Inquiry into Inquiries: Essays in Social Theory

By Arthur F. Bentley; Sidney Ratner | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THREE
A Sociological Critique of Behaviorism
In a recent article in the Archiv für systematische Philosophie und Soziologie, Professor John B. Watson, pioneer and foremost advocate of Behaviorism in the United States, ably presents his case for a psychology dealing wholly with what can be observed, and held closely in line with what he asserts to be the procedure of other natural sciences. He expressly insists that he is not proposing a mere laboratory procedure, but that his method does now, or ultimately will, cover and control the scientific study of all the behavior, all the reactions, of men, including those more complicated reactions "labeled social."Psychologists will criticize his position from their various points of view, and I do not wish to encroach upon their field. I propose instead to examine Watson's work from a sociological point of view, and in especial to ask: (1) whether that which he defines as "observation" of facts is really an adequate significant scientific observation, or, instead, merely a limited provisional observation, useful in simple cases but not extending significantly to " the more complicated reactions labeled social"; and (2) whether his procedure is or is not actually in line with that of other natural sciences as he asserts it to be. I shall undertake this examination, not from a standpoint in opposition to that of Watson psychologically, but instead with a full willingness to regard his system as useful and adequate within the ranges in which he has actually thus far used it. I shall go with him as far as I can, and ask merely how the case stands when one must perforce go further.The leading assertions of the article in question are:
1. All behavior can be observed, like the phenomena of all other natural sciences (but consciousness has never been observed).
2. All behaviorist observation can be presented in the form S-R, i.e., stimulus-response.
3. Physico-chemical studies, neuro-physiological studies, and behaviorist
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From Archiv für systematische Philosophie und Soziologie, Bd. 31, Heft 3-4, 1928, pp. 334-40.

-31-

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