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Behavior and Philosophy Free Access for Two Volumes

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Behavior and Philosophy     1990+
Behaviorism   1972 – 1989   *

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Behavior and Philosophy, Volume 46 (2018)

Gudmundsson, Kristján (2018) The Skinner-Chomsky Debate: The Centrality Of The Dilemma Argument. Behavior and Philosophy, 45, 1-24

Abstract: The Skinner-Chomsky debate has been with us for a long time but has never been fully resolved. Outside behaviorism, Chomsky’s review is generally highly praised. Behaviorists have, however, countered by demonstrating many inaccuracies, misquotes, and basic errors couched in Chomsky’s emotional language. The purpose of this paper is to show that both parties are right. Although much of Chomsky’s criticisms miss the mark, one very basic point that Chomsky himself endlessly repeats is yet unresolved.
This part of Chomsky’s is called the dilemma argument and is shown to be a valid constructive critique that behaviorists would do well to address.
Therefore, it is necessary to go in some detail into this criticism. It is about time to flesh out its basic structure in order to add clarity to its examination. It is however, not the purpose of this paper to answer this criticism but only to highlight it. This will be a determined attempt at clarity, never giving up even when wading through Chomsky’s general emotional attitude – to say the least.

Gudmundsson, Kristján (2018) The Skinner-Chomsky Debate: The Centrality Of The Dilemma Argument. Behavior and Philosophy, 45, 1-24

Thompson, Nicholas S. (2018) Signs and Designs. Behavior and Philosophy, 46, 25-46

Abstract: The concept of sign is ambiguous, even in the hands of its most persuasive advocate, the 19th Century semeioticist, Charles Sanders Peirce. Peirce’s explication of “sign” is unclear both in the discrimination of its basic elements—signifier, interpretant, and object—and in its specification of the relations among these elements. Resolution of these ambiguities would seem to require invoking an intention to bring the interpretant to bear on the signifier and generate the object. But invocation of intentions as causes would seem to dilute Peirce famously anti-dualist stance. Such a dilution could be avoided, if one were able to provide a non-dualist account of intention. For many years, the Natural Design Perspective has been suggested to conceptualize intentional constructions as referring not to hidden inner causes but as higher order patterns of behavior, more widely spread across time and space than individual acts. Applying the Natural Design Perspective to the definition of “sign” offers the hope of reconciling Peirce’s semeiotics with his monism.

Thompson, Nicholas S. (2018) Signs and Designs. Behavior and Philosophy, 46, 25-46

Hocutt, Max (2018) George Berkeley Resurrected: A Commentary on Baum’s “Ontology for Behavior Analysis.” Behavior and Philosophy, 46, 47-57

Abstract: The following essay is a commentary on those parts of William Baum’s “Ontology for Behavior Analysts” that have to do with realism, which Baum defines as belief in the reality of things independent of perception and rejects on the premise that, since “All we have are perceptions,” distinguishing perceptions from their objects leads to an untenable metaphysical dualism. I show that this claim not only does not follow from Baum’s unintelligible Berkeleyian premise but is factually false. Some realists in the history of philosophy—notably Descartes and Locke—have certainly been dualists, but others (notably Hobbes and Spinoza) have not. As I show, the difference is that the dualists hold that mental activity occurs in a disembodied mind, while the materialists reply that it is the function of a material brain. This difference is obscured by Baum’s undefined talk of separate worlds.

Hocutt, Max (2018) George Berkeley Resurrected: A Commentary on Baum’s “Ontology for Behavior Analysis.” Behavior and Philosophy, 46, 47-57

Baum, William M. (2018) Berkeley, realism, and dualism: Reply to Hocutt’s “George Berkeley resurrected: A commentary on Baum’s “Ontology for behavior analysis.” Behavior and Philosophy, 46, 58-62

