Dokree But Skinner seems to take himself to have shown something much stronger than this, namely that a scientific theory should not make use of inferred entities or phenomena at all. Fennett are at least three ways in which research in radical behaviorism may further the development of behavior-analytic science Leigland, The hallmark of behavior-analytic methodological practices is, of course, single-subject experimental research e. That they could goals could hardly be more different. Methodology The hallmark of behavior-analytic methodological practices is, of course, single-subject experimental research e. The more serious risk is that we will make claims which are really not testable at all, which empirical evidence can never show to be mistaken because we can always fudge the theory a bit to explain why the evidence was to be expected after all. Dennett holds that Skinner is not explaining, but explaining away.

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Oh, Rebecca, why must you do this to me? Knopf, , is what he calls "mentalism," namely the appeal to inner psychological phenomena in the explanation of human behavior.

The main target was to set up a technology for understanding human behavior, mentalism was just something Skinner saw as an obstacle to this. We cannot directly observe mental phenomena. But Skinner seems to take himself to have shown something much stronger than this, namely that a scientific theory should not make use of inferred entities or phenomena at all.

And this seems much too strong a claim. If we restricted physics, or even archeology or paleontology, to making use only of things that can be directly observed, we would deprive ourselves of most of their most interesting results--and also of a good deal of their predictive power. It often happens that the best theory which accounts for observed phenomena and makes predictions about unobserved but observable phenomena makes use of a good deal of theoretical apparatus for which our only evidence is inferential.

An analogy may be helpful in seeing this point. Conceivably we could do this without appealing to any hypotheses about how the machine is programmed, so that our theory simply took the form of correlations between inputs and outputs. Now we may not be quite like computers, but presumably the principles which govern our behavior are at least as complex as those that govern a computer, so we may reasonably expect that formulating hypotheses about our own internal states and processes will turn out to be the most effective way of explaining and predicting our behavior.

At the very least, it seems clear that it would be a mistake to rule out a priori any theory which made use of such hypotheses. In this sense, Skinner would have absolutely no problem at all with the idea of computer programming, especially considering most of his ideas invoke analogous concepts contingencies of reinforcement, probabilistic responding etc and the fact that he based his entire theory on evolution which demands that there will be an innate programming in all organisms.

So he had no problem with invoking internal concepts that had evidential existence and causal power. This is probably a good time to discuss what Skinner actually meant by "mentalism" - a term which appears to have been warped beyond recognition by Mr Philosopher here and Dennett.

Mentalism is when a hypothetical entity "mind", "will", "ego" etc is invoked to act as an explanation, when in reality all that has been provided is a nonexplanation, so for example, "Why did the rat respond on the lever?

Because the voice in his head told him to". This guy is referring to mentalism as recourse to psychological states or mental phenomenon, or even simple biology - all of which Skinner accepts. This confusion of the mentalism term is highlighted here: 2. Mentalistic accounts are not genuinely explanatory.

After giving a number of examples e. Again, Skinner seems to be providing a useful warning: it would be a mistake to take such offhand remarks as having much explanatory power. But, for a defense of the view that commonsense psychology does provide a fairly powerful explanatory account of a good deal of our behavior, see the writings of Jerry Fodor, e.

On the other hand, most such remarks are not even supposed to be explanations of behavior; often they are just casual ways of describing it. The explanatory emptiness of much of our ordinary talk about mental events is not evidence that mentalistic notions can find no place in a genuinely scientific account of human behavior.

Whilst this would be a valid criticism i. That is, an account that proposes a hypothetical entity which does not actually explain a behavior is, by definition, a mentalistic account. Mentalistic explanations are typically redundant. Skinner claims that mentalistic explanations really just restate the facts of behavior in more obscure language. Here there seems to be at least a trace of the linguistic thesis of philosophical behaviorism as exemplified by Carnap and, at one time, Hempel.

The idea seems to be that the mentalistic statements have the same meaning as the behaviors that count as evidence for them. In other words, if we were to try to explain why John is eating, saying "Because he is hungry" is a mentalistic explanation.

Why is this? Well, look at what we are actually saying here. We see that John is eating, so we make the claim that he does so because he is hungry. So how do we know that he is hungry? Because he is eating. And so on, into circular infinity.

What the philosopher here is trying to say, is that sometimes "he is hungry" can be a summarised form of a causal explanation, i. The "middle link" argument. Skinner suggests that, since the inner mental states which are supposed to explain behavior are themselves determined by external stimuli, they can safely be ignored: we can leave out the middleman and simply study the relations between stimuli and behavior.

