Humanism and Skinner’s Radical Behaviorism

  • J. E. R. Staddon


“Science” and “humanities” are usually placed in opposition. The contributions of the humanities are in areas that are not usually thought of as scientific, such as morality and values, aesthetics, and an understanding of ultimate purposes. But, like his eminent younger colleague E. O. Wilson, B. F. Skinner recognized no dividing line. Science in general, and radical behaviorism in particular, provide all the knowledge needed, he argued, to guide society into a happy and, above all, long-term, future. His confidence is widely shared. Most middle-class parents, most psychotherapists and educators, the majority of political and social theorists, whether behavior analytically inclined or not, all now share Skinner’s confident belief that what they do is grounded in science.1 They acknowledge traditional practices, but doubt they have much to learn from them. They believe that all questions are at bottom scientific questions. Science, in principle, embraces all knowledge. This view, it is not unfair to say, has become the religion of the educated elite.


Personal Responsibility Social Constructionism Radical Behaviorism Naturalistic Fallacy Evolutionary Epistemology 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. E. R. Staddon
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychological and Brain SciencesDuke UniversityDurhamUSA

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