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What are Mises’ views on the various doctrines of “natural law”?


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#1 Murphy

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Posted 10 September 2005 - 12:22 PM

What are Mises views on the various doctrines of natural law?

#2 Joanne

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Posted 17 January 2007 - 09:09 AM

View PostMurphy, on Sep 10 2005, 12:22 PM, said:

What are Mises’ views on the various doctrines of “natural law”?

It seems that the notion of natural law has explanations that tend to be in conflict with one another. On one hand, it states that there is a divine law that guides man. On the other, there's the "profane" in that man, his nature, and what he appears to do for his own good is the result of his reason. So, there's the two somewhat incompatible issues of law for the spirit and law for earthly systems.

In some institutions supportive of natural law, particularly the Church which dominated many aspects of Western society throughout modern history, what was divine was not to be questioned. Issues of faith and beliefs were products of revelations, not reason. However, within the Church the vexing question was not that man's ability to reason was inferior or superior to the Word and plan of God, but for some Christian philosophers reason was given by God in the first place. There was also the contradiction that if man's spirit and choices were guided by a supreme deity and not of his own volition, and that this deity is good and the message it that man is to work towards good, then how can the presence of evil be explained?

The Church could never accept that natural law could be rationally established. The benefit of this, in Mises view, was that it allowed systems of statute laws to be questioned. Rather than simply enforce laws that are bad by sheer military might, known as legal positivism, there could be debate about them. The notion that a man could be equal before the law, that the law was seen to have moral stature eventually became confused with the notion that all men are equal. To Mises, this detour of reasoning had a high cost. He felt that many groups felt that the law discriminated against them and this gave rise to conflict, nationalism and racism.

To Mises, these historical developments of natural law had three consequences that when followed logically, resulted a more comprehensive system of human action and ultimately, to rationalism and utilitarianism. Specifically:

a) nature has an order to which man adapts in order to serve his benefit;
B) man recognizes the aforesaid order through his capacity for cognition and reason and, social institutions can be assessed through discursive reasoning;
c) no absolute standard exists to adjudge how individuals or groups acted except for the results attained.


Here's the answer to the following question about Mises restatement of utilitarian doctrine. There's a problem posting in. The reply page doesn't render completely, the answer can be pasted in, but clicking the "post reply" button results in nothing.

According to Mises, utilitarianism was one outcome of natural law. It 
too, did not provide any meaningful explanation for conflicts of 
values among individuals. Where the doctrine of Natural Law tried to 
explain man's behaviors in terms of a natural, predictable rule, 
utilitarianism was about the most optimal means that could be used to 
achieve desired ends.

Mises states that utilitarianism is a values-neutral, teleological philosophy of 
individualism in that it rejects the philosophies of universalism, 
collectivism and totalitarianism. Consequently, the state or any 
other social unit is not deemed as an entity capable of achieving the 
ultimate ends of individual men. Once again, man uses his reason to plan and direct his energies towards the goals that he deems will result in improvement over his current state.


#3 Murphy

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Posted 24 February 2007 - 04:21 PM

I think you're right that Mises believed historically, the doctrine of natural law had positive effects. However, Mises ridiculed the notion itself (in Human Action, e.g.). He says that the only "law" of nature is that people die from illness, lions eat the weak, etc., and that human reason and civilization arose to circumvent these "natural laws."

As far as legal principles, again Mises thinks man is the measure of all things. Although he is certainly aware of the danger of social engineering and so forth, Mises ultimately thinks that what makes a good law is a rule that leads to human happiness, *not* (as Rothbard might argue) a rule consistent with a priori natural law principles.

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Posted 15 September 2008 - 09:14 PM

Reading your post and your comparison of Mises and Rothbard, I am somewhat left in a bind. I beleive in a priori natural rights, not just gravity (even though Hume and other skeptics say gravity is only historical, no proof it will occur again). That idea that all natural law is merely historical sounds closer to Mises than Rothbard. What about Locke and those natural philosophers (Voltaire, Montesquieu, etc)????

Natural laws are attempt to find absolute eternal standards. Mises' views on these natural laws are pretty few.
1) natural laws exist (what they are??????) and man must adjust to these and work within, around, in spite of, but they exist.
2) Man's reason allows him to deal with these laws through chosen means
3) The only standards of appraissal is success

Two major critiques include:
1) Truth and certainty only to be found in revelation
2) Men are biologically equal
Mises felt these two were both wrong, and really deny the above three "natural laws."

#5 Murphy

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Posted 22 April 2009 - 11:26 AM

View PostMart Grams, on Sep 15 2008, 09:14 PM, said:

Reading your post and your comparison of Mises and Rothbard, I am somewhat left in a bind. I beleive in a priori natural rights, not just gravity (even though Hume and other skeptics say gravity is only historical, no proof it will occur again). That idea that all natural law is merely historical sounds closer to Mises than Rothbard. What about Locke and those natural philosophers (Voltaire, Montesquieu, etc)????

Natural laws are attempt to find absolute eternal standards. Mises' views on these natural laws are pretty few.
1) natural laws exist (what they are??????) and man must adjust to these and work within, around, in spite of, but they exist.
2) Man's reason allows him to deal with these laws through chosen means
3) The only standards of appraissal is success

Two major critiques include:
1) Truth and certainty only to be found in revelation
2) Men are biologically equal
Mises felt these two were both wrong, and really deny the above three "natural laws."

I'm not exactly sure what you're saying here. Mises of course believes there are "laws of nature" in the sense that there are regularities of the physical world that people must deal with if they are to achieve their objectives.

But if we mean something related to politics or ethics, then Mises is not a "natural law theorist." He doesn't think there is anything intrinsically wrong about murder theft etc., but rather feels that they are behaviors that reduce social bonds and threaten the existence of society. In an absolute sense, if somebody says, "I am fine with that, I prefer homicides to society," then Mises has no argument against that. He just thinks we need to beat this person down and threaten him with jail time to keep him in line.

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Posted 09 May 2009 - 04:09 PM

View PostMurphy, on Apr 22 2009, 11:26 AM, said:

I'm not exactly sure what you're saying here. Mises of course believes there are "laws of nature" in the sense that there are regularities of the physical world that people must deal with if they are to achieve their objectives.

But if we mean something related to politics or ethics, then Mises is not a "natural law theorist." He doesn't think there is anything intrinsically wrong about murder theft etc., but rather feels that they are behaviors that reduce social bonds and threaten the existence of society. In an absolute sense, if somebody says, "I am fine with that, I prefer homicides to society," then Mises has no argument against that. He just thinks we need to beat this person down and threaten him with jail time to keep him in line.

"In line" with what???? Social standards, majority rule, or again "natural objective laws"?





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