Skinner for August 28

Skinner for August 28 - PART FOUR: DETERMINISM, FREE WILL,...

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Unformatted text preview: PART FOUR: DETERMINISM, FREE WILL, AND RESPONSIBILITY I FREEDOM IS SOMETIMES DEFINED as a lack of resistance or restraint. A wheel turns freely if there I is very little friction in the bearing, a horse breaks free from the post to which it has been tethered, a man fi'ees himself from the branch on which he has » been caught while climbing a tree. Physical restraint is an obvious condition, which seems particularly usefiil in defining freedom, but with respect to im- portant issues, it is a metaphor and not a very good one. People are indeed controlled by fetters, hand- cuffs, strait jackets, and the walls of jails and concentration camps, but what may be called be— havioral control—the restraint imposed by contin- gencies of reinforcement—is a very different thing. Except when physically restrained, a person is least free or dignified when he is under threat of punishment, and unfortunately most people often are. Punishment is very common in nature, and we learn a great deal from it. A child runs awkwardly, falls, and is hurt; he touches a bee and is stung; he takes a bone fi'om a dog and is bitten; and as a result he learns not to do these things again. It is mainly to avoid various forms of natural punishment that people have built a more comfortable and less dan— gerous world. The word punishment is usually confined to contingencies intentionally arranged by other peo- ple, who arrange them because the results are rein~ forcing to them. (Punitive contingencies are not to be confused with aversive control, through which people are induced to behave in given ways. Punish— ment is used to induce people not to behave in given ways.) A person resorts to punishment when he criticizes, ridicules, blames, or physically attacks another in order to suppress unwanted behavior. Government is often defined in terms of the power to punish, and some religions teach that sinful be— havior will be followed by eternal punishments of the most horrible sort. ' We should expect the literatures of freedom and dignity to oppose measures of this sort and to work toward a world in which punishment is less com- mon or even absent, and up to a point they have done so. But punitivesanctions are still common. People still control eaCh Other more bften through censure or blame than commendation or praise, the military and the police remain the most powerful arms of government, communicants are still occa- sionally reminded of hellfire, and teachers have abandoned the birch rod only to replace it with more subtleforms of punishment. And the curious fact is that those who defend freedom and dignity are not only not opposed to these measures but largely responsible for the fact that they are still with us. This strange state of affairs can be understood only by looking at the way in which organisms re- spond to punitive contingencies. Punishment is designed to remove awkward, dangerous, or otherwise unwanted behavior from a repertoire on the assumption that a person who has been punished is less likely to behave in the same way again. Unfortunately, the matter is not that simple. Reward and punishment do not difi'er merely in the direction of the changes they induce. A child who has been severely punished for sex play is not necessarily less inclined to continue; and a man who has been imprisoned for violent assault is not necessarily less inclined toward violence. Pun- ished behavior is likely to reappear after the punitive contingencies are withdrawn. What seem to be the intended effects ofpunish- ment can often be explained in other ways. For example, punishment may generate incompatible emotions. A boy who has been severely punished for sex play may no longer be, as we might say, in the mood to continue, and fleeing to escape from a punisher is incompatible with attacking him. Future occasions for sex play or for violent assault may evoke similar incompatible behavior through con- ditioning. Whether the effect is felt as shame, guilt, or a sense of sin depends upon whether the punish- ment is administered by parent or peer, by a govern- ment, or by a church, respectively. The aversive condition brought about by pun- ishment (and felt in these different ways) has a much more important effect. Quite literally, a per- son may subsequently behave “in order to avoid punishment.” He can avoid it by not behaving in punishable ways, but there are other possibilities. Some of these are disruptive and maladaptive or neurotic, and as a result they have been closely stud- ied. The so-called “dynamisms” of Freud are said to be ways in which repressed wishes evade the cen- sor and find expression, but they can be interpreted V. simply as ways in which people avoid punishment. /' Thus, a person may behave in ways that will not be punished because they cannot be seen, as by fanta- I iying or dreaming. He may sublimate by engaging in behavior which has rather similar reinforcing ef- fects but is not punished. He may displace punish- able behavior by directing it toward objects which ' i cannot punish—for example, he may be aggressive " toward physical objects, children, or small animals. He may watch or read about others who engage in punishable behavior, identifiing himself