Richard Whately (1787 - 1863): English logician, theologian, and economist. Educated at Oxford, he was appointed professor of political economy in 1829, succeeding Nassau William Senior. His career as an economist was cut short by his appointment as Archbishop (Anglican) of Dublin in 1831. Most of his life was spent agitating for better official treatment of Irish Catholics. Mises mentions him as the author who first used the term catallactics to refer to the market economy.
Frederick List (1789 - 1846): German political economist and follower of Adam Smith. He was charged with sedition and fled Germany for the United States in 1824. An advocate of restrictionism (i.e., protectionism) for new industries, his major work, National System of Political Economy, was published in Germany in 1841 and strongly influenced subsequent economic policies in that country. Mises mentions List in connection with the criticism that Karl Marx and members of the Historical School leveled at British free trade policy.
Franz Grillparzer (1791 - 1872): Austrian poet and tragedian. The scion of an unhappy family (his father died when Franz was only 18, and his mother committed suicide ten years later), Grillparzer spent most of his life writing tragedies for the Viennese stage. Though he agonized over several love affairs, he never married. Trained as a lawyer, he had a day job with the Austrian government. But his true passion was writing Germanic verse for the stage. Recognition of his theatrical and poetical works came slowly, but by his 80th birthday his fame had spread throughout Austria, and the government proclaimed a national day of celebration in his honor. Mises cites Grillparzer as an example of the creative genius who is driven by an internal force totally different from the motive that sparks prosaic labor in everyday life. Mises also refers to Ludwig von Beethoven and to Friedrich Nietzsche in this connection.
Thomas Carlyle (1795 - 1881): Scottish author and historian. As a student he excelled in mathematics. His family's hopes for him as a Presbyterian minister were quickly dashed; by 1818 he had moved to Edinburgh where he soon lost interest in his first job as a math teacher and began his lengthy love affair with Teutonic literature. He read Goethe and Schiller extensively, and spent many years producing English translations of German masterpieces. (Interestingly, his younger brother John in 1840 released a translation of Dante's Inferno.) He married Miss Jane Welsh in 1826. In 1834, encouraged by his early literary success, he moved his household to London, where he was to reside for the rest of his life. In 1837 came his French Revolution, which firmly established his reputation as a literary genius. Many of his subsequent works were historical, and tended to glorify the "strong, just man."
As he aged, Carlyle became less tolerant of foolish democracy, and longed for a return to the feudal system. His beloved wife passed away suddenly in 1866, and Carlyle thereafter found himself unable to produce much that was new. Modern critics have identified Carlyle's adulation of strong leadership as an early impetus in the movement that eventually led to Fascism and Nazism, although opinion on that head is less than unanimous. Mises mentions Carlyle's characterization of economics as "the dismal science," and identifies him, along with Ruskin, Nietzsche, Sorel, and Spengler, as intellectual forebears of the policies instituted by Lenin, Stalin, Mussolini, and Hitler.
August Comte (1798 - 1857): French mystic, sociologist, and philosopher. Generally recognized as the founder of positivism, and as the first sociologist, Comte argued that science has progressed from the simplest (mathematics, astronomy, physics) through the more complex (chemistry, biology, and sociology), arriving finally at the ultimate science of ethics. He also claimed that human knowledge in every field passes through three stages -- from the theological through the metaphysical to the positive. Mises discusses him in connection with the philosophy of positivism, which rejects the validity of any synthetic a priori knowledge.
Arthur Schopenhauer (1798 - 1860): German philosopher. His entire philosophy is succinctly summarized in the title of his most famous book, The World as Will and Idea, first published in 1819. In his nihilistic philosophy, the entire universe is just a dream -- a mere phantasm of my fevered imagination. The only central reality is my will. It is my will, alone, that determines the course of my dream. Arthur was a pessimist; he had a bad dream. His philosophy drew on the worst of the Buddhist tradition -- he named his dog Atma, Sanskrit for "world soul." His infamous hatred of women is notable. As the following quotation from his Essay on Women illustrates, he thought very little of them.
It is only a man whose intellect is clouded by his sexual impulse that could give the name of the fair sex to that under-sized, narrow-shouldered, broad-hipped and short-legged race ... The most distinguished intellects among the whole sex have never managed to produce a single achievement in the fine arts that is really genuine and original; or given to the world any work of permanent value in any sphere.
