web analytics

In & Out

It’s interesting how statements once meant to be inclusive have become exclusive. Like, take for example, B.F. Skinner.

Skinner (1904-1990, or so the web tells me) is considered to be one of the forefathers of that particular school of psychology known as behaviourism. When I was studying psych, behaviourism was like some kind of consolation prize. It was functional, common-sensical, even, but it lacked romance or spiritual excitement. It talked about curing people by making their maladaptive behaviours go away, but it said nothing about the mind or the soul, or about belief and identity, emotion or integrity.

‘I fear giant rats are eating at my brain, and they start underneath the smallest fingernail of my left hand,’ said the client.
‘Count to five and remember this anagram: EAMPT. Continue in this manner until you desist from driving your left fist into the nearest wall,’ replied the bahaviourist.
‘Can I tell you about my mother?’ asked the client.
‘Goodness, no. But I can train you out of the *desire* to talk about your mother, if you like,’ said the behaviourist.
‘Will that be helpful?’ asked the client, scratching at her left palm.
‘It will *look* helpful, and who is to say that is not help enough?’

By now, you may suspect I’m oversimplifying behaviourism, & you’re right. But that’s because behaviourism is not at the heart of my point, & I couldn’t be bothered checking my facts right now.

My point is that when Skinner was writing (he is most often cited for his papers in the 1970s), the word ‘men’ was inclusive. It meant ‘humans’ or ‘people’ or even ‘humankind’. So that when I pasted his comment into my lj last week, though *of course* I was aware of the connotations & denotations of the word ‘men’ nowdays, still, in my mind, I was reading Skinner as he intended. Men as people. Of the comments I received on & off-list, not one made reference to this reading.

Men, I now note, means *men*. Not people. Men are just _some_ of the people. They are not all.

I quite like this. It makes me happy.

Let me translate, then, Skinner’s words into our modern banter.

“The real question is not whether machines think, but whether the writers of Matrix 3 had anything at all going through their heads when they etched together that ridiculous script of theirs, thereby wiping out all the love I had for their first, deadly cool movie & leaving the taint of bile in my throat.”

There. Done.

Next up: Conflux2 = love.