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Logical Behaviorism as a Subset of the School Essay

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Updated: Nov 25th, 2021

Introduction to behaviorism

In the 60s, the disciplines of psychology and philosophy witnessed the development of behaviorism concepts. Although technically disapproved by some scholars, this school of thought was supported by other scholars like Gilbert Ryle, John B. Watson, Skinner and others. Behaviorists laid emphasis on the outward and physical aspects of thought. To them, inward experiential was a phenomenon that would be dismissed all through. Within this school of thought were several subsets that were developed in order to make up for the weaknesses that were exhibited in the prior versions. Among these subsets is logical behaviorism (Hauser, par.1).

Concepts of logical behaviorism

Logical behaviorism as a subset of the school of thought argues that talks concerning the ‘mental’ is just but the explanation of the physical behavior of a person or animal in question. This is to say that the mental states of a body can only be explained through the use of physical characteristics that the body exhibits. This school of thought is characterized by its insistence on the physicality of all the phenomena. They argue that every event, object and internal and external processes are practically physical. Just like the identity and functionalism theories, the theory of logical behaviorism purports that for an appropriate scientific explanation of the mind, physical terms make the basis of explanation. For instance, when behaviorists try to explain the concept of pain, they argue that it is impossible to explain the real meaning of pain, excitement or anger without using the physical characteristics of the subject. For example, for one to say that John is happy, he will use no other criterion to identify John’s mental state without using his physical characteristics. This is to say that the observance evidence confirms John’s state of mind. With a contorted face and groans, one will reach a conclusion that John is in pain. On the other hand, one will reach a conclusion that John is excited by observing his smiling face or jubilant mood. Other than this, nothing can explain that state that John is in if not the physical characteristics (Zuriff 36).

Objections of the school of thought

However, this school of thought has been marred by objections which have capitalized on the weaknesses of their concepts. One of these objections is founded on logical behaviorists’ argument that the mental states can only be explained through the physical characteristics of the person experiencing them. Considering the issue of pain, Putnam as quoted by Hauser argues that this explanation is inadequate. He gives the example of a community of super-spartans who are not supposed exhibit physical characteristics of pain and should by all means suppress all expressional behaviors of pain that come involuntarily. All adults in this community, despite the degree of pain, cannot expose characteristics like grinding teeth, crying, screaming, etc. In addition, they do not show any physical characteristics of a person who is enduring some pain (Hauser 2006). This example of the super Spartans shows that the logical behaviorists’ explanation cannot define the issue of pain adequately. In this case, the behaviorists will hence say that there is no pain in the adult Spartans when in real sense they experience pain and suffering just like the rest of the world does. Only, they have learnt to suppress their pains without exhibiting any physical characteristic that would betray their mental state.

The intentional circle

The intentional circle marks another objection of this school of thought. Those advocating against the theory argue that predispositions play an important role in determining a person’s behavior. A good example is shown by Chisholm and Geach as quoted by Hauser (2006) who argue on the lines that a person will only decide to wear heavy clothing if he believes beyond reasonable doubt that it is going to be cold. This decision to put on heavy clothes will not just come up as a result of the weather being cold, but the intension to stay warm. As a result, staying warm becomes the major reason as to why the person wore heavy clothing. However, an observer would say that the person wore warm clothes because he was sure that it was going to be cold. In real sense, the intension of the person could be different. However sure he might be that it is going to be cold, one may refuse to put on warm clothing because he does not want to be warm. Putting this on the basic logical behaviorists’ argument of pain, one would say that it is inaccurate to define someone’s behavior physically without putting into consideration other environmental factors that could influence the person’s decision. An individual might feel pain and have a disposition to behave normally. Such an individual will show the normal characteristics of pain. However, one might have the predisposition not to show the pain as in the case of the Super-Spartans. On the other hand, one might not have any pain but decide to expose characteristics of a person in pain. This means that physical characteristics are not the best ways of explaining the mental state of an individual. In conclusion, a mental state can only exhibit certain physical characteristics in relation to other mental states. A single state cannot, on its own, develop certain specified characteristics. This is what logical behaviorists failed to put into consideration. According to them, a specified mental state will automatically result to specified physical characteristics without being affected by other states.

Support of the concepts

Considering the given objections, how can the logical behaviorists support their arguments? On their part, they argue that Spartans do not behave as expected. It is evident that Spartans do not exhibit the characteristics of pain despite being in pain. But this is a learned response that they develop over a long period of time. Therefore, it is true that pain will be expressed physically. Only learned behavior can make a person act otherwise. As a good explanation, if an individual is disposed to behave normally, his true mental state will be expressed through the physical characteristics. For example, if the Spartans were disposed to behave naturally and not to cover up their true mental states through years of practice, the physical characteristics could truly exhibit their true nature of pain. Similarly, this could apply to the case of the X-worlders. In their case, they are not only supposed not to exhibit any characteristics of pain, but they are also not supposed to mention the word. This means that in their world, pain does not exist at all. They are trained from childhood not to acknowledge the existence of pain (Hauser 2006). Therefore, using the logical behaviorists approach would mean that pain never exists at all in the X-worlders, a supposition that is not true. As human beings, they must experience pain. This brings us to the same argument. These are learned responses. The X-worlders, just like the super Spartans, are trained to suppress the true physical characteristics of pain. However, if disposed to behave normally and avoid suppression of their true feelings, they would show physical characteristics hence justifying the logical behaviorists’ conception that pain can only be identified and explained through the physical characteristics of the individual.

Works Cited

Hauser, Larry.” Behaviorism”. Internet Encyclopedia of Psychology. 2006. Web.

Zuriff, Gerald. Behaviorism: A Conceptual Reconstruction. New York: Columbia University Press, 1985.

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