Beyond Freedom And Dignity

From Cibernética Americana


I intend the following to be a simple chapter by chapter paraphrastic synopsis of the title work to go in the existing English article as a section (without this leading text).

When figures as widely spread on the political spectrum as Ayn Rand and Noam Chomsky condemn a work something must be up. I think this and Walden Two are Skinners most important works. I think it's hard to put this work in context without having read Walden Two.

It's easy to understand why Skinner stirs people up with these works since they are diameterically opposite to lip service that is almost universally given to 'democracy'. Skinners vision of society is not democratic and in this work he explains why. On a superficial note I will comment that I think this is in fact consistent with what people really want out of society, i.e actual well being not the illusion of freedom and dignity as they have shown time and again, albeit often enough with disastrous results.

A Technology of Behavior

Chapter 1 is an exposition of scientific behaviorism as understood by Skinner. Compares, contrasts, and decries the difference between the advancement in the 'hard' sciences since the European classical period with their focus on the external world and that achieved with respect to man as an object of study embodied as a scientific phenomenon by his behavior.


Basic freedom as an intrinsic (instinctual) avoidance behavior with respect to aversive stimuli, at its lowest level embodied in reflexes at a higher level by operant conditioning.

left]Man's struggle for freedom is not due to a will to be free, but to certain behavioral processes characteristic of the

human orrganism, the chief effect of which is the avoidance of or escape from so-called "aversive" features of the environment. Physical and biological technologies have been mainly concerned with natural aversive stimuli; the struggle for freedom is concerned with the stimuli intentionally arranged by other people. the literature of freedom has identified the other people and has proposed way of escaping from them or weakening or destroying thier power. It has been successful in reducing the aversive stimuli used intensional control, but it has made the mistake of defining freedom in terms of states of mind or feelings, and it has therefore not been able to deal effectively with the techniques of control which do ont breed escape or revolt but nevertheless have aversive consequences. It has been forced to brand all control as wrong and to misrepresent many of the advantages to be gained from a social environment. It is unprepared for the next step, shich is not to free men from control but to analyze and change the kinds of control to which they are exposed.



Alternatives to Punishment


The Evolution of Culture

The Design of Culture

What is Man?