Return to Behaviorism

Behaviorism’s substitute for the mind is certain entities in the environment called “reinforcers.” A “reinforcer,” say the Behaviorists, is an event which follows a response and makes subsequent responses of the same type more likely. “What type of events change the probability of responding?” we ask. “Reinforcing events,” we are told. “What is a reinforcing event?” we inquire. “One which modifies response probability,” they reply. “Why does a reinforcer reinforce?” we ask. “That’s not a relevant question,” they answer. . . . To understand why a “reinforcer” reinforces, Behaviorists would have to make reference to the individual’s mental contents and processes—i.e., they would have to abandon Behaviorism.

Copyright © 1986 by Harry Binswanger. Introduction copyright © 1986 by Leonard Peikoff. All rights reserved. For information address New American Library.


Excerpts from The Ominous Parallels, by Leonard Peikoff. Copyright © 1982 by Leonard Peikoff. Reprinted with permission of Stein and Day Publishers. Excerpts from The Romantic Manifesto, by Ayn Rand. Copyright © 1971, by The Objectivist. Reprinted with permission of Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. Excerpts from Atlas Shrugged, copyright © 1957 by Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead, copyright © 1943 by Ayn Rand, and For the New Intellectual, copyright © 1961 by Ayn Rand. Reprinted by permission of the Estate of Ayn Rand. Excerpts from Philosophy: Who Needs It, by Ayn Rand. Copyright © 1982 by Leonard Peikoff, Executor, Estate of Ayn Rand. Reprinted by permission of the Estate of Ayn Rand. Excerpts from “The Philosophy of Objectivism” lecture series. Copyright © 1976 by Leonard Peikoff. Reprinted by permission. Excerpts from Alvin Toffler’s interview with Ayn Rand, which first appeared in Playboy magazine. Copyright © 1964. Reprinted by permission of Alvin Toffler. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Plume, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc.