Academic journal article Behavior and Philosophy (Online)

Finding Our Mind in Behavior Analysis – a Review of Rachlin's the Escape of the Mind

Academic journal article Behavior and Philosophy (Online)

Finding Our Mind in Behavior Analysis – a Review of Rachlin's the Escape of the Mind

Article excerpt

Few behavioral psychologists tackle difficult conceptual issues, and perhaps even fewer attempt to address them in new ways. At the same time scientific philosophy must not involve absolutes or universals as no such absolutes or universals exist in the world (Kantor, 1953, p. 3). Indeed, sciences are progressive, they evolve and change; the philosophy of science is no different. In this spirit Howard Rachlin's work represents an alternative to more common behavioral analyses of complex issues in behavior analytic perspective. Deeply concerned that behaviorism is considered to be "dead" to mainstream philosophers and lay people far and wide, Rachlin asks us to reconsider what it means to be altruistic, feel pain, think, be in love, and more. His text, The Escape of the Mind (2014), takes us through ancient history, modern theories, and applied topics with deep conceptual and social relevance.

To be sure, The Escape of the Mind is really the story of Rachlin's teleological behaviorism, including its foundations and applied implications. Moreover, although this story is comprised of previously published papers, in reading through the text it is clear that the text is much more than that. Content is added, particularly that which links the chapters together, and the chapters themselves are presented in a sequence whereby each seems to build upon or elaborate upon those that preceded it. In this sense, the chapters take the reader on a journey, starting with a consideration of Plato and taking us all the way to a conceptualization of the coherent self in the final chapter. Readers who are familiar with Rachlin's work might see it in a new, broad, thematic context, whereas those who are unfamiliar with Rachlin's work are sequentially exposed to its foundation and application. Importantly, readers will surely notice both similarities and differences among Rachlin's teleological behaviorism and other behaviorisms while reading through Rachlin's text, and an adequate consideration of all similarities and differences among teleological behaviorism and other behaviorisms is far beyond the scope of this review. My aim is to describe Rachlin's text and highlight its relevance to conceptual issues in behavior analysis.

In what follows I provide an overview of the contents of the text. I have organized the chapters into three sections for the purposes of the review: 1) The Journey to the Private Mind (Ch. 1-4), 2) Searching for Our Mind in Our Heads (Ch. 5-6), and 3) Finding Our Mind in Our Temporally Extended Context (Ch. 711). After providing an overview of the text I will conclude by commenting on some conceptual issues highlighted by Rachlin's work.

The Journey to the Private Mind

The first four chapters of the text describe how the mind, as much of the lay culture refers to it today, came to be. That is, the first four chapters tell the story of how we began to refer to the mind as something that is both within and private to the individual. The first chapter describes Plato's allegory of the cave and its implications for understanding the mind. Rachlin's consideration of Plato emphasizes that it is experience that leads us to knowledge, and that knowledge is best considered as something that exists in the overt world. For example, that our understanding of a chair, while abstract, is an abstraction that exists in the world of nature - it is overt and public. The implication of this is that there is no place within us where knowledge exists that is distinguished from our overt behavior. Similarly, then, the mind and soul also do not exist somewhere within the organism; they too are wholly observable. To be clear, this stands in contrast to lay conceptualizations of the mind and soul, where the mind and soul are considered private and within. Interestingly, Rachlin notes that Plato is often assumed to have been the founder of the mind, whereas his ideas are at odds with popular conceptualizations of the mind in lay culture. …

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