The language of ontology is the subject matter of behavioral science


Sam Leigland


This paper examines one of the many points of contact between behavioral science and traditional issues in philosophy. Such points of contact involve an analysis of verbal practices of both fields. Specifically, the question is whether the scientific nonverbal and verbal practices of behavioral science allow for descriptions of “reality” or the “real world”. The key to answering this question is found in two pragmatically-based scientific systems, Functional Contextualism (Contextual Behavioral Science) and Radical Behaviorism (Behavior Analysis). Although both scientific systems acknowledge the physical world (or the one world), the case is made that there is no way to access the “real world” in and of itself. All behavior is inextricably related to multiple and interactive environmental variables over time, and thus it is impossible to make discriminations of “reality” that do not entail the influence of such variables. All such discriminations must be, in part, a function of a history in the relevant verbal community and culture. Critics might claim that the scientific perspectives described here also constitute ontology, but even if it qualifies as such under the language game of philosophy, the perspective still serves the pragmatic language game of science. Further, a scientific analysis of ontology might be possible through a functional analysis of the philosophical and psychological terms and practices involved with the language of ontology.

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