I offer an analysis of operationism in psychology, which is rooted in an historical study of the investigative practices of two of its early proponents (S. S. Stevens and E. C. Tolman). According to this analysis, early psychological operationists emphasized the importance of experimental operations and called for scientists to specify what kinds of operations were to count as empirical indicators for the referents of their concepts. While such specifications were referred to as “definitions,” I show that such definitions (...) were not taken to constitute a priori knowledge or be analytically true. Rather, they served the pragmatic function of enabling scientists to do research on a purported phenomenon. I argue that historical and philosophical discussions of problems with operationism have conflated it, both conceptually and historically, with positivism, and I raise the question of what are the “real” issues behind the debate about operationism. (shrink)
This paper investigates the kind of empiricism combined with an operationalist perspective that, in the first decades of our Century, gave rise to a turning point in theoretical physics and in probability theory. While quantum mechanics was taking shape, the classical (Laplacian) interpretation of probability gave way to two divergent perspectives: frequentism and subjectivism. Frequentism gained wide acceptance among theoretical physicists. Subjectivism, on the other hand, was never held to be a serious candidate for application to physical theories, despite the (...) fact that its philosophical back-ground strongly resembles that underlying quantum mechanics, at least according to the Copenhagen interpretation. The reasons for this are explored. (shrink)
In the context of psychiatric diagnosis, operationists claim that mental disorders are nothing more than the satisfying of objective diagnostic criteria, whereas realists claim that mental disorders are latent entities that are detected by applying those criteria. The implications of this distinction are substantial in actual clinical situations, such as in the co-occurrence of disorders that may interfere with one another's detection, or when patients falsify their symptoms. Realist and operationist conceptions of diagnosis may lead to different clinical decisions in (...) these situations, affecting treatment efficacy and ultimate patient outcomes. (shrink)
Despite influencing the social sciences since the 1930s, S. S. Stevens' "operationist" philosophy of science has yet to be adequately understood. I reconstruct Stevens' operationism from his early work and assess the influence of various views (logical positivism, behaviorism and the "operational viewpoint" of P. W. Bridgman, among others) on Stevens. Stevens' operationism emerges, on my reconstruction, as a naturalistic methodological directive aimed at agreement, founded in turn on the belief that agreement is constitutive of science, the scientific (...) community, and objectivity. Further, I show that operationism is historically and philosophically independent of the views mentioned above. (shrink)
It is practically an article of faith in psychology that in order to do empirical research one must first operationally define one's variables. However, the 'operational attitude', first advocated by the physicist Percy Bridgman in the 1920s, has since been rejected by virtually every serious philosopher of science as unworkable. Furthermore. 'operationism' -- as developed by psychologists in the 1930s and 1940s -- was based on a misunderstanding of Bridgman's intent from the outset. Nevertheless, contemporary textbooks continue to extol (...) the virtues of operational definitions and today's psychology students are still required to learn the strategy. This paper discusses the historical background of operationism, its transmission from physics to psychology and the reasons for its continued tenacity in the face of repeated refutations and Bridgman's own repudiation in the 1950s. (shrink)
This paper explores some lines of argument in wittgenstein's post-Tractatus writings in order to indicate the relations between wittgenstein's philosophical psychology, On the one hand, And his philosophy of language, His epistemology, And his doctrines about the nature of philosophical analysis on the other. The authors maintain that the later writings of wittgenstein express a coherent doctrine in which an operationalistic analysis of confirmation and language supports a philosophical psychology of a type the authors call "logical behaviorism." they also maintain (...) that there are good grounds for rejecting the philosophical theory implicit in wittgenstein's later works. In particular, They first argue that wittgenstein's position leads to some implausible conclusions concerning the nature of language and psychology; second, They maintain that the arguments wittgenstein provides are inconclusive; and third, They sketch an alternative position which they believe avoids many of the difficulties implicit in wittgenstein's philosophy. (shrink)
