Rejoinder to David Gordon

Over at Mises Daily, David Gordon offers a critique of my paper with Gabriel Zanotti, The Epistemological Implications of Machlup’s Interpretation of Mises’s Epistemology. We are certainly grateful for Gordon to take the time to not only read our paper, but also to write his critical remarks. We think, however, that his critique is as well intended as is misplaced. We just don’t hold the position that is target of Gordon’s criticisms. We should clarify a few key misconceptions as well as offer some replies to his arguments.

First, a few clarifications about our paper:

  • As we explicitly state in the title of our paper, our work is not about Machlup’s position on epistemology. Our paper is about Machlup’s intepretation of Mises’s apriorism, which may or may not be the same position than the one Machlup holds. Any criticism aimed at Machlup’s own position misses the target.
  • The matter of fact is that Rothbard reacts directly and explicitly to Machlup’s interpretation of Mises. There is, then, two of Mises’s students arguing that Mises hold an a priori position, but they differ on how this should be interpreted. We think is fair to put both at the same level of initial plausibility and go back to Mises’s work and see which one of these authors were closer to Mises’s own position (The reasons why we think this history of though exercise is valuable should be clear as we approach the conclusions in the paper.) We focus on Machlup’s paper because it offers a good initial bridge to modern epistemology in Austrian economics (something that we think is needed.) Again, it is not that Machlup’s paper has not received the attention it actually did. And is not Machlup’s own position, but his interpretation of Mises what is the focus of our paper. Little is gained by criticizing Machlup per Machlup.
  • No one here, not Rothbard, not Machlup, and certainly not us, question the a priori in Mises epistemology. We are not questioning the certainty of the praxeological axiom.

It is to avoid these confusions that in the introduction we say that «[o]ur argument is not that Machlup’s (1955) presentation is at face value a representation of Mises’s position, but that Mises was not an extreme aprioristic thinker and that Machlup’s work offers a bridge between Mises and Lakatos that has been unexplored.»

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