Saturday, February 20, 2021

Six Rounds with Wittgenstein (Part 3)

Arthur Dove, The Critic (1925)

Before we pull more commentary on Ludwig Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations (1953) from the oven, I've got some notes and mea culpas.

Mea culpa #1: For the most part, I transcribed the excerpts I planned to use at least a few days in advance of formulating responses. This led to me responding to the transcription, not to the remark from the book—which I now realize caused some problems in passages where some material was omitted for length.

In remark 160, this led to a couple of embarrassing oversights. Before the first ellipsis is a paragraph about another hypothetical case in which a man reads a text under the influence of some drug and has "the sensation of saying something he has learnt by heart." Then Wittgenstein asks: "should we here allow his sensations to count as the criterion for reading or not reading?" I should think the implied answer is no, which is precisely the conclusion I scolded him for not arriving at.

The second ellipsis stands in for a passage I really should not have left out. I'll reproduce it here; what was excluded is represented by the bolded text:

He utters words corresponding to the number of characters, as if they were letters, and does so with all the outward signs, and with the sensations, of reading. (We have experiences like this in dreams; after waking up in such a case one says perhaps: "It seemed to me as if I were reading a script, thought it was not writing at all.") In such a case some people would be inclined to say he was reading those marks. Others, that he was not.——Suppose he has in this way read (or interpreted) a set of five marks as ABOVE——and now we show him the same marks in the reverse order and he reads EVOBA; and in further tests he always retains the same interpretation of the marks: here we should certainly be inclined to say he was making up an alphabet for himself ad hoc and then reading accordingly.
I can't say for the life of me why I didn't think these sentences weren't important enough to keep in, or why the final statement ("here we should certainly be inclined to say...") could just be appended to the previous case Wittgenstein describes. What's most important here is that Wittgenstein does imagine a scenario in which further tests show a point-to-point correspondence between stimulus and response, which meant I was pretty much arguing with him for no reason.

That was tremendously sloppy of me. I'll have to be careful about paring excerpts in the future.

Mea culpa #2: This one is even more embarrassing, because it was staring me right in the face. In my response to remark 184, I made a point of noting that Wittgenstein saying "now I know it" doesn't necessarily ensure that he'll be able to sing the tune he'd forgotten—and somehow overlooked that he said as much himself in the excerpt's fifth sentence. It was right there.

I don't know what's wrong with me lately.

Some notes: Taras, who encouraged me to read Philosophical Investigations to begin with, left a comment on the last post. It's well worth reading if you're interested in reading a few counterpoints from somebody who's much more knowledgeable about Wittgenstein's work and ideas than me. 

I don't have much in the way of a reply to any particular points of his. He does, however, feel that I'm misinterpreting or misunderstanding Wittgenstein. After perusing some of the early sections, now having a better idea of where Wittgenstein might be coming from, I have to say I don't think Taras is wrong.

Philosophical Investigations frustrated/frustrates me for a few reasons, which probably disposes me to interpret Wittgenstein less generously than I probably should. 

Many of his remarks focus on instances where the hypostatization of concepts (via language) lead to discrepancies between discourse and reality. If I bristle at this, it's not because I disagree, but because I've read more thoroughgoing treatments of the problem elsewhere, and by authors that don't clothe their arguments and observations in evocative vagaries. We've already looked at Skinner's remarks about "poetry" and "pyramidality" from Verbal Behavior (1957). Kant spends much of the Transcendental Dialectic in The Critique of Pure Reason (1781–7) treating fallacies produced by the misplaced concreteness given to abstract concepts (even though his analysis excludes language, the vehicle of concepts, from consideration). Even Hobbes touches upon the problem in Leviathan (1651):
By this it appears how necessary it is for any man that aspires to true Knowledge, to examine the Definitions of former Authors; and either to correct them, where they are negligently set down; or to make them himselfe. For the errours of Definitions multiply themselves, according as the reckoning proceeds; and lead men into absurdities, which at last they see, but cannot avoyd, without reckoning anew from the beginning; in which lyes the foundation of their errours. From whence it happens, that they which trust to books, do as they that cast up many little summs into a greater, without considering whether those little summes were rightly cast up or not; and at last finding the errour visible, and not mistrusting their first grounds, know not which way to cleere themselves; but spend time in fluttering over their bookes; as birds that entring by the chimney, and finding themselves inclosed in a chamber, flitter at the false light of a glasse window, for want of wit to consider which way they came in.
He doesn't substantially prefigure Wittgenstein here, but so much of Philosophical Investigations is in fact about "the errours of Definitions"—cases where our language is inadequate to the occasion, and so must be our conception of what's actually happening. Hobbes (and Kant) both suggest that one devise his or her own definitions where necessary, and I rather wish Wittgenstein had done more of that.

