Readers of Zygon are accustomed to finding on these pages essays which make use of physics, biology, and the social sciences to address various issues pertaining to the relation of science and religion. The articles in this issue do not depart from this tradition. Yet they do deal with topics often thought to be under the jurisdiction of the humanities. The following articles address the subject of what it means to be human and a person. The dialogue between science and religion sometimes misses this level of concreteness and intimacy. Yet, if these articles are a trustworthy guide, this need not be the case.
The common feature of these articles is the goal of stating the meaning of the human in a fashion which is compatible with some commanding scientific framework. These articles go beyond speaking about genes, natural selection, free variation, and DNA and speak of such topics as freedom, individuality, community, purpose, intention, and effort. Can these two worlds of meaning and significance be brought together—the scientific world which attempts to discern the predictable regularities undergirding human nature and the humanistic world which speaks of mans self-transcending capacities such as his freedom, interpersonal communion, creativity, and self-sacrifice? Must the sciences of man continue to relinquish inquiry into these latter more ethereal dimensions of human nature to the historians, literary critics, theologians, and philosophers?
Since the publication of Walden II, in 1948, B. F. Skinner has moved beyond strict behaviorist research and applications to address problems that also engage theoreticians of religion.1Beyond Freedom and Dignity (1971) and About Behaviorism (1974) Skinner has a good deal to say about the future of culture; his discussions in these books range through various broad issues: values, personal identity, freedom, emotionality, purpose, intention, thinking, subjectivity, and objectivity. In Verbal Behavior (1957) he deals specifically with literature and aesthetic interests.² These aspects of Skinners thought have commanded increasing critical attention from humanistic and religious thinkers. Frequently, however, these critics have not given adequate recognition to the experimental foundations of Skinners thought. For example, in Beyond Freedom and Dignity Skinner develops a case for his theory of human nature and culture which rests within a framework of operant behaviorist psychology. He assumes an operant system and then argues for its implementation on a broader cultural scale. His readers are referred to the appropriate supporting psychological sources.³ Yet, in attempting to address the complex issue of the adequacy of Skinners theoretical analysis, some critics have in effect spent much of their time contesting the findings of operant psychology itself. According to Skinner, misunderstanding of the science of behavior has led to its confusion with a philosophy of behaviorism.⁴ Consequently, from an operant psychological perspective it has been difficult to make sense of, for example, Noam Chomskys rather violent critical review of Beyond Freedom and Dignity.⁵ Richard Rubenstein, a theologian, has concluded that Beyond Freedom and Dignity is a blueprint of hell.⁶ The few sympathetic reviews of this work which appeared were by psychologists familiar with Skinners experimental success.⁷ The historian Arnold Toynbee in his own review clearly gives the most important reason for many of the humanists problems with Skinner. He complains of the esoteric language used by Skinner and his apparent assumption that everyone knows or should know what the language means. Hardly anyone does, and it is commendable that Toynbee raises this point: The words contingencies, reinforcers, and reinforcement are evidently key terms. They are also apparently being used in a technical sense, and the uninitiated reader has to guess at their technical meaning, at the risk, if he guesses wrong, of failing to do justice to Skinners argument.⁸ Simply stated, Skinners arguments are difficult to understand without a reasonable acquaintance with principles of the experimental analysis of behavior.⁹ …
¹ B. F. Skinner, Walden II (New York: Macmillan Co., 1948). Much of the argument goes beyond the established facts. I am concerned with interpretation rather than prediction and control. … Speculation is necessary, in fact, to devise methods which will bring a subject matter under better control (B. F. Skinner, About Behaviorism [New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1974], p. 19).
² B. F. Skinner, Beyond Freedom and Dignity (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1971); Verbal Behavior (New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1957).
³ 3. For an examination of the framework of operant behaviorist psychology, see B. F. Skinner, Science and Human Behavior (New York: Macmillan Co., 1953), and James G. Holland and B. F. Skinner, The Analysis of Behavior: A Program for Self-Instruction (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1961).
⁴ See his Introduction to About Behaviorism, pp. 3-8.
⁵ Noam Chomsky, The Case against B. F. Skinner, New York Review of Books 17, no. 5 (1971): 18-24. Skinner has remarked in response to Chomsky that he doesnt know what I am talking about and for some reason is unable to understand it (B. F. Skinner, I Have Been Misunderstood… ,Center Magazine [March-April 1972J, p. 63). Kenneth MacCorkquodale examined Chomskys earlier analysis of Skinners Verbal Behavior and concluded that his methodological criticisms were based on ignorance of much that is central to an understanding, application, and assessment of Skinners position (Kenneth MacCorkquodale, On Chomskys Review of Skinners Verbal Behavior, Journal for the Experimental Analysis of Behavior 13 (1970): 98; ,furthermore, Chomsky did not grasp the differences between Skinnerian and Watsonian-Hullian behaviorism, and his criticisms, although stylistically effective, were mostly irrelevant to Verbal Behavior (Kenneth MacCorkquodale, B. F. Skinners Verbal Behavior: A Retrospective Appreciation, Journal for the Experimental Analysis of Behavior 12 : 841). In his review of Beyond Freedom and Dignity Chomsky appears to have overcome for the most part the effects of confusing Watsonian with Skinnerian behaviorism. Yet he distorts Skinners use of reinforcement (see pp. 22-23). A major difference between Watsonianism and Skinnerianism is that Watson conceived of all behavior as fitting within the S-R framework. All behaviors were held to be reflexlike in that each behavior constitutes a response (R) elicited by a prior determinative stimulus (S). However, this paradigm is applicable only to a limited class of reflex behaviors—largely autonomic and internal in nature. Skinner believes that most significant behaviors fall in a class called voluntary, purposive, or operant. The consequences of a behavior are the determining element rather than a prior eliciting stimulus. In ordinary language, the reason or cause for any behavior is not to be found in a prior stimulus situation but in its consequences.
