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Bertrand Russell's Flirtation with Behaviorism

Richard F. Kitchener
Behavior and Philosophy
Vol. 32, No. 2 (2004), pp. 273-291
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27759486
Page Count: 19
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Bertrand Russell's Flirtation with Behaviorism
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Abstract

Although numerous aspects of Bertrand Russell's philosophical views have been discussed, his views about the nature of the mind and the place of psychology within modern science have received less attention. In particular, there has been little discussion of what I will call "Russell's flirtation with behaviorism." Although some individuals have mentioned this phase in Russell's philosophical career, they have not adequately situated it within Russell's changing philosophical views, in particular, his naturalistic epistemology. I briefly discuss this naturalistic epistemology and the kind of behaviorism it resulted in. I also briefly compare it to the behaviorism of John Watson, which had a strong influence on Russell. Russell finally abandoned this extreme form of behaviorism because of its denial of mental images, which was crucial to Russell's philosophy of mind and his semantics. I suggest that even though Russell's flirtation with behaviorism came to an end, he continued to be committed to a naturalistic epistemology. If this is so, we need to reassess the views of Russell and their place in twentieth-century thought.

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