Scott Scheall, 2013-14 HOPE Center Fellow

As a philosopher interested in the methodology of economics, Scott Scheall had long been reading the works of historians of economics such as D. Wade Hands, Bruce Caldwell, and Kevin D. Hoover.

So imagine his delight when, with his dissertation on the Keynes-Hayek debate in its final stages, he arrived at the HOPE Center for the 2012 Summer Institute and found Wade and Bruce and Kevin—the very people whose work had been informing his own scholarly projects—all here to meet and engage with.

“It was nerd heaven,” Scott says of that Summer Institute. “To be dropped in their midst and to have the opportunity to discuss ideas with them in person was a wonderful intellectual experience.”

The Summer Institute bore even more fruit for Scott. For it was a conversation with another instructor at the 2012 Institute, Robert Leonard, that led Scott to pursue his current research project.

A 2013-14 Fellow of the HOPE Center, Scott is currently researching Karl Menger’s role in both the Vienna circle and the Austrian school of economics and the impact his involvement in the two groups had on his methodology.

Karl Menger’s papers, as well as the papers of his economist father, Carl Menger, are housed at Duke University as part of the Economists’ Papers Project.

As Scott points out, Menger developed an open-minded approach to science, an approach that is quite in contrast with one of the most important figures of the Austrian school, Ludwig von Mises.

“For all his talk about classical liberalism, which he was very much in favor of, Mises had a dogmatic approach when it came to doing economics,” Scott explains. “Menger’s was much different, and one of my hypotheses is that Menger developed what I call his ‘methodological liberalism’ in reaction to Mises.”

Scott is also investigating the role of ignorance in Friedrich Hayek’s economic and methodological writings.

Not surprisingly, Bruce Caldwell’s work on Hayek is central to Scott’s research. “My copy of Bruce’s Hayek’s Challenge is disintegrating,” he says with a laugh. “It’s got annotations all over the place; the pages have become separated from the binding.”

Scott, who is a lecturer in the Science, Technology, and Society Department at Arizona State University, says of his time at the HOPE Center that it’s been a good lesson for a junior scholar to see how senior scholars at the top of the field can disagree with each other yet still be good colleagues.

“It’s a window on how academia should ideally work.”

Scott will return to Arizona State at the end of the summer.

--Paul Dudenhefer