death of the mind.

David Longley David at
Fri Jul 16 04:47:13 EST 2004

In article <ZLEJc.26181$TB3.1010975 at>, Allan C 
Cybulskie <allan.c.cybulskie at> writes
>For those people who might be interested in reading on behaviourism, I don't
>recommend reading what David and Glenn suggest, because Quine and Skinner
>are probably way too confusing for beginners, and David's "Fragments"
>doesn't really say much at all  I did read a good book recently by John
>Staddon called "The New Behaviorism: Mind, Mechanism and Society" that does
>a pretty good job describing Skinner and other behaviourists, and also
>points out some of the flaws and issues and motivations of Skinner.

Staddon's book provides an idiosyncratic view of modern behaviourism. 
 From the 70s he had been trying to chip away at some of the fundamentals 
of Skinnerian Radical Behaviorism, and there's no harm in that, in fact, 
it's what good science is all about. Personally, I'm not swayed by much 
of what Staddon says (any more than I was by Herrnstein), and I'm not 
sure many others are, but that doesn't mean I would discourage anyone 
from reading what he writes. Herrnstein in particular took the EAB down 
a new route. The point to grasp is that when one begins to focus on a 
molar and relative response rate analysis of behaviour, one becomes 
concerned with different issues to those when one focuses on a molecular 
and absolute response rate analysis. Both Herrnstein and Staddon took 
the Experimental Analysis of Behaviour down a quantitative route, one 
which all too easily collapses into worst of computationalism and 
cognitivism unless done so with extreme restraint.

 From what you write here, and in your others posts (which I'm not going 
to respond to individually as they just make the same nebulous errors 
that you have made in the past), I don't think you (presently)
have enough grounding to make informed comments on these matters. Having 
said that, you've got my respect for for picking up Staddon's book and 
reading it. Just bear in mind that Staddon is a bit of a heretic. His 
"theoretical behaviourism" is apparently non-mentalistic, but takes part 
of its inspiration from Hull <g>. You could balance some of what he says 
by looking at yet other molar behaviourists like Baum or Rachlin. But 
try to balance that by reading what some of t he traditional 
Skinnerian's are doing, or look at Catania's book "Learning".

PS. Unless you can get Baum, Catania etc to post to c.a.p, it's probably 
unwise to advise others NOT to read what Glen and I suggest.

"Fragments", incidentally, is just part of the theoretical background to 
a large (national) project in Applied Behaviour Analysis - the PROBE 

But perhaps you're just looking for an interesting read rather than 
anything practically useful.

>The only objection I found in it is probably at the heart of the debate here
>between the behaviourists and the non-behaviourists.  Staddon is puzzled
>that people find worrysome discoveries that say that our conscious
>recognition of a decision actually FOLLOWS the activation of the neurons
>that will carry out the action.  To him, this doesn't seem confusing or
>worrysome at all.  So why do we find the discovery worrysome?  Well, it's
>because that by all common sense, our mental deliberations can and in fact
>do result in actions being taken.  If it is the case that the action starts
>before the decision is "made", then our conscious decisions don't result in
>actions.  And that, ultimately, eliminates us as, in any way, intelligent
>beings, since intelligent deliberation plays no role in our actions.
>However, there is a way around this problem, which is to say that the
>deliberation does, in fact, determine the action, but that the action and
>the conscious recognition of the action both are the result of a brain event
>(or an event) that is the outcome of the deliberation itself.  In short, the
>deliberation -- when it reaches its conclusion -- kicks off a brain event
>that both instigates the action, and the conscious recognition of it.  And
>it is obvious that these don't have to occur together, since we can make
>"delayed decisions", where we decide what to do at a future time, and then
>do it.

David Longley

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