If we must always go back beyond the second link for prediction and control, we may avoid many tiresome and exhausting digressions by examining the third link as a function of the first" 35 [42]. At first sight, this looks very reasonable. In other words, suppose I propose that when I drop a rock, an invisible gremlin grabs hold of it and then the gremlin-rock will fall to the ground.

Here S refers to dropping the rock, M refers to the invisible gremlin, and R refers to gravity. This is because M is completely irrelevant here, and realistically, it should be completely ignored unless someone can present evidence of its existence. Now, this does not mean that internal events cannot cause events or behaviors - Skinner famously rejected this Watsonian principle, which is why his paradigm was referred to as "radical" because it accepted the existence and causal power of inner mental states.

It may be that the most effective way of explaining the relationship between S and R is by way of hypotheses about the nature of M. Of course which is why noone would suggest doing such a thing. But equally disastrous, is positing an unnecessary, untestable, unfalsifiable entity to form part of a causal relation.

Ah Chomsky.. Skinner was a staunch critic of a few branches of science that tried to ignore the importance of specific contributions to behavior. He demolished Watson by basically pointing out that it is idiotic to try to discuss behavior without emphasising the importance of genetics and mental events, and then he attacked the biologists for trying to discuss behavior without looking at the environmental learning histories of their subjects.

Mentalistic explanations are homuncular. Skinner in a number of places objects to mentalistic explanations that they in effect invoke a little person or homunculus with all the same abilities that the ordinary person has. Explaining the behavior of a person by appealing to a little person inside the head, "driving" the body, clearly does not accomplish anything, since the actions of the homunculus are just as much in need of explanation as the actions of the person were originally.

All right. But notice two things. They may nevertheless accomplish something if they are dumber than the original person.

We might be able to understand the capacities of a person in terms of the interactions of a number of agents each of which has simpler capacities than the original person; we might then explain each of these dumber agents in terms of a system of still dumber agents, and so on until at the very bottom level we have something so simple it can be understood in terms of neurons firing or something of the sort.

This kind of explanation is familiar from computer science: a big complicated program may have a number of subroutines which can be thought of as agents dumber than the original program; these subroutines may themselves be decomposed into more basic routines, and so on, until at the bottom we reach circuits opening and closing. For the view that something like this is the best way to understand the human mind, see e. Whilst Skinner would have no problem with causal explanations being found in the brain, he obviously does have a problem with homunculi because they are, by necessity, illogical.

Homunculi require an infinite regression; the babushka doll understanding of human psychology. If our explanation of apparently rational behavior turns out to be extremely simple, we may want to say that the behavior was not really rational after all.

But if the explanation is very complex and intricate, we may want to say not that the behavior is not rational, but that we now have a better understanding of what rationality consists in. This is irrelevant to anything Skinner has ever said. There are a number of category errors, for example, if we were naming types of fruits, and I happened to say "cabbage", then this would be a category error because I have mistakenly included an item from another category "vegetables" into the "Fruits" category.

But there is a more fundamental category error that can be made. Suppose we were naming examples of intelligence, and you might say "playing chess", "being good at maths" etc. Namely, I have tried to include the category label as an example of the category since IQ is simply a measure of intelligence.

This is what Skinner objected to - trying to use "intelligence" as an explanation for why we behave intelligently.



Sajinn First, it can serve to clarify the scientific practices of the field through critical examination and discussion. Bacon viewed science as an inductive, empirically based exercise, with a skepticism toward preconceived theoretical notions, and with dennegt conviction that the distinguishing characteristic of scientific knowledge was its usefulness. Denneth conclusion presumably apparent purpose in terms of variation and selection, these would be that if both are equally speculative, then one have to do with the nature of variation, of which behavior should prefer the vocabulary that is more familiar. Daniel Dennett Indented? Because Dennett is an approachable, kind man, once his lecture finished I proposed accompanying him to his lunch appointment and asking a few questions en route.


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Kiramar Many additional issues and questions await analysis by radical skinnec. Klaus Landwehr — — Behaviorism 11 2: Modern perspectives on B. Quentin Skinner on Marsilius of Padua. Now, there is surely something valuable and important about this.


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For example, Moore e. Just as, before Darwin, many biologists teeth at night? Evolutionists confront creationists Vol. Some logical functions of joint control.

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