B. F. Skinner Quotes

A quotes list created by Lee Sonogan

B. F. Skinner, Painting by Lautir | Artmajeur

Behaviourism is one of the most influential forms of psychology in the 21st century. B.F. Skinner was a pioneer in this field on the principle of reinforcement or operant conditioning considering the rate of response. His experimental/clinical work invented the cumulative recorder. With 21 books and 180 articles, this figure in social philosophy said a lot.

  • “A failure is not always a mistake, it may simply be the best one can do under the circumstances. The real mistake is to stop trying. ”
  • “A person who has been punished is not thereby simply less inclined to behave in a given way; at best, he learns how to avoid punishment.”
  • “We shouldn’t teach great books; we should teach a love of reading. Knowing the contents of a few works of literature is a trivial achievement. Being inclined to go on reading is a great achievement.”
  • “Society already possesses the psychological techniques needed to obtain universal observance of a code — a code which would guarantee the success of a community or state. The difficulty is that these techniques are in the hands of the wrong people–or, rather, there aren’t any right people.”
  • “The real question is not whether machines think but whether men do. The mystery which surrounds a thinking machine already surrounds a thinking man.”
  • “One may take the line that metaphorical devices are inevitable in the early stages of any science and that although we may look with amusement today upon the “essences,” “forces,” “phlogistons,” and “ethers,” of the science of yesterday, these nevertheless were essential to the historical process. It would be difficult to prove or disprove this. However, if we have learned anything about the nature of scientific thinking, if mathematical and logical researches have improved our capacity to represent and analyze empirical data, it is possible that we can avoid some of the mistakes of adolescence. Whether Freud could have done so is past demonstrating, but whether we need similar constructs in the future prosecution of a science of behavior is a question worth considering.”
  • “We are only just beginning to understand the power of love because we are just beginning to understand the weakness of force and aggression.”
  • “A scientist may not be sure of the answer, but he’s often sure he can find one. And that’s a condition which is clearly not enjoyed by philosophy.”
  • “Democracy is the spawn of despotism. And like father, like son. Democracy is power and rule. It’s not the will of the people, remember; it’s the will of the majority.”
  • “The hero is a device which the historian has taken over from the layman. He uses it because he has no scientific vocabulary or technique for dealing with the real facts of history– the opinions, emotions, attitudes; the wishes, plans, schemes; the habits of men. He can’t talk about them so he talks about heroes.”
  • “Any single historical event is too complex to be adequately known by anyone. It transcends all the intellectual capacities of men. Our practice is to wait until a sufficient number of details have been forgotten. Of course things seem simpler then! Our memories work that way; we retain the facts which are easiest to think about.”
  • “But restraint is the only one sort of control, and absence of restraint isn’t freedom. It’s not control that’s lacking when one feels ‘free’, but the objectionable control of force.”
  • “If there is any purpose or direction in the evolution of a culture, it has to do with bringing people under the control of more and more of the consequences of their behaviour.”
  • “Autonomous man is a device used to explain what we cannot explain in any other way. He has been constructed from our ignorance, and as our understanding increases, the very stuff of which he is composed vanishes. Science does not dehumanize man, it de-homunculizes him, and it must do so if it is to prevent the abolition of the human species. To man qua man we readily say good riddance. Only by dispossessing him can we turn to the real causes of human behaviour. Only then can we turn from the inferred to the observed, from the miraculous to the natural, from the inaccessible to the manipulable.”
  • “Theories—whether neural, mental, or conceptual—talk about intervening steps in these relationships. But instead of prompting us to search for and explore relevant variables, they frequently have quite the opposite effect. When we attribute behavior to a neural or mental event, real or conceptual, we are likely to forget that we still have the task of accounting for the neural or mental event. …Research designed with respect to theory is also likely to be wasteful. That a theory generates research does not prove its value unless the research is valuable. Much useless experimentation results from theories, and much energy and skill is absorbed by them. Most theories are eventually overthrown, and the greater part of the associated research is discarded.”

Not quote alive today Jordan Peterson, nonetheless, his somewhat criticism is relevant calling out many other subcategories relating to what he did. The 20th century is a greater age to study because of people like him being the practioner needed to get this far.




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