with them, or interpret the behavior of others as punishable, pro- jecting his own tendencies. He may rationalize his behavior by gixing reasons, either to himself or oth. ers, which make it nonpunishable—as in asserting that he is punishing a child for the child’s own good. There are more effective ways of avoiding pun- ishment. One may avoid occasions on which pun- ishable behavior is likely to occur. A person who has been punished for drunkenness may “put tempta- tion behind him” by staying away from places where he is likely to drink too much; a student who has been punished for not studying may avoid situ- ations in which he is distracted from his work. Still another strategy is to change the environment so that behavior is less likely to be punished. We re- duce natural punishing contingencies when we re- pair a broken stairway so that we are less likely to fall, and we weaken punitive social contingencies by associating with more tolerant friends. Still another strategy is to change the probability that punishable behavior will occur. A person who is frequently punished because he is quick to anger may count to ten before acting; he avoids punish- , ment if, while he is counting, his inclination to act aggressively drops to a manageable level. Or he may make punishable behavior less likely by changing his physiological condition, controlling aggression, for example, by taking a tranquilizer. Men have even resorted to surgical means—castrating them- selves, for example, or following the Biblical in- junction to cut off the hand that offends. Punitive contingencies may also induce a man to seek out or construct environments in which he is likely to en~ gage in behavior which displaces punishable forms; B. F. Skinner: Beyond Freedom and Dignity 423 he stays out of trouble by keeping busy in nonpun- ished ways, as by doggedly “doing something else.” (Much behavior which appears irrational in the sense that it seems to have no positively rein- forcing consequences may have the effect of dis-- placing behavior which is subject to punishment.) A person may even take steps to strengthen contin: gencies which teach him to stop behaving in pun- ishable ways: he may, for example, take drugs under the influence of which smoking or drinking has strong aversive consequences, such as nausea, or he may expose himself to stronger ethical, religious, or governmental sanctions. All these things a person may do to reduce the chances that he will be punished, but they may also be done for him by other people. Physical technol— ogy has reduced the number of occasions upon which people are naturally punished, and social en— vironments have been changed to reduce the likeli- hood of punishment at the hands of others. Some familiar strategies may be noted. Punishable behavior can be minimized by creat- ing circumstances in which it is not likely to occur. The archetypal pattern is the Cloister. In a world in which only simple foods are available, and in mod- erate supply, no one is subject to the natural punish— ment of overeating, or the social punishment of dis- approval, or the religious punishment of gluttony as a venial sin. Heterosexual behavior is impOssible when the sexes are segregated, and the vicarious sexual behavior evoked by pornography is impossi- ble in the absence of pornographic material. “Pro- hibition” was an effort to control the consumption of alcohol by removing alcohol from the environ- ment. It is still practiced in some states and almost universally to the extent that alcohol cannot be sold to minors or to anyone at certain times of day or on certain days. The care of the institutionalized alco- holic usually involves the control of supplies. The use of other addictive drugs is still controlled in the same way. Aggressive behavior which is otherwise uncontrollable is suppressed by putting a person in solitary confinement, where there is no one to ag- gress against. Theft is controlled by locking up everything likely to be stolen. Another possibility is to break up the contingen- cies under which punished behavior is reinforced. 424 Temper tantrums often disappear when they no longer receive attention, aggressive behavior is at- tenuated by making sure that nothing is gained by it, and overeating is controlled by making foods less palatable. Another technique is to arrange circum- stances under which behavior may occur without being punished. Saint Paul recommended marriage as a means of reducing objectionable forms of sex- ual behavior, and pornography has been recom‘ mended for the same reasons. Literature and art permit one to “sublimate” other kinds of trouble- some behaxior. Punishable behavior can also be suppressed by strongly reinforcing any behavior which displaces it. Organized sports are sometimes promoted on the grounds that they provide an en— vironment in which young people will be too busy to get into trouble. If all this fails, punishable be- havior may be made less likely by changing physio- logical conditions. Hormones may be used to change sexual behavior, surgery (as in lobotomy) to control violence, tranquilizers to control ag- gression, and appetite depressants to control overeating. Measures of this sort are no doubt often incon- sistent with each other and may have unforeseen consequences. It proved to be impossible to control the supply of alcohol during prohibition, and seg- regation of the sexes may lead to unwanted homo- sexuality. Excessive suppression of behavior which would otherwise be strongly reinforced may lead to defection from the punishing group. These prob- lems are in essence soluble, however, and it should be possible to design a world in which behavior likely to be punished seldom or never occurs. We try to design such a world for those who cannot solve the problem of punishment for themselves, such as babies, retardates, or psychotics, and if it could be done for everyone, much time and energy would be saved. The defenders of freedom and dignity object to solving the problem of punishment that way. Such a world builds only automatic goodness. T. H. Huxley saw nothing wrong with it: “If some great power would agree to make me always think what is true and do what is right, on condition of being some sort of a clock and wound up every morning before I got out of bed, I 'should close instantly PART FOUR: DETERMINISM, FREE WILL, AND RESPONSIBILITY with the offer.” But Joseph Wood Krutch refers t this as the scarcely believable position of a “pro: modern,” and he shares T. S. Eliot’s contempt fo “systems so perfect that no one will need to good.” ' The trouble is that when we punish a person for. behaving badly, we leave it up to him to discover. how to behave well, and he can then get credit for, behaving well. But if he behaves well for the we have just examined, it is the environment that must get the credit. At issue is an attribute ofauton? omous man. Men are to behave well only because they are good. Under a “perfect” system no one needs goodness. There are, of course, valid reasons for thinking less of a person who is only automatically good, for he is a lesser person. In a world in which he does not need to work hard, he “ill not learn to sustain hard work. In a world in which medical science has alleviated pain, he will not learn to take painful stimuli. In a world which promotes automatic goodness, he will not learn to take the punishment: associated with behaving badly. To prepare people for a world in which they cannot be good automat- ically, we need appropriate instruction, but that does not mean a permanently punitive emiron- ment, and there is no reason why progress toward a world in which people may be automatically good should be impeded. The problem is to induce peo- ple not to be good but to behave well. The issue is again the visibility of control. As en- vironmental contingencies become harder to see, the goodness of autonomous man becomes more apparent, and there are several reasons why punitive control becomes inconspicuous. A simple way to avoid punishment is to avoid punishers. Sex play becomes surreptitious, and a violent man attacks only when the police are not around. But the pun- isher may offset this by concealment. Parents fi'e- quently spy on their children, and policemen wear plain clothes. Escape must then become more sub- tle. If motorists obey speed laws only when the po- lice are visible, speed may be monitored by radar, but the motorist may then install an electronic de- vice which tells him when radar is in use. A state which converts all its citizens into spies or a religion ‘ which promotes the concept of an all—seeing God .1 makes escape from the punisher practically impos- and punitive contingencies are then maxi- mally effective. People behave well although there is no visible supervision. ‘ But the absence of a supervisor is easily misun— derstood. It is commonly said that the control be- r comes internalized, which is simply another way of - saying that it passes fiom the environment to au- tonomous man, but what happens is that it be- comes less \isible. One kind of control said to be internalized is represented by the Iudaeo-Christian conscience and the Freudian superego. These in- dwelling agents speak in a still, small voice, telling a person what to do and, in particular, what not to do. The words are acquired from the community. The conscience and the superego are the vicars of society, and theologians and psychoanalysts alike recognize their external origins. Where the Old Adam or the id speaks for the personal good speci- fied by man’s genetic endowment, the conscience or superego speaks for what is good for others. The conscience or superego does not arise sim— ply from the concealment of punishers. It repre- sents a number of auxiliary practices which make punitive sanctions more effective. We help a person avoid punishment by telling him about punitive contingencies, we warn him not to behave in ways which are likely to be punished, and we advise him to behave in ways which will not be punished. Many religious and govemmental laws have these effects. They describe the contingencies under which some forms of behaxior are punished and others not. Maxims, proverbs, and other forms of folk wisdom often supply useful rules. “Look before you leap” is an injunction derived from an analysis of certain kinds of contingencies: leaping without looking is more likely to be punished than looking and then possibly not leaping or leaping more skillfully. “Do not steal” is an injunction derived from social con- tingencies: people punish thieves. By following the rules which others have derived from punitive contingencies in the natural and so- cial environment a person can often avoid or escape