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Skinner's Reinforcement Theory: A Heideggerian Assessment of Its Empirical Success and Philosophical Failure

Judith L. Scharff
Behavior and Philosophy
Vol. 27, No. 1 (Spring, 1999), pp. 1-17
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27759388
Page Count: 17
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Skinner's Reinforcement Theory: A Heideggerian Assessment of Its Empirical Success and Philosophical Failure
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Abstract

Affinities have been noted between radical behaviorism and phenomenology, hermeneutics, and poststructuralism, but this paper claims the most promising one has been neglected. Skinner's behaviorism is best seen as elucidating that time-sense characteristic of ordinary, habitual life which Heidegger calls a "temporalizing of everydayness." We usually live 'from moment to moment' as if we were just as predictable as the things around us, but Heidegger and Skinner agree there are moments when noticing this makes 'more of the same' seem unacceptable. Yet in Skinner's deterministic ontology such occasions are only envisioned via the anomaly of "self-management." With Heidegger, behaviorism can be the science of ordinary life, yet leave room for that real but ill-conceived 'volition' which Skinner rightly criticizes but wrongly rejects.

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