Toward a spinozistic modification of Skinner's theory of man

Inquiry 18 (3):325 – 335 (1975)
Abstract
B. F. Skinner argues in Beyond Freedom and Dignity (New York 1971) that only his theory of man is compatible with a ?scientific? approach to human behavior. I argue that Skinner's entirely open?ended view of man is inadequate for his own purposes in that it leaves no room for the claim that certain value judgments are universally valid, something I argue Skinner is committed to despite an explicit avowal in one place of cultural relativism. I then go on to show that a modification of Skinner's theory of man which builds on Spinoza's notion of conatus would provide one with a theory?based rationale for universally valid judgments without involving one in a ?non?scientific? approach to human behavior. Specifically, I argue that such a Spinozistic modification would provide one with a theory?based guarantee that man will not evolve in such a way that a truly scientific observer would deem a totalitarian state good
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