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Behaviourism, analytic

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-V005-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 15, 2024, from

Article Summary

Analytical behaviourism is the doctrine that talk about mental phenomena is really talk about behaviour, or tendencies to behave. For an analytical behaviourist, to say that Janet desires ice cream is to say that, all things being equal, she tends to seek it out. To say that Brad is now feeling jealous is to say no more than that he is now behaving in a way characteristic of jealousy, or perhaps that he would do so under appropriate provocation. Analytical behaviourism differs from methodological behaviourism in insisting that our ordinary use of mental language really is, in some sense, already about behaviour. The methodological version claims either that in doing psychology we should restrict ourselves to notions which can be defined behaviourally, or, sometimes, that our general psychological language, even if not already definable in this way, should be reformed in this general direction.

The most telling objection to this account of the mind is that it is inconsistent with the requirement that mental states are causes of behaviour. Ordinarily we might note that Brad has a tendency to display jealous behaviour with little provocation, and conjecture that this is caused by his feeling jealous (rather than, say, practising for his forthcoming part in a Jacobean tragedy). But according to analytical behaviourism his feeling jealous just is his tendency to the behaviour, and since nothing causes itself, his jealousy cannot be the cause of the pattern of behaviour.

Citing this article:
Braddon-Mitchell, David. Behaviourism, analytic, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-V005-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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