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Beyond Freedom and Dignity

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  1,810 ratings  ·  83 reviews
In this profound and profoundly controversial work, a landmark of 20th-century thought originally published in 1971, B. F. Skinner makes his definitive statement about humankind and society.

Insisting that the problems of the world today can be solved only by dealing much more effectively with human behavior, Skinner argues that our traditional concepts of freed
Paperback, 240 pages
Published March 15th 2002 by Hackett Publishing Company, Inc. (first published 1971)
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Erik Graff
Feb 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Skinner fans
Recommended to Erik by: John Morris
Shelves: psychology
I read this towards the end of college, after I'd committed to a Religious Studies degree. Although I'd end up doing a major thesis on the debates about the origins of gnosticism, my real focus was on the history of psychotherapeutics, particularly depth psychologies, subjects which the Religious Studies Department was much more amenable to sponsoring than the behaviorist Psychology Department was. Still, while thinking myself a humanistic psychologist, it was important to understand the other c ...more
Aug 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Readers of this book will respond to it as they have been conditioned to and they will do so according to some of the processes covered in this book. Dr. Skinner dedicated his life to understanding the behavior of organisms. He is the Darwin of psychology. His scientific contributions and theories are to most readers what the contributions of Darwin and the theory of evolution is to creationists. Are you a creationist?
Sep 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
If there is one book I've read, about which it would be impossible not to come away from it a smarter person, I would argue this is probably it.

Edit: I'm going to have to read Noam Chomsky's response to this book...I must prepare myself for battle.
May 12, 2016 rated it liked it
So this is worth reading, very much so. But what should I rate it? Did I "like" it? No. No I did not.

The idea, as Skinner would have it, is that concepts like "freedom" and "dignity" are impediments to the application of science to human behavior. If we imagine ourselves free beings, we are deluded, he would suggest. We are just conditioned animals, mechanistically engaged in avoidance behavior or in pursuit of reinforcement. "Freedom" and "liberty" suggests individuals have value, w
Sam Nordli
Nov 16, 2007 rated it liked it
This book is listed as being an 'honorable mention' for the top '10 most harmful books of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries' (Human Events, an extremely conservative magazine) and as one of the '50 worst books of the twentieth century' (Intercollegiate Studies Institute, a Christian/Conservative organization). Both of these lists contain highly interesting books. You could almost say that any book labeled as bad or harmful by a publication that regularly features Ann Coulter columns is wort ...more
Spencer Rich
Nov 18, 2012 rated it did not like it
Easily ranks w/The Fountainhead as one of the worst poxes ever hoisted on humanity. Almost single handedly stole psychology from the hands of Jung, who had succeeded in giving creedence to the introvert and the play of fantasy in the inner life, Skinner reduces humanity to a succession of outward behaviors. And because when you're dealing with academia, you're looking at people who want things that are easily measured, Skinner and his ilk easily won out, leading to the Prozac-zombie state of the ...more
Jul 19, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009
I'm ruthlessly marking this one up -- it's a dime find from the library and it's already in poor condition, so I doubted if it would last out my reading. I thought reading it would help me see Skinner's influence on education and other things. It is doing that.

I'm giving him one more star than I thought I would because he does clearly lay out the different forms of what he calls "control". There is not only punitive, the most obvious kind, but also "permissive", "mauietic", "guidance", "learnin
Oct 28, 2007 rated it liked it
A couple things about this book...

1) Skinner constructs with skill a fascinating, if a little bit horrifying, argument in this book.

2) I can't really say that I liked, or that his skillful argument won me over, but it's a very important piece of educational philosophy and does explain a lot about why our school systems operate like they do today.

So I liked it in the sense that I feel more enlightened and informed now, but more by the cultural implications of this book than by the a
Sep 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
A refutation of the illusion that we have free will. Worse, to date noone that I have read has mustered any good counterarguments to Skinner. One of the most dangerous books in the English canon. You can't understand the political debate over the last 40 years about social programs unless you have mastered this text. You can't accept most people's simplistic religious beliefs once you have read this. Very scary stuff.
Gaetano Venezia
Jun 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
"We do not read books if we are already thoroughly familiar with the material or if it is so completely unfamiliar that it is likely to remain so. We read books which help us say things we are on the verge of saying anyway but cannot quite say without help."

My love for this book exemplifies Skinner's quote above. Skinner says what I have been on the verge of saying. "Beyond Freedom & Dignity" was just what I was looking for: an explanation of determinism's practical implications
Jason Williams
Aug 22, 2012 rated it it was ok
For insight into behaviorism, this is a good, if not a must, read. And for what it's worth, I think behaviorism makes sense in a practical, micro way, giving and withholding feedback in order to get what you want out of people and life. But beyond that it's only about power (Voldemort would make a great behaviorist), and when Skinner talks about the "designer" of culture he's describing a total fascist. He confuses science with technology and is, in the process, totally scientistic about the pos ...more
Feb 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
great book....really examines the role of "agency" in our societal beliefs and values.
E. Thomas
Sep 05, 2009 rated it did not like it
Speciously argued and chilling in its implications . . . A manual for aspirant brainwashers.
Jana Light
Aug 02, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: thinking
Motivated by a desire to counter the predominant beliefs about freedom and dignity, Skinner argues that in the literature and in our actions we place too much emphasis on a mysterious, independent, willful “autonomous man” as being responsible for our decisions, beliefs, and accomplishments. In fact, he argues that there is no such thing as an inner man and that it is our environment that determines and guides our development and our culture(s).

