32 publications of Place that refer to Skinner (1938). The behavior of organisms: An experimental analysis of behavior.

Lecture 14: Varieties of explanation in psychology. (6/2/1974). Section 4
[Abstract]The schools of psychology. Feigl's three languages of psychology. Incommensurability in the explanation of behaviour. The evidential basis of mentalist language. The explanation of facts and the explanation of phenomena. Molecular languages in the explanation of behavioral phenomena: cybernetics and neurophysiology. The identity of factual reference.
Download: Amsterdam lecture 14

Place, U. T. (1971c). The use of operant responding as a measure of mood fluctuation in periodic psychosis [Unpublished paper with an author's note added in 1999].
[Abstract]Ryle (1949) has suggested that to be in a happy mood or frame of mind is to have (a) an increased capacity for enjoyment and (b) a reduced sensitivity to distress. It is a natural corollary of this view that to be in an unhappy or miserable mood or frame of mind is to have (a) a reduced capacity for enjoyment and (b) an enhanced sensitivity to distress. Assuming that an individual's capacity for enjoyment can be measured by the rate of operant responding under conditions of positive reinforcement and his or her sensitivity to distress by the rate of responding under conditions of negative reinforcement, it should follow, on Ryle's theory, that in elation the rate of response under conditions of positive reinforcement will be high with a correspondingly low rate of response when reinforcement is negative. In depression, on the other hand, a low rate of response is predicted for the positive reinforcement condition with a high rate of response for the negative reinforcement condition. In this study, the rate of operant responding under conditions of positive reinforcement is compared with that under conditions of negative reinforcement in two manic depressive patients with regular and predictable mood cycles. Longitudinal studies extended over several months confirm a number of the predictions drawn from Ryle's theory and throw some new and unexpected light on the nature of pathological mood states.
[References]  [Talks]  [1 referring publications by Place]  
Download: 1971c The Use of Operant Responding as a Measure of Mood Fluctuation in Periodic Psychosis.pdf

Place, U. T. (1973-12-12). Lecture 10: Action & movement. (12/12/1973). Section 3
[Abstract]Common sense psychology and the explanation of behaviour. The concept of action
Download: Amsterdam Lecture 10.pdf

Place, U. T. (1974-02-13). Lecture 15: Mentalism and S-R behaviourism (13/2/1974). Section 4
[Abstract]The relationship between languages at the molar level: the mentalist language of ordinary discourse and the language of stimulus-response behaviourism.
Download: Amsterdam lecture 15

Place, U. T. (1981a). Skinner's Verbal Behavior I - why we need it. Behaviorism, 9, 1-24. www.jstor.org/stable/27758970
[Abstract]To explain behaviour in terms of intension­al or mentalistic concepts is to explain the behaviour in question on the assump­tion of a consistent and rational connection between what the agent does and what he says or what is said to him and that therefore any general account of verbal or linguistic behaviour which employs such concepts is necessarily circular, since it explains the acquisition of linguistic skills on the assumption that the speaker already possesses such skills. It follows that this circularity can only be avoided by developing a theory of verbal or linguistic behaviour which is stated entirely in a nonintensional or extensional language. At the present time, the most developed conceptual system for description and explanation of the behav­iour of organisms at the molar level in purely extensional terms is that provided by the so-called ‘Radical Behaviorism’ of B. F. Skinner and his followers. Fur­thermore, in his book Verbal Behavior Skinner (1957) has used this conceptual framework to develop a theory of verbal or linguistic behaviour which repre­sents the most ambitious attempt made so far to formulate a theory of linguistic behaviour in nonintensional or extensional terms.
Revised version is from 1999.
[References]  [3 citing publications]  [9 referring publications by Place]  
Download: 1981a 1999 Skinner's Verbal Behavior I - Why We Need It - revised version.pdf