Abstract: Using Hocutt’s vocabulary, I repeat that realism leads inevitably to an unacceptable dualism, because realism distinguishes two categories: real things (material) and perceived things (immaterial). This dichotomy is unacceptable because it creates an unsolvable mystery: we have no way to understand how a thing in one category could affect a thing in the other category. By dividing the subject matter, dualism renders the science incoherent. Someone who asserts that only material things exist (Hobbes, according to Hocutt) is not espousing realism, but monism, and in monism, which assumes only one type of stuff or world, the terms material and immaterial have no meaning. Behavior analysis can advance as the study of behavior in relation to environment, past and present, without having to wait for advances in neurophysiology. Neurophysiology has not yet advanced to the point where behavior analysis can benefit from what it says about the nervous system. Someday neurophysiology may help to understand how the brain participates in behavior, and behavior analysis will be able to tell neurophysiologists what phenomena need to be explained.

Baum, William M. (2018) Berkeley, realism, and dualism: Reply to Hocutt’s “George Berkeley resurrected: A commentary on Baum’s “Ontology for behavior analysis.” Behavior and Philosophy, 46, 58-62

Christofidou, Andrea (2018) Descartes’ Dualism versus Behaviourism. Behavior and Philosophy, 46, 63-99

Abstract: My analysis straddles Descartes’ metaphysics and some parts of contemporary philosophy, especially regarding consciousness, and aims to show that once our understanding is freed from philosophical habits that affect current debates, Descartes’ views offer an opportunity to draw important insights. Primarily, I examine Descartes’ mind-body dualism and contrast it with behaviourism, particularly with philosophical behaviourism, focusing on Gilbert Ryle’s dispositional behaviourism and his attacks on Descartes’ dualism. The discussion takes the form of Objections and Replies, presenting the two thinkers in some sort of dialogue with one another. This bring out clearly who is distorting our ordinary language, violating the logical geography of concepts, committing a category mistake, and systematically misleading us. Ryle’s two well-known accusations – the category mistake, and the dogma of the ghost in the machine – are turned, by a reductio ad absurdum, against his own commitments, leading to an evaluation of his highly paradoxical view, and showing how it collapses in on itself. The closing parts touch upon, but do not pursue, some fundamental concerns about personhood and the self, the metaphysics of mind, freedom, and moral significance, and raise the question of what our deepest concerns and responsibility in the twenty-first century must be.

Christofidou, Andrea (2018) Descartes’ Dualism versus Behaviourism. Behavior and Philosophy, 46, 63-99

Rachlin, Howard (2018) Skinner (1938) and Skinner (1945). Behavior and Philosophy, 46, 100-113

Abstract: Skinner’s first book, Behavior of Organisms (1938), views psychology as the study of the behavior of the “organism as a whole.” Such a conception excludes internal events such as neural states or covert muscular movements (parts of the organism) from behavior analysis. Skinner’s article, The Operational Analysis of Psychological Terms (1945) retracts this exclusion in that it hypothesizes covert behavior (behavior of part of the organism) in behavioral analysis of psychological (i.e., mental) terms. The present article argues that this retraction was a mistake. If one takes a wider, molar view of behavior, there is no need to hypothesize internal events in the behavioral analysis of mental terms. Psychological (that is, mental) terms may be understood as patterns of overt behavior of whole organisms—and are no less real, no less subject to behavior analysis, for that.

Rachlin, Howard (2018) Skinner (1938) and Skinner (1945). Behavior and Philosophy, 46, 100-113

Kitchener, Richard F. (2018) Epistemological Behaviorism. Behavior and Philosophy, 46, 114-151

Abstract: Traditionally, philosophical epistemologists have been committed to a 1st-person internalist, Cartesian point of view. But numerous individuals have criticized such an assumption, suggesting instead the adoption of a 3rd-person, externalist behaviorist point of view, a view some have called epistemological behaviorism. But what such an epistemology would be has not been adequately discussed, including its underlying epistemology, and its connection to a behaviorist psychology. To contribute to such a clarification, I present a brief survey of the main philosophical representatives of such an account: Richard Rorty, Gilbert Ryle, John Dewey, Bertrand Russell, Willard Quine, and Wilfrid Sellars. The main area of agreement between these individuals is the following: Epistemological behaviorism is the theory that knowledge should be seen in a behavioristic way, not characterized as something inside the mind of the individual—not the Cartesian 1st-peson perspective, but something external—the 2nd- and 3rd-person perspectives. Knowledge is fundamentally behavioral in nature, whether actual current public behavior or contained in behavioral dispositions. Such epistemic behavior can be individual or interindividual (social). Hence, private epistemic behavior, if it exists, is of a secondary nature, deriving from the original public domain and dependent on it. In the future development of this view, several problems remain to be solved.

