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Ludwig Von Mises

Praxeology assumes that when people are trying to achieve a goal they act on purpose to achieve such a goal. People do so because there are motivated to do so. The generic term that Praxeology uses for the term "motivation" is uneasiness or unsatisfaction. Therefore when people act to achieve a goal they are trying to get to a satisfactory or more comfortable state than the one in which they find themselves. We, as observers, may or may not be able to see that state of uneasiness, but this is not relevant for Praxeology. This is information that Praxeology does not use. However, as praxeology is the science of human action, this means that the action must be perceived in the physical world.

Ends and Means

Therefore we must conclude that means must be physical. But physical means can only act to produce physical ends. Therefore ends must be visible to be in the domain of Praxeology. What may not be visible or observable is the new state of satisfaction in which people find themselves once they have achieved their goal.

For example, if Romina is lying on her bed, immobile, is she trying to fall asleep or is she trying to solve a math problem? The means are the same (her brain) but the ends are different. As she is not acting on a visible, physical world, her actions are outside the realm of Praxeology.

But there is another problem. Anything that is physical could be a mean or an end. How do we know if something really is a mean or an end? For that we need to ask people because people decide if, when and how to use physical means to try to achieve something. If they actually use those physical elements then they are means. If they are simply thinking about using them they are not actual means. A similar rationale can be developed for ends. Ends are simply ideas until a person begins to use a physical mean to achieve them.

In other words, physical things are just things until humans determine that those things can be used and assign them a role to play in the process of getting rid of uneasiness. Without humans assigning such a role, those things are just things. The point that one must keep in mind is that such assignment is subjective and personal but the action expressed through a mean is objective and visible.

But what about animals? Can animals assign meaning to things in the pursuance of goals? They certainly can, however, as we explained in the first lesson, the rules of animal action have not been studied. Praxeology concerns itself with human action exclusively.

Study matter

But if this is the case, what does Praxeology do? Which information does Praxeology use?

Praxeology studies the subjective assignments (or meanings) that people give to things. It uses these meanings to discover the logical laws of action. Once these laws are known, then other subjective assignments can also be analyzed to extract knowledge and information.

This knowledge and information comes in the form of causality. Action and reaction. If people act on certain means in such-and-such manner then the final outcome will be such-and-such. However, if people choose not to believe in this outcome then Praxeology studies the differences between the expected goal and the achieved goal.

For example, let's take two groups of people. Both groups use the same means in the same manner. However, they have different goals in mind because they give different meaning to the same means. It is obvious that there will be only one physical outcome, but for one of the groups this outcome will be expected one while for the other it will be unexpected. Praxeology can analyze the difference between the expected and the unexpected outcomes. This is to say between the logically predictable outcome and the erroneously expected outcome.

A mundane example should help. Let's say that Mirta and Missy want to go to their respective friend's houses. They take the same bus at the same stop, pay the same ticket and get off the bus at the same location. Mirta walks a few meters to her friend's house. This is the expected outcome. Missy, on the other hand, is lost. She can't find her friend's house. This is so because Missy assigned the erroneous meaning to the bus route. She chose to believe that that particular bus would drive her where she wanted to go while in reality it drove her somewhere else. This is clearly Missy's fault because she did not analyze the means properly and logically. Praxeology can help us determine how costly this mistake will be for Missy.

Note: please see the Glossary if you are unfamiliar with certain words.

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