Saturday, 4 August 2018

Mises on Hegel and Comte

Here’s an excerpt from Ludwig von Mises’s Human Action: A Treatise on Economics, (Part I; Chapter 3: “Economics and The Revolt Against Reason”):
There was Hegel. He was a profound thinker and his writings are a treasury of stimulating ideas. But he was laboring under the delusion that Geist, the Absolute, revealed itself through his words. There was nothing in the universe that was hidden to Hegel. It was a pity that his language was so ambiguous that it could be interpreted in various ways. The right-wing Hegelians interpreted it as an endorsement of the Prussian system of autocratic government and of the dogmas of the Prussian Church. The left-wing Hegelians read out of it atheism, intransigent revolutionary radicalism, and anarchistic doctrines.  
There was Auguste Comte. He knew precisely what the future had in store for mankind. And, of course, he considered himself as the supreme legislator. For example, he regarded astronomical studies as useless and wanted to prohibit them. He planned to substitute a new religion for Christianity, and selected a lady who in this new church was destined to replace the Virgin. Comte can be exculpated, as he was insane in the full sense which pathology attaches to this term. But what about his followers?  
Many more facts of this kind could be mentioned. But they are no argument against reason, rationalism, and rationality. These dreams have nothing at all to do with the question of whether or not reason is the right and only instrument available for man in his endeavors to attain as much knowledge as is accessible to him. The honest and conscientious truth-seekers have never pretended that reason and scientific research can answer all questions. They were fully aware of the limitations imposed upon the human miid. They cannot be taxed with responsibility for the crudities of the philosophy of Haeckel and the simplism of the various materialist schools. 
In 1949, Murray N. Rothbard wrote of Human Action: "Every once in a while the human race pauses in the job of botching its affairs and redeems itself by producing a noble work of the intellect.... To state that Human Action is a ‘must' book is a greater understatement. This is the economic Bible of the civilized man."

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