- Capitalism and Alternatives -

Should we shape others behavior, or should we leave them alone?

Posted by: Hank on February 14, 19100 at 11:41:40:

In Reply to: Concluding thoughts posted by Barry Stoller on February 11, 19100 at 19:43:20:

Anybody here is welcome to put Chomsky and Skinner into a search engine and see what they come up with. It all boils down to Chomsky looks for explanatory principles; Behavioralists are content to catalogue data from experiments.

From Utopia 2000, Stoller said:

"Behaviorism's central premise is that the environment determines the development of the individual."

I say this is both true and trivial. Of course the environment determines the individual. Who could deny this?

In another sense it's false. Chomsky showed the language faculty is natural. Take a kid who grows up in a nurturing household full of postive reinforcements; he'll grow up to speak the language of his environment. Take a kid who grows up in a household of abuse and neglect; he'll grow up speaking the language of his environment, with grammar just as rich as that of the first kid.

Think about it. Every normal human being speaks a language, from the richest kid skateboarding in Beverly Hills to the poorest kid living on the street in Rio. Even insane people, senile people speak according to grammatical rules.

Stoller also said: "Behaviorism 's second premise is that human behavior not only can be altered but should be altered in order to eliminate institutional inequities and to bring out every person's full potential and happiness."

And then later Stoller reminds us that this shaping doesn't mean punishment and police states (as he says Chomsky said Skinner meant), but that Skinner was careful to show that positive reinforcement was the proper way to shape behavior.

And there we have the fundamental difference between Stoller's Skinnerian-Leninism and Chomsky's anarcho-libertarian-socialism. Should we shape others behavior, or should we leave them alone?

And that's why the question comes to morality.

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