"What is your aim in philosophy?" Wittgenstein writes in remark 309; "To shew the fly the way out of the fly-bottle." Philosophical Investigations describes the bottle in great detail (though in a nonlinear, piecemeal sort of way), but doesn't point to a way out. I'm inclined to suspect that Wittgenstein's notorious distrust of systematization (remark 109: "[W]e may not advance any kind of theory. There must not be anything hypothetical in our considerations.") precluded any effort to establish a general principle except to seek answers in language and the occasions of its use.

Many of the authors I've picked up during my fairly recently acquired interest in philosophy, Kant and Whitehead principal among them, advocated for a philosophy that serves a regulatory function. This is, I think, what Wittgenstein believes the rightful role of philosophy to be. But regulation presumes a standard against which discourse and practice is to be measured—a system for judging systems. Any standard will be changeable and defective in its own way, true—but without one, all you're really doing is making on-the-spot judgements. Certainly you will have certain scruples, and there will be a kind of order to them, but they are more likely to be arbitrarily applied when they are left unstated and unexamined. (It bears repeating that I haven't read Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1921), which may have been more prescriptive.)

Improper as it might be, I can't resist comparing the Wittgenstein of the Philosophical Investigations to the Kant who wrote the Critique of Pure Reason. Kant was confronted with contradictions: namely, the disconnect between Hume's apparently correct assertion that "necessary connexions" like cause and effect are merely subjective mental habits, and the fact that similarly necessary relations in mathematics are (apparently) not at all arbitrary. Instead of just pointing this out and saying "isn't that weird? what do we make of this?" he formulated a novel epistemological (read: descriptive) framework which unraveled the discrepancy. It wasn't as airtight as he believed, but he swung the damn bat. Philosophical Investigations is more of a bunt. (Wittgenstein may have leaned into a swing with the Tractatus, in which case I probably should have read it before Philosophical Investigations.)

I can appreciate the commitment to principle shown by a rejection of systematic theorizing on the basis that every system, however rigorously developed and apparently self-consistent, fails when it is taken beyond the restrictions of a certain context. But I also believe that perfect ought not to be the enemy of the good, and that figuring out our world and what we make of it is an evolving project. There cannot be one conclusive philosophical system any more than there can be one complete and perfect novel that makes all further efforts at longform fiction superfluous.

One could say that I want Wittgenstein to do my thinking for me, and there's probably be some merit to that. I generally pick up books like these to learn something I don't already know, or to discover a new lens through which to look at things (if you'll excuse the cliché). Aside from basic the injunction to interrogate language and the occasions of its use, Wittgenstein doesn't give me much to work with. Most of my commentary has been about behaviorism because a radical behaviorist would not only ask questions about language similar to the ones Wittgenstein poses, but would also refer to a framework that does indeed show the fly the way out of the bottle—or at least puts in a damned good effort to show a fly out of a particular bottle. (It's bottles all the way out.)

As I read more of the Philosophical Investigations, I noticed my comments becoming less critical of Wittgenstein—probably because I got a better feel for where he was coming from and intuited that most of my objections weren't to his ideas, but to the way they're arranged, expressed, and frequently left incomplete (or at least inconclusive). I admire Hobbes less for the substance of his political philosophy than for how he meticulously follows Euclid in constructing Leviathan, meticulously defining his terms and substantiating each new section with arguments laid out in previous ones, more or less the same way the Elements erects a ladder from one theorem to the next. Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I prefer the momentum of linear reasoning to scattershot mosaics in my philosophical texts—which is purely a matter of personal taste. (Taras comments that Wittgenstein probably would have loved hypertext.) While reading the Philosophical Investigations I often feel like Wittgenstein is just driving me around in circles with no intention of delivering me to any Point B. But this is a feature of his book, not a flaw.

