Psychology versus immediate experience

Philosophy of Science 2 (3):356-80 (1935)
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In this paper I am going to try to indicate my notion concerning the nature and subject-matter of psychology. I am a behaviorist. I hold that psychology does not seek descriptions and intercommunications concerning immediate experience per se. Such descriptions and attempts at direct intercommunications may be left to the arts and to metaphysics. Psychology seeks, rather, the objectively stateable laws and processes governing behavior. Organisms, human and sub-human, come up against environmental stimulus situations and to these stimulus situations they, after longer or shorter intervals of time, behave. The laws and processes determining this their behavior are stateable in objective terms. Even in the cases where the organism is oneself, these determining causal factors can and must—for the purposes of psychology—be stated objectively. It is true that in these latter instances, in which the animal in question is oneself, one may in one's rôle, not of a psychologist, but of an artist or a metaphysician, attempt to describe and convey to another man one's own facts of immediate experience. But such a description and report of immediate experiences, except in so far as this report is itself a form of behavior and therefore like all other behaviors the basis for an investigation of the objective laws and processes underlying it, essentially new to the picture. Experience qua experience, while of concern and interest to the man in the street, the philosopher and the poet, does not enter as such into the laws and equations of psychology,—in so far, at any rate, as psychology is to be considered as a science.



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Citations of this work

Behaviorism at fifty.B. F. Skinner - 1974 - New York,: J. Norton Publishers.
The American Reception of Logical Positivism: First Encounters, 1929–1932.Sander Verhaegh - 2020 - Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 1 (10):106-142.
Behaviorism at fifty.B. F. Skinner - 1984 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 7 (4):615.

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