punishment. Both the rules and the contingencies which generate rule-following behavior may be conspicuous, but they may also be learned and later remembered, and the process then becomes invisi- u. 9: .9 B. F. Skinner: Beyond Freedom and Dignity 425 ble. The individual tells himself what to do and what not to do, and it is easy to lose sight of the fact that he has been taught to do so by the verbal com- munity. When a person derives his own rules fi‘om an analysis of punitive contingencies, we are partic- ularly likely to give him credit for the good behavior which follows, but the visible stages have simply faded farther into history. When the punitive contingencies are simply part of the nonsocial environment, it is reasonably clear what is happening. We do not allow a person to learn to drive a car by exposing him to serious pu— nitive contingencies. We do not send him onto a busy highway without preparation and hold him re- sponsible for everything that happens. We give him instruction in safe and skillful driving. We teach him rules. We let him begin to drive in a training device in which punitive contingencies are minimized or altogether lacking. We then take him onto a rela- tively safe highway. If we are successful, we may produce a safe and skillful driver without resorting to punishment at all, even though the contingencies under which he will drive for the rest of his life con- tinue to be highly punitive. We are likely to say, without warrant, that he has acquired the “know - edge” he needs in order to drive safely or that he is now a “good driver” rather than a person who drives well. When the contingencies are social, and in particular when they are arranged by religious. agencies, we are much more likely to infer an “inner knowledge of right” or an inner goodness. The goodness to which good behaiior is attrib- uted is part of a person’s worth or dignity and shows the same inverse relationship to the visibility of control. We attribute the greatest goodness to people who have never behaved badly and hence have never been punished and 'who behave well without following rules. Jesus is usually portrayed as such a person. We infer a lesser goodness in those who behave well but only because they have been punished. The reformed sinner may resemble a nat— ural saint, but the fact that he has been exposed to punitive contingencies places some limit on his nat- ural goodness. Close to the reformed sinner are those who have analyzed the punitive contingen- cies in their environments and derived rules which they have followed to avoid punishment. A lesser 426 amount of goodness is attributed to those who fol- low rules formulated by others, and very little if the rules and the contingencies which maintain rule- governed behavior are conspicuous. We attribute no goodness at all to those who behave well only under constant supervision by a punitive agent such as the police. . Goodness, like other aspects of dignity or worth, waxes as visible control wanes, and so, of course, does freedom. Hence goodness and freedom tend to be associated. John Stuart Mill held that the only goodness worthy of the name was displayed by a person who behaved well although it was possible for him to behave badly and that only such a person was free. Mill was not in favor of closing houses of prostitution; they were to remain open so that peo- ple could achieve freedom and dignity through self- control. But the argument is convincing only if we neglect the reasons why people behave well when it is apparently possible for them to behave badly. It is one thing to prohibit the use of dice and playing cards, to prohibit the sale of alcohol, and to close houses of prostitution. It is another thing to make all these things aversive, as by punishing the behav- ior they evoke, by calling them temptations con- trived by the devil, and by portraying the tragic fate of the drunkard or describing the venereal diseases acquired from prostitutes. The effect may be the same: people may not gamble, drink, or go to pros- titutes, but the fact that they cannot do so in one environment and do not do so in the other is a fact about techniques of control, not about goodness or freedom. In one environment the reasons for be- having well are clear; in another they are easily over— looked and forgotten. _ It is sometimes said that children are not ready for the freedom of self-control until they reach the age of reason, and that meanwhile they must either be kept in a safe environment or be punished. If punishment may be postponed until they reach the age of reason, it may be dispensed with altogether. But this means simply that safe environments and punishment are the only measures available until a child has been exposed to the contingencies which give him other reasons for behaving well. Appropri- ate contingencies can often not be arranged for primitive people, and the same confusion between PART FOUR: DETERMINISM, FREE WILL, AND RESPONSIBILITY by the concept of responsibility, an attribute which visibility and internalized control is shoxm when it I is said that primitive peoples are not ready for free- dom. What, if anything, they are nor ready for is a type of control which requires a special history of contingencies. Many of the issues of punitive control are raised is said to distinguish man from the other animals. The responsible person