Place, U. T. (1981b). Skinner's Verbal Behavior II - what is wrong with it. Behaviorism, 9, 131-152. www.jstor.org/stable/27758982
[Abstract]Skinner's Verbal Behavior as it stands suffers from four major defects. (1) Skinner fails to do justice to the distinction between words which are the repeated and repeatable units of verbal behaviour, but which have a function only in so far as they contribute to the function of the sentences in which they occur, and the sentences themselves which are the functional units of verbal behaviour, but which are seldom repeated word for word either in the mouth of the speaker or in the hearing of the listener. (2) The account given by Skinner of the listener's response to the verbal operant and of the concept of "the discriminative stimulus" which he deploys in this connection is seriously inadequate. (3) Skinner's concept of "the tact" involves a confusion between tacts as words and tacts as sentences. Tacts as words, i.e. names and general terms, designate recurrent features of the common stimulus environment of speaker and listener, both general and particular and contrast with autoclitic words whose function is purely intra-sentential. Tacts as sentences on the other hand are functionally complete verbal operants corresponding to the grammatical concept of an assertion, which act for the benefit of the listener and contrast with mands, sentence utterances corresponding to the imperatives and interrogatives of grammar and logic, which typically act for the benefit of the speaker. (4) Skinner's account fails to do justice to the all-important logical distinction between those tact sentence utterances or assertions which are true and on which the listener can consequently rely and those which are false and therefore unreliable as a source of information from the standpoint of the listener.
[References]  [7 citing publications]  [10 referring publications by Place]  [Is replied by]  
Download: 1981b Skinner’s Verbal Behavior II – what is wrong with it.pdf

Place, U. T. (1982). Skinner's Verbal Behavior III - how to improve Parts I and II. Behaviorism, 10, 117-136. www.jstor.org/stable/27759002
[References]  [2 citing publications]  [5 referring publications by Place]  
Download: 1982 Skinner's Verbal Behavior III - How to Improve Parts I and II

Place, U. T. (1983c). Behavioural contingency semantics and the analysis of behaviour. [Conference presentation abstract, delivered at the Christmas Meeting of the Experimental Analysis of Behaviour Group, University College, London, January 1983]. Behaviour Analysis Letters, 3, 128-129.
Keywords: behavioural contingency semantics, verbal behaviour, behaviour analysis, discriminative stimulus, significant stimulus event, disinforcement
[References]  [Talks]  
Download: 1983c Behavioural Contingency Semantics and the Analysis of Behaviour - The Abstract.pdf  1983c Behavioural Contingency Semantics and the Analysis of Behaviour - The Presentation.pdf

Place, U. T. (1983d). Skinner's Verbal Behavior IV - how to improve Part IV, Skinner's account of syntax. Behaviorism, 11, 163-186. www.jstor.org/stable/27759026
Keywords: behavioural contingency semantics, Skinner, verbal behavior
[References]  [2 citing publications]  [14 referring publications by Place]  
Download: 1983d Skinner's Verbal Behavior IV - How to Improve Part IV - Skinner's Account of Syntax.pdf

Place, U. T. (1985c). Semicovert behavior and the concept of pain: a comment on H. Rachlin 'Pain and behavior'. The Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 8, 70-71. doi:10.1017/s0140525x00019695
[References]  [3 referring publications by Place]  
Download: 1985c Semicovert Behavior and the Concept of Pain.pdf

Place, U. T. (1985d). Three senses of the word "tact". Behaviorism, 13, 63-74. www.jstor.org/stable/27759058
[References]  [2 citing publications]  [14 referring publications by Place]  [Is replied by]  
Download: 1985d Three Senses of the Word 'Tact'.pdf  1985d Supplement to Three Senses of the Word 'Tact'.pdf complete table with all occurrences of the word 'tact' in Skinner's Verbal Behavior

