To understand behaviorism

Behaviorist’s Manifesto “We can follow the path taken by physics and biology by turning directly to the relation between behavior and the environment and neglecting supposed mediating state of mind” “We can be just like them real scientists if we do things a certain way” An attitude of scientific wannabes; they want to be taken seriously as scientists, which they are not; by changing the focus of our attention from the internal state of mind and events to the behavior which is publicly observable.

The analysis will rest upon the thesis determinism. “This escape route that is claiming that we are free is slowly closing as new evidences of predictability of human behavior are discovered. Personal exemption from complete determinism is revoked and a scientific analysis progresses, particularly in accounting for the behavior of the individual” “So, we homosapiens are no exceptions to the universal rule of determinism.

The difference between us and other organisms is merely one of degree or complexity and not in a difference in kind” Skinner has learned is lesson from Darwin We already know the causes of some human behavior and when we do know the causes, we exempt the person from responsibility, so that our clinging to this illusion of freedom is function of our ignorance of the causes of which make people do the things they do. If we completely understood the laws of human behavior, they would all be predictable. But, we are not that far yet.

As evidence of how far along we are, just think about how many types of behavior today are perceived of as illnesses to be cured as opposed to vices to be punished. You may be inclusively committed to the claim that the behavior in question is literally beyond the control of the individual. The individual is a victim of prior forces over which he or she cannot control or he or she is the victim of irresistible forces. To the extent that we know their reasons, we can say that they are sick. This is founded completely on the commitment to determinism, which is basically an act of faith.

We have not yet discovered all the laws which explain human behavior. Skinner responds: “I know that. So far, we haven’t. But it is only a matter of time before all human behavior can be explained such as the compulsive gambler or the chronic alcoholic or the any of the other cases where we readily admit that the forces at work are uncontrollable on the part of the individual. We don’t want to let everybody of the hook. A person is compulsive if he stands to gain nothing and risks losing everything.

In the case of Marx: He paints a clear picture of his devastating critique of capitalism, but doesn’t elaborate too much on his new communist society, with the exception of a few phrases, which is similar to Skinner. In the text, Beyond Freedom and Dignity, about 98% is devoted to the elimination of the autonomous man. Then when it is time to say, “Alright let’s give up this illusion. Now, what kind of a society will we be living in then”. This is not well explained, with the exception of a few good things that will happen when we begin our program of human engineering. In Walden 2, Skinner depicts his utopia.

Since behavior is a function of heredity and environment, there 2 results. They concern the basic analysis of the theoretical and practical implications. “The 1st is the theoretical analysis. The behavior, which operates upon the environment to produce consequences, or operant behavior, can be studied by arranging the environment in which specific consequences are contingent upon it. The contingency under investigation has become steadily more complex, but they are taking over the explanatory functions previously assigned to personality, state of mind, feelings, character, purposes and intentions.

A true scientific explanation of human behavior makes no reference to these kinds of mediating mental states. The 2nd result, a blockbuster since it seemed to be a threat to our own self-esteem, is the practical result. The environment can be manipulated. Man can be changed (genetically) very slowly, but changes in the environment can have quick and dramatic effects. A technology of operant behavior is already well advanced and it may be proved to be compatible with our problems. It is behavioral engineering carried out by behavioral psychologists.

Like Plato’s rulers, they stand behind the scenes and pull all the strings. They are making puppets do the things that we think we are doing as a result of free conscious choice or decision. We are totally determined and they will be our puppet masters. Skinner says that this is a good thing. B. E. is made possible if the program of behaviorism is carried through to its logical conclusion. It is not very flattering to be told you are nothing but a puppet. We tend to reject this. But, this is evident in the animal kingdom. Skinner believed in positive reinforcement as much more effective toll.

Skinner writes that 2 features of autonomous man are very troublesome. “In the traditional pre-scientific view a person is free. He is autonomous in a sense that he is held responsible for what he does and justly punished if he offends. That view together with associative practices must be re-examined when a scientific analysis reveals unsuspected controlling relations between behavior and environment. So, as the scientific analysis of man progresses, the myth of autonomous man becomes weaker. Which Skinner believes is the only hope for our salvation.

Skinner says “By questioning the control exercised by the autonomous man and demonstrate the control exercise by the environment, a science of behavior also seems to question dignity or worth. Thus, the title, Beyond Freedom and Beyond Dignity is used. A person is responsible for his behavior under the old pre-scientific view. Not only in the sense that he may justly be blamed and punished when he behaves badly, but also in the sense that he is to be rewarded for his achievements. Scientific analysis shifts credit and blame to the environment and traditional practices are no longer justified.

These are sweeping changes. Those who are committed to traditional theories and practices are dismissed. ” What is man? “It is in the nature of an environmental analysis of human behavior, that it should strip away the functions previously assigned to autonomous man and transfer them one by one to the controlling environment. The analysis, as it progresses, leaves less and less for autonomous man to do” It is disheartening Skinner says, “The reaction to this book would be negative. They would say, “You are undermining my worth as a person”.

“For at least 100yrs, we have been prejudiced at economic determinism (Marx), mechanistic behaviorism (Skinner/Watson), and relativism that reduces the statute of man until he ceases to be a man at all in any sense that the humanist of an earlier generation would recognize. Another contemporary psychologist has argued that the empirical behavioral scientist read Skinner denies, if only by implication, that a unique being called Man exist” Skinner responds to charges There is clearly difficulty in identifying the man to whom these expressions refer.

We are told what is threatened is man in his humanity or man in a person. These aren’t very helpful expressions, but they do supply a clue. What is being abolished is autonomous man, the inner man, the homunculus, the possessing demon, the man defended by the literatures of freedom and dignity. ” Autonomous man is being destroyed and demolished. Skinner says this is a good thing. “His abolition is long overdue. Autonomous man is an illusory device used to explain what we could not explain any other way.

He had been constructed from our ignorance and as our understanding increases the very stuff of which he is composed vanishes. Science does not dehumanize man. it dehomunculizes him and it must do so if it is to prevent the abolition of the human species. ” He is talking about nuclear holocaust. “only by dispossess him can we turn to the real causes of human behavior. Only then can we turn from the inferred to the observed, from the miraculous to the naturalist. It is often said that when doing so we must treat the man who has survives as a mere animal. Does this reduces man to another animal.

Different in degree of complexity, but not different in kind. Science has never demanded a more sweeping change in a traditional way of thinking about this subject. Nor has there been a more important subject. In a traditional picture, the world perceives the world around him, selects features to be perceived, discriminates among them, judges them as either good or bad, changes them to make them better or worse and may be held responsible for his actions, and is justly rewarded or punished for his consequences.

That is the pre-scientific illusion of autonomous man. In the new scientific picture, a person is a member of a species shaped by the evolutionary contingency of survival displaying behavioral processes which brings him under the control of the environment in which he lives and largely under the control of a social environment which he and millions of others like him have constructed and maintained during the evolution of a culture. The direction of the control relation is reversed. A person does not act on the world.

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