Kitchener, Richard F. (2018) Epistemological Behaviorism. Behavior and Philosophy, 46, 114-151

Behavior and Philosophy, Volume 45 (2017)

Burgos, José (2017) Editorial. i-iii.

From Dr. José E. Burgos

This is the first volume of Behavior and Philosophy published during my tenure as editor. The volume includes one voluntary submission (Lazzeri’s paper) and five special invited papers (the rest of the papers). In a way, then, this is almost a special issue. The papers discuss various topics, from the nature and epistemic role of postulated internal mental states to parsimony, theoretical behaviorism, methodological considerations in clinical psychology, the ontology of behavior analysis, and free will in relation to the argument from responsibility. All of the papers are engaging and thought-provoking. Readers (including the authors themselves) are welcome to submit brief commentaries to these papers (about 1,500 words, not counting title or references; no abstract needed; only one target paper per commentator). Submitted commentaries will be treated as normal submissions and subject to a review process. If the commentaries are accepted, the authors of the target papers will have the chance to reply. As a novelty, and if logistically viable, we will contemplate the possibility of a brief dialogue between the authors and the commentators, where the latter might have the chance to reply to the replies, and the authors of the target paper to reply again (authors will have the last word of the exchange). We will see. No promises. Just an idea that we might consider for future volumes.


Lazzeri, Filipe (2017) Extended Functionalism From A Behavioral Perspective. Behavior and Philosophy, 45, 1-21

Abstract: Mental (or psychological) phenomena (those we refer to by means of terms from so-called folk psychology; e.g., intentions, fears, reasoning processes) are often thought of as confined to the insides of the body. The extended mind view, like behavioral approaches, challenges this assumption, by claiming that some mental phenomena comprise external ingredients. Yet, unlike behavioral approaches, the extended mind view (e.g., as in Clark & Chalmers’ seminal paper) holds that these phenomena often, or depending on the category of mental phenomena always, happen inside the body altogether (which is acknowledged by certain behavioral approaches) and as non-behavioral causes of behaviors (an idea in general rejected by behavioral approaches). This paper highlights what I think are shortcomings of the extended mind view, with a focus upon the functionalist version thereof–extended functionalism. I suggest that this approach misses some major features of psychological concepts, and that it overlooks some behaviors as constituents of mental phenomena. The paper also suggests that a behavioral alternative, based upon contributions by Ryle and Skinner, among others, retains the qualities of extended functionalism while warding off its shortcomings.



Lazzeri, Filipe (2017) Extended Functionalism From A Behavioral Perspective. Behavior and Philosophy, 45, 1-21

Sober, Eliott (2017) Methodological Behaviorism, Causal Chains, and Causal Forks. Behavior and Philosophy, 45, 22-26

Abstract:  B.F. Skinner argued that in a causal chain from an environmental cause, E, to an inner state, I, and then to a behavior, B, the prediction, explanation, and control of B can be achieved better by focusing on the environmental cause, E, than by focusing on the inner state, I. In particular, he claims that the observable relationship of E to B is not affected by whether the inner state, I, exists.  The present paper evaluates Skinner’s claims and then shifts from a causal chain to a different causal arrangement, wherein two environmental states, E1 and E2, each causally contribute to a behavior, B.  In this case, postulating an inner state, I, that is caused by both E1 and E2, and which causes I, affects one’s predictions concerning the relationship between environment and behavior.



