Modern Perspectives on B. F. Skinner and Contemporary Behaviorism

By James T. Todd; Edward K. Morris | Go to book overview

Chapter 13
Things That Are Private and Things That Are Mental

Howard Rachlin

As Laurence Smith (this volume) points out, Skinner belongs "in the tradition of the descriptive, inductive non-logical positivism begun by Francis Bacon in the 17th century . . . Bacon . . . enjoined the scientists of his day to reject the authority of the past and turn to the study of nature rather than books." It might, therefore, be more consistent with Skinner's own work to develop and build on his methods than quote from his books. In this spirit, I would take issue with several of the chapters in Part I, particularly those of Moore (Chapter 5) and Day and Moore (Chapter 6).

The two figures in Moore's article representing the "received view" and an "alternative view" put the issue graphically. I agree with what Moore says about the received view, but I do not share his alternative view. I would reduce the angle of the branch representing Skinner's radical behaviorism to bring it much closer to cognitive psychology and add another higher branch on which would sit "teleological behaviorism" ( Rachlin, 1992, 1993, 1994). What is teleological behaviorism? I have defined this form of behaviorism as an approach to the scientific study of the mind or as a way of using mental terms:

Teleological Behaviorism [is] the belief that mental terms refer to overt behavior of intact animals. Mental events are not supposed to occur inside the animal at all. Overt behavior does not just reveal the mind; it is the mind. Each mental term stands for a pattern of overt behavior. This includes such mental terms as "sensation," "pain," "love," "hunger," and "fear" (terms considered by the mentalist to be "raw feels"), as well as terms such as "belief' and "intelligence" that are sometimes said to refer to "complex mental states," sometimes "propositional attitudes" and sometimes to "intentional acts." ( Rachlin, 1994, pp. 15-16)

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