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Re: Skinnerian behaviorism

Sep 12, 1997 10:41 PM
by Tim Maroney

>Would anyone like to comment on B.F. Skinners deterministic model? For
>Skinner everything was physical and human beings were totaly controlled
>by their environment.

Skinner would have rejected those statements as too philosophical and not 
subject to empirical measurement, at least within the scope of his 
behavioral science (as opposed to the two well-known popular books he 
wrote -- many people get these personal musings and speculations confused 
with behaviorism). People think of behaviorism as some sort of malevolent 
soul-crushing force but it would be more correct to classify it with 
positivist and formalist movements in mathematics and the sciences. It 
does suffer from their limitations but it is not some ravening attempt to 
eradicate the soul. If the soul could be measured, behaviorism would be 
happy to engage it as a subject; otherwise it says it is outside its 
scope as a science.

>People have no souls, so they themselves cannot be
>considered as part of their own environment.

This is far outside the behaviorist scope -- it's metaphysical, and not a 
part or corollary of the science of Skinner, Watson, Pavlov, what have 

>How does contemplation of self fit in Skinners model?

In a biographical article a few years ago in one of the freethinking 
magazines (I think Skeptical Inquirer but possibly Free Inquiry) he 
described his regular morning practice of a kind of meditation he 
identified as Zen.

The most advanced form of behavioral modification in his system is known 
technically as "self-control."

>Why is it that only computers can have virtue in our day? 

Well, I'd love to discuss Skinner but I don't know what most of this has 
to do with him....

Tim Maroney

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