In the search for elementary particles, such principles are used as Gell?mann's that ?anything which is possible is compulsory?. This is an example of a teleological principle according to which the scientist tries to realize in science the kind of world that he desires on prior emotional grounds. Mendeleev's classical discovery of the Periodic Law and Table of Elements was thus guided by his mystical values. A mechanistic anti?teleologist such as Jacques Loeb was indeed a crypto?teleologist who wished science to (...) fulfil his radical, socialistic aims. Hoyle's ?perfect cosmological principle? projected conservative values, while such conceptions as Oppenheimer's ?catastrophic collapse?, and Mach's Principle likewise had their teleological bases. Anti?mystical and individualistic values inspired Bridgman's operationism. A ?perfect operational principle? would stipulate that every imaginable state of affairs would be operationally differentiable from others. Teleological principles are essential to the functioning of sciences; in the Theory of Theories, the principle of plenitude may hold: that for every mode of theory, there is some segment of reality for which it provides the best explanation. Naturalistic accounts of basic teleological principles seem inadequate. (shrink)
This paper asks (a) how new scientific objects of research are onceptualized at a point in time when little is known about them, and (b) how those conceptualizations, in turn, figure in the process of investigating the phenomena in question. Contrasting my approach with existing notions of concepts and situating it in relation to existing discussions about the epistemology of experimentation, I propose to think of concepts as research tools. I elaborate on the conception of a tool that informs my (...) account. Narrowing my focus to phenomena in cognitive neuropsychology, I then illustrate my thesis with the example of the concept of implicit memory. This account is based on an original reconstruction of the nature and function of operationism in psychology. (shrink)
This paper defends a realist interpretation of theories and a modest realism concerning the existence of quantities as providing the best account both of the logic of quantity concepts and of scientific measurement practices. Various operationist analyses of measurement are shown to be inadequate accounts of measurement practices used by scientists. We argue, furthermore, that appeals to implicit definitions to provide meaning for theoretical terms over and above operational definitions fail because implicit definitions cannot generate the requisite descriptive content. The (...) special case of establishing a temperature scale is examined to show that nonrealist accounts fail to provide insight into the theoretical connections that scientific laws postulate to hold among quantities. (shrink)
Johnstone, H. W., Jr. Rhetoric and communication in philosophy.--Smith, C. R. and Douglas, D. G. Philosophical principles in the traditional and emerging views of rhetoric.--Wallace, K. R. Bacon's conception of rhetoric.--Thonssen, L. W. Thomas Hobbes's philosophy of speech.--Walter, O. M., Jr. Descartes on reasoning.--Douglas, D. G. Spinoza and the methodology of reflective knowledge in persuasion.--Howell, W. S. John Locke and the new rhetoric.--Doering, J. F. David Hume on oratory.--Douglas, D. G. A neo-Kantian approach to the epistomology of judgment in criticism.--Bevilacqua, (...) V. M. Lord Kames's theory of rhetoric.--Brockriede, W. E. Bentham's philosophy of rhetoric.--Anderson, R. E. Kierkegaard's theory of communication.--Macksoud, S. J. Ludwig Wittgenstein, radical operationism and rhetorical stance.--Stewart, J. J. L. Austin's speech act analysis.--Torrence, D. L. A philosophy of rhetoric from Bertrand Russell.--Clark, A. Martin Buber, dialogue, and the philosophy of rhetoric.--Bennett, W. Kenneth Burke--a philosophy in defense of un-reason.--Dearin, R. D. The philosophical basis of Chaim Perelman's theory of rhetoric. (shrink)
An operationalist argument criticized. Operationism maintains that the relation between a quantity and its operational criteria is established by definition. The assertion that the relation holds cannot be an empirical hypothesis; it is neither falsifiable nor confirmable, since it is not even testable. With an example concerning the measurement of time it is shown that this argument rests upon an untenable presupposition.
Dr. Marjorie Grene has argued that criteria taken from a personalist philosophy of science have regulative force in the dispute between orthogenetic and synthetic or neo-Darwinian theories of evolution, and that these criteria commend the acceptance of the orthogenetic position. Grene's position includes two basically correct theses concerning the limitations of operationism and reductionism. However, she fails to show that personalist tenets are necessary for the validation of these two theses. Moreover, the proposed modifications of evolutionary theory depend upon (...) additional premisses: that biology must study individuals rather than populations, and that the synthetic theory must prove that natural selection and mutation are the only possible factors for control of the direction of evolutionary change. The evidence for these premisses is called into question. (shrink)
Epistemological realism was postulated as a prolegomenon to clinical research. Observation of single cases must precede any effort for generalization. Observation of men by men is always a field process. In clinical research the experimenter exercises a great amount of power over the subject, thus a naive empirical approach and operationism may be misleading. Clinical theory must be coated in a language different from empirical data and enable the formation of causal chains of events.