I fear I've gone on for too long here. I'll just end by saying that I softened up a bit on Wittgenstein as I continued reading, and I think that will be made apparent as this little series continues. But on the whole, I'm still very divided in my opinion about the Philosophical Investigations.

Arthur Dove, The Intellectual (1925)

So: moving on...

208. Then am I defining "order" and "rule" by means of "regularity"?——How do I explain the meaning of "regular", "uniform", "same" to anyone?——I shall explain these words to someone who, say, only speaks French by the corresponding French words. But if a person has not yet got the concepts, I shall teach him to use the words by means of examples and by practice.——And when I do this I do not communicate to him less than I know myself.

In the course of this teaching I shall shew him the same colours, the same lengths, the same shapes, I shall make him find them and produce them, and so on. I shall, for instance, get him to continue an ornamental pattern uniformly when told to do so.——And also to continue progressions. And so, for example, when given: . .. ... to go on: .... ..... ...... .¹

I do it, he does it after me; and I influence him by expressions of agreement, rejection, expectation, encouragement. I let him go his way, or hold him back; and so on...

210. "But do you really explain to the other person what you yourself understand? Don't you get him to guess the essential thing? You give him examples,——but he has to guess their drift, your intention."——Every explanation which I can give myself I give to him too.——"He guesses what I intend" would mean: various interpretations of my explanation come to his mind, and he lights on one of them. So in this case he could ask; and I could answer him.

211. How can he know he is to continue a pattern [in an algebraic exercise] by himself——whatever instruction your give him?——Well, how do I know?——If that means "Have I reasons?" the answer is: my reasons will soon give out. And then I shall act, without reasons. 

In the margins of these pages, I find a note I wrote in pencil: just admit you're a fucking behaviorist, Ludwig. When I read passages like these, I'm honestly not sure why he makes a point of disavowing behaviorism. If he was reluctant to surrender "mind" as an existent and an efficient cause, I can appreciate that—though at times I get the sense that he's approached the threshold, has opened the door, but balks at entering.

But much of what he says here is more or less without fault, except for his usual disregard for precision.

Teaching someone a new word or a procedure (say, a mathematical operation) is basic operant conditioning. When we say a small child "knows" what a cat is, what we mean is that that she will point to the picture of a cat when we show her four photographs of animals and ask "which of these is a cat?", will tact "cat" when a tabby slinks by, and doesn't make the mistake of pointing to the picture of a tiger when another of the photos we show her is of a calico. What we've done is differentially shaped up a verbal response to a restricted packet of stimulus properties and relations (and, as per relational frame theory, set up a bidirectional arbitrarily applicable stimulus relation between cats and the word "cat").²

Teaching a child arithmetic entrails establishing a relation of combinatorial mutual entailment between the printed digit 3, the printed or written word three, the sound-pattern "three," and the general relation exhibited by three of any discrete physical objects. It means establishing a largely intraverbal repertoire concerning, at the very least, responses to x + y where x and y are any of the number from zero to ten. 

Notice that in a situation where you're prompted to add 8 to 7, you don't count out eight beads, then count out seven beads, and finally count all the beads together to get the result. "15" occurs as a well-conditioned response to a familiar stimulus, whether you write or type 15, say "fifteen," or simply select a nickel and dime. The appropriate response to a stimulus that hasn't undergone the frequency or intensity of conditioning necessary to facilitate an intraverbal operant ("what's 87 minus 29?") will likely be emitted as a consequence of behaviors that have yielded the correct answer to similar problems in the past: performing "mental math," punching numbers into a calculator, reaching for a pencil and scratch paper, and so on.

