Tuesday, October 11, 2011

351: The Behaviorist's Brain

What are mental states? When we ask that question we immediately discover that language by its structure forces us in certain directions.

In the previous lecture we discovered that the asymmetry between the statements " I feel a pain" and "He feels a pain" causes considerable philosophical problems.

In the l920s and l930s,a group of philosophers called the 'Vienna Circle' developed a new account of the meaning of a statement.

A statement is a sentence which claims that the world is a certain way. "The Eiffeltower is in Paris" and "The moon is made of cheese" are both statements.

The first makes a (true) claim about the location of a famous landmark; the second makes a (false) claim about the constitution of the moon.

The theory of the meaning of statements advocated by the Vienna Circle is called verificationism. On this view, the meaning of any statement is its method of verification.

Members of the Vienna Circle insisted that the only way to show that a statement is true is by making sensory observation.

That rules out all First Person Perspective statements, for they are not publicly accessible for verification. So how do we establish the meaning and thence the truth of mental statements.

Another argument, that changed the character of the mind - body debate came from Wittgenstein (1889 - 1951) with his private language argument.

If Dualism were right, then my believing, seeing, imagining, and loving would be essentially inner and private, inaccessible to anyone else.

But that very claim was expressed using words we all know: believing, seeing, imagining, loving.

Words are learned by correcting incorrect uses and praising correct uses. We must have learned these words in that manner.

But if Dualism were right, these things would be inner and private, inaccessible to anyone else. If so, we could never have learned these words. We did learn those words; therefore, Dualism must be wrong.

If our language of mental states is not about some private inner experience, what is it about? One proposal is that talk of mental states is really a way of talking about behavior.

And this proposal is in perfect harmony with the method of verification to establish the meaning and truth of mental statements: we only need publicly observable behavior.

Thus the debate on the mind - body problem moved from the question about the stuff the mental is made of to establishing the meaning of mental statements.

This gave rise to what was called Analytical or Philosophical Behaviorism: the view that mental concepts are definable in behavioral terms, or dispositions to behave in a certain way under certain circumstances.

In psychology this philosophy was translated into methodological behaviorism by B. F Skinner (1904–1990).,What went on inside a person was not a subject for science.

The organism in interaction with its environment receives stimuli and produces responses. Thus the goal of psychology became the study of the relation between stimuli and responses.

Thus the mental seemed to be perfectly translated into sensory observable facts. The mind grasped by science.

However, as you may well expect, philosophical behaviorism wasn't the answer, nor in psychology methodological behaviorism.

There are serious arguments against behaviorism and I guess, that the most serious one is, that it had no answer to the question "What is consciousness?"

So…we are still in business as philosophers.