Skinner redefines human behavior as not a set of a
Feb 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is probably the most exciting piece of the central argument of radical behaviorism (the philosophy) and behavior analysis (the science), the death of individual agency and autonomous and indeterminate man.
Carefully, Skinner describes the issues raised by the belief in the individual as a free agency of your own faith, in the traditional sense and based on traditional philosophies of dignity and liberty. In other words, the neglect of the environmental aspects that influence and consti
Sep 24, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: psychology
Reading this book was a continual cycle of "that's an interesting insight" to "that's a horrible conclusion to draw from that insight!" Skinner makes many interesting and somewhat-valid observations. However, his solution is terrible. As the title of the book suggests, Skinner is of the opinion that we must stop valuing freedom and human dignity if we are going to craft a perfect society. While modern culture hasn't accepted this thesis, it has definitely embraced many different parts of his phi ...more
Sep 19, 2011 rated it it was ok
Skinner pulled his punch naming this book. It should be titled "Beyond Freedom, Dignity & Value." Skinner expounds his life-long thesis that humans are just animals, no better, just different than the others. "In the scientific view . . . a person's behavior is determined by a genetic endowment traceable to the evolutionary development of the species and by the environmental circumstances to which as an individual he has been exposed."

"To make a value judgement by calling somethi
Don Gubler
Aug 08, 2014 rated it liked it
Good historical psychology read but not much value for formulating a plan.
Oct 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Yeah, seriously guys, let's get past this freedom and dignity crap. I totally felt my views on life deepen as I read this book.
Feb 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
I don't have time to write a full review but wow. I must re-read this someday.
Aug 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Skinner reminds us that although we have elevated thought processes and awarenesses, we still operate as "organisms" responding to our environments and consequences.
Luz Margarita
Sep 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommend it. If we ought to change the world, we must start by recognizing the limits of the so-called "autonomous" man.
Oct 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
Learned a lot about behaviorism on how it can be used to promote world peace. No wonder Skinner is world figure.
Oct 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
Behaviourism, of course, is as dead as a doornail. Come on, who could believe that behavior is just the response to some stimulus? A Human has a soul and consciousness. And without them, freedom and dignity would not be possible, right?
What sane person could even bother to look into what Arthur Koestler (whose biography I am just reading by coincidence) called a monumental triviality? (165)

One thing in favor of behaviorism is the fact that it was killed by Noam Chomsky (whom I
Richard Wu
It is in the nature of scientific progress that the functions of autonomous man be taken over one by one as the role of the environment is better understood. [p.54]
The intuition from which Behaviorism spawns seems rational if one assumes a deterministic universe, but once again the primary conceit of its adherents is the belief that human behavior is fundamentally legible to empirical methodologies (and furthermore that full control may be assumed once they become sufficiently advanced). Consider that in Skinner’s
christopher green
Jun 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a great book to use as a supplement to teaching a psychology course on explaining the radical behaviorism of learning. Skinner spends a lot of energy refuting advocates for free will. His chapter on dignity first sentence sets the tone for why people must feel they have to believe they are in control.

I use the punishment chapter in my psychology course and my students are floored. They really get shocked on his claim that if you want people to comply and obey, you don’t cha
Apr 30, 2019 rated it it was ok
in beyond freedom and dignity b.f. skinner argues for the development of what he calls a 'technology of behaviour' that will allow us to design a culture that can properly address ever-present 'social diseases' e.g. war, hunger, a disaffected workforce etc.. in order for this technology to reach its full potential he believes we must disregard the idea of 'autonomous man' and admit that all behaviour is result of either conditioning or genetic endowment. he lumps existing thought about societal improve ...more
Daniil Lanovyi
Jul 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
It's a difficult and complex book. I wish it would have been written better. Despite compound sentences and scholar vocabulary, it a fascinating read! B.F. Skinner is one of the most prominent figures of behavioural psychology. His thoughts on "human nature", environment and social life are intriguing, debatable and thought-provoking.

"Epicurus was not quite right: pleasure is not the ultimate good, pain the ultimate evil; the only good things are positive reinforcers, and the only bad things ar
Robert Brudos
Jun 08, 2017 rated it liked it
A book written by a real-life supervillain. "It remains to be seen what man can make of man." It's the most dangerous kind of utopian thinking: look at what happened when Marx's ideas were put into practice, and that guy believed in both freedom AND dignity!

Books like these are compelling while you're reading them. The arguments seem unassailable. But think for a second: would you want a group of unchecked psychiatrists reprogramming the people you actually care about? Your spouse? Y
Amanda Brooke
Jun 21, 2018 rated it liked it
I thought it started out like a return trip to the cold war. Skinner used vocabulary that promoted his ideal cure for societal ills such as the "technology of behavior". The best question he asked was: Did we really put man on the moon before we improved schools? not his words - but an interesting question.
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Burrhus Frederic Skinner was a highly influential American psychologist, author, inventor, advocate for social reform and poet. He was the Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology at Harvard University from 1958 until his retirement in 1974. He invented the operant conditioning chamber, innovated his own philosophy of science called Radical Behaviorism, and founded his own school of experimental resea ...more
“A person who has been punished is not thereby simply less inclined to behave in a given way; at best, he learns how to avoid punishment.” 50 likes
“It is a surprising fact that those who object most violently to the manipulation of behaviour nevertheless make the most vigorous effort to manipulate minds.” 25 likes
More quotes…