Intentional Behaviorism

Behavior and Philosophy 35:1 - 55 (2007)
Two of the leading contenders to explain behavior are radical behaviorism and intentionality: an account that seeks to confine itself to descriptions of response–environment correlations and one that employs the language of beliefs and desires to explicate its subject matter. While each claims an exclusive right to undertake this task, this paper argues that neither can be eliminated from a complete explanatory account of human behavior. The behavior analysis derived from radical behaviorism is generally sufficient for the prediction and control of behavior in the laboratory and its applications, but it fails to provide an explanation of behavior since it cannot deal with the personal level of explanation, the continuity of behavior, and the delimitation of behaviorist interpretations. Only the inclusion of intentional terms can achieve these ends. An intentional account cannot succeed, however, without the incorporation of a behavioral criterion for the ascription of intentional content based on the analysis of systematic environment–behavior relationships. This paper proposes an overarching philosophical framework for the analysis and interpretation of behavior that incorporates both radical behaviorism and intentional psychology in a model, "intentional behaviorism," that additionally links the explanation of behavior to neuroscience and evolutionary psychology. Finally, the paper proposes a link between the philosophical framework of intentional behaviorism and the world of empirical science by describing a tentative model of research, "super-personal cognitive psychology," that shows how the disparate elements previously discussed impinge upon psychological investigation.
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