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J Exp Anal Behav. Jul 1993; 60(1): 3–15.
PMCID: PMC1322142

Adaptation, teleology, and selection by consequences


This paper presents and defends the view that reinforcement and natural selection are selection processes, that selection processes are neither mechanistic nor teleological, and that mentalistic and vitalistic processes are teleological but not mechanistic. The differences between these types of processes are described and used in discussing the conceptual and methodological significance of “selection type theories” and B. F. Skinner's radical behaviorist view that “operant behavior is the field of intention, purpose, and expectation. It deals with that field precisely as the theory of evolution has dealt with another kind of purpose” (1986, p. 716). The antimentalism of radical behaviorism emerges as a post-Darwinian extension of Francis Bacon's (and Galileo's) influential view that “[the introduction of final causes] rather corrupts than advances the sciences” (Bacon, 1905, p. 302).

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Selected References

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