Place, U. T. (1986d). Can a psychologist make sense of natural kind terms as rigid designators? [Paper presented at the Course on 'Meaning and Natural Kinds', Inter university Post graduate Centre, Dubrovnik, Yugo-slavia, 15-25 September 1986].
Revised by the author in 1993.
[References]  [Talks]  

Place, U. T. (1987a). Skinner re-skinned. In S. Modgil, & C. Modgil (Eds.), B. F. Skinner, Consensus and Controversy (Part XI, Skinner and the 'Virtus dormitiva' argument, pp. 235-243). Falmer Press.
[Abstract]In 'Skinner Skinned' Dennett (1978, chapter 4) discusses two arguments, the virtus dormitiva and intentionality arguments, which he sees as the only solid ground underlying the various arguments which Skinner gives for repudiating the use of mentalistic explanations in a scientific psychology; and of these he endorses only the intentionality argument. I argue (a) that what Skinner finds objectionable in mentalistic idioms is their dispositional character, (b) that both the virtus dormitiva and intentionality argument are arguments against the use of dispositional property ascriptions in scientific explanation, and (c) that, since dispositional property ascriptions are essential to any causal explanation, Dennett has failed to provide any good reason for endorsing Skinner's repudiation of mentalism. It is suggested that mentalism is objectionable only insofar it involves the use of idioms which presuppose what Skinner (1969) calls 'rule-governed' behaviour to explain behaviour that is 'contingency-shaped'.
[References]  [5 citing publications]  [3 referring publications by Place]  [Is replied by]  
Download: 1987a Skinner Re-skinned.pdf

Place, U. T. (1988f). Consciousness as an information processing system. [Paper presented to the Inaugural Symposium of the Mind-Body Group, Second Annual Conference of the History and Philosophy of Psychology Section of the British Psychological Society, University of Leeds, April 1988].
[References]  [Talks]  [1 referring publications by Place]  
Download: 1988f Consciousness as an Information Processing System.pdf

Place, U. T. (1988h). Pre-linguistic and post-linguistic concepts. [Presentation to the Generalisation Group, Department of Psychology, University College of North Wales, Bangor at 10 March 1988 and to the Department of Psychology, Trinity College, Dublin at 11 March 1988.]
After the presentation revised by the author. The last revision is from 24th March 1999. The central argument of the paper has not been revised.
[References]  [Talks]  
Download: 1988h Pre-Linguistic and Post-Linguistic Concepts.pdf

Place, U. T. (1989b). Towards a connectionist version of the causal theory of reference. Acta Analytica, 4(5), 71-97. 1989b Towards a Connectionist Version of the Causal Theory of Reference.pdf
[Abstract]The connectionist model of the brain as a parallel distributed processor (PDP) is invoked to provide a version of the the causal theory of the reference of natural kind terms and proper names which rejects Kripke's doctrine of rigid designation and retains the Port Royal-Hamilton thesis that the extension of a general term is determined by its comprehension or intension, together with Frege's thesis that the reference (Bedeutung) of a singular term is determined by its sense (Sinn).
[References]  [Talks]  [3 referring publications by Place]  
Download: 1989b Towards a Connectionist Version of the Causal Theory of Reference.pdf

Place, U. T. (1989g). Some thought on the work of the Würzburg School and the controversy it provoked, prompted by a visit to Würzburg 10-16 October 1989 [Unpublished presentation at the Departmental Seminar, Departement of Psychology, University College of North Wales, Bangor, 2nd November 1989].
[Abstract]The debate between the Würzburg School and E. B. Titchener which took place during the first decade of this century was not, as it is often portrayed, a debate about the existence or non-existence of imageless thought. It is better described as a conceptual and terminological issue about the nature of consciousness, the place of meaning in consciousness and the role of introspection (Selbstbeobachtung) in its empirical investigation. Titchener's contention that in introspection the trained psychologist strips away meaning in order to provide a description of raw uninterpreted experience is shown to be the absurdity that it is by Wittgenstein's (1953) 'private language argument'. There is, nevertheless, a useful distinction to be drawn between two ways of acquiring mental self-knowledge: (a) introspection (Selbstbeobachtung) which yields observational knowledge of the qualia of ongoing experience, and (b) inner perception (innere Wahrnehmung) which yields intuitive knowledge of the onset and content of dispositional mental states. In terms of this distinction, the Würzburg protocols are based on an inner perception of the content of the reported thoughts rather than on introspective observation of the qualia of experience. The paper concludes with an assessment of the significance of the Würzburg-Titchener controversy for the subsequent history of psychology and for contemporary issues in psychology and the philosophy of mind.
[References]  [Talks]  
Download: 1989g Some Thought on the Work of the Wurzburg School and the Controversy it Provoked.pdf