is a “deserving” person. We give him credit when he behaves well, in order that he will continue to do so, but we are most likely to use the term when what he deserves is punishment. We hold a person responsible for his conduct in the sense that he can be justly or fairly punished. This is again a matter of good husbandry, ofa judicious use of reinforcers, of “making the punishment fit the crime.” More punishment than necessary is costly and may suppress desirable behafior, while too little is wasteful if it has no effect at all. The legal determination of responsibility (and justice) is in part concerned with facts. Did a per- son, indeed, behave in a given way? Were the cir- cumstances such that the behavior “as punishable under the law? If so, what laws apply, and what pun- ishments are specified? But other questions seem to concern the inner man. Was the act intentional or premeditated? Was it done in the heat ofanger? Did the person know the difference between right and wrong? Was he aware of the possible consequences of his act? All these questions about purposes, feel‘ ings, knowledge, and so on, can be restated in terms of the environment to which a person has been ex- posed. What a person “intends to do" depends upon what he has done in the past and what has then happened. A person does not act because he “feels angry”; he acts and feels angry for a common reason, not specified. Whether he deserves punish- ment when all these conditions are taken into ac- count is a question about probable results: will he, if punished, behave in a different way when similar circumstances again arise? There is a current ten- dency to substitute controllability for responsibility, and controllability is not so likely to be regarded as a possession of autonomous man, since it explicitly alludes to external conditions. The assertion that “only a free man can be re- sponsible for his conduct” has two meanings, dc- “ an», pending upon whether we are interested in freedom or responsibility. If we want to say that people are freedom, since if they are not free to act they cannot be held responsible. If we want to say they are free, we must hold them responsible for their behavior by maintaining punitive contingencies, since if they behaved in the same way under conspicuous non— punitive contingencies, it would be clear that they were not free. Any move toward an environment in which men are automatically good threatens responsibility. In the control of alcoholism, for example, the tradi- tional practice is punitive. Drunkenness is called wrong, and ethical sanctions are imposed by a per- son’s peers (the condition generated being felt as shame), or it is classified as illegal and subject to governmental sanctions (the condition generated being felt as guilt), or it is called sinful and punished by religious agencies (the condition generated be- ing felt as a sense of sin). The practice has not been conspicuously successful, and other controlling measures have been sought. Certain medical evi- dence appears to be relevant. People differ in their tolerances to alcohol and their addictive dependen- cies. Once a person has become an alcoholic, he may drink to relieve severe withdrawal symptoms which are not always taken into account by those who have never experienced them. The medical as- pects raise the question of responsibility: how fair is it to punish the alcoholic? From the point of View of husbandry, can we expect punishment to be effective against the opposing positive contingen- cies? Should we not rather treat the medical condi- tion? . . . As responsibility diminishes, punishment is relaxed. . . . The real issue is the effectiveness of techniques of control. We shall not solve the problems of alco- holism . . . by increasing a sense of responsibility. It is the environment which is “responsible” for the objectional behavior, and it is the environment, not some attribute of the individual, which must be changed. We recognize this when we talk about the , punitive contingencies in the natural environment. _. Running head-on into a wall is punished by a blow to the skull, but we do not hold a man responsible for not running into walls nor do we say that nature B. I". Skinner: Beyond Freedom and Dignity responsible, we must do nothing to infringe their 427 holds him responsible. Nature simply punishes him when he runs into a wall. When we make the world less punishing or teach people how to avoid natural punishments, as by giving them rules to follow, we are not destroying responsibility or threatening any other occult quality. We are simply making the world safer. ’ The concept of responsibility is particularly weak when behavior is traced to genetic determiners. We may admire beauty, grace, and sensitivity, but we do not blame a person because he is ugly, spastic, or color blind. Less conspicuous forms of genetic en- dowment nevertheless cause trouble. Individuals presumably differ, as species differ, in the extent to which they respond aggressively or are reinforced when they effect aggressive damage, or in the ex- tent to which they engage in sexual behavior or are affected by sexual reinforcement. Are they, there- fore, equally responsible for controlling their ag- gressive or sexual behavior, and is it fair to punish them to the same extent? If we do not punish a person for a club foot, should we