Hayek's "Scientism" essay
The social aspects of objectivity and the mind
Keywords:Hayek, scientism, Sensory order, propositional attitudes, subjectivism, intersubjectivism
In his essay "Scientism and the study of society" Hayek argues that attitudes are central to the moral sciences. Since the natural sciences show that "ordinary experience" often does not reproduce the relations between things in the external world, the understanding of attitudes is possible due to the similarity between the mind of the moral scientist and that of the agent. I argue that Hayek’s arguments for the differentiation between the natural sciences and what he calls "ordinary experience" are problematic. I offer an alternative justification by appealing to the manifold goals and social contexts of inquiry. I also elucidate his claim that minds are similar, and how this relates to our understanding of others—both as ordinary agents and as economists. In so doing, I discuss two alternative accounts found in Hayek's work: the first account suggests that understanding is a projection of mental categories from behavioral evidence; the second account—which is found in The sensory order—suggests that understanding is the result of a functional correspondence between structures in the central nervous system.