Place, U. T. (1991h). Error-correction in connectionist networks: A new perspective on the law of effect [Unpublished paper. Presented to the Annual Conference of the British Psychological Society, Bournemouth, 12th April 1991, Session on Behavioristic Perspectives on Cognitive Psychology and to the 17th Annual Convention of the Association for Behavior Analysis, Atlanta, Georgia, May 26th 1991.] .
[References]  [Related]  [Talks]  
Download: 1991h Error Correction in Connectionist Networks - A New Perspective on the Law of Effect.pdf

Place, U. T. (1992b). Is there an operant analysis of animal problem-solving? [Conference presentation, presented at 18th Annual Convention of the Association for Behavior Analysis - May 25-28 1992 - San Francisco, California]. Association for Behavior Analysis. Abstract published in Proceedings of 18th Annual Convention of the Association for Behavior Analysis - May 25-28 1992 - San Francisco, California (p. 155). Society for the Advancement of Behavior Analysis.
[Abstract]In 'An operant analysis of problem-solving', Skinner (1966/1969/1988) develops an account of problem-solving based on the distinction between two different ways in which an organism can learn to adapt to environmental contingencies: (1) contingency-shaped behavior in which the behavior of an organism is progressively shaped by repeated exposure to the contingency itself, and (2) rule-governed behavior in which a verbally competent human being adapts to a contingency by constructing a verbal formula or rule which is said to "specify" the contingency in question. A rule may be constructed, as in the case of contingency-shaped behavior, in the light of repeated exposure to the contingency itself. It may equally well be based on information about the contingency supplied by another speaker, on information derived from a written text, or on an inference from other rules derived from any or all these sources. It is this case where the agent infers a new rule tailor-made for the problem with which he/she is confronted that Skinner has in mind in offering an analysis of problem-solving in these terms. There is a growing body of empirical evidence (Hayes 1989) which confirms the accuracy of Skinner's description of problem-solving as it occurs in the case of verbally competent human beings. But animals also solve problems; and so do pre-verbal human infants. This kind of problem-solving cannot simply be a matter of contingency-shaping, though previous contingency-shaped behavior is the only resource from which a pre-verbal organism can draw in selecting an appropriate problem-solving strategy. It requires some mechanism like that which Köhler (1925) refers to as "insight" whereby the stimulus class which currently controls a particular response class is somehow stretched so as to include the current stimulus situation. The case for postulating such a behavior mediating mechanism within the conceptual framework of radical behaviorism is argued by appealing (a) to the analogy between attending behavior and thinking by talking to oneself, and (b) to the process whose existence is implied by Skinner's (1938) account of "stimulus class" whereby an organism learns to break up its stimulus environment into stimulus classes "along the natural lines of fracture."
Keywords: the natural lines of fracture, stimulus class, rule-governed behaviour, problem-solving, Skinner
[References]  [Talks]  [1 referring publications by Place]  
Download: 1992b Is There an Operant Analysis of Animal Problem-Solving.pdf

