Sunday, March 30, 2014

Libertarianism and American Philosophy

Over the course of the past decade, I have come to realize that I lean strongly towards “libertarian” political ideas. However, I did not arrive at this position through one of the seemingly standard methods, such as falling in love with Ayn Rand, worshiping rich people, or trying to find some justification for being a jerk.* Rather, I have come to realize, my libertarian ideas are connected strongly with aspects of American Philosophy, a philosophy most people see as more strongly connected with Progressive Era of US politics than with Libertarian ideas of today. For some time I have been wanting to produce something serious about the connection between the philosophy I have been writing about, and my preferred approach to politics. At the moment, however, all I can offer is a rough sketch:

* Edit: I know this lead in is a bit hyperbolic. There are certainly other ways to become a libertarian, including the admirable one that John Hendon mentions in his comment below.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

How to Explain Behaviorism: Operant and Classical Conditioning

There are many explanations that can be used to help people understand the Behaviorist Point of View. Some are very factual, others argue towards practical concerns, and still others are highly philosophical. This is the first in a series of posts trying to show these styles of explanation in compact and easy-to-digest form. Feedback is welcome. Because of a guest lecture I must give soon, the first post will focus on outlining operant and classical conditioning. The order is not meant to imply that this should be the first thing you tell someone about behaviorism, nor to imply that it is the most convincing line of explanation.
How to Explain Behaviorism, version 1: 
Operant and Classical Conditioning

Operant and classical conditioning are two different ways in which organisms come to reflect the order of the environment around them. They are not perfect processes and they certainly cannot explain facet of human and non-human behavior. That said, they are surprisingly reliable processes, and they can explain much, much, more about human and non-human behavior than anyone would have thought before extensive study of those processes began.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Animal Drives: Some notes on Word Magic

Here I am, flipping through Holt's Animal Drives and the Learning Process: An Essay Towards Radical Empiricism (1931). The book is not at all perfect. Some parts are long-winded, overly concerned with then-emerging-arguments which might now seem dated, and the volume as a whole exudes Holt's frustration with his contemporaries and the direction in which they were moving psychology and philosophy. That said, the good parts still exude penetrating insight. The first chapter is about "Physiology Versus Verbal Magic" and the final chapter about "The Organism as a Whole." Here are some passages from the first chapter which, though antiquated in vocabulary, are still worth critiques of contemporary psychology:

Monday, December 30, 2013

Adjuncts and Unions

So, even though my posts about adjunct professors haven't gotten much traction here, there has been quite a bit of chatter generated over at my Psychology Today blog.

This is the third in a series of posts about adjunct professors. The first post, about research professors vs. teaching-only professors, went mostly unnoticed, but the second post, where I started to dissect the rhetoric surrounding adjunct professors, generated some serious and lengthy discussion in the comments. Before I try to do more, I want to publicize some of that discussion, especially the information supplied by Ana Tamayo of Adjunct Justice and Robin Sowards of the Adjunct Faculty Association, which is affiliated with the United Steelworkers. Because we have different experiences, and likely different images of what an ideal university and an ideal faculty member look like, our approaches to the problem are different... and they should be.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

All it takes to be a behaviorist... or... Manifesto, Take 2

There is much confusion over what it means to be a behaviorist. This is largely due to silly posturing by Big Names over the past 100 years ago. Rather than work to develop the theory and implications of behaviorism based on broad first principles, researchers developed their own niche specializations, and then each declared "Behaviorism" to be "What I do." I don't want to dwell on this history here, but rather present a sketch of how behaviorism should be understood.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Fixing Psychology, 100 Posts at a time!

So, there I was, pre-tenure at a schizophrenic part-research-university, part-liberal-arts-college, part-trade-school, with a disabled wife and two young girls... and I figured I had enough time on my hands to start a blog. Probably not the smartest move, but it has gone pretty well so far.

FixingPsychology is just over two-years old, and this is the 100th post. With some feverish periods and a few dry spells, that means I have kept surprisingly close to a post a week, on average. Even better, I think very few of them sucked. In honor achieving this arbitrary, but culturally-significant, number, I have cleaned things up a bit (making sure every post had labels, adding a word cloud to the right side bar, etc.) and decided that a short retrospective was in order....

Who is reading the blog? What are they reading? Are there any bigger picture or themes? What might a reasonable reader expect in the next hundred posts?

Sunday, October 13, 2013

What's wrong with (the rhetoric surrounding) adjuncts? Part 1

The Adjuncts vs. Professors conundrum has been on my mind. In a recent post, I talked about why it should be hard to compare what adjuncts bring to a classroom with what research-active professors bring to the classroom. I avoided the really tough talk in the last article, and I will avoid it here as well. However, I hope to lay some groundwork, inspired by a recent story. The story involves a woman who died at 83, having taught French for 25 years at Duquesne University, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The context of the story, as usually presented, is that Duquesne is not letting its adjuncts unionize and, due to the lack of a union, the woman died without proper healthcare and neigh homeless. The details of the story are sketchy; as in, they are only loosely sketched out anywhere I have found them. Where were social security and medicare? How does a college stop the organization of a well-mustered union? Etc. All that aside... while I do not think I am a heartless troll, I have trouble fully sympathizing with those who feel that the woman should have been entitled to more from Duquesne than she received. The plights described in the sketched version of the woman's story are NOT unique to adjunct professors, it is a trait that many members of Expertland share: