us suppose that in front of us there are sitting side by side a black and a white cat. We disregard their colour: they become colourless but are still sitting side by side. We disregard their posture: they are no longer sitting, without, however, having assumed a different posture; but each one is still at its place. We disregard their location: they are without location, but still remain quite distinct. Thus from each one we have perhaps derived a general concept of a cat. Continued application of this process turns each object into a less and less substantial wraith. ... Hereby the difference between presentation and concept, between presenting and thinking, is blurred. Everything is shunted off into the subjective. ... The components of a thought, and even more so the things themselves, must be distinguished from the presentations which in the soul accompany the grasping of a
9 Milton Friedman, “The Methodology of Positive Economics,” p. 32; in Friedman, Essays in Positive Economics (University of Chicago, 1953), pp. 3–43).
R. T. Long – Wittgenstein, Praxeology, and Frege’s Three Realms – p. 6