The following is an extract from a mail sent by Ullin Place at the 19th of October 1999. The subject of the mail is Re: Nachlass. He knew at that time that he was terminally ill. The last months of his life were dedicated to the securing of his intellectual legacy. The most concrete result was the book with a collection of papers that appeared 4 years after Ullin’s death: Graham, G., & Valentine, E. R. (Eds.). (2004). Identifying the mind: Selected papers of U. T. Place. Oxford University Press. What is underexposed in the book is his commitment to behaviourism and his views on the relation between mentalism and behaviourism. His first paper on this issue was lecture 15 of the Amsterdam lectures (1973-1974). In this extract we read how his view on the subject has developed since.
“Although my continued adherence to behaviourism as a standpoint in psychology owes as much to the fact that I learned and practised my trade as a psychologist at the time when behaviourism was the dominant paradigm in that discipline, I have consistently argued ever since my ‘Psychological Paradigms and behaviour modification’ which appeared in De Psycholoog in 1978 that what makes mentalistic language unacceptable in a scientific psychology is its reliance on quotations of what the agent has said or might be expected to say in its explanations what she or he has done in the past and its predictions of what he or she will do in the future. Starting with my ‘Skinner’s Verbal Behavior I – why we need it’ (1981) and continuing through my ‘Skinner re-skinned’ (1987), my ‘Intentionality as the mark of the dispositional’ (1996), ‘Intentionality and the physical – a reply to Mumford’ (1999) and ‘Vagueness as a mark of dispositional intentionality’ (forthcoming in Acta Analytica) this argument has become entangled with a philosophical discussion of the distinction between T-intenTionality, the mark of the dispositional, and S-intenSionality, the mark of a quotation. Here T-intenTionality is a phenomenon to be explained, whereas S-intenSionality is a form of explanation to be avoided in a scientific explanation of language. Other papers which contain this argument, but without invoking the Intentionality/Intensionality issue, are my ‘Skinner’s distinction between rule-governed and contingency-shaped behaviour’ (1988), ‘What went wrong?’ (1988), ‘A radical behaviorist methodology for the empirical investigation of private events’ (1993), ‘Linguistic behaviorism as a philosophy of empirical science’ (1996), ‘Rescuing the science of human behavior from the ashes of socialism’ (1997) and ‘Behaviorism as a standpoint in linguistics’ (1998).”
“From the standpoint of the hardline behaviourist, the trouble with this argument is that it does not justify the repudiation of all mental concepts in all circumstances. It does not justify repudiating the use of indirect quotations as an explanation of those aspects of human behaviour that are unquestionably determined by the agent’s verbal formulation of the issues at stake. Moreover, there are a number of mental predicates, cognitive verbs such as ‘pay attention’ and ‘notice’, ‘watch’ and ‘see’, ‘listen’ and ‘hear’, ‘expect’ and ‘recognise’, and many verbs of emotion and motivation which either do not or need not imply linguistic competence on the part of the individual of whom they are predicated. I have attempted to examine all the objections to the use of folk psychological or mental concepts in a scientific psychology in my ‘Folk psychology from the standpoint of conceptual analysis’ (1996). What I have not done is a systematic survey of mental predicates designed to sort those locutions which imply linguistic competence from those that do not, although [Table] 5 in ‘From syntax to reality: the picture theory of meaning’ which classifies mental predicates partly according to aspect and partly in terms of the grammatical object of the verb would provide a useful starting point for such a survey. […] “
“Since there is nowhere else where my interest in Skinner’s distinction between rule-governed and contingency-shaped-behaviour surfaces, it is worth remarking that this distinction has inspired two important features of my subsequent work. On the one hand Skinner’s description of a rule as a verbal stimulus which controls the listener or thinker’s behaviour by “specifying a contingency”, where a contingency is to be understood as a three term causal relation linking (a) a set of antecedent conditions, (b) the behaviour called for under those conditions and (c) the consequences of so behaving. When generalised to sentence utterances in general, this notion of a contingency-specifying stimulus yields the doctrine of “behavioural contingency semantics” which is both the foundation of my behaviourist approach to linguistics and the inspiration for my rehabilitation of the picture theory of meaning.”
“At the same time, the observation that rule-governed behaviour is an exclusively linguistic and, hence, human phenomenon highlights the fact that animals too solve problems, and do so without the assistance of verbally specified rules. Problem-solving, moreover, clearly involves something more than the shaping of behaviour by its consequences in the past. So what does it involve? The answer I now give to this question is consciousness, construed as a system for processing sensory inputs which are identified as problematic by an automatic unconscious system in the brain which I call “the zombie-within” and which also mediates the automatic and unconscious contingency-shaping of behaviour as it becomes habitual. This, needless to say, is the theme of my forthcoming paper ‘Consciousness and the zombie-within’.”