death of the mind.

Lester Zick lesterDELzick at
Sun Jul 18 09:52:22 EST 2004

On Sun, 18 Jul 2004 09:06:23 -0400, Wolf Kirchmeir
<wwolfkir at> in wrote:

>John Hasenkam wrote:
>> "Wolf Kirchmeir" <wwolfkir at> wrote in message
>> news:bPSJc.27499$TB3.1137662 at
>> I am the most probably the least well-schooled person on this forum. I hated
>> school, hated university even more. That's brain damage for you. A touch of
>> opposition defiant disorder perhaps. That may explain why I've always
>> enjoyed kicking against the pricks.
>> So whaddya reckon Wolf, do I have any chance of teaching myself enough about
>> behaviorism to give myself a useful insight into the same?
>> Stay well,
>> John.
>Ah, well, John, schooling ain't the same as eddication.
>Read the classic texts by Skinner (he overstates his case, but he had 
>issues with "soul" etc on account of his religious raising), and read a 
>few articles describing actual research. If you want just an "informed 
>opinion", that should be enough.
>Despite what Lester et al. say, behaviorism explains a lot; radical 
>behaviorism is very careful to set limits on those explanations. Some 
>people think these limits mean that RB denies the value of attempting to 
>explanation outside those limits. I don't think so. It just claims that 
>wt present we don't have the tools and methods to go beyond. Note that 
>neurology and molecular biology appear to be going beyond those limts, 
>but they don't. As Glen says "physiology mediates." That mediation is 
>beginning to be analysed, but IMO that analysis is atill at the stage of 
>gathering observations that may be useful. Where biology was in the 
>17-1800s, IOW. Dawrin's genius was to recognise a pattern or two and 
>construct a theory - a theory that subseqeunet research has filled in 
>but not refuted. We don't have such a theory of behaviour yet, but IMO 
>the behaviorist stance (which says that the environment is an essential 
>part of such a theory) will be a central feature.

The problem is that the behavioist position we see is not that the
environment is an essential feature of any theory of behavior but that
the environment is the exclusive determinant of behavior, period.

And it is my impression that as a philosophy of behavior analysis,
behaviorism cannot be invalidated. Behaviorists simply expand
definitions to include whatever behavioral determinants eventuate.
We already see the transfiguration of behaviorist legerdemain to
include physiological interactions. Under such criteria, what are not
behaviorist experimental environmental independent variables?

Once again my impression is that the typical behaviorist would just
respond that any experimentally observable factors are behaviorist
environmental factors. But that just regresses the scientific analysis
to the nature and experimental observability of environmental factors.
Then we're back to the lab coat, forceps, electrode, stopwatch, and
log sheet definition of environmental behavioral experimentation.

The difficulty is that behaviorism is a philosophy and not a science
of behavioral analysis. So the results of behaviorist experimentation
do not confirm or deny behaviorism. They don't confirm or deny
anything except experimental circumstances and behavioral results.
But they don't explain anything else in the sense of showing where
those results come from to the exclusion of other possibilities.

You ascribe this to the general primitive state of behavior analysis.
I ascribe it to the primitive generality of philosophical materialism.
Darwin had no dogmatic foundation for his evolutionary theories and
observations that I'm aware of. And it's materialist dogma that Lester
et al. complain about in connection with behaviorism as a philosophy.

Regards - Lester

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