Like any good (if closeted) behaviorist, Wittgenstein points out that the "understanding" of an operation—say, the addition of fractions—cannot be transferred from one person to another. It must be trained. That a pupil must "guess what you intend" is a hazy way of expressing that the properties and relata which are to control the procedure compete with extraneous properties and relata in influencing the pupil's performance. (For instance, your student may write 2/6 when instructed to add 1/2 and 1/4.) In cases like this, the "essential thing" to which Wittgenstein refers is a nonentity—a reification of the state of affairs which exists when particular stimuli in a particular context consistently produce the desired effect in the individual with whom we're concerned.

In a social context, we can unpack the word "desired" and expand it to: "behavior that is reinforced and/or unpunished by others"—which assumes community practices developed to ensure useful practical effects.³ In a "natural" context, an effect is "desired" if it brings the individual farther from rather than closer to going hungry or thirty, getting injured, or dying.

Wittgenstein's astute comment about acting without reasons calls attention to the unimportance of the so-called "rational mind" to most of our day-to-day affairs. If you leave for work on the 7:35 train every weekday morning, the environment and context will be more responsible for your getting up, taking a shower, putting on your clothes, and heading out the door on time than any verbal self-instruction or deliberation. (Compare to a situation where, for instance, you've had an unexpectedly successful Tinder date and wake up in a place you've never seen until the previous night.)

232. Let us imagine a rule intimating to me which way I am to obey it; that is, as my eye travels along the line, a voice within me says: "This way!"——What is the difference between this process of obeying a kind of inspiration and that of obeying a rule? For they are surely not the same. In the case of inspiration I await direction. I shall not be able to teach anyone else my 'technique' of following the line. Unless, indeed, I teach him some way of hearkening, some kind of receptivity. But then, of course, I cannot require him to follow the line in the same way I do.

A long history of reading from left to right has probably predisposed him to visually "follow" a line  from left to right and/or from top to bottom (provided it doesn't have the additional markings which make it an arrow, etc.), and he probably doesn't think much about it in the moment. Stimulus, context, response, reinforcement, strengthening responses on future occasions of the stimulus, and so on.

"Rule" might mean one of a few different things. Two possibilities for what a "rule" might be are (1) verbal instruction specifying the behavior appropriate to a certain context (and possibly also specifying the consequences of adherence and/or disobedience) and (2) the "rule-following" behavior itself, whether it is articulated and maintained through some social agency or by consistent reinforcement by "natural" events in the environment (i.e., don't mess around with wasps' nests). A third possibility for the meaning of "rule" is what seems to happen at the intersection of concepts and logical judgements, in which cases we most usually interrogate the rule when it seems to lead to an aberrant result. ("Who shaves the barber?")

Let's assume, by the example of the line, that "rule" refers to the actual procedural behavior elicited by some given circumstance. Following a road map. Opening a puzzle box. Using a desktop computer. Saying that he follows "rules" in doing so really means that these situations elicit certain arrays of behavior whose structure was developed during numerous past occasions through the mechanisms of reinforcement for effective action and punishing consequences for erring. (These punishing consequences may be nothing more severe than the prolonging of a situation in which further progress is stymied.)

What Wittgenstein seems to be asking is what happens when he is given a map with unfamiliar symbols or a strange format, a puzzle box with a gadget he's never tried before, or a computer that runs on an obscure operating system and has a user interface he's never navigated. Being in the position of "waiting for inspiration" suggests that the situation is not totally foreign to him; based on past events he can articulate the result he desires, but the discrepancies between the present occasion and previous ones frustrate behavior that has been effective in the past (i.e., he hesitates and defers from taking action; the increments in previously reinforced operant chains get him nowhere, etc.). Secondly, "waiting for inspiration" implies some effort at problem solving is going on: he is "changing the variables" (either in the environment or in his orientation to it) in such ways that alter his approach. Thirdly, "inspiration" might be taken to mean a fortuitous change in the variables which eventually leads to an effective response.

In this sense, "inspiration" cannot be taught. One can be instructed in general problem-solving strategies, but the circumstances in which a particular subject's conditioned patterns of behavior "mutate," without verbal instruction, into a particular form suited to overcoming a particular obstacle on a particular occasion is too dependent on too many variables (many hopelessly obscure) to be communicated—and it would probably have little practical value to another person faced with a different sort of procedural conundrum.