Sober, Eliott (2017) Methodological Behaviorism, Causal Chains, and Causal Forks. Behavior and Philosophy, 45, 22-26

Staddon, John (2017) Theoretical Behaviorism. Behavior and Philosophy, 45, 27-44

Abstract: B. F. Skinner’s radical behaviorism has been highly successful experimentally, revealing new phenomena with new methods. But Skinner’s dismissal of theory limited its development. Theoretical behaviorism recognizes that a historical system, an organism, has a state as well as sensitivity to stimuli and the ability to emit responses. Indeed, Skinner himself acknowledged the possibility of what he called “latent” responses in humans, even though he neglected to extend this idea to rats and pigeons. Latent responses constitute a repertoire, from which operant reinforcement can select. The paper describes some applications of theoretical behaviorism to operant learning.



Staddon, John (2017) Theoretical Behaviorism. Behavior and Philosophy, 45, 27-44

O’Donohue, William, Casas, Jena B., Szoke, Daniel R., Cheung, Dominique, Hmaidan, Reem I., Burleigh, Kenneth J. (2017) Scientific Progress in Clinical Psychology and Epistemically Virtuous Research. Behavior and Philosophy, 45, 45-63

Abstract: Meehl (1978) argued that clinical psychology has made slow scientific progress and in the subsequent forty years this situation unfortunately has not changed. This paper argues that the reasons for this slow progress is that science in clinical psychology is not being conducted well. Part of the problem is that the standard view that science controls for human cognitive weaknesses such as confirmation bias is too narrow. We argue that increased scientific progress may be achieved by conducting better science along four dimensions: 1) use of severe tests in the Neo-Popperian sense; 2) testing hypotheses of higher empirical content; 3) an increased orientation toward, and clarity of, problem solving in research; and 4) executing these with increased epistemic virtue, particularly in the design and reporting of such tests. Good science may require good character and a proper appraisal of research may require increased attention to relevant epistemic virtues.



O’Donohue, William, Casas, Jena B., Szoke, Daniel R., Cheung, Dominique, Hmaidan, Reem I., Burleigh, Kenneth J. (2017) Scientific Progress in Clinical Psychology and Epistemically Virtuous Research. Behavior and Philosophy, 45, 45-63

Baum, William M. (2017) Ontology For Behavior Analysis: Not Realism, Classes, Or Objects, But Individuals And Processes. Behavior and Philosophy, 45, 64-78

Abstract: Realism, defined as belief in a real world separate from perception, is incompatible with a science of behavior. Alternatives to it include Eastern philosophy, which holds that the world is only perception, and pragmatism, which dismisses the belief as irrelevant. The reason realism is incompatible with a science of behavior is that separating perception of objects from real objects leads directly to subjective-objective or inner-outer dualism. This dualism, in turn, leads directly to mentalism, the practice of offering inner entities as explanations of behavior. Positing unobservable causes renders a science incoherent. Ontology for behavior requires two distinctions: (a) between classes and individuals; and (b) between objects and processes. These distinctions allow a workable ontology in which behavior consists of activities that are extended in time (i.e., processes) and are ontological individuals—functional wholes with parts that also are activities. Such an ontology provides coherence to a science of behavior.



Baum, William M. (2017) Ontology For Behavior Analysis: Not Realism, Classes, Or Objects, But Individuals And Processes. Behavior and Philosophy, 45, 64-78

Hocutt, Max (2017) Just Responsibility. Behavior and Philosophy, 45, 79-89

Abstract: It is generally assumed that responsibility for one’s deeds should be assessed using a priori legal and moral standards. However, we know no such standards. Therefore, we must use our own man-made standards. Accordingly, the empirical meaning of being responsible is liability under the applicable rules to being held responsible. Responsibility is assigned, not discovered.



Hocutt, Max (2017) Just Responsibility. Behavior and Philosophy, 45, 79-89

Behavior and Philosophy, Volume 44 (2016)

Baum, William M. (2016) On the Impossibility of Mental Causation: Comments on Burgos’ (2015) “Antidualism and Antimentalism in Radical Behaviorism. Behavior and Philosophy, 44, 1-5

Excerpt: I agree completely with Burgos’ (2015) argument. I just think he drew the wrong conclusion. I grant that dualism can be treated independently of mental causes—that is, someone could support dualism and not any interaction between the physical and the nonphysical. Such epiphenomenalism seems of limited use in understanding behavior.



