Wednesday, March 2, 2011

But Really...

Skinner's an interesting character, although it seems slightly odd to me that he transferred most of his notions of trial-and-error behavior directly from rats to humans (but perhaps I am mistaken.) I had to read two books of his a very long time ago - Walden II and Beyond Freedom and Dignity. Both were kind of quirky, and at the time, I wondered how serious he was on the idea of Walden II. Evidently, quite so. I also recall in the latter writing he pushed his idea that humankind was devoid of will and any drop of personal responsibility, internal motivation (other than what occurs through the process of conditioning) and inherent growth tendencies. While I see some realistic applications in behaviorism's theory, I continue to find it somewhat absurd to declare consciousness an invalid component of human behavior. I will admit, though, Skinner had some fairly clear and articulate views on our species and our ability to use the environment toward the comforts of technology, at the environment's expense.

As he wrote in Beyond Freedom and Dignity,

          Every new source from which man has increased his power on the earth has been
          used to diminish the prospects of his successors. All his progress has been made at
          the expense of damage to his environment which he cannot repair…
          (Skinner, 1972, p. 4).

Skinner, B. F. (1972). Beyond freedom and dignity. New York, NY: Bantam/Vintage Books.

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