Individualism and the Sensory Order

Bruce Caldwell

in Hayek's Challenge

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print November 2003 | ISBN: 9780226091914
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226091921 | DOI:
Individualism and the Sensory Order

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Between 1945 and 1960, Hayek worked on two major projects. In the first, he developed in much greater detail the underpinnings in physiological psychology of the scattered remarks found in “Scientism and the Study of Society” about the human mind, classification, and interpretation. The second provided a description of and rationale for a classical liberal order. It is hard to imagine that the two resulting books, The Sensory Order and The Constitution of Liberty were written by the same person. The first is a technical scientific text whose didactic prose is, for those uninitiated in the jargon of psychology, at times impenetrable. The latter is, by contrast, systematic and flowing, filled with notes referencing the writings of the great and the obscure, a work at once sophisticated yet fully accessible to the layman. Both volumes contained themes that were critical in Hayek's later work. They led him to the “twin ideas of evolution and spontaneous order”and to the perception that examples of orders could be found in a wide variety of physical and social phenomena. This chapter begins the task of piecing together how Hayek came to incorporate these ideas into his existing work. It starts with The Sensory Order, a book that, although it was based on an old paper, appears to have gotten Hayek thinking along new lines. Then it looks at a lecture that could be considered a prelude to The Constitution of Liberty, one initially intended as the first section of the Abuse of Reason project, “Individualism: True and False”. An examination of that paper helps with the examination of just what sort of methodological individualist Hayek really was.

Keywords: Friedrich A. Hayek; human mind; classification; interpretation; classical liberal order; The Sensory Order; The Constitution of Liberty; evolution; spontaneous order

Chapter.  11172 words. 

Subjects: Economic History

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