Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics

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Probability and the Synthetic A Priori: A Reply to Block

  • The Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics

Tags Philosophy and Methodology

08/07/2014Bryan Caplan

Volume 6, No. 3 (Fall 2003)


Contrary to Block, the synthetic a priori has little to do with our dispute. My critique of the Austrians is not that their methods are “unscientific,” but that their most distinctive positions are false or overstated. Yet Block’s latest reply does inadvertently make Austrian economics more reasonable. If synthetic a priori claims vary in degree of probability, they can no longer be treated as scientifically superior to empirical claims. Furthermore, while empirically testing absolutely certain synthetic a priori claims is pointless, empirically testing uncertain synthetic a priori claims is not. As is often the case with Austrians, Block is better at criticizing neoclassicals than he is at producing a sound alternative. He is right that most economists do not practice the logical positivism that they preach. He is also correct to maintain that logical positivism is mistaken. However, both of these problems can be resolved if neoclassical economists themselves adopt the Bayesian model of belief formation that they routinely apply to everyone else.

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Cite This Article

Caplan, Bryan. "Probability and the Synthetic A Priori: A Reply to Block." The Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics 6, No. 3 (Fall 2003): 77–83.

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