punish him for being quick to anger or highly susceptible to sexual reinforcement? The issue has recently been raised by the possibility that many criminals show an anomaly in their chromosomes. The concept of re- sponsibility Offers little help. The issue is controlla- bility. We cannot change genetic defects by punish— ment; we can work only through genetic measures which operate on a much longer time scale. What must be changed is not the responsibility of auton- omous man but the conditions, environmental or genetic, of which a person’s behavior is a function. Although people object when a scientific analysis traces their behavior to external conditions and thus deprives them of credit and the chance to be ad- mired, they seldom object when the same analysis absolves them of blame. The crude environmental- ism of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was quickly put to use for purposes of exoneration and exculpation. George Eliot ridiculed it. The rector in Adam Bede exclaims, “Why, yes, a man can’t very well steal a bank-note unless the bank-note lies within convenient reach; but he won’t make us think him an honest man because he begins to howl at the bank-note for falling in his way.” The al- coholic is the first to claim that he is ill, and the 428 juvenile delinquent that he is the victim of an unfa- vorable background; if they are not responsible, they cannot be justly punished. Exoneration is in a sense the obverse of respon- sibility. Those who undertake to do something about human behavior—for any reason whatsoever —become part of the environment to which re— sponsibility shifts. In the old view it was the student who failed, the child who went wrong, the citizen who broke the law, and the poor who were poor because they were idle, but it is now commonly said that there are no dull students but only poor teach- ers, no bad children but only bad parents, no delin- quency except on the part of law enforcement agen- cies, and no indolent men but only poor incentive systems. But of course we must ask in turn why teachers, parents, governors, and entrepreneurs are bad. The mistake, as we shall see later, is to put the responsibility anywhere, to suppose that some- where a causal sequence is initiated. . . . Exoneration of the controller is seldom so easily documented, but something of the sort probably always underlies the continued use of punitive methods. Attacks on automatic goodness may show a concern for autonomous man, but the practical contingencies are more cogent. The literatures of freedom and dignity have made the control of hu- man behavior a punishable offense, largely by hold- ing the controller responsible for aversive results. The controller can escape responsibility if he can maintain the position that the individual himselfis in control. The teacher who gives the student credit for learning can also blame him for not learning. The parent who gives his child credit for his achievements can also blame him for his mistakes. Neither the teacher nor the parent can be held responsible. The genetic sources of human behavior are par- ticularly useful in exoneration. If some races are less intelligent than others, the teacher cannot be blamed if he does not teach them as well. If some men are born criminals, the law will always be bro- ken no matter how perfect the enforcing agency. If men make war because they are by nature aggres- sive, we need not be ashamed of our failure to keep the peace. A concern for exoneration is indicated by the fact that we are more likely to appeal to genetic PART FOUR: DETERMINISM, FREE WILL, AND RESPONSIBILITY endowment to explain undesirable results than plosi'j itive accomplishments. Those who are currently in; terested in doing something about human behavior cannot be given credit for, or blamed for, conse~ quences which can be traced to genetic sources; if they have any responsibility, it is to the future ofth¢ species. The pracrice of attributing behavior to gc—j netic endowment—of the species as a whole or of some subdivision like a race or family—may afi‘eCt breeding practices and eventually Other ways of changing that endowment, and the contemporary individual may in a sense be held responsible for the consequences ifhe acts or fails to act, but the con- sequences are remote and raise a difi'erent kind of problem, to which we shall eventually turn. Those who use punishment seem always to be on the safe side. Everyone approves the suppression of wrongdoing, except the \wongdoer. If those who are punished do not then do right, it is not the punisher’s fault. But the exoneration is not com— plete. Even those who do right may take a long time to discover what to do and may never do it well. They spend time fumbling m'th irrelevant facts and wrestling with the devil, and in unnecessary trial-and-error exploration. Moreover, punishment causes pain, and no one wholly escapes or remains untouched even when the pain is sutTered by others. The punisher cannot therefore entirely escape criti- cism, and he may “jusrify” his action by pointing to consequences of punishment which offset its aver- sive features. It would be absurd to include the writings oro- seph de Maistre in the literatures of freedom and dig- nity, for he was bitterly opposed to their cardinal prin- ciples, particularly as expressed by the “Titers of the Enlightenment. Nevertheless, by