Questions on the Nature of memory, personality, etc.

Lester Zick lesterDELzick at
Thu May 13 17:26:00 EST 2004

On Thu, 13 May 2004 18:01:50 GMT, "Glen M. Sizemore"
<gmsizemore2 at> in sci.cognitive wrote:

>RM: I agree with you that especially in the field of cognitive psychology
>>big words are drawn from poor experiments.
>>GS: But the real problem with cognitive "science" is that its conceptual
>>foundation is laughable. But only a very small minority of scientists are
>LZ: I think we can take it as given that you consider cognitive science's
>conceptual foundation laughable.

>GS: A safe conclusion.

>LZ: The only issue worth considering is
>why and whether your laughter constitutes a judgment of any scientific

>GS: Is that really an issue worth considering, Lester?

Hard to say. You're a mixed bag, Glen. You have obvious interest in
the conceptual foundations of science and you occasionaly produce
insights of some significance, unlike certain others I could name. But
you speak in prejudiced terms on unresolved scientific problems and

>LZ: An issue of more relevance I think would be what it would take to make
>you stop laughing?

>GS: Cognitive psychology stripped of its prestige, money etc.

Well, obviously I was asking what could convince you that behaviorism
is wrong regarding the mechanical significance of cognition and mental
effects. And just as obviously the answer is nothing. Which indicates
a bigotry and lack of scientific acumen. It's hard judge if one can't
be wrong because no standard of rightness or wrongness can apply.

>LZ: Is there any criterion of scientific merit that
>would make you consider that you are wrong?

>GS: Which criteria did you have in mind? If we can't agree on what these
>are, how can the question be answered.

That's why and what I'm asking you. You're the one with the opinion
that the conceptual foundations of cognitive science are laughable.
They may not be as detailed as EAB. But they address the mechanical
basis for so far inaccessible faculties. You seem to deny that there
can be any non EAB basis for the mechanics involved. At least that's
what I understand you to imply with your insistence on the conceptual
vacuousness of such ideas.

I see EAB as the ability to manipulate and train behavioral faculties,
not explain the mechanical basis for various behavioral faculties like
sight. You just assume they are to be explained on the same mechanical
basis as ordinary EAB. But that's mere speculation since we have no
present way to define the faculties of things like sight in mechanical
terms. EAB can only explain techniques and technologies used to train
faculties. They train sight but they don't explain sight mechanically.

So the criteria I'm asking about are just those which would cause you
to consider this approach incorrect and acknowledge that there may be
cognitive effects requiring alternative approaches to EAB. Cognitive
science doesn't attempt to deny the merit or significance of EAB as a
training discipline. And I'm uncertain why behaviorism denigrates
attempts to comprehend the mechanics underlying sentient faculties.

>                                                                    But I would say, again, that I
>consider conceptual analyses to be an important part of science, and this is
>the level at which I criticize cognitive "science" the most, and it was, of
>course, the subject of my post to RM. Since I hold conceptual analysis to be
>important, and I hold that the concepts of cognitive psychology are shit,
>you might guess that I consider it (cognitive "science") to have failed in
>an important way.

Well, the concepts of cognitive science may be unsophisticated, but
they can hardly be called shit if they're able to generate the kinds
of experimental insights recently cited by Alpha. (By the way I don't
know who RM is.) Unsophisticated and often naive, perhaps. But I still
don't see any conceptual basis for behaviorism apart from materialist
assumptions as to the mechanics of behavioral faculties which, by the
way still haven't led to the kinds of correlations cited by Alpha.

>LZ:  Or is it just so much
>philosophical pretention at the conceptual foundations of behaviorism
>that makes you think you're right?

>GS: I think I'm right because the conceptual framework of the experimental
>analysis of behavior can withstand scrutiny, and this has led to a science
>that directly demonstrates the reliability and generality of the processes
>over which it has experimental control.

No doubt, Glen. The problem is the relevance and significance of the
processes over which EAB exercises no control and which you criticize
as conceptually defective. What I'm trying to understand with respect
to your criticism is the reason you claim that behaviorism's success
with EAB in terms of training has any bearing on the laughability of
cognitive science's motivation in approaching cognition in general.
You have never answered or even responded to the criticism that the
success of behaviorism's training control justifies the impossibility
of conceptually explicable cognitive features. Your only justification
so far seems to be that if such a thing exists it will only represent
materialist behavioral interactions of the kind you study in objective
terms and I see no basis for any such conclusion in conceptual terms.

>LZ: Just so much scientific prejudice?

>GS: No. The concepts of the EAB have been scrutinized beginning with Skinner
>'s analysis of terms like "stimulus," "response," "reflex," "conditioning,"
>etc. in the mid-1930s. That this conceptual analysis took place, and was
>thorough is not a matter of prejudice. If you think it is, then you should
>feel free to examine these papers (like "The Generic Nature of Stimulus and
>Response") and critique thoise conceptual analyses. Unfortunately their are
>no conceptual analyses in which cognitive "science" to which one may direct
>one's attention. One can, however, generate such analyses.

OK. Here there is some confusion over what you have said in the past
regarding what I thought you were referring to as the conceptual basis
for behaviorism as a philosophical doctrine of science. I agree that I
have seen little if any conceptual basis for cognitive science apart
from my own forays on the subject of the mechanics of sentience. And I
agree that behaviorists including Skinner have been very much more
attentive to that aspect of the subject. However I do not agree that
they got the analysis anything like correct. They just used a variety
of new terms to describe EAB. So it still smells like a philosophical
prejudice to me even though it refers to and describes experimental
techniques and technology.

>LZ: It's time to get past Glen's laughter and get down to the root of the
>laughter of other professionals in behavior analysis.
>GS: You mean "other professional psychologists;" again, "behavior analysis"
>implies "behaviorism" and there is a large correlation.
Well, the phrase "other professional psychologists" is fine with me.
>LZ: At least that
>would explain why they're laughing at behaviorism and you're not.

>GS: I don't think you can explain why behaviorism and the EAB are minority
>positions. But you can't seem to stop using the argument that, because
>behaviorism is a minority position, it must be wrong.
I've never used that argument, Glen, ever, and I don't now. I'm just
responding to your characterization of the conceptual foundation of
cognitive science as laughable. If laughter is a gauge I would think
the number of laughing professionals of either persuasion an important
criterion. I don't and wouldn't. To me it doesn't matter in the least.

Regards - Lester

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