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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The fallacy of misplaced concreteness (A.N. Whitehead), 16 Aug. 2007
By 
Luc REYNAERT (Beernem, Belgium) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
In this book, F.A. Hayek sets some very important nerves blank.
Social sciences study the relations between men and things and between men and men. Some philosophers thought that social sciences should be treated like natural sciences and that the latter's laws were also valid for the former ones. This `scientistic' viewpoint led to the worst absurdities and aberrations in the history of philosophy.

One of the task of science is to constitute `wholes' by constructing models which reproduce the relationship between some of many phenomena observed in real life. `Wholes' (language, market, morals, money, social processes ...) are not natural `units' like flowers, but refer only to certain structures of relationships which we select because we think that we can discern connections between them. However, for some philosophers `wholes' are more than the aggregate of all constituent parts (e.g. human history, societies, economies) and are subject to relatively simple laws. This viewpoint led to the thesis that the coherence of these large entities must be subjected to conscious control.
As F.A. Hayek remarks, phenomena like language, markets, money or morals are not real artifacts, products of deliberate creation, but the outcome of spontaneous processes. There is a crucial difference between influencing spontaneous processes and attempting to replace them by organizations fabricated by conscious control. Nevertheless, for some philosophers, processes which are consciously directed are superior to any spontaneous ones. Man must have complete power to refashion everything in any way he desires. The outcome of these policies was pure determinism, relativism, totalitarianism, collectivism, compulsive planning.

A few examples quoted in this book:
For A. Comte, `freedom equaled the rational submission to the domination of natural laws. Liberty of conscience was an antisocial dogma and a revolting monstrosity.' `There is nothing good and nothing bad; everything is relative; this is the only absolute statement.'
For F. Hegel, `man cannot change the course of history, which is directed by the laws of the development of the human mind.' `All that is real is rational and all that is rational is real.'
The influence of these philosophers (and others) cannot be overestimated until today.

In this book, F. A. Hayek shows how the 'fallacy of misplaced concreteness' generated (generates) disastrous policies for hundreds of millions of humans.
Not to be missed.
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