Place, U. T. (1992c). Eliminative connectionism and its implications for a return to an empiricist/behaviorist linguistics. Behavior and Philosophy, 20, 21-35. www.jstor.org/stable/27759268
[Abstract]For the past three decades linguistic theory has been based on the assumption that sentences are interpreted and constructed by the brain by means of computational processes analogous to those of a serial-digital computer. The recent interest in devices based on the neural network or parallel distributed processor (PDP) principle raises the possibility ("eliminative connectionism") that such devices may ultimately replace the S-D computer as the model for the interpretation and generation of language by the brain. An analysis of the differences between the two models suggests that that the effect of such a development would be to steer linguistic theory towards a return to the empiricism and behaviorism which prevailed before it was driven by Chomsky towards nativism and mentalism. Linguists, however, will not be persuaded to return to such a theory unless and until it can deal with the phenomenon of novel sentence construction as effectively as its nativist/mentalist rival.
[References]  [Talks]  [8 referring publications by Place]  
Download: 1992c Eliminative Connectionsm -Its Implications for a Return to an Empiricist-Behaviorist Linguistics.pdf

Place, U. T. (1992i). Philosophical fashion and scientific progress in the theory of universals. [Unpublished paper. Presented November 5th 1992, Department of Psychology, University of Wales, Bangor; November 26-28, 1992, Conference of the Linguistic Society of Belgium on Conceptual and Linguistic Representation, Antwerp]
[Abstract]Are universals (kinds) something over and above the things (their instances) of which they are kinds? Does the universe come already packaged into kinds of thing, or are the universals which the human and animal mind distinguishes simply the product of the mind's classificatory activity? Whether universals are mind-independent or mind-dependent, are the concepts human beings and other living organisms have of them innate or are they generated wholly or in part by some kind of learning process. In either case, what assurance do we have that our conceptual scheme does not seriously misrepresent the way things are, as Kant puts it, "in themselves." While the tides of philosophical fashion have flowed backwards and forwards between the poles of this debate ever since the time of Plato and Aristotle, it is argued that there is now some reason to think that the current tide which appears to be moving away from platonism and nativism and back towards conceptualism and empiricism may be taking us towards a permanent scientifically-based resolution of the problem. This solution, if that is what it is, gives due weight to both innate factors and learning at the biological level and to social construction at the level of human linguistic communication. It sees Darwin's principle of variation and natural selection as operating as much in the ontogenetic development of our conceptual scheme as in its phylogeny, and as providing the assurance we need that, in B.F.Skinner's words, it takes "account of the natural lines of fracture along which behavior and environment actually break." (Skinner 1938 p.33).
Keywords: conceptualism, connectionism, universals
[References]  [Talks]  
Download: 1992i Philosophical Fashion and Scientific Progress in the Theory of Universals.pdf