Baum, William M. (2016) On the Impossibility of Mental Causation: Comments on Burgos’ (2015) “Antidualism and Antimentalism in Radical Behaviorism. Behavior and Philosophy, 44, 1-5

Christofidou, Andrea. (2016) José E. Burgos (2015) Antidualism And Antimentalism in Radical Behaviorism: A Critical Discussion. Behavior and Philosophy, 44, 6-17

Excerpt:  As the title makes clear, José Burgos’ (2015) is an ambitious paper, attempting to tackle a number of positions spanning three centuries or so in the philosophy of mind, and over a century in non-philosophical areas such as behaviourism, cognitive psychology, and other psychological accounts. It tries to draw on and include philosophers such as Descartes, Spinoza, and Kant, none of whom is easy, as he acknowledges, each meriting a separate paper.



Christofidou, Andrea. (2016) José E. Burgos (2015) Antidualism And Antimentalism in Radical Behaviorism: A Critical Discussion. Behavior and Philosophy, 44, 6-17

Leigland, Sam. (2016) Comments On Burgos' (2015) Antidualism and Antimentalism in Radical Behaviorism. Behavior and Philosophy, 44, 18-24

Excerpt: An interesting paper by Burgos (2015) argued that when radical behaviorists present criticisms of mentalism, such as the type typically practiced by cognitivists, the arguments commonly entail criticisms of dualism as well. Burgos made the case that conflating antidualism with antimentalism in such criticisms constitutes a misunderstanding of contemporary mentalistic practices in psychology, and weakens or confuses the case to be made against mentalism in psychology and behavioral science. This commentary will examine briefly this issue in the context of the different languages and practices of philosophy and of science.



Leigland, Sam. (2016) Comments On Burgos’ (2015) Antidualism and Antimentalism in Radical Behaviorism. Behavior and Philosophy, 44, 18-24

Marr, M. Jackson. (2016) The Escape of Metaphysics: Commentary on Burgos (2015). Behavior and Philosophy, 44, 25-31

Excerpt: As the Walrus entreated, Burgos (2015) talks of many things, and quite brilliantly, but essentially he has presented a clear, careful, and scholarly argument that radical behaviorism has typically conflated “mentalism” and “dualism.” If this be the case—and in some senses I think Burgos is correct—then maybe radical behaviorism has weakened its philosophical position in claiming to be foundational to a natural science of behavior. However, as much as I might side with Burgos’ conclusion, I find his approach strange, as reflected in his words, “…ontological (metaphysical), not epistemological…or linguistic matters…” (p. 4). While he admits the importance of the latter two, they “…will be peripheral to my discussion.” But in important ways by choosing this constrained approach he undermines his goal to bring some coherence into the radical behaviorist’s program, and in at least a couple of cases his “treatment” for radical behaviorism is worse than any disease, as I’ll discuss shortly. Certainly one may legitimately play, as Burgos often prefers, a purely rational game on the field of metaphysics, but I argue that the sort of issues at stake here are about what it might mean to talk about a natural science of behavior and that includes what we think we know about behavior and how we talk about it, including the “mental,” not only in fact, but so as to make sense of it. Thus, what Burgos calls the “epistemological” and “linguistic” (I would include the “empirical”) cannot simply be put aside; indeed, they set the initial and boundary conditions on what makes sense to talk of “mind,” “mental causation,” “identity,” “brain-behavior relations,” “agency,” “privacy,” and so on—all issues he treats directly or indirectly.



