The Behaviorist’s Dilemma -- By: George Hibbert Driver
BSac 87:346 (April 1930) p. 182
The Behaviorist’s Dilemma
The name of Behaviorism correctly indicates its location in the realm of thought—it is one of the “isms.” Comparison with the known history of similar adventures of the mind of man is instructive. Devices to interpret the life of man began early in his evolution. To mention more marked ones of the high eras of civilization: Epicureanism at one period endeavored to sweep the world with its theory of happiness the best end of man. Stoicism, grim opposite, made its essay to unswing mightily all other philosophies. The tenets of these theories are not without interest, but are without outspoken devotees to-day. Materialism is as respectable as any “ism” in its record of interwoven history with these philosophies of the past, and makes its bid to hold the practical allegiance of the modern world. And now we have “Behaviorism.” We come here, we are told, upon something new. Its modest claim is to supersede all other methods of approach to life now in vogue. Of course, it is interesting to discover we must throw away all the old world. It must be a grand and glorious feeling to know—as the Behaviorist knows —that you humbly have the honor to open a brand new door. “In accordance with the Behaviorist’s usual procedure,” we are assured, “he decides before beginning work himself to consign to the wastebasket the work of his predecessors and to start a problem over again.” All through the work of the writer who best represents this school we are assured that Behaviorism is the way the seeker should take. But, is it one of those roads where just around the corner is always the destination you are seeking, while each curve reveals another “around the corner” and you never get there?
Lest the writer’s own humble pretensions should be in doubt, a confession must be made. Though in 1912 the Behaviorists made their advent in their new determination to “drop from their scientific vocabulary all subjective terms such as sensation, perception, image, desire, purpose, and even thinking and emotion as they were
BSac 87:346 (April 1930) p. 183
subjectively defined,” the present observer had known merely that an attempt to study the behavior of man had been propounded, but had not known intimately what militant Behaviorism proposed. We had heard the rumor of it, but had not attended to what it was all about. Behaviorism, we had understood, was very valiant, but our commentaries which we were using had said: “It is not in me,” and the Bible we were investigating had said: “It is not in me”; and the human nature of our parish people, so far as we were exploring it, Christianly speaking, had said: “It is not with me.” But it is one of the maxims of the old psychology (...
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