B.F. Skinner

Skinner’s theories suggest that all human behaviors result from the conditioning stimuli that operate upon them. As such, human nature has little to do with matters spiritual or moral and more to do with what aspects of character are reinforced by positive stimuli and extinguished by negative stimuli.

For example, ‘good’ people who have lived with ‘high moral fibre’ are those who have been reinforced to do so, and ‘bad’ people who have lived with little moral or spiritual regard for others are those who have been reinforced to do so (or conversely, have been negatively reinforced to be concerned with others).

(Boeree, 1998) Skinner’s view of human nature is considered problematic by most rationalists for the simple fact that it reduces it to a series of conditioned behaviors — an empirically sequenced string of if-then actions — that coldly implies the irrelevance of higher reasoning to explain them. (Boeree, 1998) As such, any moral rationalization of human behavior is merely post hoc reasoning. Nonetheless, it is difficult to reconcile Skinner’s model of human behavior with determinism. While determinism holds that every event creates a fixed result , Skinner holds that every event (i. e. human behavior) is maintained only by the properties of a reinforcer (Newall, 2005; Boeree, 2006).

This creates a small but significant contradiction because the question of how a reinforcer shapes human behavior becomes moot when said reinforcer is also pre-determined. References Boeree, C. George (1998). B. F. Skinner. Retrieved February 29, 2008, from http://webspace. ship. edu/cgboear/skinner. html Newall, P. (2005) Free Will and Determinism. Retrieved February 29, 2008, from http://www. galilean-library. org/int13. html

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