⁶ Richard Rubenstein, Books, Psychology Today (September 1971), p. 96.
⁷ Among these I include Brewster Smiths review, even though he clearly objects to Skinners limited concept of cause (The Scientists Bookshelf, American Scientist [January-February 1972], pp. 80-81).
⁸ Arnold Toynbee, Beyond Freedom and Dignity: An Uneasy Feeling of Unreality, Center Magazine (March-April 1972), p. 60.
⁹ This obstacle to understanding may also be the major reason why the more familiar Freudian and humanistic psychologists have been found to be less problematical for intensive examination by those concerned with religious issues.
John Wagenaar is assistant professor of psychology, Northwestern College, Orange City, Iowa.
Freedom and Dignity in A. H. Maslows Philosophy of the Person by Ralph L. Underwood
The aim of this study is to disclose the central significance of Abraham H. Maslows philosophy of the person for the current concern with the meaning of human dignity. In our time human self-regard is caught in a dilemma aggravated by the conflict between personal autonomy and social regulation. This problem reappears at various levels of consideration, such as ethical principles and political strategy. My perspective on it calls attention to its cultural and religious aspects. It is a cultural and religious matter because it confronts us with alternative values, including some that ultimately determine who we are, and because the issues surrounding self-determination and behavior control are not limited to passing relevancies but encompass as well the question of our heritage and what we deem worthy of preservation from generation to generation, that is, of what endures in the midst of change. For this angle of vision the philosophy of the person is an apposite region of inquiry, especially when it is focused in some master image of the authentic individual, a representation that distills the controlling assumptions and abbreviates the concrete concerns that guide self-understanding. In part the contemporary discussion about human excellence, individual choice, and behavior control is a debate in which various practical wisdoms about the meaning of being human vie for salient recognition and persuasive authority in the total vision of things that will organize our future. …
Ralph L. Underwood received a Ph.D. degree from the University of Chicago Divinity School in June.
William Jamess Philosophy of the Person: The Concept of the Strenuous Life by Don Browning
In this essay I want to set forth certain aspects of William Jamess philosophy of the person. In the process of doing this I will also attempt to place James in the context of selected contemporary visions of the nature of the person which are receiving attention by the reading public. It is not my goal to argue that Jamess vision of the person is superior to these more recently articulated points of view. Rather, I want to demonstrate the richness of Jamess vision and show how this position might relate to and possibly clarify some of the issues at stake in the contemporary debate about a viable image of the human to guide modern life.
Although James never directly speaks about a philosophy of the person, it is clear that the issue of the meaning of the person or the individual was a preoccupation which runs throughout his writings. In fact, James is often criticized for his preoccupation with the individual and charged with overlooking the social and cultural dimensions of man. This limitation is said to be all the more serious in his psychology and philosophy of religion. Here, it is claimed, Jamess decision to study and think about the personal experience of religion helped provide the philosophical grounds for certain modern forms of religious pietism. To some extent these charges are justified, but a careful investigation of his writings will demonstrate that both his philosophy of the person and his philosophy of religion have more social and cultural dimensions than they are often believed to have.
There are two dimensions of Jamess philosophy of the person which I want to emphasize—his romanticism and his asceticism. Other important topics such as Jamess view of the self and his understanding of consciousness cannot be discussed in this brief essay.¹ …
¹ I plan to expand the following essay into a book-length study tentatively entitled Joy, Care, and Control: The Cultures of Contemporary Psychology.
Don Browning is associate professor of religion and personality, University of Chicago.
Indwelling as a Method of Family Research and Therapy: A Perspective on the Human Suggested by the Thought of Michael Polanyi by Paul F. Wilczak
The thought of Michael Polanyi has fascinated me since 1968 when I first began reading his works. Through them I became interested enough to enroll in a seminar he was teaching that year at the University of Chicago. I later deepened my interest into a dissertation project on the relation of his philosophical psychology of motivation to his philosophy of religion.¹ The root of my fascination with Polanyis thought, I believe, is its seminal quality. The goal of the man was unusually far reaching. He sought to formulate a philosophy of knowledge which revealed personal faith as the intrinsic, necessary foundation of human understanding. His project has evoked a broad spectrum of responses. Some individuals dismissed his position as obscurantism or a glorification of the trivial. Others saw him as an epistemological savior and flocked to join societies of explorers formed in reverent discipleship to the man. At present my own assessment of his work falls somewhere between these two poles. His general approach to the basis and growth of human knowledge strikes me as a coherent, significant contribution to contemporary philosophy. Its prime value, however, may lie in the implications it holds for more specialized investigations. Reading and rereading Polanyi can give rise to new questions about ones own area of research interest. I shall attempt an example of such questioning in this paper. …
¹ Paul Francis Wilczak, Faith, Motive, and Community: An Interpretation of the Philosophy of Michael Polanyi (Ph.D. diss., University of Chicago, 1973).
Paul F. Wilczak is assistant professor of pastoral studies, Saint Meinrad School of Theology, Saint Meinrad, Indiana.
Retrospective: Arthur Koestler/Part One (Zygon 9 : 339-51) reviewed the writings of that authors first cycle, 1939-54. The present issue concludes the retrospective with a review of his second and third cycles, 1949-67 and 1968 to the present, respectively. …
John A. Miles, Jr., is assistant professor of religious studies and assistant director of Scholars Press, University of Montana.