B.F. Skinner

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Why doesn't B.F. Skinner view physiological and mentalistic explanations as equally unscientific and illegitimate given that both involve appeal to "inner" processes? Is he inconsistent in treating them differently?

-- Charlene Lindsay (charlz@attcanada.ca), September 26, 2002


Read the analysis in Kenneth Hillner's (1984) History & Systems of Modern Psychology (Gardner Press), which is one of my favorites for teasing out the philosophical underpinnings of various forms of behaviorism, with separate chapters on Watson and Skinner. The charts in the book take you through the steps of understanding the answer to your question. He aks the following questions about each system: Does mind or consciousness exist? If so, what is the relevance of mind to psychology? Is the use of operationally defined mediators possible? If yes, what is the locus of the mediators? Are the central mediators reducible to behavioral or peripheral terms? You'll probably be surprised about where Skinner ultimately winds up on Hillner's chart.

-- Hendrika Vande Kemp (hendrika@earthlink.net), September 27, 2002.

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