“In the case of all things which have several parts and in which the  totality is not, as it were, a mere heap, but the whole is something besides the parts,  there is a cause”


Aristotle 980a Metaphysics, Translated by W. D. Ross

The research agenda of KMCPE is to explore the philosophical foundations of economic thought. Karl Mittermaier used to distinguish sharply between the subject matter of economics and the tools employed in economics, arguing that much had been accomplished in developing the tools, but little in understanding the subject matter. These very sophisticated tools of economics are now employed in different fields of investigation, and so we have imperialism of economics. In contrast, the agenda of the philosophy of economics is not to develop new markets, so to say, for economics, but to develop new ways to look at the subject matter; developing novel tools of economic thought, rather than applying the existing tools in novel ways.

Menger’s Aristotelianism

Cambridge Journal of Economics,
Volume 42, Issue 2, March 2018, Pages 577–594

The Hand Behind the Invisible Hand

Dogmatic and Pragmatic Views on Free Markets and the State of Economic Theory
published by Bristol University Press

The Invisible Hand and Some Thoughts on the Non-Existent in What We Study

Journal of Contextual Economics (JCE) – Schmollers Jahrbuch, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin, vol. 139(1), pages 135-158.

An Introduction to Karl Mittermaier and His Philosophy of Economics

Journal of Contextual Economics (JCE) – Schmollers Jahrbuch, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin, vol. 139(1), pages 123-134.

Journal of Contextual Economics (JCE)

Release period 4 issues per year (incl. one special issue). Approx. 450 pp./vol.


in Subjectivism, Intelligibility and Economic Understanding edited by Israel Kirzner

Ludwig Lachmann (1906 -1990) A Biographical Sketch

South African Journal of Economics 1992 vol 60 (1) p. 7

Ludwig Lachmann Memorial Lecture: On the Delicate Nature of Markets

South African Journal of Economics 2000 vol 68 (3) p. 537

On the Meaning of “Inflationary”: Comment

South African Journal of Economics 1978 vol 46 (1) p 44-47

Special Section on Karl Mittermaier’s Legacy

50 Best Economic Theory Books of All Time

7 Best New Economics Theory eBooks To Read In 2021

Some Questions Answered

The spirit of a wholly deterministic outlook, and of the corresponding scientific programme, was strikingly captured in a famous passage by Laplace, the great astronomer and mathematician. 

"Given for one instant an intelligence which could comprehend all the forces by which nature is animated and the respective situation of the beings who compose it - an intelligence sufficiently vast to submit these data to analysis - it would embrace in the same formula the movements of the greatest bodies of the universe and those of the lightest atom; for it, nothing would be uncertain and the future, as the past, would be present to its eyes. The human mind offers, in the perfection which it has been able to give to astronomy, a feeble idea of this intelligence. Its discoveries in mechanics and geometry, added to that of universal gravity, have enabled it to comprehend in the same analytical expressions the past and future states of the system of the world. Applying the same method to some other objects of its knowledge, it has succeeded in referring to general laws observed phenomena and in foreseeing those which given circumstances ought to produce. All these efforts in the search for truth tend to lead it back continually to the vast intelligence which we have just mentioned, but from which it will always remain infinitely removed." 


If one were to ask a number of economists whether they believed in a universal determinism, the majority would perhaps take up an agnostic position. In any case, whatever their opinions, they are likely to feel that they can carry on their work as economists quite well without deciding the issue. One should not, however, underestimate the surreptitious and pervading influence on academic work of subconsciously-held philosophical presuppositions.

Determinism consists not merely of the notion that we may find regularities by empirical means – ex ante facts in my terminology – but rather of the future notion that these facts, which we gather piecemeal, may be built up according to Laplace’s vision into a vast model that could explain and predict the entire course of events, given only the state of things at any instant of time. Within the confines of what was probably its original context, viz., classical mechanics, this notion seemed quite well-founded. Problems arise, however, when the mechanical analogy is taken into other fields. In economics it has to be admitted that even so basic a question as how a man will act in a given environment, or react to given stimuli, cannot be answered with anything like the exactness of mechanics, if indeed it can be answered at all. Explanations of the failure of the mechanical analogy in economics have usually followed either one of two themes, viz., a.) that the human will is undetermined or b.) that the great complexity of social phenomena makes a strictly deterministic scientific program unworkable

In closed models with comprehensive governing equations, all processes are fully determined, i.e. calculable, once the state of the system at any instant of time is known. It then does not really matter whether a description of a process refers to something which has already taken place or has yet to take place. However, common sense tells us that in the world at large this is not necessarily so, at least not for us, however it may seem to the vast intelligence Laplace spoke of. Let me take an example. Suppose a stranger to the country asks me to explain to him the geographical distribution of productive activity in the South African economy. Suppose further that I try to do this by telling him a long story which starts with the spice trade between Europe and the East, and features such events as the Great Trek, the discoveries of diamonds and gold, World War II, etc. The enquirer may then be well satisfied that he has understood the matter and that there is nothing miraculous in the account. Yet the mere fact that he can look back over a sequence of events and satisfy himself that in retrospect the whole thing seems quite credible, does not show that he could have predicted that sequence of events, nor that he can predict the situation four hundred years hence any more than someone four hundred years ago could have predicted the present situation. All he knows is a story built up on countless millions of small events that he feels could have been otherwise - events that were purely fortuitous and coincidental.