242. If language is to be a means of communications there must be agreement not only in definitions but also (queer as this may sound) in judgments. This seems to abolish logic, but does not do so.——It is one thing to describe methods of measurement, and another to obtain and state results of measurement. But what we call "measuring" is partly determined by a certain consistency in results of measurement.

Hmm. This reminds me of a question I grappled with before, during, and after my reading of the Critique of Pure Reason: how does the nature/nurture quandary come to bear upon logic? The best answer I can come up with is that Kant is more or less correct in asserting that the relational frames treated in logic antedate and format experience insofar as we're organically predisposed to respond to relations-as-properties as we operate in the physical environment; Hayes et al. cite studies which found that monkeys and other nonhuman mammals, birds, and fish are capable of responding to relational properties among stimuli (as opposed to just those stimuli's absolute characteristics). However, being able to tact (articulate and respond to) those relations without regard to any particular context is a product of experience in a verbal community that has reached a particular stage of development. It may be that no "pure" logic exists, but will always be subject to the idiosyncrasies of the community which derives, specifies, and teaches its rules.

But I don't think that's quite what Wittgenstein is talking about here.

244. How do words refer to sensations?——There doesn't seem to be any problem here; don't we talk about sensations every day, and give them names? But how is the connexion between the name and the thing set up? This question is the same as: how does a human being learn the meaning of the names of sensations?——of the word "pain" for example. Here is one possibility: words are connected with the primitive, the natural, expressions of the sensation and used in their place. A child has hurt himself and he cries; and then adults talk to him and teach him exclamations, and, later, sentences. They teach the child new pain-behaviour.

"So you are saying that the word 'pain' really means crying?"——On the contrary: the verbal expression of pain replaces crying and does not describe it.

256. Now, what about the language which describes my inner experiences and which only I myself can understand? How do I use words to stand for my sensations?——As we ordinarily do? Then are my words for my sensations tied up with my natural expressions of sensation? In that case my language is not a 'private' one. Someone else might understand it as well as I.——But suppose one didn't have any natural expression for the sensation, but only had the sensation? And now I simply associate names with sensations and use these names in descriptions.——

273. What am I to say about the word "red"?——that it means something 'confronting us all' and that everyone should really have another word, besides this on e, to mean his own sensation of red? Or is it like this: the word "red" means something known to everyone; and in addition, for each person, it means something known only to him? (Or perhaps rather: it refers to something known only to him.)

There are dozens of remarks in the Philosophical Investigations about problems of language that refers to sensation and qualia. These are a few representative samples.

Let's turn to Skinner for a good answer to the first sentence of 244.

Skinner outlines four ways in which a verbal community might assign and teach words for tacting "private" stimuli (emotions, sensations, etc.): (1) training a tact to a public accompaniment of a private stimulus—say, reinforcing a small child for saying "that hurt" after taking a fall; (2) using a collateral response to a private stimulus; for instance, reinforcing "that hurt" when its emission coincides with typical nonverbal "pain behaviors;" (3) metaphorical expression—Skinner points out that much of our descriptive language regarding emotion has its origins in terms relating to the nonhuman environment ("depressed," "antsy" and "gloomy," for instance); (4) describing private stimuli in terms of low-magnitude public behavior—this one is obscure, and Skinner doesn't offer any specific instances. The most simple example would be "he said to himself/I said to myself" in an instance where no audible speech actually occurred.

He goes on:

Although these four practices are in a sense ways in which the verbal community circumvents the inaccessibility of private stimuli in setting up verbal behavior under their control, no one of them guarantees the precision of control seen in response to external manipulable stimuli. In (1) the connection between public and private stimuli need not be invariable, and the collateral response (2) may be made to other stimuli. Even in the careful practices of the psychological laboratory, it is doubtful whether terms descriptive of, for example, emotional states are under precisely the same stimulus control from speaker to speaker. The metaphorical extension of (3) may follow unexpected properties, and there is no way in which the stimulus control may be pinned down through the auxiliary processes of abstraction. If the microscopic and macroscopic behavior in (4) is unchanged except for magnitude, we may expect a greater validity, but the practice is applicable only when the object described is the behavior of the speaker.

