Liberty Matters

In Light of Hermeneutics, Which Way for Austrian Economics?


Professor Lewis's reference to Lavoie's interest in Hans-Georg Gadamer is a very significant observation and draws attention to what should be a major point of decision for Austrian economics. It is true that verstehen has roots in both historical and philosophical circles. But along which path should Austrian economics travel?
The idea of verstehen grew out of much earlier textual interpretive techniques, as Professor Lewis indicated, and was first employed by biblical and classical scholars. It was from these origins that it spread to law and history. Wilhelm Roscher himself had studied, in part, with Leopold von Ranke, was interested in Friedrich Carl von Savigny's work in the law, and was himself originally a scholar of Greek antiquity. In this context, the notion of empathy was not anything particularly mysterious. It was a faculty to be cultivated by long study and application to texts and even intertextual comparisons.
Max Weber took it upon himself to set this whole approach on a more conceptually and, by his lights, scientifically rigorous foundation. It seems clear to me that Lachmann favored this more workaday approach to interpretive understanding over the more highfalutin tradition out of which Gadamer was coming, but this would be an interesting subject for further investigation: in which direction should the concept be taken now?