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Darwin & Skinner. Darwin Animals & Humans: Different in Degree or in Kind? Darwin’s Theory of Morality Human Nature: Fixed or in Flux? B. F. Skinner Three Theories of the Mind Behaviorism as a Version of Physicalism. Darwin on Morality. Morality is species-relative. Morality is based on:

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darwin skinner
Darwin & Skinner
  • Darwin
    • Animals & Humans: Different in Degree or in Kind?
    • Darwin’s Theory of Morality
    • Human Nature: Fixed or in Flux?
  • B. F. Skinner
    • Three Theories of the Mind
    • Behaviorism as a Version of Physicalism
darwin on morality
Darwin on Morality
  • Morality is species-relative.
  • Morality is based on:
    • 1. Instinctive sympathy.
    • 2. Sensitivity to praise and blame by others.
    • 3. Habit.
lower and higher moralities
Lower and Higher Moralities
  • The universal morality of good will to all is an accidental by-product of the expansion of human reason and imagination, working on these raw materials.
  • Darwin talks of "higher" and "lower" standards of morality -- apparently with reference to some transcendent, extra-biological reference point.
humanity in continual flux
Humanity in Continual Flux
  • Darwin believed in flux: an ongoing state of gradual, essentially constant change.
  • Contrast: punctuated equilibrium.
    • Long periods of stasis, punctuated by brief, rapid episodes of change.
implications of the flux view
Implications of the Flux View
  • 1. Human Nature can and does change over time. Aiming at a moving target.
  • 2. We can produce (both intentionally and unintentionally) changes in human nature.
    • Raises the issue of eugenics, and of genetic re-engineering.
  • Discussion in DOM on the impact of civilization on course of human evolution.
third implication
Third Implication
  • 3. Different sub-populations, races may have different versions of human nature.
    • As the whole population moves through phylogenetic space, different sub-populations may be moving at different velocities, in different directions.
    • Raises questions about the unity of human species.
three theories of the mind
Three Theories of the Mind
  • Hylomorphism (Aristotle, Aquinas)
  • Dualism (Descartes)
  • Physicalism (Hobbes, Skinner)
    • Eliminativism
    • Reductionism
  • The mind is an aspect of the soul, which is the form of the body.
  • Depends on the validity of both formal and final causation.
  • The body's having a "form" in Aristotle's sense is dependent on its having a final cause (natural functions).
dualism descartes
Dualism (Descartes)
  • The mind is a separate entity, that interacts with the body.
  • Depends on the existence of non-physical, unobservable entities, and on the incompleteness of physical causation (at the level of efficient causation).
physicalism hobbes skinner
Physicalism (Hobbes, Skinner)
  • No final causation
  • A closed & complete network of physical causes.
  • Two varieties:
    • Eliminativism
    • Reductionism
  • Mental states -- beliefs, desires, attitudes, perceptions -- do not really exist.
  • They are the myths, elements of a pre-scientific picture of human beings.
  • Mental states are a special kind of physical/chemical state.
  • Science should look for "bridge laws" that link mental and physical states.
  • Skinner is an eliminationist.
  • Reductionism has run into a number of problems in the 20th century.
three problems for reductionism
Three problems for reductionism
  • 1. Mental states seem to involve final causation, natural functions.
    • The final cause of belief is knowledge.
    • The final cause of desire is fulfillment.
    • The final cause of hunger is eating food.
    • The final cause of fear is safety.
    • The final cause of love is the good of the beloved.
problems for reductionism
Problems for Reductionism
  • 2. Mental states have the property of intentionality -- they are about something.
    • I can "see" something that isn't there.
    • Any false belief is about an unreal situation.
    • E.g., I believe in Clinton's honesty.
    • How can there be, in physics, a real relation to an unreal object?
connection between 1 2
Connection between 1 & 2
  • Intentionality is connected to final causation: a belief is about a certain kind of situation if that belief is supposed to be formed only when that kind of situation is known to be present.
problem 3
Problem #3
  • 3. The problem of multiple realizability.
    • The same mental state could be realized by infinitely many different physical states.
    • The same belief can be shared by people whose brains are quite different, even by creatures of different species.
    • Even -- aliens who are silicon-based, or androids with electronic brains.
connection between 1 3
Connection between #1 & #3
  • This is a characteristic feature of teleological states: the same end can be achieved by infinitely many different means.
  • Screwdrivers can be made of many different materials, in many different shapes or forms (power vs. manual).
  • More than 30 different kinds of eyes in nature.
problem 4 qualities of conscious experience
Problem #4: Qualities of Conscious Experience
  • Consciousness seems to involve certain qualities (called “qualia”, singular “quale”), like the feeling of pain or the appearance of colors, that cannot be reduced to physical properties.
  • Possibility of zombies, color-spectrum inversions. Indetectable by behavior, interaction with environment, brain states.
behaviorism as a version of physicalism
Behaviorism as a Version of Physicalism
  • Early version of physicalism: stimulus response model.
  • Build a simple, 2-column table:

inputs in first column, outputs in second.

operant conditioning
Operant conditioning
  • Includes a kind of "memory" of past experience.
  • Possibility of positive and negative reinforcement.
  • X is a positive reinforcement of behavior Y if and only if the association of X with Y makes the repetition of Y more likely.
human beings are finite automata
Human beings are finite automata.
  • Represent by a more complicated table.
    • Rows: possible inputs (environmental conditions).
    • Columns: possible internal states.
  • In each square, we put two things:
    • 1. The output, behavior produced.
    • 2. The new internal state into which the subject is transformed.
everything is finite
Everything is finite
  • finitely many inputs (conditions to which the subject is potentially sensitive)
  • finitely many internal states
  • finitely many possible behaviors.
iii implications of behaviorism for education and government
III. Implications of Behaviorism for Education and Government
  • A. Education -- especially moral, character education.
    • Classical (teleological) view: there is a fundamental distinction between manipulation and education.
education on classical view
Education (on classical view)
  • Assists and nurtures natural development of moral sense, character
  • •Goal: teachers initiate learners into a state to which they have already attained (maturity, wisdom).
manipulation on classical view
Manipulation (on classical view)
  • Circumvents or overrides natural functions, development.
  • Goal: to modify students' behavior for the good of society, without reference to the current state of the teachers.
education vs manipulation
Education vs. Manipulation
  • On the behaviorist view: this distinction is empty. All so-called education is merely a form of manipulation (behavior control).
  • There is no natural development, "no unfolding of a pre-determined pattern" (p. 89)
  • On classical view, individual liberty is an important goal:
  • In order to attain happiness, each individual needs opportunities to exercise and develop virtue & practical wisdom.
  • This necessitates a sphere of private sovereignty.
distinction liberty license
Distinction: liberty & license
  • One has no right to do what is inherently vicious -- e.g., to murder, enslave or dominate another.
  • When law prohibits such vicious acts, no liberty is lost.
contrast hobbes rousseau
Contrast: Hobbes & Rousseau
  • Held that every law is a restriction of liberty.
  • Perfect liberty is possible only in the state of nature (anarchy).
skinner there is no such thing as liberty
Skinner: there is no such thing as liberty
  • So, no law, regulation or social control involves a loss of "liberty". Liberty is not an intelligible social goal.
  • Why not? Skinner denies the existence of choice, and of virtue. These are mythical components of happiness.
persuasion vs manipulation
Persuasion vs. Manipulation
  • On the classical view, the state is a partnership, based on mutual respect, and the use of persuasion, not coercion or manipulation.
Persuasion: speech that engages the faculties of the rational mind, assisting them to function properly in reaching a reasonable conclusion.
  • Manipulation (misuse of rhetoric): speech that seeks to circumvent or override the faculties of the rational mind (through the exploitation of weaknesses and biases), causing them to function improperly and form an unreasonable conclusion.
skinner s rejection of this contrast
Skinner’s rejection of this contrast
  • Skinner denies the validity of the persuasion/manipulation distinction.
  • He denies the existence of such inner faculties, and of the distinction of proper/improper functioning.