opposing effective alternatives to punishment on the ground that pun‘ ishment alone leaves the individual free to choose to behave well, those literatures have created a need for a kind of justification of which de Maistre was a mas- ter. Here is his defense of perhaps the most horrible of all punishers—the torturer and executioner. A somber signal is given: an abject minister of justice comes to knock at his door and let him , know that he is needed. He sets out; he arrives at the public square, which is crowded with an . B. F. Skinner: Beyond Freedom and Dignity eager excited throng. A prisoner or a murderer or a blasphemer is given over to him. He seizes him and stretches and ties him on a horizontal cross; he lifts his arm and a horrible silence falls. Nothing is heard but the cry of the bones crack- ing under the heavy rod and the howlings of the victim. Then he unties him and carries him to the wheel; the shattered limbs get twisted in the spokes; the head hangs; the hair stands out; and from the mouth, gaping open like a stove, come only now a few bloody words which at intervals beg for death. Now the executioner has fin- ished; his heart beats, but it is for joy; he ap- plauds himself, he says in his heart: “Nobody is better at the wheel than I!” He comes down and holds out his blood-stained hand, and the Law throws into it from a distance some gold pieces which he carries away with him through a dou— ble hedge of people who draw away in horror. He sits down to table and eats; then he gets into bed and goes to sleep. When he wakes up the next day, he begins to think about something quite difierent from the work he has been doing the day before. . . . All grandeur, all power, all discipline are founded on the executioner. He is the horror of the human association and the tie that holds it together. Take out of the world this incomprehensible agent, and at that instant “all order give way to chaos, thrones fall and society vanish. God, who is the source of all sovereignty, is, therefore, the source of punishment, too. If we no longer resort to torture in what we call the civilized world, we nevertheless still make ex- tensive use ofpunitive techniques in both domestic and foreign relations. And apparently for good rea— sons. Nature if not God has created man in such a way that he can be controlled punitively. People quickly become skillful punishers (if not, thereby, skillful controllers), whereas alternative positive measures are not easily learned. The need for pun- ishment seems to have the support of history, and alternative practices threaten the cherished values of freedom and dignity. And so we go on punish- ing—and defending punishment. A contemporary de Maistre might defend war in similar terms: “All grandeur, all power, all discipline are founded on the soldier. He is the horror of the human associa— 429 tion and the tie that holds it together. Take out of the world this incomprehensible agent, and at that instant will order give way to chaos, governments fall and society vanish. God, who is the source of all sovereignty, is, therefore, the source of war, too.” Yet there are better ways, and the literatures of freedom and dignity are not pointing to them. Except when physically constrained, a person is least free or dignified when under the threat of pun- ishment. ,We should expect that the literatures of freedom and dignity would oppose punitive tech- niques, but in fact they have acted to preserve them. A person who has been punished is not thereby sim- ply less inclined to behave in a given way; at best, he learns how to avoid punishment. Some ways of doing so are maladaptive or neurotic, as in the so- called “Freudian dynamisms.” Other ways include avoiding situations in which punished behavior is likely to occur and doing things which are incom- patible with punished behavior. Other people may take similar steps to reduce the likelihood that a person will be punished, but the literatures of free- dom and dignity object to this as leading only to automatic goodness. Under punitive contingencies a person appears to be free to behave well and to deserve credit when he does so. Nonpunitive con- tingencies generate the same behavior, but a person cannot then be said to be free, and the contingen- cies deserve the credit when he behaves well. Little or nothing remains for autonomous man to do and receive credit for doing. He does not engage in moral struggle and therefore has no chance to be a moral hero or credited with inner virtues. But our task is not to encourage moral struggle or to build or demonstrate inner virtues. It is to make life less punishing and in doing so to release for more rein- forcing activities the time and energy consumed in the avoidance of punishment. Up to a point the literatures of freedom and dignity have played a part in the slow and erratic alleviation of aversive fea- tures of the human environment, including the aver- sive features used in intentional control. But they have formulated the task in such a way that they can- not now accept the fact that all control is exerted by the environment and proceed to the design of better environments rather than of better men. ...
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Skinner for August 28 - PART FOUR: DETERMINISM, FREE WILL,...

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