Monday, February 22, 2010

Cosmology as Praxeology

The episode in the Iliad recounted previously, in which a plague is attributed to the vengeance of a god, is typical of the general cosmology of the holy man, of primitive man, and of the infant.

In Human Action, Chapter 1, Section 6, Mises writes:

Both primitive man and the infant, in a naive anthropomorphic attitude, consider it quite plausible that every change and event is the outcome of the action of a being acting in the same way as they themselves do. They believe that animals, plants, mountains, rivers, and fountains, even stones and celestial bodies, are, like themselves, feeling, willing, and acting beings.

This is the worldview of the kind of thinker Aristotle called the theologos.

For the ancient Greek theologos, the sun is a blazing chariot being driven by the god Helios, earthquakes are either caused when Poseidon is angry or when Zeus is nodding his head in making a promise, agricultural seasons come and go according to the mood of Demeter, and the souls of the dead are escorted by Hermes into the underworld kingdom of Hades and Persephone.  Even human emotional states are explained by the influence of gods like Aphrodite and Eris, goddess of strife.

Sometimes such individual acts of god are constituent parts of a greater plan.  The events leading up to the fall of Troy are said, by Homer, to all be toward the fulfillment of the will of Zeus.

 Dios d' eteleieto boulê

(thus the plan of Zeus came to fulfillment)

But, even Zeus is said to be bound by the Moirae (the apportioners, or Fates) and their mother Ananke (Destiny or Necessity).

Thus, according to the most complete theologos, all phenomena are at bottom actions in the Misesian sense: purposeful behavior, products of will.  Therefore, to the theologos, all the sciences are branches of praxeology, and to interpret the workings of the cosmos is to interpret the will of the gods.

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