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.


43rd Annual Convention; Denver, CO; 2017

Event Details

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B. F. Skinner Lecture Series Paper Session #448
CE Offered: PSY/BACB

Toward a Behavioral Analysis of B. F. Skinner's Philosophical Discourse

Monday, May 29, 2017
11:00 AM–11:50 AM
Convention Center Four Seasons Ballroom 4
Area: PCH; Domain: Theory
Instruction Level: Intermediate
CE Instructor: William M. Baum, Ph.D.
Chair: William M. Baum (University of California, Davis)
MICHAEL T. GHISELIN (California Academy of Sciences)
Michael Ghiselin was born in Salt Lake City on May 13, 1939. His doctoral dissertation at Stanford University dealt with the evolution of sea-slugs based on a functional analysis of the reproductive system. That research got him interested in various aspects of the philosophy of biology, especially the theory of classification. His first book, The Triumph of the Darwinian Method, was based on a conceptual analysis of Darwin's publications. Published in 1969, it was awarded the Pfizer Prize of the History of Science Society. He is author of The Economy of Nature and the Evolution of Sex (1974) and Metaphysics and the Origin of Species (1997). Recent research projects include studies on the evolution of chemical defense and of the senses of taste and smell in marine animals.

Scientific research can be studied as investigative behavior. That involves inventing problems as well as solving them. It also involves finding better ways to do one's work. That activity has sometimes been called philosophy. Skinner himself said that behaviorism is a philosophy. I would add that the philosophy was part of a scientific research program. Skinner complained that his critics failed to understand his position, which was based on a hard analogy (not a metaphor) between the processes of learning and evolution by natural selection. Right thinking in the one provides clues to right thinking in the other. The advantage of getting rid of teleology in both is fairly straight-forward. Skinner paid less attention to the importance of getting rid of typological (essentialist) thinking about species and other groups of organisms. These have been treated as if they were abstract classes with essences rather than as concrete wholes. Variation has been screened out and persons have been treated as tokens of stereotypes. One result has been a misguided search for universals of human behavior.

Target Audience:

Behavior analysts interested in the historical and conceptual foundations of B. F. Skinner's behaviorism, the relations between the behavioral and biological sciences, and analyses of the behavior of scientists.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) describe the conceptual foundations of B. F. Skinner's behaviorism; (2) describe relations between behavior analysis and evolutionary biology; (3) describe the basis of the behavior of behavior-analytic scientists.



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