Marr, M. Jackson. (2016) The Escape of Metaphysics: Commentary on Burgos (2015). Behavior and Philosophy, 44, 25-31

Rachlin, Howard. (2016) Comments on Burgos’ (2015) Antidualism and Antimentalism in Radical Behaviorism. Behavior and Philosophy, 44, 32-40

Excerpt: In this article Burgos (2015) draws a distinction between mentalism and dualism, and criticizes radical behaviorism (RB) for its conflation of the two. He points out that a theory of behavior may be mentalistic in the sense that it employs mental terms, yet not dualistic in the sense that it does not postulate the existence of two separate substances—mind and matter. In other words, you can be a neural identity theorist (a kind of mentalist), believing that pain for instance is identical with the firing of a particular nerve in the brain, but not a dualist. He argues that radical behaviorists in their criticism of cognitive psychology conflate dualism and mentalism, and are thus logically incorrect. Burgos’s article is long and complex. Here I will focus only on two places in the article—at the beginning (pp. 2-3) where Burgos presents his understanding of radical behaviorism and identifies me as a radical behaviorist (or radical behaviorist sympathizer) on the basis of a quotation from Baum (2005), and at the end (pp. 30-32) where he (approvingly) cites my behavioral identity theory (Rachlin, 2014) as an exception to the general anti-mentalism of radical behavioristic theories.



Rachlin, Howard. (2016) Comments on Burgos’ (2015) Antidualism and Antimentalism in Radical Behaviorism. Behavior and Philosophy, 44, 32-40

Rockwell, Teed. (2016) Reply to Burgos (2015). Behavior and Philosophy, 44, 41-45

Excerpt: I appreciate the detailed attention Dr. Burgos has given my comments about Cartesian materialism in Burgos (2015), and I think he has some interesting things to say. However, he has made an important misinterpretation of my position, which creates an imaginary distance between us. Burgos quotes and replies to me in the following passage:

If the brain-body distinction is an “essential corollary of the mind-body distinction,” as the author claims, how could the former be kept without the latter? Something is amiss here: Either modern physicalists are incoherent for keeping the brain- body distinction without the mind-body distinction or the brain-body distinction is not really an “essential corollary” of the mind-body distinction (Burgos, 2015, p. 14).



Rockwell, Teed. (2016) Reply to Burgos (2015). Behavior and Philosophy, 44, 41-45

Burgos, José E. (2016) Mentalism versus Dualism: Replies to Commentaries. Behavior and Philosophy, 44, 46-79

Abstract: The target paper’s main point is that mentalism and, to this extent, mentalistic (e.g., cognitive) psychology can only be materialistic and, hence, cannot be dualistic. The commentaries to the paper are insightful and stimulating. A few call for corrections, the rest for further clarification. Most criticize the mind-brain identity theory. This criticism is beside the point, as I did not intend to champion this theory (or functionalism), but only use it to illustrate how mentalism commits us to materialism. Still, all the criticisms of the theory are fallacious (ad hominem attacks against philosophers of mind, commitment to a particular ontology of causation and personhood). Other commentators criticize my focus on ontology, also fallaciously, by arguing ad populum (few scientists are interested in it) and name-calling that misrepresents ontology as anti-scientific. Overall, none of the commentaries invalidates the target paper’s main point.
Key words: mentalism, dualism, radical behaviorism



Burgos, José E. (2016) Mentalism versus Dualism: Replies to Commentaries. Behavior and Philosophy, 44, 46-79

Fryling, Mitch J. (2016) Finding Our Mind in Behavior Analysis – A Review of Rachlin’s The Escape Of The Mind. Behavior and Philosophy, 44, 80-89

Excerpt: Few behavioral psychologists tackle difficult conceptual issues, and perhaps even fewer attempt to address them in new ways. At the same time scientific philosophy must not involve absolutes or universals as no such absolutes or universals exist in the world (Kantor, 1953, p. 3). Indeed, sciences are progressive, they evolve and change; the philosophy of science is no different. In this spirit Howard Rachlin’s work represents an alternative to more common behavioral analyses of complex issues in behavior analytic perspective. Deeply concerned that behaviorism is considered to be “dead” to mainstream philosophers and lay people far and wide, Rachlin asks us to reconsider what it means to be altruistic, feel pain, think, be in love, and more. His text, The Escape of the Mind (2014), takes us through ancient history, modern theories, and applied topics with deep conceptual and social relevance.



Fryling, Mitch J. (2016) Finding Our Mind in Behavior Analysis – A Review of Rachlin’s The Escape Of The Mind. Behavior and Philosophy, 44, 80-89