The Behavior Analyst

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 61–72 | Cite as

The Gifts of Culture and of Eloquence: An Open Letter to Michael J. Mahoney in Reply to His Article, “Scientific Psychology and Radical Behaviorism”

  • A. Charles Catania
Article

Abstract

In what seems to be a response to a paper by Skinner (1987), Mahoney (1989) provides evidence of unfamiliarity with and intellectual intolerance toward radical behaviorism by presenting a critique of it that includes a variety of improper and counterfactual attributions. For example, he argues that radical behaviorism is Cartesian rather than Baconian when the historical record shows the opposite, that it is fundamentally associationist when in fact it is selectionist, and that its philosophy of science is essentially that of operationalism and logical positivism when instead it moved on to other criteria decades ago. The details of Mahoney’s history are sometimes flawed and sometimes unsubstantiated, as when he provides a distorted account of the origins of the Association for Behavior Analysis or when he makes undocumented claims about the banning of books. On examination, many of his arguments are couched in stylistic terms that share their rhetorical features with racial, ethnic, and religious stereotyping.

Key words

Bacon Chomsky Darwin Descartes Skinner 

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Copyright information

© Association for Behavior Analysis International 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Charles Catania
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Maryland Baltimore CountyCatonsvilleUSA

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