Who is Hayek?


Two Things About Hayek

Provided on this page are two things to know about Hayek.

1.  Lead role in the global revival of liberalism*

If you were to know only a single thing about Hayek, you might start with this -- Hayek is regarded as a key figure in the 20th century revival of liberalism.  This has led some folks to suggest that the works of Hayek are playing a role in our time something like the role the works of Adam Smith and John Locke played in their own -- meaning that Hayek's ideas are at the forefront of the movement towards a society based on freedom of association and exchange according to the rule of law, and away from the control of society from the center according to the whim of government.  So the first thing to know about Hayek is that he has played a lead role in the current tide change away from statism and back to liberalism* -- regarded by many as a defining event of the 20th century.

2.  Co-originator of the Hayek-Hebb synaptic model

A second thing to know?  Like Locke, Hume, Kant and other great liberals of the early modern period, Hayek's transformed understanding of society is grounded in a transformed understanding of the cognitive process and the basis of human learning.  At the root of this transformation is a rejection of the 'myth of the given' which provides the starting point of both rationalist and empiricist theories of knowledge and human cognitive function.  Hayek replaced the static 'givens' of classic foundationalism with an adaptive neurological account of human learning, memory and categorization built upon simple facts about neurons and their interconnections.  From these simple beginnings Hayek co-originated the Hayek-Hebb synaptic connection model of mind, a construction which has transformed modern thinking about the mind and brain.  The thing to remember?  Hayek's work in theoretical psychology represents a landmark in 20th century thinking about human learning and cognition, and challenges the central dogma of traditional foundational models of human knowing.

Book of the Year:

Hayek's Challenge:
The Intellectual Biography of F. A. Hayek

by Bruce Caldwell

Buy it at 30% discount from Barnes & Noble.


Hayek by Decade







1950's 1960's 1970's 1980's 1990's  


*Americans bewildered by the way English speakers everywhere (other than U.S. natives with little depth in their liberal arts education) use the English language with regard to the term "liberal" might consult Gene Callahan's article on the historical use (and misuse) of the word "liberalism" or Ronal Reagan's explication of the twists political language has undergone in America, in his Reason magazine interview "Inside Ronald Reagan".   See also the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on "liberalism" and Ludwig Mises' book Liberalism.  Another good source on the word "liberalism" and its meaning is an article by Amy Sturgis.