Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


34th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2008

Event Details

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Paper Session #62
Radical Behaviorism, Theory and Philosophy
Saturday, May 24, 2008
2:30 PM–3:50 PM
Area: TPC
Chair: Sam Leigland (Gonzaga University)
Dimensions of Behavior-Analytic Research in the Area of Radical Behaviorism.
Domain: Theory
SAM LEIGLAND (Gonzaga University)
Abstract: Despite its caricature as an anti-theoretical and anti-philosophical scientific perspective, behavior analysis has a great deal to say about many issues theoretical and philosophical. Having grown from the experimental and applied analysis of behavior to clinical phenomena and the analysis of verbal behavior, the field of behavior analysis has also seen continuing development and expansion of the literature describing its scientific system, radical behaviorism, and its implications. This paper describes, along with a bit of historical context, some of the domains or dimensions of behavior-analytic research in this area, perhaps the least known of the fields of behavior-analytic science. These include (a) issues of the scientific system itself (e.g., methodological and explanatory practices), (b) behavior-analytic theory (e.g., equivalence theories, molar/molecular analyses of behavior), (c) varieties of interpretation of complex human/verbal behavior, (d) implications of radical behaviorism for traditional and contemporary issues in philosophy of science and philosophy of mind, and (e) a forum for communication with those in other fields and the general public. With its unique connection to and reliance upon a broadly applicable and growing empirical base, the area of radical behaviorism is thus uniquely positioned for demonstrating the comprehensive scope of behavior-analytic science.
The Metaphysics of Relational Frame Theory.
Domain: Theory
TED SCHONEBERGER (Stanislaus County Office of Education)
Abstract: Relational Frame Theory (RFT) offers a post-Skinnerian approach to verbal behavior. It has attracted a growing number of advocates and is supported by a burgeoning basic and applied research program. However, despite these successes, RFT has been roundly criticized within behavior analysis. In many cases, these criticisms have been conceptual in nature. In this paper (1) I offer evidence that RFT embraces two conflicting view about metaphysics; namely, philosophical realism and pragmatism; (2) I argue that some of the aforementioned criticisms of RFT's conceptual machinery can be fruitfully recast as criticisms targeting the metaphysical inconsistencies inherent in RFT; and (3) I offer some suggestions to RFT proponents on how to address this problem, thereby bolstering the case for RFT and making more likely its acceptance by the broader behavior analytic community.
Dennett Defenestrated: Defusing the Intentionalist Criticism of Radical Behaviorism.
Domain: Theory
SAM LEIGLAND (Gonzaga University)
Abstract: Perhaps the most common criticism of radical behaviorism (and behavior analysis) by philosophers is the “intentionalist criticism”, which states that the empirically based functional analysis of behavior and its technical vocabulary is useful (minimally, at best) only because the resulting “behavioral laws” presuppose or are based upon underlying ordinary-language intentional terms or concepts. The focus of this paper is Daniel Dennett’s influential 1978 essay, “Skinner Skinned”, an original source for the intentionalist claims which have gained wide acceptance in philosophy and related fields. Dennett’s misunderstandings arise from his infusion of a variety of irrelevant philosophical assumptions into a series of carefully selected quotations from Skinner. The misunderstandings themselves may be addressed through an understanding of Skinner’s pragmatic view of science in general and verbal behavior in particular, and through an understanding of the nature of the technical analysis and of the actual accomplishments of the field (even at the time the essay was published). Given Dennett’s well-known support of evolution and natural science in general, a more general solution is offered which might clarify Dennett’s misunderstandings of radical behaviorism by making an empirically supported addition to Dennett’s own vocabulary describing types of explanation.



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