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E.O. Wilson and B.F. Skinner: A Dialogue Between Sociobiology and Radical Behaviorism

Series: Developments in Primatology: Progress and Prospects

By: Paul Naour

144 pages, 25 black & white illustrations


Hardback | Apr 2009 | #178888 | ISBN-13: 9780387894614
Availability: Usually dispatched within 1-2 weeks Details
NHBS Price: £149.99 $196/€171 approx

About this book

This is going to be a conversation that I will have with B.F. Skinner. This is Ed Wilson. He invited me by to talk about sociobiology. Thus began a 1987 conversation between E.O. Wilson, who embodies sociobiology, and B.F. Skinner, who personifies radical behaviorism. The two Harvard colleagues shared a common interest-but very different perspectives-in behavior, human nature, and culture. They also shared years of exaggerated and ideologically-based claims regarding the perceived controversial nature of their work. However, the passage of over twenty years places their conversation in a very different evolutionary context that is the unifying theme of this book and Paul Naour's inspiration to cleverly describe the relationship of their work.

Naour uses the conversation as a centerpiece around which he offers readers thought-provoking insight regarding how we can push the rigid boundaries of discipline-based dogmatism to understand the evolutionary relationships between sociobiology and radical behaviorism. Wilson (1998) challenges us to understand a "balanced perspective cannot be acquired by studying disciplines in pieces but through pursuit of the consilience among them. Such unification will come hard." Wilson recently observed that" What (Naour) has written is excellent, and will be an outstanding addition to the history of ideas."

During this sesquicentennial year of The Origin of Species and the bicentennial of Darwin's birth, B.F. Skinner and E.O. Wilson: A Dialogue Between Radical Behaviorism and Sociobiology is an essential read for anyone interested in the evolutionary basis of human behavior. The book challenges readers to push beyond the boundaries of Wilson and Skinner, suggests relationships to current work, and inspires curiosity regarding how that work can provide additional insight to the biological basis of human culture. It will also appeal to those with interest in the contemporary history of science or psychology, and is written for a broad readership to provoke renewed consideration of Wilson and Skinner.

From the reviews: "Paul Naour's book is a modest, introductory attempt to identify points of contact between two of the most notable life scientists of the 20th century ! . Naour's volume should be appeal to those wanting an introduction to or review of Skinner's ideas, to those curious about the Wilson-Skinner meeting, and to professors teaching upper-level undergraduate courses on learning and behavior, who might elect to use the book as the foundation for a seminar." (Clara B. Jones, American Journal of Psychology, Spring, 2011)


Preface Guidance for the Reader Chapter 1 Selection by Consequences: The Essential B.F. Skinner The Behavioral CenturySkinner's New ParadigmThe Vocabulary of Operant ConditioningReinforcers, Cues, and Operant ShapingDiscriminative StimuliBeyond a Technology of BehaviorSelection by ConsequencesChapter 2 Human Sociobiology: The Essential E.O. Wilson The HMS Beagle to the Modern SynthesisSociobiology and the New SynthesisHuman SociobiologyGene-Culture CoevolutionAdditional ConsiderationsConsilienceChapter 3 A Consilient View of B.F. Skinner and E.O. Wilson Radical BehaviorismAligning Skinner and Wilson Language and CultureUnits of CultureCulturgens and EpigenesisThe Operant Basis of SociobiologyChapter 4 A Conversation Between B.F. Skinner and E.O. Wilson Endnotes: 130Chapter 5 To What Beginning? Skinner's Technology of BehaviorA Consilient WorldviewChapter 6 Proceeding to D. Rumbaugh's Rational Behaviorism Skinner and WilsonEnlarging the ConversationMirror Neurons and ImitationDevelopmental Plasticity and EvolutionRational Behaviorism and Emergents Final Thoughts Glossary Bibliography

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