The Behavior Analyst

, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 191–202 | Cite as

Behavioral pragmatism: No place for reality and truth

Article

Abstract

The current article begins by reviewing L. J. Hayes’s claim that pragmatism relies on a correspondence-based truth criterion. To evaluate her claim, the concept of the observation sentence, proposed by the pragmatist philosopher W. V Quine, is examined. The observation sentence appears to remove the issue of correspondence from Quine’s pragmatist philosophy. Nevertheless, the issue of correspondence reemerges, as the problem of homology, when Quine appeals to agreement between or among observation sentences as the basis for truth. Quine also argues, however, that the problem of homology (i.e., correspondence) should be ignored on pragmatic grounds. Because the problem is simply ignored, but not resolved, there appears to be some substance to Hayes’s claim that pragmatism relies ultimately on correspondence as a truth criterion. Behavioral pragmatism is then introduced to circumvent both Hayes’s claim and Quine’s implicit appeal to correspondence. Behavioral pragmatism avoids correspondence by appealing to the personal goals (i.e., the behavior) of the scientist or philosopher as the basis for establishing truth. One consequence of this approach, however, is that science and philosophy are robbed of any final or absolute objectives and thus may not be a satisfactory solution to philosophers. On balance, behavioral pragmatism avoids any appeal to correspondence-based truth, and thus it cannot be criticized for generating the same philosophical problems that have come to be associated with this truth criterion.

Key words

realism truth behavioral pragmatism 

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Copyright information

© Association for Behavior Analysis International 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyNational University of Ireland, MaynoothMaynooth, County KildareIreland

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