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Temas em Psicologia

Print version ISSN 1413-389X


POMPERMAIER, Henrique Mesquita. Skinner and Merleau-Ponty's criticism of causality. Temas psicol. [online]. 2018, vol.26, n.1, pp. 111-123. ISSN 1413-389X.

A strong connection between explaining phenomena and identifying causes is commonly observed not only in philosophical, but also in scientific and common sense discourse. Nonetheless, critical analyses conducted in philosophy of science, especially as of the twentieth century, questioned this tacit connection, to the effect that a scientific explanation does not necessarily imply identifying causes. Examples of this viewpoint applied to discussions of psychological phenomena can be found in various traditions, such as M. Merleau-Ponty's existential-phenomenology and B. F. Skinner's radical behaviorism. The present paper seeks to highlight the criticism of causal theories, discussing the fundamental contribution of such criticism to treating behavior as a phenomenon with its own sense, as was proposed in Merleau-Ponty and Skinner's approaches. Both approaches claim that explaining behavior does not signify identifying causes, but rather describing either the structure of behavior, according to Merleau-Ponty, or the contingencies of reinforcement, according to Skinner. Along these lines, we recommend such criticism as an element favoring potential closeness and dialogue between these different perspectives.

Keywords : Causality; explanation; Skinner; Merleau-Ponty.

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