The Epistemological Views of A “Social Behaviorist”

Part of the Tulane Studies in Philosophy book series (TUSP, volume 18)


Sensory experience is not the source of human knowledge. It is also not the test of truth. That is to say, sensory experience is not the sine qua non of human knowledge, and it alone is not the test of truth. Rather, sensory experience is merely one condition among others necessary for the acquisition of knowledge and for the test of truth. For a human being to acquire knowledge he must not only sense the world, he must in addition sense it with a highly developed central nervous system which permits him to indicate that sensed world to himself and to others through the use of language.1 In order to test the truth of his beliefs, he must not only verify them through his own sense experiences, he must in addition socially validate them.2


Human Knowledge Sense Experience Social Validation Social Product Overt Response 
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  1. 1.
    The points of view expressed in this paper follows from those of George Herbert Mead and Jean Piaget. Cp. G. H. Mead, mind, Self and Society: From the Standpoint of a Social Behaviorist, ed. C. W. Morris (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1934); idem, Philosophy of the Act, ed. C. W. Morris (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1938). Jean Piaget, Psychology of Intelligence, tr. Malcolm Piercy and D. C. Berlune (Paterson, New Jersey: Littlefield, Adams and Co., 1964 ); idem, Play, Dreams and Imitation in Childhood, tr. C. Gattegno and F. M. Hodgson (New York: W. W. Norton and Company, Inc., 1962).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    William James, Essays in Pragmatism, ed. Alburey Castell (New York: Hafner Publishing Company, 1948), pp. 159–176; see also, Solomon Asch, “Effects of Group Pressure Upon the Modification and Distortion of Judgments,” in Heinz Guetzkow (ed.), Groups, Leadership, and Men, U. S. Office of Naval Research (Pittsburgh: Carnegie Press, 1951), and Read D. Tuddenham, “The Influence of a Distorted Norm Upon Judgments of Adults and Children,” Journal of Psychology, 52; 231–239 (1961).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Cf. Aristotle, Metaphysics, tr. W. D. Ross, Book I, 980a-980b, in Richard McKeon, ed., The Basic Works of Aristotle, (New York: Random House, 1941), p. 689.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Cp. Nevin S. Scrimshaw, “Infant Malnutrition and Adult Learning,” in Saturday Review, Vol. LI, No. II (March 16, 1968), pp. 64–66 and 84.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Wagner Bridger, “Signaling Systems in the Development of Cognitive Functions,” in The Central Nervous System and Behavior, 3rd Conference, ed. Mary A. Brazier (New York: The Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation, 1958), passim; and Alexander R. Luria, Human Brain and Psychological Processes, tr. Basil Haigh (New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1966), passim.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Mead, Mind, Self and Society, passim.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Gilbert Ryle, The Concept of Mind ( New York: Barnes and Noble, Inc., 1949), pp. 27–32.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Cp. Piaget, Play, Dreams and Imitation in Childhood, pp. 8–29.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Emotional behavior constitutes significant “mental” acts which often influence or condition intelligence, but the limitations imposed by a short paper preclude a discussion of “mind” as both intelligence and emotion.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Luria, “Verbal Regulation of Behavior,” passim, and Human Brain and Psychological Processes, pp. 56–63.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Asch, loc. cit.; James, loc. cit., and Mead, op. cit., passim.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Cp. M. J. Rosenberg, et. al., Attitude Organization and Change: An Analysis of Consistency Among Attitude Components (Yale Studies in Attitudes and Communication), Vol. 3 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1960), Chapter I.Google Scholar

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© Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, Netherlands 1969

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