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Praxeology is a general theory of human action or, more specifically, purposeful behavior. Unlike unconscious behavior such as breathing or reflexes, we act in conscious, chosen ways to achieve various purposes and goals. Praxeology is not concerned with the psychology of why we choose the actions we do, how we will act in certain situations, or what general state of satisfaction we wish to achieve. It also does not help us understand whether our values or goals are proper, nor does it help us know if we are choosing the best way to achieve them. Praxeology focuses solely on the logical implications a priori that we do act.

When we say we prefer something, that doesn't necessarily depict what we value. You might prefer a sunny day over a cloudy one, but you can't do anything to move the clouds. You might claim to prefer reading, but rarely pick-up a book. You might say that you agree we should stop the war, but then vote for someone who will continue funding the war. In other words, to properly interpret someone's preferences, we must analyze what he does - not what he says he wants or says he will do. We cannot understand someone properly from spoken preferences - we must look at his chosen behaviors. It is his behaviors that will tell us what he really values.

According to Ludwig von Mises in his magnum opus Human Action, there are three conditions to get us to act: 1) we must have some uneasiness; 2) we must have an image of a more satisfactory state, and; 3) we must have some expectation that a "purposeful behavior has the power to remove or at least to alleviate the felt uneasiness." If any one condition is missing, we will not act. We act because we think it will make a difference in achieving our values.

How often do you believe what someone tells you about their values rather than learning and analyzing their actual behaviors? As we don't have perfect knowledge whether an action will achieve our goal, how should we judge human behaviors? How deeply have you thought about your own value system and the choices you make to achieve them? Do you ever say one thing and do another? Do you have a formal scale of values? How much do you base your values and, thus, your actions, on those of someone else? What are your values and goals, and what actions do you take to achieve them? Have you ever acted against your values?

Transcript (provided by Praxgirl):

Hi guys, Praxgirl here.

In our last lesson, I defined Praxeology's use of the terms Ends and Means. I showed that a thing only become a Means when a purposeful actor has employed it to achieve some End. And I showed that Ends are the desired states a man acts to achieve to remove some uneasiness.

In this lesson, I'd like to discuss another important categorization implied in the concept of action that we will now refer to as an acting man's Scale of Values.

We've placed a lot of emphasis on showing that action involves choosing between different alternatives, and that action itself is the demonstrated preference of the actor's weighing between these alternatives.

The fact that action is a choice implies that valuation occurs when acting and that we can build a scale for reference to an actor's values.

For example:

Suppose that Sam wakes up one morning and is faced with the choice of either going to the Superbowl or seeing his favorite band in concert. Both events will be happening at the same time in different locations. Sam can't be in two places at the same time, but he wishes he could attend both.

The way Praxeology logically determines what Sam actually valued is by his action. If Sam ends up going to the Superbowl, then we must say that Sam preferred going to the Superbowl over going to the concert. If he ended up going to the concert, then we must say that he preferred going to the concert over going to the Superbowl.

Every action is in perfect agreement with a man's Scale of Values, because the scale itself is only a tool for logically interpreting a man's action.

Man satisfies his most urgent wants and leaves his less urgent want unsatisfied. There is no way of actually determining a conscious actor's value without action.

Let's go back to our example with Sam and suppose that his favorite band actually happens to be U2, and they're playing live at the Superbowl half time. Sam can now attend both events. Does he value U2 or the Superbowl more? Can we say that Sam values both the Superbowl and U2 the same?

The problem we face is that we can no longer separate the U2 concert from The Superbowl. If Sam chooses going to the Superbowl stadium, he is not choosing between the concert and the Superbowl. Since no action is performed, no choice is demonstrated. There is no logical way of separating his value of one thing over the other.

Action is the real agency that enables us to establish what a person finds more important, what he values. Value is not intrinsic. It is not "in things". Value is within us and shown in the way we react to the conditions of our environment.

A man may say he values one thing over another day in and day out, but only one thing actually counts towards real changes in our universe: Action.

I'll see you guys in the next lesson.

Praxeology - Episode 7 - Scale of Values


Original posting by Braincrave Second Life staff on Aug 3, 2011 at http://www.braincrave.com/viewblog.php?id=613

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