Place, U. T. (1993i). Following 'the natural lines of fracture': Concept formation in neural networks [Conference presentation, presented at the Symposium on Associationism, Behaviour Analysis and Connectionism, held at the Annual Conference of the Experimental Analysis of Behaviour Group, University College, London 31st March 1993].
[Abstract]It is an implication of Darwin's theory of evolution by variation and natural selection that the survival and reproduction of complex free-moving living organisms, animals in other words, depends on their ability to change the spatial relations between themselves and other objects, including other organisms of the same and of different species, and so bring about the conditions necessary for that survival and reproduction. In order to do that the organism requires a system - its nervous system - whose function is to match the output to the current stimulus input on the one hand and the organism's current state of deprivation with respect to conditions required for its survival and successful reproduction on the other. Matching behaviour to the conditions required for survival and reproduction is the function of the motivational/emotional part of the system. Matching behaviour to current stimulus input is the function of the sensory/cognitive part of the system. The sensory/cognitive system cannot perform its function successfully without the ability to group inputs together in such a way that every actual and possible member of the class or category so formed is a reliable indicator of the presence of an environmental situation in which a particular behavioural strategy or set of such strategies is going to succeed. In other words the survival and reproduction of an organism of this kind depends crucially on its having a conceptual scheme, a conceptual scheme moreover, which reliably predicts the actual behaviour-consequence relations operating in the organism's environment. Although verbs such as ‘classifying’, ‘categorizing’ and ‘conceptualizing’ are not to be found in Skinner's writings, there is an important passage in The Behavior of Organisms (Skinner 1938) where he addresses the issue which others talk about when they use such terms. Thus in Chapter One, after outlining his "System of Behavior", he goes on to say The preceding system is based upon the assumption that both behavior and environment may be broken into parts which retain their identity throughout an experiment and undergo orderly changes. If this assumption were not in some sense justified, a science of behavior would be impossible. But the analysis of behavior is not an act of arbitrary sub-dividing.  We cannot define the concepts of stimulus and response quite as simply as ‘parts of behavior and environment’ without taking account of the natural lines of fracture along which behavior and environment actually break. (Skinner 1938 p.33). What Skinner has primarily in mind in this passage is the way the scientist's concepts need to be shaped into conformity with what he calls "the natural lines of fracture." But on the Darwinian argument the same must be true of the stimulus classes within which any living organism's behaviour generalises and between which it discriminates. It is argued that studying the properties of artificially constructed neural networks helps us to understand how the brain develops patterns of generalisation and discrimination which do indeed "follow the natural lines of fracture along which behavior and environment actually break." Attention is drawn to the role of the ‘hidden layer’ in responding to resemblances of pattern, to the role of re-entrant/recurrent and reverberatory circuits in establishing expectations on the basis of consecutive stimulus patterns, and to the role of error-correction in bringing stimulus classes into line with the contingencies experienced during learning.
[References]  [Talks]  
Download: 1993i Following 'The Natural Lines of Fracture' - Concept Formation in Neural Networks.pdf

Place, U. T. (1994a). Connectionism and the resurrection of behaviourism. Acta Analytica, 9(12), 65-79.
[Abstract]The demise of behaviourism is traced to the advent of the serial-digital computer as a model for the functioning of the brain. With the advent of a new model in the shape of the parallel distributed processor (PDP) or connectionist network, the resurrection of behaviourism can be predicted. The relation between the two models is explained in terms of Skinner's (1966) distinction between "contingency-shaped" (modelled by the PDP) and "rule-governed" behaviour. Rule-governed behaviour in Skinner's sense is behaviour controlled by a verbal/symbolic "specification" of the relevant contingencies. The S-D computer is a device designed by a PDP (the human brain) to compensate for its own slowness and inefficiency in constructing and manipulating such symbolic specifications.
[References]  [Talks]  
Download: 1994a Connectionism and the Resurrection of Behaviorism.pdf

Place, U. T. (1995/6). Symbolic processes and stimulus equivalence. Behavior and Philosophy, 23/24, 13-30. www.jstor.org/stable/27759337
[Abstract]A symbol is defined as a species of sign. The concept of a sign coincides with Skinner's (1938) concept of a discriminative stimulus. Symbols differ from other signs in five respects: (1) They are stimuli which the organism can both respond to and produce, either as a self-directed stimulus (as in thinking) or as a stimulus for another individual with a predictably similar response from the recipient in each case. (2) they act as discriminative stimuli for the same kind of object for all members of the verbal community within which they function as symbols; (3) they acquire their properties by virtue of arbitrary social convention rather than any natural and intrinsic connection between the sign and what it is a sign of; (4) competent members of the verbal community can both produce the appropriate symbol in response to a naturally occurring sign of the presence of the object or a sample of the kind of object which the symbol stands for and select the appropriate object when presented with the symbol; (5) they form stimulus equivalence classes of the kind demonstrated in the matching-to-sample task (Sidman, 1971; Sidman and Tailby, 1982) both with other symbols having the same meaning and, more important, with the naturally-occurring non-symbolic signs of the presence of the object or kind of object which the symbol stands for.
[References]  [Talks]  [12 citing publications]  [4 referring publications by Place]  
Download: 1995-6 Symbolic Processes and Stimulus Equivalence.pdf

