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Guest Thinkers

Being an Anti-Intellectual Intellectual

As intellectuals go, B.F. Skinner was pretty dismissive of intellectuals—at least the insufficiently hard-nosed and scientific ones who blathered unproductively about “freedom” and “dignity.”

Look, B.F. Skinner said, people are animals. Kind of like laboratory rats, except taller. Their behavioral proclivities are a product of the positive and negative reinforcements they’ve gotten in the past. Want to build a better society? Discern the links between past reinforcement and future proclivity, and then adjust society’s disbursement of reinforcements accordingly. No need to speculate about unobservable states of mind or ponder the role of “free will” or any other imponderables. Epistemology, phenomenology, metaphysics, and 25 cents will get you a ride on the New York subway.


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