In B. F. Skinner’s book, Beyond Freedom & Dignity, he discussed our culture strictly through a behaviorist’s point of view. That is, a point of view where man is viewed primarily as an animal, the "being" aspect of a "human being" is dropped from the picture. There is no consideration for a view of man who has mind that observes, chooses, decides and initiates action upon the environment. Basically, Skinner insinuated the idea that man has no personality, free will, responsibility, and that contemporary concepts of freedom and dignity can not be realistically applied to life experiences. I consider the question that if it is the natural stimuli that control the actions of humans, who controls the natural stimulus? Subsequently, if the natural stimuli are randomly occurring, that means that all things experienced by humans are at best, by chance or luck. I will first discuss parts of Skinner’s theories before I state my opinion on the validity of his work.
Skinner’s entire system of experimentation was based on operant conditioning. While trying to comprehend Skinner’s explanation of operant conditioning, I visualized a person getting knocked around in a pin-ball machine. This person bouncing around in a pin-ball machine represents the idea of reaction, that is, to everything it would come into contact with. From Skinner’s point of view, those things a person would come in contact with are the stimulus, or the reinforcers. Specifically, the stimulus has the ability to increase the operant, or the behavior taking place right before the stimulus. Additionally, Skinner believed that the behaviors following the stimulus are consequences. Whether good or bad, those consequences have the ability to affect the tendency for a person to repeat the action.
Skinner also discussed a different kind of stimulus, aversive stimulus, or something that is found uncomfortable and unpleasant. Logic