The contingencies which establish verbal behavior under the control of private stimuli are therefore defective.

We could take "defective" to mean "inconsistent," "variable," "imprecise," etc. One upshot, which Wittgenstein accurately describes, is a vocabulary that's sparse and clumsy with regard to "inner" experience. Would so many goth kids have written so much morbid poetry if they could convey, with a single word, the precise quality of their angst? Would I have written a novel to describe the "weird" feeling I got back when I worked at Borders and walked across the parking lot to get lunch at the mall food court if I were provided with language which could get it across in three syllables?

A more familiar consequence might be the familiar experience of googling symptoms of an unfamiliar ailment. You've been there: you've got a kind of pain you've never experienced in a part of your body that's never given you trouble before. Unless you can get to a doctor, all you can really do is type "[part of body] [metaphorical modifier] [pain]" into a search bar, and browse symptoms of diseases or injuries that may or may not be what's actually afflicting you.

Is there any value in substituting "natural" pain-behavior with "trained" pain-behavior? There may be some practical value to the community for doing so. If somebody out in the hall says "OWW" instead of "ARRRGHHH," listeners will begin to respond appropriately earlier than they would if the reason for the outburst remained ambiguous. (We can sometimes consider the development of behavioral/verbal patterns in terms analogous with biological mutation and evolution: as a rule of thumb, something that is done or exists in a particular form must have some beneficial function—or once conferred some advantage in the past, and remains as a vestige.)

On color: some fairly recent studies suggest that maybe people actually have rotated color wheels. For example, the qualia experience when I see a purple object might be the qualia you experience when you see a yellow object. It's fun to think about, but the practical consequences are nil. We've still got predisposed emotional responses to light arriving to us at certain wavelengths, whatever form the epiphenomena contingent on optical activity take. Provided an overwhelming majority of the community agrees that stop signs, blood, strawberries, and cardinals are all red, it's of no consequence whatsoever if your red-qualia is my blue-qualia. It's fun to think about, yes—but as there is no way to communicate or transfer one person's epiphenomena to another (and there probably never will be), the matter is above our horizon.

318. Suppose we think while we talk or write.——I mean, as we normally do——we shall not in general say that we think quicker than we talk; the thought seems not to be separate from the expression. On the other hand, however, one does speak of the speed of thought; of how a thought goes through one's head like lightning; how problems become clear to us in a flash, and so on. So it is natural to ask if the same thing happens in lightning-like thought——only extremely accelerated——as when we talk and 'think while we talk.' So that in the first case the clockwork runs down all at once, but in the second bit by bit, braked by the words.

319. I can see or understand a whole thought in a flash in exactly the sense in which I can make a note of it in a few words or a few pencilled dashes.

What makes this note into an epitome of this thought?

335. What happens when we make an effort——say in writing a letter——to find the right expression for our thoughts?——This phrase compares the process to one of translating or describing: the thoughts are already there (perhaps in advance) and we merely look for their expression. This picture is more or less appropriate in certain cases.——But can't all sorts of things happen here?——I surrender to a mood and the expression comes. Or a picture occurs to me and I try to describe it... 

Radical behaviorism might describe what happens when "we think while we talk" as the subvocal composition of speech preceding a largely echoic vocal response. The subvocal operant ("thinking") becomes the prevailing influence over the vocal response. This, of course, explains nothing—but it situates events in a framework of physical causation (instead of leaving them free floating in some undimensioned "mental" space) where they can be related to events beyond the thinker/speaker.

Nonverbal responses to external stimuli, conditioned verbal responses to external stimuli, and verbal and nonverbal responses to self-generated stimuli are so densely meshed that it's probably impossible to effectively sort them out in an actual case. But we reassert with certainty that the organism is not a storehouse or archive: it's a responsive system. When I compose this entry, I am not bringing out something that already existed in me. I am acting. I view Wittgenstein's text and respond to it—verbally and nonverbally. I emit fragmentary subvocal responses that stimulate further intraverbal responses; I "listen" to myself and modify my incipient responses in an ongoing act of composition and self-editing. Sometimes the next words I type are determined by prior subvocal self-stimulation; at other times they are more influenced by the last word or words I've typed. Composition is typically "wobbly" in the sense that unless a unitary verbal operant already exists in some strength (which may be the case if we've "rehearsed" by composing fragments or sentences in advance), our responses will be confused, insofar as any behavior is prone to being frustrated or ineffective in an untried context.

