Association for Behavior Analysis International

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2012 Theory and Philosophy Conference

Event Details

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Invited Symposium #3
CE Offered: PSY/BACB
Behaviorism, Values, and Ethics
Saturday, November 3, 2012
12:30 PM–3:00 PM
Zuni Ballroom
Area: TPC; Domain: Theory
Discussant: Maria R. Ruiz (Rollins College)
CE Instructor: Maria R. Ruiz, Ph.D.

Behaviorism, Values, and Ethics


Hume's Words of Wisdom

JOHN E. R. STADDON (Duke University)

David Hume argued, Dr. Staddon believes irrefutably, that "ought" cannot be derived from "is." That is, no set of facts, no amount of scientific knowledge, is by itself sufficient to urge us to action. Yet, generations of well-meaning scientists-more and more as the years go by and secular influences grow in the West-seem to have forgotten Hume's words of wisdom. All motivated action depends ultimately on belief or beliefs that cannot be proved by the methods of science.

John Staddon is the James B. Duke professor of psychology and professor of biology and neurobiology emeritus at Duke University. He has served as faculty secretary and ex-officio member of the Executive Committee of the Academic Council since 2002. He has obtained his Ph.D. in experimental psychology from Harvard University, conducted research at the MIT Systems Lab, and taught at the University of Toronto. He also has done research at Oxford University in the United Kingdom, the University of São Paulo at Riberão Preto, the University of Mexico, the Ruhr Universität, Universität Konstanz, the University of Western Australia, and is an honorary visiting professor at the University of York in the United Kingdom. He is a fellow of several scientific organizations including the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Society of Experimental Psychologists, and has a "docteur honoris causa" from the Université Charles de Gaulle, Lille 3, France. His research is on the evolution and mechanisms of learning in humans and animals and the history and philosophy of psychology and biology. Dr. Staddon is a past editor of the journals Behavioural Processes and Behavior & Philosophy. His laboratory has studied the simulated detection of landmines, optimality analysis and behavior, mechanisms of choice behavior, and interval timing in animals. His recent theoretical work includes papers on operant conditioning, memory, timing, and psychobiological aspects of ethical philosophy. He has written and lectured on public-policy issues such as education and evolution, traffic control, smoking, and the effects of social and biological processes on financial markets. He is the author of more than 200 research papers and five books, including The New Behaviorism: Mind, Mechanism and Society, Adaptive Dynamics: The Theoretical Analysis of Behavior, and Adaptive Behavior and Learning. He has a new book, The Malign Hand of the Markets, scheduled for publication in May 2012.
A Behavioral Analysis of Morality and Value
MAX HOCUTT (University of Alabama)
Abstract: Morality has long been conceived as a set of divinely instituted, otherworldly rules meant not to describe or explain behavior, but to guide it toward an absolute good. The philosophical formulation of this theory by Plato was later grafted onto Christian thought by Augustine and Aquinas. The equally ancient theory of the Greek sophist Protagoras—that the good is relative to personal preferences and morality to manmade social customs—was forgotten until revived in the 18th and 19th centuries by such empiricists such as David Hume and J. S. Mill. Then it was dismissed again by G. E. Moore in the 20th century as "naturalistic fallacy"—conflation of what is with what ought to be. However, those who took this dismissive attitude themselves made the reverse mistake of conflating what ideally ought to be with what actually is. In other words, they mistook ideals for actualities. As Skinner said in Beyond Freedom and Dignity, sorting things out requires behaviorist parsing of "the good" (the personally reinforcing) and "duty" (the socially reinforced).
Max Hocutt, formerly editor of Behavior and Philosophy, is the author of three books and a hundred or so scholarly articles. A native of Alabama, he was born in 1936 in Tuscaloosa and attended public schools in Mobile. He has bachelor's (1957) and master's (1958) degrees from Tulane University and a Ph.D. (1960) from Yale University, all in philosophy. He worked in the classroom for 41 years, five at the University of South Florida where he taught human behavior and 36 at the University of Alabama where—for 13 years—he chaired the Department of Philosophy. One of two philosophers (the other is Willard Van Orman Quine) mentioned in B. F. Skinner's autobiography, Hocutt spent the first half of his academic career focusing on psychology and the second on moral philosophy. After retiring from teaching in 2001, he added political philosophy to the large variety of topics on which he writes and speaks. He still resides in Tuscaloosa.



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