death of the mind.

Wolf Kirchmeir wwolfkir at sympatico.ca
Mon Jul 19 09:07:10 EST 2004


Lester Zick wrote:

...snip...
> 
> Yes, well, behaviorists like Wolf seem to disagree with behaviorists
> like GS and vice versa. Thus it would appear that behaviorists by and
> large don't have any consistent definition of behaviorism apart from
> it's whatever behaviorists do and say at any point in time.
> 
> Regards - Lester
> 

Which means that we are trying to figure just what we are talking about, 
instead of making a priori assumptions. Unlike you. You keep maundering 
on about definitions, etc, as if they were immutable laws written on 
stone. You have occasionally quoted dictionary definitions, even. Good 
grief!

What's a definition? If it's in the dictionary, it's the dictionary 
maker's report on the meaning(s) attached to a word, as best as the 
maker can ascertain. Such definitions may have nothing to do with what 
the supposed referent of a word really is. (Consider the meanings of 
"heat" for an example.)

If it's in a math text, it's limitation on the meaning of a term, 
defined as the context in which the term may be used to construct 
truthfunctional statements. If it's a poor definition, then the term can 
be used to construct contradictory statements, which is why 
mathematicians care deeply about the definitions they make.

If it's in a science text, it's a summary of the current state of 
knowledge about whatever it is that the definition refers to.

If it's in a piece of legislation, it's a limitation on the meanings the 
word has in other contexts (including the explcit denial of some of 
those meanings, if necessary). And, as we all know, even so a word will 
be ambiguous enough that it takes loadasadough to get a judge to define 
the  word further so that egregious miscarriages of justice may be avoided.

If it's in theology, -- well, better not get into that. Theology is as 
bad as economics: ask three theologians for the meaning of "god", and 
you'll get six anssers.

Etc.

In all cases, definitions are human constructs, and therefore are 
subject to change. The fact that Glen and I do not fully agree means 
both that neither of us fully understand the subject, and that I in 
particular am uncertain about the scope of "behaviorism." BTW, we can 
disagree about the scope of "behaviorism" without disagreeing about the 
futility of mentalist explanations. We can even disagree about the 
reasons for that futility. We can disagree about a lot of things, in 
fact. But that disagreement is not evidence that can be used to refute 
behaviorism.



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