Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


36th Annual Convention; San Antonio, TX; 2010

Event Details

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Paper Session #38
Kuhn Since SSR, Skinner's Presentism, and Behavioral Episternology
Saturday, May 29, 2010
1:30 PM–2:50 PM
Bonham B (Grand Hyatt)
Area: TPC
Chair: Ted G. Schoneberger (Stanislaus County Office of Education)
Cutting Nature at Its Joints: Thomas Kuhn Since SSR
Domain: Theory
TED G. SCHONEBERGER (Stanislaus County Office of Education)
Abstract: Thomas Kuhn's (1962) book, "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions," has been described as "the most influential book in modern philosophy of science" (Ruse, 1995). Kuhn argued that science periodically undergoes "paradigm shifts," resulting in "normal science" being replaced by "revolutionary science". Further, Kuhn argued that two competing paradigms are "incommensurable" in that many of the concepts of either cannot be translated into those of the other. Kuhn's incommensurability thesis has been criticized for entailing that theory choice is irrational. If two paradigm's cannot be compared, then one cannot make a rational choice between them by selecting the one that more accurately corresponds to the real world. Kuhn (2000) has responded to this criticism by arguing that one cannot demonstrate that one paradigm more closely approximates nature than does another. More specifically, Kuhn has denied that scientific terms can ever cut nature at its real joints. Rather, a science achieves effectiveness by cutting its own joints into nature. In my paper, Kuhn's arguments for this assertion shall be examined. In addition, the implications of these arguments for addressing recent disputes within behavior analysis (e.g., differing definitions of "verbal behavior") shall also be discussed.
Skinner's Presentism Is Inconsistent With His Response-Chaining Hypothesis
Domain: Theory
JOSE' E. BURGOS (Universidad de Guadalajara (CEIC))
Abstract: In this paper, I argue that Skinner’s presentism about behavior, according to which “behavior exists only when it is being executed,” is inconsistent with his response-chaining hypothesis of responding under intermittent reinforcement, according to which any response functions as a conditioned reinforcer of the immediately preceding response, and as a discriminative stimulus of the immediately following response. The inconsistency arises from the implication of presentism that neither past nor future responses exist. Supposedly, only present responses exist. More formally, let (Rt-1,Rt,Rt+1) be a sequence of three successive responses at moments t-1, t, and t+1, where t denotes the present moment. On Skinner’s response-chaining hypothesis, Rt has a double function, as conditioned reinforcer Rt-1 and as discriminative stimulus of Rt+1. On his presentism, only Rt exists. Supposedly, Rt-1 does not exist because it has already been executed, and Rt+1 does not exist because it has not yet been executed. However, how could Rt (or anything else, for that matter) exert any functional influence on inexistent responses? This inconsistency can be resolved by abandoning either or both proposals, but it is not obvious which strategy would be preferable for radical behaviorists.
Intuitive Evaluations of Behavioral Epistemology
Domain: Theory
FRANK HAMMONDS (Troy University)
Abstract: Edmund Gettier (1963) challenged the long-accepted definition of knowledge as justified true belief. Gettier accomplished this through the use of examples that depicted a person having justified true belief while appearing not to have knowledge. These examples, along with related examples created by other authors, have come to be known as Gettier cases. It has been noted that the lack of knowledge apparent in Gettier cases is merely intuitive. That is, there is no direct proof that knowledge is lacking, rather, it is simply the case that most people reading a Gettier case would likely agree that knowledge is not present despite justified true belief. Weinberg, Nichols, and Stich (2001) found that whether subjects accepted Gettier cases as representing knowledge varied across ethnic groups. Specifically, Westerners were less likely to say Gettier cases represented knowledge than were participants of East Asian or Indian descent. I am attempting to extend these findings in two ways. First, by investigating differences across gender and other variables. Second, as I have proposed a behavioral view of justified true belief, I will investigate whether presenting Gettier cases in behavioral terms will influence the results. Implications for a behavioral definition of knowledge will be discussed.



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