Schopenhauer's conception of the will exercised a profound influence on Friedrich Nietzsche and also, to a lesser extent, on Henri Bergson. Mises speaks of Schopenhauer as one of those philosophers who "look upon life as an absolute evil full of pain, suffering, and anguish ..." In Mises' view, Schopenhauer's nihilism is totally incompatible with praxeology.
Frederic Bastiat (1801 - 1850): French gentleman farmer, scholar, economist, and legislator. A champion of free trade and equal rights for all men, Bastiat's books include Economic Sophisms, Economic Harmonies, and The Law, an excellent introduction to the libertarian philosophy of government. Mises regarded Bastiat as one of the classical economists. The von Mises Institute has published an interesting biographical sketch here.
Ludwig Andreas von Feuerbach (1804 - 1873): German philosopher, moralist, and theologian. Not to be confused with his father, Paul, an eminent jurist who liberalized the Germany penal code, L. Feuerbach studied philosophy under Hegel at Berlin. He rebelled against traditional conceptions of the Deity, claiming that God is nothing more than a projection of the human spirit upon external reality -- that man worships himself. An early humanist, Feuerbach's ideas had a decided influence on Karl Marx, who in 1845 penned an essay critical of Feuerbach's concept of materialism. Mises mentions him in connection with man's instinct for happiness, and alludes to his influence on early Marxism.
John Stuart Mill (1806 - 1873): English philosopher and economist. A child prodigy, JSM was taught by his father and by Jeremy Bentham, who wished to demonstrate the efficacy of a utilitarian approach to the child's education. His notable books include Principles of Political Economy, Utilitarianism, and On Liberty. Mises mentions him as one of the classical economists, and as a principal exponent of utilitarianism. Click here to read more about J.S. Mill.
Max Stirner (1806 - 1856): German idealist and egoistic philosopher. He wrote one notable book (Der Einzige und sein Eigenthum, translated into English as The Ego and Its Own) which exercised considerable influence on his contemporaries Ludwig von Feuerbach and Karl Marx. Briefly, Stirner argued that there is an inherent conflict between realism and idealism, and that the Hegelian synthesis of these opposed tendencies is egoism. The future belongs to the ego. Mises mentions him, somewhat misleadingly, as an example of a socialist who held that the individual is more important than society. Today Stirner is generally regarded as an individual anarchist and not as a socialist -- click here for more information.
Claude Bernard (1813 - 1878): French physiologist. After failing in an attempted literary career, he took up medicine and in 1855 was appointed Professor of Experimental Physiology at the Collège de France. He is credited with elucidating the roles of the pancreas and the liver in regulating blood chemistry. In writing about the philosophy of science, he said that no merely biochemical knowledge can explain the phenomenon of life itself. Mises quotes him in reference to animal instinct.
Karl Marx (1818 - 1883): German revolutionist and self-styled economist. Together with Engels he wrote Manifest der komunistischen Partei (1848; "The Communist Manifesto"), which proclaimed the eventual victory of the proletariat over the bourgeoisie. In 1867 came the first volume of Das Kapital, his critique of capitalistic economic systems. Though Marx was a powerful writer who evoked strong emotions among his readers, his primary analytical technique of dialectical materialism is logically defective and does not qualify as a valid mode of scientific inquiry. Yet his ideas have been enthusiastically embraced by millions of people, many of whom are still unaware of the source of the doctrines they implicitly believe. Mises speaks of Marx and Marxism all through Human Action, and characterizes the Marxian style of argument as a variety of polylogism.
Friedrich Engels (1820 - 1895): German revolutionist and author. The son of a wealthy industrialist, Engels did not succeed at school, but by dividing his time between business and private pursuits, he became an expert swimmer, fencer, equestrian, and linguist. By 1842 he had moved to Manchester, England, where he eventually made his home, and his living as a partner in a textile mill. His early enthusiasm for the Hegelian dialectic led to his lifelong association with Karl Marx. Engels earned the money that kept his partner alive, and generally served as editor and publicist for his more famous friend. Mises mentions his association with Marx, and his connection with communist dogmas.