Behaviorism: A Conceptual Reconstruction

By G. E. Zuriff | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 10
Behavioral Interpretation
The mentalistic conceptual framework implicit in everyday speech about human action competes with behaviorism. Behaviorists treat this mentalistic language in a variety of ways:
1. Eliminative behaviorism hypothesizes that as scientific accounts of behavior develop, mentalistic accounts will simply be abandoned as were prescientific beliefs in demons.
2. According to methodological behaviorism, mentalistic language applies only to the private phenomenal world beyond the scope of science.
3. The verificationist theory of meaning proposed by logical behaviorism translates mentalistic statements in terms of the publicly observable conditions used to test their truth.
4. Operational behaviorism defines a mental concept by the operations used to measure or detect that concept.
5. Tolman suggests that mental concepts can be identified with certain intervening variables in behavioral theories.
6. In analytic behaviorism mental concepts refer to behavior and dispositions which serve as the criteria for the application of mental terms.
7. An empirical reduction first determines the features of behavior referred to by a mental term and then explains these features with a behavioral theory.
8. An empirical translation of a mental term provides the independent variables controlling its emission as a verbal response.
9. Mental terms can also be identified with certain hypothetical constructs in behavioral theories.

Interpretations which identify mental concepts with behavioral concepts (i.e., 3, 4, 5, 6) are challenged by neomentalism, which equates mental processes with internal functional states of the organism. This objection, however, is inconclusive in the absence of an agreed-upon theory of meaning.

Interpretations which attempt behavioral explanations of complex behavior (ie., 7, 8) are criticized for illegitimately extrapolating from simple contexts in which behav-

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Behaviorism: A Conceptual Reconstruction
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xi
  • Chapter 1 General Overview 1
  • Part I the Science 11
  • Chapter 2 Observation: the Case Against Introspection 13
  • Conclusion 28
  • Chapter 3: The Behavioral Data Language 29
  • Chapter 4 Theoretical Concepts 55
  • Chapter 5: Theorizing 81
  • Part II Behavior 97
  • Chapter 6 S-R 99
  • Conclusion 117
  • Chapter 7: The Organization of Behavior 119
  • Chapter 8: Complex Processes 150
  • Part III Mind 173
  • Conclusion 199
  • Chapter 10: Behavioral Interpretation 201
  • Chapter 11 First-Person Reports 225
  • Conclusion 248
  • Chapter 12: Behavioral Epistemology 250
  • Notes 279
  • References Cited 317
  • Index 363
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