Place, U. T. (1996b). Summary of Dispositions: A Debate [Unpublished paper].
Unpublished summary of the positions adopted in the book Dispositions: A Debate. UTP hoped in vain that his co-authors would fill in their positions.
Download: 1996b Summary of Dispositions A Debate.pdf

Place, U. T. (1996j). Linguistic behaviorism as a philosophy of empirical science. In W. O'Donohue, & R. Kitchener (Eds.), The Philosophy of Psychology ( Chapter 9, pp. 126-140). Sage. doi:10.4135/9781446279168.n9
[Abstract]Linguistic behaviorism is a philosophy of science with application to every empirical science from physics to sociology. It holds that • philosophy, including the philosophy of science, uses conceptual analysis to study the interface between language and the 'reality' it depicts, • conceptual analysis is an empirical investigation of the conventions governing the construction of intelligible sentences in natural language and its technical derivatives, • conformity to linguistic convention is maintained by selective social reinforcement. It endorses the analytic/synthetic distinction, a picture theory of the meaning of sentences, a correspondence theory of synthetic truth and a counterfactual theory of causal necessity.
Keywords: correspondence theory of truth, picture theory of meaning
[References]  [Talks]  [2 citing publications]  [10 referring publications by Place]  [1 reprinting collections]  
Download: 1996j Linguistic Behaviorism as a Philosophy of Empirical Science.pdf

Place, U. T. (1996m). Metaphysics as the empirical investigation of the interface between language and reality. Acta Analytica,11(15), 97-118.
[Abstract]The rules of syntax and semantics on conformity to which linguistic communication depends are construed as social conventions instilled and maintained by the error-correcting practices of a linguistic community. That conception argues for the revival of conceptual analysis construed as the empirical investigation of such conventions using the ethnomethodological thought experiment as its primary research tool, and for a view of metaphysics as the empirical study of the interface between utterances and the reality they depict.
[References]  [Talks]  [2 referring publications by Place]  
Download: 1996m Metaphysics as the Empirical Study of the Interface between Language and Reality.pdf

Place, U. T. (1996n). A selectionist approach to the problem of universals [Conference presentation, presented in the session 'Conceptual and Philosophical Issues in Behavior Analysis' of the 22nd Annual Convention of the Association for Behavior Analysis, San Francisco, May 27th 1996]. Association for Behavior Analysis.
[Abstract]As it is discussed by philosophers, the problem of universals has two aspects: an ontological aspect and an epistemological aspect. Views on the ontological aspect divide between "realism" which holds that universals are abstract objects, distinct from their instances, with which the organism's concepts must line up if it is to survive and reproduce, and "constructivism" which holds that the organism's concepts are the only universals there are. Views on the epistemological issue divide between "nativism" which holds that concepts are innate, and "empiricism" which holds that they are learned. Most realists are nativists. Most constructivists are empiricists. Selectionist considerations suggest a middle position between these extremes: (1) There are no universals in the absence of a classifying organism (constructivism). (2) There is a significant innate contribution to the organism's system of concepts (nativism). (3) The fine tuning which brings the organism's concepts into line with what Skinner (1938) calls "the natural lines of fracture along which environment and behavior actually break" is a matter of contingency-shaped discrimination learning (empiricism). (4) There are objective constraints which ensure that the concepts so formed line up with "real" similarities and differences between objects, events and states of affairs in the organism's interactions with the environment (realism).
Keywords: universals
[References]  [Talks]  
Download: 1996n A Selectionist Approach to the Problem of Universals.pdf

