Straw Skinner

From Greg Williams (920827 - 2)

Rick Marken (920827.1230)

In order to avoid the paradox, they [Skinnerians] use "control" in the PCT
sense when they claim to be able to control behavior, and they use control in
the "causal" sense when when they say that behavior is controlled by the

If my previous post of today fails to convince you that this is incorrect,
perhaps you had better consult Skinner's writings, e.g., SCIENCE AND HUMAN
BEHAVIOR, p. 228: "When a man controls himself, chooses a course of action,
thinks out the solution to a problem, or strives toward an increase in self-
knowledge, he is BEHAVING. He controls himself precisely as he would control
the behavior of anyone else -- through manipulation of variables of which
behavior is a function." Read the sequel on "self-control" at your leisure.
Suffice it to say, once again, that Skinner did NOT "use 'control' in the PCT
sense" AT ALL. Q.E.D. (or R.I.P., or maybe not so peacefully, since the PCT
bulldozer is headed Skinner's way!)

Skinner is saying that people are controlled and that he (a person) can
control them.


If Skinner means "control" in the causal sense then the paradox does seem
to evaporate. But then it seems a bit ridiculous for Skinner to encourage
us to control other people -- since this will happen anyway and the results
of our influence will be what they will be -- we have no PCT control over
the outcome. But Skinner is not using control in this way (obviously)
when he claims to be able to control people (as Bill explained) and when
he recommends that we control people in order to produce a particular
result; viz. a good society full of well behaved people.

Skinner said that ALL interacting organisms control (that is, alter the
environments of, and so contribute to altered histories of, and hence altered
behaviors of) each other to various extents. He also claimed that one's
efficiency of control (in the popular sense of making other organisms behave
in certain ways) can be enhanced by certain techniques which he (Skinner) was
promoting. Suppose, Skinner would say, you behave as if you "want" another
organism to behave in a certain way; that behavior is the result of your
history. If your history were different, you might not behave as if you had
that "want." Now suppose you DO behave that way. Then, for your control
(Skinner's meaning) to result in efficacious control (popular sense) might
require special techniques (which Skinner claimed to have at hand). In fact,
his techniques work best when the controllee isn't in the same league smarts-
wise as the controller. In old age, Skinner complained about verbal behavior
among equals as more or less doing in his hopes for easy control of humans
based solely on his ideas developed via experiments with rats and pigeons; so
your comments at the end of your post regarding the DIFFICULTY of Skinner's
(non-PCT) control programme are well taken.

I think you need to read what the opposition (loyal or not) says before
putting words into their mouths. Your turn to quote scripture.