Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics

Apriorism, Introspection, and the Axiom of Action: A Realist Solution

The Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics

Volume 10, No. 3 (2007)


This article deals with the epistemological bases for the axiom of action and more particularly with man’s capacity to have an a priori knowledge. The simplest argument in favour of the true a priori character of the axiom of action is the introspective one. It is sufficient to look at oneself to see that it is obvious that man acts intentionally. A part of the Austrian school, after Lachman, estimated that this introspective argument was insufficient. They preferred to go the way proposed by Max Weber and to base social sciences on the construction of ideal types. Nevertheless, this article shows that by defining the introspection as an ideal type we solve neither the induction problem nor the historicity of intellectual categories problem (1). The ideality of types creates assumptions (Utopia) whereas their typicity creates historical categories. The theory of the ideal type of Schütz seeks well to leave historicity while insisting on the ideality. On the contrary, the economic hermeneutics of Lavoie focuses its attention on historicity. To leave these difficulties, it is preferable to return to the philosophical sources of Menger, i.e. to the realistic aristotelian  tradition and more particularly to the thomist one. In the second part of the paper we confirm coming back to the philosophical origin of Menger’s theory, the aristotelian and the thomist school. Thomist philosophy of knowledge resulted in defining introspection as a form of qualitative induction, and to support that the axiom of the action is a judgement, i.e. the  combination of two  universalities known thanks to the capacity of abstraction of man’s intelligence. In that way, it is possible to think of the axiom of action as of a historical category and universality. To affirm that  man has reasons to act (intention) is at the same time a discovery and a truth proposal a priori.


Facchini, François. "Apriorism, Introspection, and the Axiom of Action: A Realist Solution." The Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics 10, No. 4 (Winter 2007): 234–249.

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