B.F. Skinner's Behaviorism

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B.F. Skinner's Behaviorism

Postby Enigma » Thu Apr 22, 2004 3:01 am

Is "freedom" really an illusion as Skinner felt it to be?

I have been thinking about this a little lately and I think there are quite a bit of influencing factors on what we deem as "freedom." Not only that, but it seems that "freedom," at least as we understand it, is a conditioned understanding in itself that is fairly arbitrary in definition.

I can see where Skinner is coming from to a certain extent. We are under the impression that we are individuals with the freedom to make choices, but those choices are heavily influenced by a myriad of external influences.

It is also interesting to travel around the world and see how much different people are in different regions based upon different cultural stipulations. I was raised in America and now live in Japan. Although they have some similarities, the cultures differ dramatically in regards to ethics. With the way media is used to influence social perception and various other influences such monetary demands, laws, et cetera; isn't it quite possible that we are agents of conditioning and the "freedom" we feel we have is really an illusion because the choices we make are so limited due to external influence?

I guess "freedom" itself is under question. What is "freedom?"
"... proudly defiant of the irresistible forces that tolerate, for a moment, his knowledge and his condemnation, to sustain alone, a weary but unyielding Atlas, the world that his own ideals have fashioned despite the trampling march of unconscious power. " Bertrand Russell
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Postby chanbengchin » Thu Apr 22, 2004 9:10 am

What is freedom?

Well we can take the opposite of what you are suggesting, namely to be able to counteract or be immune to the conditioning and influence in the environment. So you may drool like Pavlov's dog on hearing a bell, but you are able to overrride, although not without effort, your psychological and physiological responses to external stimuli and not act automatically and predictably to these.

Having said this although most say we are free, we are not treated as if we are. For example management theories and psychology treat humans as if we will behave within a certain range when certain conditions are in place, such as money, titles, recognition, goals, incentives, education, etc etc. The basis for such theories is that humans can be conditioned for 'desirable' behaviours.

But the biggest problem is trying to prove that freedom is not an illusion. Even if we are able not to react predictably and automatically to certain external stimuli imposed on us in certain degree and sequence, we are yet unsure whether we are able because of yet some unknown, unseen and unaccounted factors, perhaps solely unique to us, but nonetheless our acts are caused by these, and not an exercise of "free will".
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