43 of 47 people found the following review helpful
Provocative philosophy from an American behavorist,
This review is from: Beyond Freedom and Dignity (Hackett Classics) (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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Initial post: Oct 31, 2013 8:28:13 PM PDT
Wendell W. Jones says:
My major prof on my doctorate was a zealot for Skinner, had to read all of his works. We had many heated discussions about him. Of course, Skinner was "in" at the time and it was hard to get around him. I thought my prof was going to have a fit when I mentioned the Nobel Prize winner Arthur Koestler's devastating critique of Skinner; "What a waste of time to get a pigeon to turn its head a certain way". I noticed that the bottom dropped out on Skinner after his death. These people come and go, like Piaget. I didn't know his name was mud until a friend, who did his doctorate on Piaget, told me he had become "persona non grata" in the in the shifting sands of psychology.
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