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Metaphysical problems of behaviourist theories of psychology : a philosophical analysis of issues raised and concepts employed by psychological behaviourism, with particular reference to B. F. Skinner's and E. C. Tolman's theories of psychology

Touber, F 1973 , 'Metaphysical problems of behaviourist theories of psychology : a philosophical analysis of issues raised and concepts employed by psychological behaviourism, with particular reference to B. F. Skinner's and E. C. Tolman's theories of psychology', Research Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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This thesis was written with the general purpose in mind of conducting a philosophical investigation into the discipline of psychology. The fundamental questions confronting this discipline, namely firstly, what constitutes the subject-matter of psychology, and secondly, what are the relevant methods or techniques of the discipline, are still matters of heated debate amongst philosophers and psychologists alike.
Basically two lines of thought and approach may be distinguished in this connections : -
1. The subject-matter of psychology is the mind, sometimes indicated as 'consciousness' or even 'awareness', and its specific method is introspection. The main aim of psychology is the understanding of human beings, and prediction and control of people are considered to be only incidental aims.
2. The subject-matter of psychology is human as well as. animal behaviour and its methods are the usual scientific ones of observation, experiment and measurement. Its basic aims are the prediction and control of human and animal behaviour. To this effect description rather than understanding of behaviour is emphasised.
It is with the latter notion of psychology, which is usually called "psychological behaviourism" that this thesis is concerned, and two specific nee-behaviouristic theories of psychology, namely those of Burrhus Frederic Skinner and Edward Chace Tolman have been subjected to a more precise examination of some of the concepts employed, some of the assumptions made and some of the implications involved. Although some flaws and inconsistencies in Skinner's and Tolman's theories will be pointed out in the course of writing, the thesis is not in the first place aimed at attacking these two particular theories and their internal structures, but rather, by examining the original writings of Skinner and Tolman, at providing an attack on the broader philosophical issues_, related to psychological behaviourism.
The aim of this thesis is to show that in general behaviouristic theories of psychology are fundamentally unsound. One line of attack concerns the analysis and use of mental concepts by behaviourists. These concepts include colloquial ones such as 'intention', 'purpose', 'thinking', as well as more technical ones as used by mentalistic psychologists, such as 'introspection', 'cognition', 'consciousness'. It will be argued that behaviouristic analyses of mental concepts in colloquial use, as attempted mainly by Skinner, as well as the creation of behaviouristic "counter-concepts” of colloquial and technical mentalistic notions, as provided by Tolman, are unsatisfactory and often lead to absurdities.
Another line of attack, connected with the above, deals with the validity and usefulness of behaviouristic explanations of human behaviour. It is maintained that certain useful explanatory distinctions concerning human behaviour, which are made in mentalistic psychology as well as in colloquial language, cannot be made any longer by behaviourists. In this connection the concepts of 'behaviour' and 'action' are subjected to a detailed analysis.
It will also be argued that behaviouristic analyses and explanations of the specifically human phenomenon of speech, whether functional as attempted by Skinner, or historical as tried by Tolman, are unsatisfactory.
Some other philosophically interesting puzzles in relation to psychological behaviourism, such as its presupposed determinism, problems of causality and the relevance or otherwise of the concept of a 'person' to a theory of psychology have also been given some attention in this thesis.
Thus this thesis is basically intended as an examination of the concepts central to molar behaviourism in particular, and an attempt to indicate some major criticisms to which molar behaviourist theories of psychology a:re open.

Item Type: Thesis - Research Master
Authors/Creators:Touber, F
Keywords: Tolman, Edward Chace, 1886-1959, Skinner, B. F. (Burrhus Frederic), 1904-1990, Behaviorism (Psychology)
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Copyright 1973 the author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s).

Additional Information:

Thesis (MA)--University of Tasmania, 1973. Bibliography: p. 218-221

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