Cognition, Creativity, and Behavior: Selected Essays

By Robert Epstein | Go to book overview

20
FINAL COMMENTS ON PRAXICS

Summary. Continuing to debate about the merits of a proposal to establish a new science of behavior is not productive. Those who see the need for the new science can help establish it through a variety of professional activities.

Academic debates are, understandably, much like faculty meetings. They are pointless, interminable, and exasperating. We half-listen and half-read. Other people's papers set the occasion for monologues. We accuse our colleagues of misunderstanding and then misunderstand in turn. Scholars are, it would seem, essentially autistic.

Consider the debate about praxics. In 1984, in a paper called "The Case for Praxics" (hereafter, simply "Case"), I proposed the creation of an independent, comprehensive science of behavior, and I offered the term "praxics" as a name for the new science. I also offered a laundry list of reasons for distinguishing between praxics and behaviorism, which is a school of philosophy, and I offered another list of reasons for allowing praxics (the study of behavior) and psychology (the study of mind) to go their separate ways. I reviewed several earlier proposals along these lines; a forceful proposal by Kuo ( 1937), entitled "Prolegomena to Praxiology," was especially insightful. Finally, I documented a century of unsuccessful attempts to name a science of behavior.

Here are some of the criticisms that have been leveled against the "Case" paper, along with my comments (I claim the right of reciprocal autism):

The science of behavior, or at least "behavior analysis," is in good shape. A paper by Deitz ( 1986) asserts that those who fear for the health of the field have presented "no data" (p. 66), and indeed a paper by Wyatt, Hawkins, and Davis ( 1986) reports that "behaviorism" is a "vital, growing area of behavioral science" (p. 103). But it is the Deitz paper that contains no data (it also has no references), and the Wyatt et al. figures are misleading. Wyatt et al. note, for example, that in 1984 the Association for Behavior Analysis (ABA) had a membership of 1,946. But, according to the ABA membership office in Michigan (personal communication, January 29, 1987), the current membership of ABA is 892; the figure is inflated briefly at each annual meeting only because

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