From Darwin to Watson and Back Again: The Principle of Animal-Environment Mutuality

Behavior and Philosophy 32 (1):179-195 (2004)


Modern cognitive psychology presents itself as the revolutionary alternative to behaviorism, yet there are blatant continuities between modern cognitivism and the mechanistic kind of behaviorism that cognitivists have in mind, such as their commitment to methodological behaviorism, the stimulus–response schema, and the hypothetico-deductive method. Both mechanistic behaviorism and cognitive behaviorism remain trapped within the dualisms created by the traditional ontology of physical science—dualisms that, one way or another, exclude us from the "physical world." Darwinian theory, however, put us back into nature. The Darwinian emphasis upon the mutuality of animal and environment was further developed by, among others, James, Dewey, and Mead. Although their functionalist approach to psychology was overtaken by Watson 's behaviorism, the principle of animal–environment dualism continued to figure within the work of Skinner and Gibson. For the clearest insights into the mutuality of organism and environment we need to set the clock back quite a few years and return to the work of Darwin and the early functionalist psychologists

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