Tagged: B.F Skinner
by Phillip D. Collins ©, June 9th, 2005
In recent years, physicalistic philosophies of the mind seem to dominate both the scientific and academic communities. This paradigm equates mental states with brain states, thus reducing the concept of the “soul” or “spirit” to a metaphysical fantasy. This view seems to pervade modern psychology as well. Ironically, the word “psychology” is derived from the word psyche, which meant “soul” in the original Greek. However, imposing the metaphysical doctrine of materialism upon psychology, Wilhelm Maximilian Wundt would expunge the soul from the halls of psychological research and enshrine the primacy of matter. Several years later, B.F. Skinner would continue the materialist-physicalist tradition of psychology. Dubbed behaviorism, Skinner’s brand of psychology emphasized observable behavior as the primary indicator of mental states. Working from this premise, Skinner developed a “technology of behavior” by which human nature could be conditioned and manipulated. Skinner believed that, as desirable behaviors were promulgated within the human herd, the ideal society would eventually emerge.
Skinner presented his psychologically engineered Utopia as a roman a’ clef entitled Walden Two. Characterizing Walden Two as an innocuous fiction, Skinner stated: “The ‘behavioral engineering’ I had so frequently mentioned in the book was, at the time, little more than science fiction” (vi). Yet, “behavioral conditioning” was much more than science fiction to dark forces with dark intentions. Thanks to a $5,000 grant from a group called the Human Ecology Fund, Skinner was able to pay for the secretary and supplies he needed during the writing of Beyond Freedom and Dignity (Marks 171). When approached about the grant and its origins, Skinner claimed to have no memory of the contribution (Marks 171). However, he did make the slightly suspicious comment: “I don’t like secret involvement of any kind. I can’t see why it couldn’t have been open and aboveboard” (Marks 171).
By Phillip D. Collins ©, Jan. 8th, 2014
I Corinthians 2: 14-15 establishes a binary opposition that defines the modern historical struggle in which man finds himself mortally locked. This passage of Scripture, as it is translated in the amplified version of the Bible, reads: “But the natural, nonspiritual man does not accept or welcome or admit into his heart the gifts and teachings and revelations of the Spirit of God, for they are folly (meaningless nonsense) to him; and he is incapable of knowing them [of progressively recognizing, understanding, and becoming better acquainted with them] because they are spiritually discerned and estimated and appreciated. But the spiritual man tries all things [he examines, investigates, inquires into, questions, and discerns all things], yet is himself to be put on trial and judged by no one [he can read the meaning of everything, but no one can properly discern or appraise or get an insight into him].”
Verse 15 presents the reader with the “spiritual man.” The adjective “spiritual” is etymologically derived from the Greek word Pneumatikos, which relates to the human spirit or rational soul. Pneumatikos is that which was breathed into man by God in Genesis 2:7. In fact, the word pneumatikos also pertains to breath, as is evidenced by respiratory-related terms like “pneumonia.” The concept of Pneumatikos forms the basis for the Christian doctrine of imago viva Dei, which teaches that man occupies the unique position as a creature created in the image of God.
In contradistinction, verse 14 presents the reader with the “natural man.” The adjective “natural” is etymologically derived from the Greek word psuchikos. It denotes the principle of animal life, that which men have in common with the brutes. It also connotes the sensuous nature with its subjection to appetite and passion.
Interestingly enough, the term “psychology” is etymologically derived from psuchikos. Through the interpretative lens of modern psychology, all those elements of man that initially fell under the descriptive category of pneumatikos are biologicized. With the soul divorced from metaphysics, every thought, feeling, and idea becomes biochemical in origin. Remaining consistent with its etymological root, psychology reduces man to little more than a brute whose behavior must be sculpted by those few conditioners who are accountable to no moral master.