Place, U. T. (1997a). Contingency analysis applied to the pragmatics and semantics of naturally occurring verbal interactions. In J. L. Owen (Ed.), Context and communication behavior (Chapter 18, pp. 369-385). Context Press.
[Abstract]Contingency analysis is a technique for analyzing the relation between a living organism and its environment based on a generalized version of Skinner's (1969) concept of the "three-term contingency." It can be applied to the analysis of any sequence of events in which a single individual interacts with its environment or, as in the case of social behavior, in which two or more individuals interact with each other. It is particularly valuable when applied to the analysis of naturally-occurring verbal interactions, such as conversations and business transactions. It can be applied not only to the sequence of events whereby utterances follow one another as the interaction proceeds, their pragmatics, but also to the semantic content of the utterances, the sequence of events called for by what Skinner (1957) calls a "mand" or those recorded or predicted by the kind of declarative sentence he sometimes (Place 1985) calls a "tact".
[References]  [Talks]  [2 citing publications]  [5 referring publications by Place]  
Download: 1997a Conversational Analysis Applied to the Pragmatics and Semantics of Naturally Occurring Verbal Interactions.pdf

Place, U. T. (2000c). The role of the hand in the evolution of language. Psycoloquy, 11(7), January 23. www.cogsci.ecs.soton.ac.uk/cgi/psyc/newpsy?11.007
[Abstract]This article has four sections. Section I sets out four principles which should guide any attempt to reconstruct the evolution of an existing biological characteristic. Section II sets out thirteen principles specific to a reconstruction of the evolution of language. Section III sets out eleven pieces of evidence for the view that vocal language must have been preceded by an earlier language of gesture. Based on those principles and evidence, Section IV sets out seven proposed stages in the process whereby language evolved: (1) the use of mimed movement to indicate an action to be performed, (2) the development of referential pointing which, when combined with mimed movement, leads to a language of gesture, (3) the development of vocalisation, initially as a way of imitating the calls of animals, (4) counting on the fingers leading into (5) the development of symbolic as distinct from iconic representation, (6) the introduction of the practice of question and answer, and (7) the emergence of syntax as a way of disambiguating utterances that can otherwise be disambiguated only by gesture.
[References]  [Talks]  [10 citing publications]  [2 referring publications by Place]  [Is replied by]  
Download: 2000c The Role of the Hand in the Evolution of Language.pdf

Place, U. T. (2000e). Behaviorism as an ethnomethodological experiment: Flouting the convention of rational agency. Behavior & Philosophy, 28(1/2), 57. www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/27759404.pdf
[Abstract]As interpreted here, Garfinkel's "ethnomethodological experiment" (1967) demonstrates the existence of a social convention by flouting it and observing the consternation and aversive consequences for the perpetrator which that provokes. I suggest that the hostility which behaviorism has provoked throughout its history is evidence that it flouts an important social convention, the convention that, whenever possible, human beings are treated as and must always give the appearance of being rational agents. For these purposes, a rational agent is someone whose behavior is controlled by a logically consistent body of means-end beliefs ("rules" in Skinner's terminology) and complementing desires which between them provide a basis for predicting how the individual will behave and for suggesting what arguments will persuade the agent to modify his or her beliefs and the behavior based upon them. The behaviorist flouts this convention by suggesting that its fictional character makes it unsuitable for the purposes of scientific explanation of behavior. The hostility that this suggestion provokes is evidence of the importance attached by the verbal community both to preserving a consistent and rational connection between what is said and what is done and presenting it as part of the natural order of things.
[References]  [Talks]  
Download: 2000e Behaviorism as an Ethnomethodological Experiment.pdf

Place, U. T., & Taylor, K. E. (1995). The functions of consciousness and its constituent parts [Conference presentation, presented to the Annual Meeting of the European Society for Philosophy and Psychology, St. Catherine's College, Oxford, 31st August 1995]. European Society for Philosophy and Psychology
[References]  [Talks]  [3 referring publications by Place]  
Download: Place & Taylor (1995) The Functions of Consciousness and its Constituent Part.pdf