Skip to main content

A pragmatic sign theory of truth for the behavioral sciences (Pages 172-177)

Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science (JCBS)

Special Issue on Interbehaviorism as Contextualism

Volume 16, April 2020, Pages 172-177


Kenneth W. Jacobs


In their essay on Functional and Descriptive Contextualism, Hayes and Fryling (2019) distinguish interbehaviorism from both descriptive and functional contextualism. In doing so, however, Hayes and Fryling seem to have dismissed the notion of truth from philosophy and science. The purpose of the current essay is to clarify the notion of truth in philosophy and science by couching it within the theory of signs that undergirds Charles Sanders Peirce's pragmatic maxim. Based on Peirce's theory of signs, truth is not in the “correspondence” of beliefs with their expected outcomes. Rather, truth is in the effect of various signs to orient people to the practical bearings of conceivable objects. The pragmatic sign theory of truth offered herein is a potential way forward for both interbehaviorism and functional contextualism, as it shares an affinity with the specificity logic of interbehaviorism and may enhance the rigor of functional contextualism's notion of truth in successful working. In today's cultural context, wherein virality is the common measure of a claim's truth, there is a need for explicitly stated criteria by which scientists and practitioners can judge their products as true and worth pursuing to some extent. Functional contextualism is lauded for having some of those criteria along with a noble cause for its community of scientists to pursue. While interbehaviorism might inform functional contextualism without carrying the label descriptive contextualism, functional contextualism may inform the various behaviorisms on the upshot of having an explicit theory of truth with the explicit aim of reducing human suffering.

This article is restricted to ACBS members. Please join or login with your ACBS account.