The point I'm trying to get at (unsuccessfully, I'd wager) is that composition is a dynamic process. We do not transcribe words that were already in us because there are no words in us. Just the capability of verbal responses. 335 shows Wittgenstein seeming to get it. One of the pleasures in writing somebody a letter is discovering what you have to say to them.

A possible answer to "what makes this note into the epitome of a thought?" might be the degree to which rereading the note reproduces the state of the author as he was composing it. The act of composition can be a form of conditioning—as can the act of reading, which might be more illustrative to this case. When I reread pieces I wrote in Maryland, or revisit books I first read while living in St Thomas, I seem to dimly "feel" those environments again.⁴

But a note can only be "the epitome of a thought" to the author himself. Anyone who's taken notes while tripping on LSD and then shared them with a friend can appreciate the accuracy of the cliché "you just had to have been there."

1. Possibly relevant passage from Hayes et al.'s Relational Frame Theory: A Post-Skinnerian Account of Human Language and Cognition (2001):

1, 7, 13, 19, 25 ... What is the next number in this series? Most verbally-able adults will have little trouble correctly providing the next number in this series (i.e., 31). Relational Frame Theory views the derivation of this solution as primarily relational. The problem is correctly solved by responding to the single relation that consistently obtains between subsequent items in the series and applying that relation arbitrarily to the last number in the series. In the above case, the relation between subsequent items in the series might be called "plus 6." The problem is solved, therefore, by applying the quantified comparative relation detected in the series (i.e., 25) resulting in the correct answer of 31. A history of arbitrarily applicable relational responding is necessary before a number-series problem can be solved correctly. Moreover, a child will require explicit training on a variety of such problems before the problem-solving skill can become generalized (i.e., in simple terms, before the child understands the nature of the task). A child who has difficulty solving the foregoing problem, therefore, will be provided with the correct answer though explicit feedback. This child will not, however, be re-exposed to the same problem repeatedly, at least not as a test of problem-solving skill. An understanding of number-series problems can only be tested using novel problem sets, because what we mean by "understanding" is derivation of stimulus relations, not a simple performance however achieved. A problem-solving skill has not been adequately acquired until it is generalized from specific cases.

Sometimes the attempt to adequately describe an event entails, as Hobbes suggested, making one's definitions himself. Of course, one has to trust that an audience will take the trouble to learn what one's words mean, and one must expect a relatively small audience in any case.

2. If you protest "there's more to it than that," you're correct—but what's omitted consists more of details than principles. Moreover, objecting to this kind of description on the basis that we haven't specified what has occurred on a physiological level would be like claiming that a software engineer doesn't really know what he's doing unless he can diagram the electrical activity his app produces in the CPU. Behaviorism (or psychology) and the science of physiology (neurobiology in particular) complement and improve each other as separate disciplines, but an educator can use behavioristic principles to improve the results of his teaching, even if he has no expert knowledge of neurotransmitters in the human brain.

3. Developed in a sense analogous to a species of bird whose plumage changes over hundreds of generations due to the operations of natural selection favoring individuals who blend in more effectively with their surroundings. Behavioral adaptations on a mass scale are adopted because their effects ultimately reinforce others. What is "useful and practical" may not be immediately reinforcing—in other words, a parent won't be reinforced by a child who learns her times tables without some other community practice established to ensure that the child's performance of multiplication becomes a conditioned reinforcer to the parent.

4. A description of what's happening in these instances is above my pay grade, but I'll make a guess. We are never doing just one thing at a time; all behavior concomitant with occasions of reinforcement is strengthened when the stimulus presented during reinforcement reoccurs. There are active components to perceiving: when one is just sitting in a room, one is still responding to that space's dimensions, scents, colors, the feeling of the chair or bed, etc. When I read A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1979) in my St Thomas efficiency apartment, some of those responses were being reinforced—and are weakly reemitted whenever I leaf through it now.

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