The Discussion

[13:22] herman Bergson: Thank you....
[13:22] herman Bergson: The floor is yours
[13:22] herman Bergson: if you have questions or remarks
[13:23] You decline The Philosophy Class from A group member named herman Bergson.
[13:23] Paolo Rousselot: just notice the differences between exterior & interior observations & comments
[13:23] herman Bergson: what about it Paolo
[13:24] herman Bergson: Science is exterior only
[13:24] Paolo Rousselot: scattered throughout what you listed were obsevrations that reflected both positions
[13:24] Paolo Rousselot: again - wouldn't Jung disagree?
[13:24] herman Bergson: disagree with what?
[13:25] Paolo Rousselot: that all science is exterior only
[13:25] herman Bergson: oh yes...
[13:25] Paolo Rousselot: he seemed to have "verified" an interior journey that was replicable
[13:25] Mick Nerido: When one reads a book of fiction it can have a "real" world effect on us
[13:26] herman Bergson: unfortunately he doesn't meet the rigid verificationist standards
[13:26] Paolo Rousselot: and he might state that those who disagree haven't made tha same journey...
[13:26] Paolo Rousselot: either by choice or ability
[13:27] herman Bergson: that is not a sound argument....just the authority fallacy
[13:27] Paolo Rousselot: well, having "walked in the tall grass" I reserve the right to respectfully disagree
[13:27] Birric Forcella: Well, for behaviorists, there are no feelings or emotions. The behavior is all there is. So a behaviorist will take some gasoline, set a cat on fire (or a child) and observe the screaming and newling behavior. Does the cat (child) feel anything? Of course not. The behavior is all there is. that's basically what behaviorists do when they "cure" gays.
[13:27] Doodus Moose is Offline
[13:28] herman Bergson: cool example Birric...or hot actually
[13:28] Sybyle Perdide: thats too easy argued
[13:28] herman Bergson: Yes ..behaviorism isn't the answer to understand what the mind is or consciousness
[13:28] Sky Albanese: how many reported cat burnings have been atributed to behaviorists?
[13:29] herman Bergson: you have to ask the fire department that Sky,I dont know
[13:30] Birric Forcella: Lots of behaviorists in concentration camps - but also a lot of Jungians - the freudians were on the other side . . .
[13:30] Sky Albanese: i heard a lot of education is schools for kids with learning dificultys depends greatly on skinners work, that is a kid is given a small punishment for shoutings and fighting, and then a small reward for every good thing done, like sting and listing in class for 5 minutes
[13:30] Lizzy Pleides: they didn't know that they are behaviorists
[13:30] Sky Albanese: very practical tool they say
[13:30] Sybyle Perdide: I cannot fill completely the term behavior here in use
[13:30] herman Bergson: Well..at this moment scientifically it seems that th ereal name of Fraud is Fraud :-)
[13:31] herman Bergson: Freud
[13:31] herman Bergson: Behavior is any action of the organism Sybyle...
[13:31] Sybyle Perdide: oki
[13:31] Sybyle Perdide: thank you Herman
[13:32] Paolo Rousselot: is that solely an exterior action herman
[13:32] herman Bergson: As I said..behaviorism doesn't sell anymore :-)
[13:32] Sybyle Perdide: I think to try to take behavior as a indicator for mental reactions is worth trying
[13:32] Birric Forcella: Well, Freud asserted that human actions make sense when understood (interpreted) rightly - though you may fight over what is rightly there - Behaviorists assert that human actions are infinitely fungible - that any action can be tied to ANY stimulus. That means, human actions are basically meaningless. You decide who is right.
[13:32] herman Bergson: Yes Paolo
[13:33] Sky Albanese: people say it doesn't explain the mind, but then what does? nothing
[13:33] herman Bergson: The relation stimulus response is questionable...
[13:33] Birric Forcella: I myself am on the side of making sense . . .
[13:34] herman Bergson: there is no law like relation...
[13:34] Sybyle Perdide: the problem with Freud is, his doctrines were good, but not his conclusions
[13:34] herman Bergson: if so it would be possible to predict how a person would respond on a stimulus...
[13:34] Sybyle Perdide: nods
[13:34] Sky Albanese: he also though if experience as a replacement for experimentation
[13:34] Sky Albanese: thought
[13:34] Sybyle Perdide: but they had to try, that we can exclude
[13:35] herman Bergson: Suppose you go to a museum with a friend....
[13:35] Paolo Rousselot: a few years ago Big Dreams were quite a profound stimulus for me - it was my experience alone but very real nonetheless
[13:35] herman Bergson: That is exactly the point Paolo....
[13:35] Paolo Rousselot: k
[13:35] Sky Albanese: big dreams?
[13:35] herman Bergson: it was a private experience...
[13:36] Paolo Rousselot: yes Sky
[13:36] Birric Forcella: Behaviorism got superseded by cognitivism (which is an even more awful theory) because it was eventually recognized that learning occurs even without stimuli
[13:36] herman Bergson: exactly Birric
[13:36] herman Bergson: But well get to that in next lectures :-)
[13:36] Birric Forcella: okay
[13:37] herman Bergson: In fact the behavioristic approach tried to ignore the first person perspective of the mind....
[13:38] herman Bergson: discarding it as inaccessible for science
[13:38] herman Bergson: Yet it is there...the mind ..consciousness....a material universe...and we try to understand how this all goes together
[13:39] herman Bergson: soI guess I'll prepare some more lectures on this subject :-)
[13:39] Paolo Rousselot: (...and sometimes overlaps...)
[13:39] Birric Forcella: Vey nice
[13:39] herman Bergson: Thank you all for your participation...
[13:39] Birric Forcella: welcome
[13:39] herman Bergson: Class dismissed ㋡

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