Perspectives on Behavior Science

, Volume 42, Issue 2, pp 241–266 | Cite as

Suing for Peace in the War Against Mentalism

  • José E. BurgosEmail author
  • Peter R. Killeen


The antimentalists’ war against mentalism has not vanquished it. To examine why, we focus on two theses—mind as causal and internal—and three standard attacks against mentalism as defined by both theses: 1) mentalism implies dualism; 2) mind is unobservable, which hinders its scientific study; and 3) mentalism is impractical. These salients fail because: 1) if the mind is causal and internal, it must be material; 2) the observable/unobservable distinction is too problematic, with antimentalists equivocal about where to draw that line, with some even embracing publicly unobservable behavior as causally relevant; and 3) mentalism has not been demonstrated to be less practical than antimentalism. For the war on mentalism to succeed, stronger attacks must be devised, both scientific and philosophical. We contemplate some possibilities, while expressing doubts as to the wisdom of continuing the war. Peace may be better than war, and the resulting intellectual commerce may be good for both sides.


Mentalism Mental inner causation Antimentalism Behavior analysis Behaviorism Dualism Observability Pragmatism 



We thank two anonymous reviewers and Thomas Critchfield for valuable commentaries to a previous draft.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

No animals were used or participated in this article, excepting the authors, who did not mistreat one another; nor does it cite any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.


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© Association for Behavior Analysis International 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centro de Estudios e Investigaciones en ComportamientoUniversidad de GuadalajaraGuadalajaraMexico
  2. 2.Arizona State UniversityTempeUSA

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