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Beyond Freedom and Dignity (Hackett Classics) Paperback – March 15, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-0872206274 ISBN-10: 0872206270 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Series: Hackett Classics
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc.; 1 edition (March 15, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0872206270
  • ISBN-13: 978-0872206274
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #278,181 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Burrhus Frederic Skinner (1904–1990), regarded by many as the most important and influential psychologist since Freud, earned his doctorate in psychology at Harvard University in 1931. Following appointments at the University of Minnesota and Indiana University, he returned to Harvard in 1948. He remained there for the rest of his career, retiring in 1974 as Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology. His many works include Walden Two (1948) and Verbal Behavior (1957).

Customer Reviews

Perhaps the most important book every written.
Harry Rice
The second criticism is that Skinner never really gets down to any even slightly useful details on what his Utopia will look like.
M. Cromwell
Anyone with a high school diploma or GED could read and understand this book, and engage in a dialogue with Skinner's ideas.
Danno

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Danno VINE VOICE on March 15, 2005
Format: Paperback
B.F. Skinner was the leading experimental psychologist in the United States for a large portion of his career, and his reputation within the field is still formidable. Unlike most scientists, Skinner also chose to write books for a popular audience. And, unlike most so-called "popular scientists" like Carl Sagan or Stephen Jay Gould, Skinner cared more that the layman understood the philosophy behind science, rather than how that particular science worked.

"Beyond Freedom and Dignity" is Skinner's most successful - and controversial work. Skinner's brand of psychology is called Behaviorism for a very good reason - it deals only with objective, measurable behaviors and does not speculate about motivations, drives, dreams, etc. Skinner argues that applied Behaviorism has the potential to solve many seemingly unsolvable problems, such as overpopulation, crime, pollution, and the like. To Skinner, our very concepts of Freedom and Dignity are hindrances because they are abstract ideals that cannot be measured or quantified. It is only when we care about behavior that we have a chance of understanding why human beings do the things that we do and have the potential to truly change society.

I strongly recommend this book, although I do not agree with much of Skinner's philosophy. Skinner wrote clearly, cleanly, and directly. Anyone with a high school diploma or GED could read and understand this book, and engage in a dialogue with Skinner's ideas. I've used chapters of this book in a course in the History of Psychology that I teach, and it never fails to engage people, challenge them, and spur them on to debate. To me, this is what a great book should do. Whether you glorify or villify B.F. Skinner, his ideas are worth grappling with.

I would try a copy at my local library first and then purchase this book if you wish to reread it.
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47 of 59 people found the following review helpful By calmly on March 9, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is a great book. It argues that:
1) the human race faces great and urgent problems, such as overpopulation and habitat destruction.
2) we don't behave all that well: we're having difficulty addressing the urgent problems.
3) a scientific approach may be able to help.
4) indeed, a "technology of behavior" is being developed and shows promise. This includes Skinner's experimental findings and conclusions, for example, the role of operant conditioning and the limitations of punishment.
5) Using this emerging technology of behavior, individuals can manage themselves better (as Skinner demonstrated with himself). As a race, we should also be able to use this technology to manage ourselves collectively better.
6) We are being managed (i.e. controlled) anyway, often by forces we either aren't aware of or don't grasp the impact of.
7) If we took control of this technology of behavior, applying it as it is and developing it further, we might be able to save ourselves from the urgent problems that confront us.
8) A key obstacle to the application and further development of this technology is our belief that we are somehow ultimately free of external causes. We believe in free will (freedom or autonomy) and consequently we take credit ( feel dignity) for things we really don't have much or any control over.
9) If we look at the explanations we offer on the basis of our freedom and dignity, we may see that they cover up huge areas of ignorance we have as to why we behave as we do. And if we look at our behavior, we see that we don't control it as much as we think we can (consider the problem people have with obesity or addiction) and we take credit for things we aren't responsible for (including what now appear to be genetic endowments).
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By zkcom1 on March 19, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I really liked this book. Skinner makes some excellent points about things I've always thought about, and his way of looking at why people believe the way they do reflects what I've thought for a long time. I'd say I can agree with pretty much everything in the first half of the book where he talks about environmental causes for behavior, and how there's very little left for what people think of as "free will".

Towards the end of the book, he turns to his proposal of doing something about it, and controlling populations with what has been learned about behavior. He feels that if something isn't done soon, something very bad is going to happen and it'll practically be the end of civilization.

First of all, we've made it this far without that, and we have made great progress, as he himself writes in the book. So I'm not quite sure why he thinks we're on the brink of disaster when we're really at the highest level of progress than has ever existed. Why would we suddenly urgently need help from a psychologist after all these years? But, I do understand there are concerns of overpopulation, and of course war is still a neverending reality in the world. So I can understand someone wanting to do things to make life better and avoid catastrophe.

Secondly, I don't like the idea of populations being controlled by mental scientists. If governments want to take some tips from psychologists every now and then, sure. But the way Skinner describes controlling people sounds a little frightening if done by the wrong hands. And you know power always DOES end up in the wrong hands eventually. It's a nice idea, but we're not even close to being experts enough on it to execute it successfully, and even if we were, we could not trust our lives to the controllers.
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Beyond Freedom and Dignity (Hackett Classics)
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